Brighton and Hove mayor pays tribute to council worker and party activist

Posted On 24 Feb 2017 at 3:50 am

The mayor of Brighton and Hove paid tribute to a council web developer and Green Party activist who has died at the age of 43.

Before members of Brighton and Hove City Council started to debate the annual budget yesterday (Thursday 23 February), Councillor Pete West remembered Jack McAngus whose funeral took place before the meeting.

The mayor said: “Today a number of us said goodbye to a dear colleague and friend, Jack McAngus.

“Jack was a very gentle soul, inspiring and wise, always calm and courteous. Jack will be sadly missed by those whose lives he touched.

“Jack enriched us with a better way to be and I hope today we will all conduct ourselves as we know Jack would have done so.”

The Greens’ finance spokesman Councillor Ollie Sykes told the meeting at Hove Town Hall: “Our group has been distracted today as we said goodbye to our friend and activist of many years Jack McAngus who passed away far too young two weeks ago.

“This is of relevance here as Jack worked for many years for Brighton and Hove City Council and contributed a great deal in his time with the council.

“As we discuss the budget, our thoughts are also very much with Jack and his family and friends.”

Jack McAngus

Jack McAngus

Mr McAngus had been suffering from a brain tumour for five years although he was at work until shortly before he was admitted to the Martlets Hospice, in Hove, where he died.

Former councillor Christopher Hawtree described him as quiet, effective and compassionate.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Jack’s funeral was held at the Friends’ Meeting House, he in a coffin from Arka handpainted by a friend, and then upon a Big Lemon bus, with Tom Druitt himself at the wheel, people went to re-join Jack for his burial at the woodland site in Woodingdean – and then to the pub (few availed themselves of the offer of further transport, to the Budget Council).

    With Caroline Lucas and Rob Shepherd, I spoke as part of a group halfway through the service. Everybody wore hats as a tribute to the symbol of the Brain Tumour Trust. I had thought it an idea to doff mine at the end of my three minutes – I should have written a stage direction! Anyway, it was heartening to see smiles and hear laughter. Fraught as politics can be, there has to be fun along the way if anything is to be achieved, and I hope this piece conveys some of that. I prefaced it by saying, “this meeting looks to be quorate”.


    Well, Jack, I know that you would have put this into better shape – but here goes: 

    I have three minutes, for seven years, and Jack, you were one of those people whom so many felt as if they had known you a lifetime, and that’s a rare thing. 

    A grey Saturday, on the London Road, you came along, after lunch, seven years ago and, having just met you at it, I showed you whatever I knew about greeting residents on doorsteps and asking whether they would consider voting for Caroline Lucas. 

    And you swiftly got the hang of it, a natural, and it occurs to me that, always, you were an exemplar of Auden’s lines about “Private faces in public places / Are wiser and nicer / Than public faces in private places.”

    People trusted you. Not only did you know about the bells and whistles of computer mysteries but you relished whatever those letterboxes brought. An unabashed geek – but also blessed with the imagination to make something tractable from dense statistics and obdurate syntax. I recall the now-Mayor, Pete West remarking of a draft newsletter, “this isn’t good” – and I gulped, but he continued, “it’s bloody good!”

    That was down to you, Jack. 

    You were somebody one got to know little by little – beer was sometimes involved! – and of your relish of music (I think of seeing Steve Reich with you), of animals, of interesting journeys. A quiet, unfazed man, with a great sense of fun – always seeking to learn something new, always encouraging to people, fostering their luck, giving them faith in themselves. As I say, you enjoyed being around and about, away from the screen, and if I have one image allowed me of you, I recall that mad month when we took Central Hove. I had found in a junk shop, for £15, a Sholley trolley, which a resident in a greengrocer’s with one called “the aristocrat of trolleys”. You and I filled it – the Green Machine – with the bloody good leaflets, and you took the handle as a bus came along while I ran to stop it – and I asked the driver to lower the step as I looked back to see you speeding along with the heavy trolley, almost taking a tumble upon an errant paving slab, but, being Jack, you kept your balance – with that great smile on your face which always brought so cheering a gleam in your eyes. And on that occasion merriment to the other passengers.

    And so now, to quote somebody else, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye, old friend, we shall see you down the road: Woodingdean, and beyond. Thank you, Jack, from all of us.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    So hard, so surreal, for his friends to have to go from funeral mode into political tangling budget debate and wrangling. It must have been deeply stressful for those Greens who are also serving councillors to have had to do both in one day – especially given that budget council did not end until nearly midnight.

