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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Obituary - John Harrison of Workington

John Harrison, who built and ran Workington’s Cumbria Ballroom, has died aged 91.

johnharrison 1403
BALLROOM leader: John Harrison

Mr Harrison and his wife Jeanne opened the venue on Corporation Road in December 1959 after identifying a gap in the market.

It was one of the most popular venues of its day, catering for 260 people at a time for dinner and more for dances.

It became home to regular events such as the town mayor’s ball, the police ball and Masonic functions.

It was also a meeting place for clubs and organisations ranging from Workington Comets speedway team and Workington Motor Club to steelworkers.

The couple sold the business to Bert Eden in 1985 and retired to Branthwaite.

The ballroom was knocked down in 2010 and turned into flats.

Mr Harrison was one of five children born in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, in 1922.

He left school at 14 and went to work at the town’s slipper works.

Mr Harrison and his brothers Tom and Jim served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He worked as a stoker on ships including HMS Howe and after showing great loyalty, became a captain’s batman.

One of the boats on which he served was heading towards Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshama.

When he left the navy he was asked by the captain if he would go to work on his estate near Plymouth but he refused.

He was working as a fitter for the gas board in Rawtenstall when he met Jeanne Kirkpatrick, of Broughton, near Cockermouth.

They were married at Broughton Baptist Church in 1949, and shortly after they took over the Oxford Hotel in Oxford Street, Workington.

The couple lived above the ballroom when it opened and continued to run both businesses.

They had one daughter, Christina, in 1954.

Mr Harrison was a member of Cumberland and Westmorland Freemasons, on Gordon Street in Workington, for 60 years.

Christina, 59, of Branthwaite, near Workington, said: “Dad loved to see people enjoy themselves, which is why he loved to run the ballroom.

“He was a hard working man and ran the ballroom with military precision. He was extremely fond of his family and an amazing father.”

Mr Harrison leaves Jeanne, Christina, son-in-law David, grandchildren Jeanne and Jonny and sister Dorothy Mounsey.

His funeral will be held at St Oswald’s Church in Dean today at 11am.

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