Tributes have been paid to a Hastings councillor who was a ‘giant of local causes and politics’.
Cllr John Hodges died last Thursday (February 11) following a short illness.
He represented the Old Hastings ward on the borough council and the St Helens and Silverhill division on East Sussex County Council
Following a report of his death in the Observer, we have received several tributes praising his passion and intelligence.
Anne Scott, chairman of the Old Hastings Preservation Society, said she read the news with ‘profound sadness’.
“The Old Town has lost one of the best councillors it has had,” she said.
“The Old Hastings Preservation Society and many involved in local history have lost a friend who had a common interest.
“John shared his knowledge and was always willing to discuss, listen and equally important as a councillor, act on matters of concern.
“We are grateful for all he has achieved though hard work as councillor and Foreshore Trust chairman, it is a good legacy to build on.
“We send condolences to his family and colleagues at Hastings Borough Council.”
George Rankin met Cllr Hodges when he moved to Hastings in 1984 and used to drink in the Clarence pub in Silverhill.
“He was a passionate and brilliant quiz player and we played together in quiz teams for The Clarence, in Silverhill, and the Royal Albert, in Battle Road, for a number of years,” he said.
“I remember our team at the Royal Albert won the Whitbread south of England quiz competition twice in the 1980s, principally thanks to John’s captaincy and knowledge.
“He could answer any question from football to embroidery.
“He was the most intelligent man I’ve ever known but was also a very kind man.”
Mr Rankin said he lost touch with John in the late 1990s when his work took him to London and, sadly, never got around to tracking him down when he returned to Hastings in 2009.
“I’m sad that John has gone and my thoughts are with his wife and family,” he said.
“He was a giant of local causes and politics and I know he was a devoted socialist. I doubt whether I’ll see his like again.”
Old Town residents Pam and David Dixon said he could always be relied on to intervene with ‘common sense and concern’.
“He served this ward exceptionally well and will be much missed,” they wrote.
Neil Cranham met ‘Johnny Hodges’ 43 years ago when he was a 17-year-old apprentice electrician and Cllr Hodges was the ‘young star performer’ in the planning office.
“But John, in his baggy green cardigan, with his unfussy and uncompromising ‘skinhead’ haircut, and three-day growth, preferred to spend the morning tea-breaks down in the workshop among the electricians and fitters, his friends, sharing our refreshment and conversation about anything sport and politics,” he said.
“I remember being so impressed with his ability to name every winner of the Epsom Derby, every FA Cup-winning team, as well as every World Heavyweight Boxing Champion that had ever existed.
“Within the context of our daily banter, his knowledge was regularly tested: I can never remember him failing.
“This was to be the embryo of what became a life-long fascination with, and admiration for, this man.”
Mr Cranham went on to encounter Cllr Hodges again when he joined the Silverhill Club in 1981, where John was secretary.
“Well, that was his official capacity: but a more accurate description would have been ‘Mr Silverhill Club’,” he said.
“Over the next few years, he held every elected position in that club, and, more than anyone in its history, single-handedly promoted and progressed the institution to the maximum benefit of all its members.
“For the duration of his tenure, members enjoyed what was, in effect, ‘half-price drinking’!
“In his most recent role as my representative on Hastings Council his sense of duty and fair play as well as his enthusiasm and efficiency were undiminished, I know for a fact, and as a result of personal experience, that he would attend the Town Hall every day, to receive his incoming correspondence, respond immediately to it, and attempt to resolve it as quickly as was humanly possible.
“As will, no doubt, be stated elsewhere, John was passionate about his hometown, and, in particular, its people and history.
“He was also a collector of legendary status.
“He was at his happiest, looking for artefacts from the past in second-hand shops and boot fairs; before relating what he had found, over a pint of Real Ale. He was truly a man of the people.”
Former mayor Richard Stevens added his tribute and memories of representing the Old Hastings division alongside Cllr Hodges.
“When John was first elected as co-councillor to myself, representing the Old Hastings electoral division, I admit to being sceptical and indeed wary of his ability to represent the Old Town, simply because to me he was an unknown quantity,” he said.
“I needn’t have worried, however, since from day one, John Hodges got down to work and showed a true diligence ,together with a meticulous understanding of the electorate and their current issues of concern.
“John always put Hastings first and having spent his life here, had a very special insight into its culture, history and present day ambition.
“John was determined to preserve the very best of our heritage and would fight to the bitter end if necessary whenever he saw this under threat.
“John went on to command the greatest respect throughout the Old Town and beyond.
“He epitomised that rare breed of an elected representative who had cast iron integrity and genuine concern for our town’s wellbeing.”
Editor’s note: Because of the sheer volume of tributes to Cllr Hodges some of the above have been condensed for publication. However, all tributes will also be printed in full on our letters pages.
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