    We rarely hear about council staff who lose their lives but always hear about councillors who lose theirs, complete with minutes of silence in council meetings to acknowledge them. Good to see councillors giving this lost man his due, however informally, at budget council.

    I have no doubt that Jack would have been a hugely influential asset during the local election campaign that got Christopher Hawtree elected to Central Ward for the years of the Green Administration.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      As a sometime honorary geek, I reckon that there is no one factor that determines an Election. I had reckoned, quietly, that if one added together the 2007 Central results for the Greens (who did not then push) and the LibDems, that totalled more than the Conservatives. Jack and I had built a rapport after my crucial Patcham push for Caroline Lucas in 2010, and he saw what I saying, which was tremendous, heartening. Eventually, we were allowed to give Central a shot, which had the effect of usefully concentrating energies into a month, and, moreover, taking others by surprise. (I saw Labour’s fixer Brian Fitch on Church Road who told me that I was “the token candidate”, and so I let him think that.) Jack and I certainly brought energy to it, and people remembered the 2003/04 Library campaign. Much of this was done on the quiet, doorstep to doorstep, and what we found was that Labour, in the form of failed MP Celia Barlow, was nowhere to be seen (she stayed at home in Hove Park amidst domestic turmoil). As for the LibDems, they had thought Central was theirs for the taking, even putting out a leaflet labelled “so close” to the Tories in the previous Election; as Jack remarked, that “so close” could be taken another way, with the then-current Coalition, as proved to be the case: the LibDems came last, surely not helped by their weird addressing of women as “ma’am”. (I cannot recall their candidates’ names.) And one must not forget the inspiring efforts by the other Green candidate, Anthea Ballam. As I say, it was a heady time, round the clock in the last few days, when my mother arrived (and there is something to be written about mothers and Elections): Jack and my mother had an instant rapport as she arrived at Phelim’s cool pad with the first of the telling sheets. Come the daylight Count, after the early-hours Verification (at which one had inferred it could be close), I said to everybody, “let’s stop talking about it and take a Zen/Doris Day Que Sera Sera approach.” Soon after this, Tory candidate Andrew Wealls – most graciously – came up and shook my hand, and I asked why, and he said a card had been put on the table by officers to record that I had topped the poll. As Rob Jarrett remarked at that moment, “this is the first time, I’ve seen you speechless, Chris!” People descended, I hugged Jack – and later a friend and my stepfather remarked upon my “snogging” Caroline Lucas on some television news feed of it. I also treasure the Chief Executive, John Barradell saying on the platform, as Andrew Wealls and i stood there, “I AM reading out the correct result!” And so, Jack and I were vindicated, we had worked undercover, and had great fun with it – and, an hour later, Brian Fitch, who had earlier told me I was the “token candidate”, came up in the garden of the Sussex Cricketer pub and lectured me on the Council, to which I replied, “Brian, you do not seem to realise that you are part of the minority Party now!” (My mother asked, “who on earth was that man?”) Having said all this, perhaps too much, I must stress that Jack did so much all round. As Caroline Lucas said at the funeral, his was the work of ten people (even an underestimate). And he still found the time for so many other interests. Jack died at 43, almost 44 – but, in what he did, he rivalled some who live to 90. No doubt about it, a great man. Of course, he would demur at that. As I said in the eulogy, he gave people faith in themselves. He would have been a great teacher in a country that valued teachers.

  3. Rob Shepherd Reply

    Thank you Valerie for those thoughts. And, of course, thank you also Christopher. As I’ve been mentioned here, and as some have suggested to me, I’d like to add the tribute I paid to Jack yesterday. As a rarely-sung hero, he deserves these final lyrics from a few of his friends to be heard, if Brighton and Hove News will allow.

    Jack McAngus

    A deadline loomed. It could have been for pamphlets to fill Chris’s Green Machine, an urgent flyer for one of several by-elections or any of countless leaflets during the 2015 elections.

    But this was November 2012, and it happened to be the Green Party tabloid, Greenleaf, in desperate need of a last-minute, politically vital, four-page centre spread … and much less than a day to do it. No small undertaking. Jack dropped everything, fired up Photoshop and worked through the night and morning to design a perfectly laid-out newspaper spread in record time, a real tour de force. And when the finished thing came back from the printers, who was among the first to help get it out onto the streets?

