I was saddened to hear of the death today of my very long-standing but not so old friend Ald. Frank Doran MBE. Frank was already a member of Liverpool City Council when I arrived in Liverpool in 1974 and quickly learned to work with him when I was the agent for David, now Lord, Alton and when I became a councillor myself in 1975.
Frank was Councillor for more than 30 years and I could not begin to list all the positions that he held in that time although the most important was that of Lord Mayor in 1995/1996. He was also a huge influence in promoting the phenomenally successful bid for and delivery of the 2008 European Capital of Culture.
Frank had three passions throughout his life but acquired a fourth relatively late in life.
The first was Kensington where he was born in Flaxman Street which is long demolished but settled in John Lennon Drive when it was built in the eighties. Walking around ‘Kenny’ with Frank was an exercise in how to be a community politician. Everyone knew Frank and how to contact him. Walking down Boaler Street with him was like being part of a Royal entourage.
The second was the Territorial Army. Frank served in the TA in Military Intelligence for more than 30 years. Sometimes we just knew that he had disappeared on duty. He took leave from the Council to do 6 months service in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the first Iraq War. The section of the former President’s Palace in which he lived in a tent was named ‘Brookside’ in honour of the number of Scousers who had stayed there.
When he made a formal visit to Cyprus as Lord Mayor to meet his TA colleagues, he turned up in army khakis and the Lord Mayor’s chain. In true Doran style he also managed to get two barrels of Higson’s beer out there. How that was managed was never explained!
The third was the Liberal Party and then the Liberal Democrats. Frank was a true community campaigner and absolutely committed to the Party. In 1980 when we took full control of the City Council, he and I were part of the group of seven committee chairs who were under thirty. We were variously known as the Magnificent 7 or the Seven Dwarfs depending on which side of the Chamber you were sitting in!!
We always thought that Frank would be an eternal bachelor but ten years ago today he married Sandra who, with her two children, would be such a comfort to him in those years of decline for him.
7 years ago, he informed the world that he was battling Alzheimer’s with the same vigour as he showed when he fought in Iraq.
Frank Doran was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well as posterior cortical atrophy – a degenerative brain condition. He told us than that he would be lucky to be alive in 10 years. Sadly, he did not get that far.
As a result, his vision and sense of direction was impaired, and he struggled to dress or to recognise familiar faces and could no longer read or write. He refused to let his condition win and regularly supported those taking part at Liverpool’s Memory Walk.
He told the Echo, “over the years I have gathered a vast collection of books on the history of Liverpool and now I can’t read a single one. I see words on a page, but I am no longer able to work out what they say. It is really frustrating. I rely on audiobooks now.”
He fought Alzheimer’s since the day he was diagnosed and was determined not to let it get to him. He tried to make every day business as usual. He told everyone, “I have Alzheimer’s, it does not have me. I am fighting it with the same vigour I needed one hundred miles behind enemy lines in Iraq.”
That comment just summed Frank Doran up. A fighter for Kensington; a fighter for Liverpool; a fighter for the Liberal and later Liberal Democrat Party, a fighter for the City and a fighter for the Country where he risked his life in challenging times.
I have known so many councillors like him. Wishing only to help and serve the community and putting other people first they contribute so much to our Country and often get scant recognition for their service.
However, there are few that combined that concept of service and community with such determination and a wicked sense of humour which his old friends and acquaintances will no doubt mull over around a pint or two in coming weeks and months.
Our thoughts go out today to Sandra and his stepchildren and the many people who will pause to wipe away a tear or two at the passing of a great son of Liverpool.
May he rest in peace released from the Alzheimer’s which he fought so bravely as a true soldier would do.