    Over recent days, many present and past Green colleagues have been reminiscing, and so many of them have stories just like this. One, plucked as an example, from Jack’s friend Phil – Valerie Phillips: “You were the comrade who was there when we were organising the “Iraq – ten years on” meeting. You made the leaflets – not scrappy put-together lefty leaflets but gorgeous, brilliant graphics of highest quality work. It was because of your fortitude and creativity that we got a full house and filled the Friends Centre.”

    Thing is, graphic design wasn’t even Jack’s main forté. Like so many other things, from writing and photography to IT and webmastery, from pounding the streets to fine diplomacy – even down to his meticulously ironed shirts – it was just one of the things that Jack the polymath did to the highest standard, always without fuss and with good humour – that sparkle in his eyes and that wry, impish grin – always tirelessly and, yes, always in the background: though he was a strong presence, Jack didn’t ever do it for the glory. Apart from maybe the shirts.

    Tom Druitt recently said: “What a lovely lovely man. He just quietly got on with it, always the first to volunteer, never a complaint, never an ill-thought comment and always a good sense of humour. He treated everyone with respect and graciousness, regardless of what he thought of their point of view, and never took sides.”

    Others also see him as a peacemaker. Our colleague Liz Wakefield remembers him for his ability to see the good in everyone, and his so-rare readiness to listen. Yet more remember him as a source of wisdom: a soft-spoken voice of sense.

    Jack was a huge, quiet force that underpinned so much of our Green Party and our movement, and the space he’s vacated – in our work and our hearts – can never be filled by a single person, if at all.

    I travelled home with him after our Christmas social in December. He couldn’t walk too far and his hands were trembling but he was doing his best still to live life his way, with friends and much music. As we waited for a bus he told me so calmly, so matter-of-factly, as Jack would, that his final treatment had been stopped and there was no more to be done. He described his tumour, not for the first time! And he opened up about much of his recent life in a rather un-Jack way. He was beginning his goodbyes.

    And that led me to think on what I and so many of us admire about lovely Jack. His talent, his wit, sincerity, counsel, grace, honesty, wisdom, willingness, his lack of any artifice or agenda: yes, all those. But most of all, I now feel, it was his strength – through the rough and tumble of active politics and politicians, through the sometimes thankless jobs he undertook, through life’s struggles and through the adversity of his illness, right to the point where he closed his eyes for the last time, around two weeks ago. He had strength in his heart.

    Our colleague Ian Davey said this: “If our contribution in this life is measured by what we leave behind in the hearts of others, Jack’s gift was immense. Thank you Jack.”

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Great to read as well as to hear it, Rob. I was struck by the way that the fine shirt Jack took to the hospice, and in which he was dressed by the marvellous nurse just after he died, was so neatly pressed. As they always were. It occurs to me that amidst the, shall we say, paraphernalia of his flat (Greenleafs ready to go…), the ironing board was always up in the kitchen. The way in which small things can become an abiding image is the stuff of life itself.

  4. Lyn McAngus Reply

    Jack McAngus’s Tribute From His Mum
    This is my courageous, heroic, infinitely kind, open minded and huge hearted, compassionate, caring, talented beautiful loving son.

    He was massively intelligent, modest, shy, calm and centered. He had a sense of proportion and a kind, tolerant, empathetic understanding of others.

    And he was tortured for five years by this terrible disease.

    I am so proud of you Jack and so lucky to have had so much love, fun and caring between us and also the slow measured time with you, whilst we accommodated this vile disease into our lives. I feel a warm glow, when I think about the hard work we did together, our love for each other and how we decided to make the best of a very bad job.

    We can also feel very proud that we kept up our sense of humour on top of a deep understanding of who each of us was, in our own separate worlds coping with this tragedy and shock.

    If you had not been so courageous and a Warrior, we would not have had the time to adjust to what this meant to us. Thank you Lovely for always being so strong, so we could take on this horror at our own pace.

    You were your own man, never following the herd, you had your own tastes in music, clothes, furniture, art, design and people, and how to live. Nobody could tell you what to do ever. You lived the life you wanted to live. Good On You Son; maybe you knew it would be a short life and best spend it your way.

    We made a good and peaceful adaption over 5/6 years. So many adventures, so much fun, trips and travels, sharing and learning from your music, your love of architecture; you knowing I would always listen, even if it was about medication, constant headaches, crippling fatigue, what Consultants had said. You could rely on me being there when you felt seriously ill and threatened, and when we suspected a major deterioration and we got it right by instinct every time:

    I remember you insisting on walking in the snow to the bus 12 January 2017, after being told you had a matter of weeks to live and although you could hardly stand and had trembled during the Consultation. It is this strength that powered you through all that suffering, allowing you to carry on a normal life, have fun in fancy dress. You are a Leader in the best sense of the word, driving yourself and your friends and colleagues through challenges, with your belief that we could do it. I love you Jack and that is forever and it is up to the moon and stars and back.

    It was my pleasure and priveledge to have you in my life.

    If all the stars go out you will still be burning so bright.

    I can see your i360 from my road my Jack and from the Rest Garden, where I walk Wooley my dog. It is a Blue and Red glowing Beacon of warmth over Brighton at night, a hope for the future during the day and the best monument to you that your Mum could ask. You were an amazing wonderful son, thank you Sweetie for your time with me.

    My beautiful son, I sent you on a relaxing boat journey under your favourite Seville bridges two days before your death. The Gualdalquivir runs down to Cordoba and out to open sea. You were on your boat focusing your favourite Seville bridges with the Moulettes playing and the sun was warm on your face as you headed to the open sea.

    During the nights, you would shout “Almost There”. This is your usual leadership cry as we walk miles between sights on photographic trips. It was interspersed with ‘Sit Down”, so maybe Wooley the dog was there too on your boat and you were steering it and worried about him on the river.

    Background Info
    Jack shared his Calendar with me for medical tracking of epilepsy seizures and medication: In it are hundreds of Birthdays. He kept track of birthdays and always sent carefully chosen cards. Phelim’s was 15 February and Angie’s 13 February, belated happy Birthday from Jack.
    Even in the hospice, he wanted to find a Chinese New Year card for Kwan and gave a present and card to Verity.

    He had an exquisite eye for design. Even his bike an aluminium Van Moof was a beauty to behold on Brighton bike stands, “That’s my son”s bike.” I would proudly say going past on the bus: and it really was worthy of exhibiting on a wall and the ideal bike for Brighton.

    He planned the end of his life with courage. He bought a beautiful Habitat sofa bed, with independent single beds, so that visitors could sit, whilst he lay down exhausted, or I could stay and look after him. I have stayed many days on that sofa bed tracking his health.

    My lovely son Jack actually read ‘coffee table books’ on architecture. In recent years we celebrated my birthday with memorable trips, so that I would have these memories if he were to die before me. We made a good traveling team. I would rest on a bench and stare at things after running after his long legs for hours. Jack would take his time constructing photos.

    So in 2012 on the hottest day of the year, we went to the V & A Heatherwick exhibition because of the Heatherwick Olympic torch, then to Hyde Park and the Serpentine Galleries and on to watch War Horse. So much love and thought.

    In 2015 we took a freezing London boat ride to Kew and did the Marks Barfield tree top walk because the i360 was going to be built and Jack was an influential advocate for it.

    We were walking along the seafront when work was just commencing on the i360 build. Jack told me that it would never have been built without his influence and advocacy: I said, “never mind I will put a sticker on it saying just that”. When construction had commenced, I told a Security Guard/Meeter Greeter about Jack and he said he would put the sticker on for me using a porthole. I had the Blue Plaques made for Jack’s birthday in 2016, however by February 2016 he needed a second brain operation, so it was inappropriate. He said though that I should try to put it up if he died.

    In 2015 we had a brilliant holiday traveling by train to the World Heritage sights in Spain: Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Cadiz, me sitting peacefully on benches and Jack taking his photographs.

    Jack worked so hard for his beloved Brighton and the Green Party.

    A side effect of anti-epilepsy drugs is trembling fingers and a side effect of steroids is needing to take the next size up in shoes and clothes. Similarly chemotherapy induces a terrible fatigue. It is difficult to complete even simple tasks.

    Despite this, he carried on with his photography, taking careful patient shots. he even entered the Council run competition for photographs to hang on the wall of the newly renovated Hove Town Hall. He was upset and disappointed that he was not even a runner-up.

    As a memorial to Jack please put his competition photographs up in Hove Town Hall and please would you investigate whether a plaque can be put on the i360.

    One night at the hospice Jack told me that he was worried about his life: I held his hand and said ”Jack you have had a wonderful life; you are loved by so many people; you have achieved more than most people could in a 100 years. I am so proud of you my kind, considerate, brave heroic warrior. You rest now sweetie; you are safe in the warmth of all our love.”

  5. Craig Moore Reply

    Jack was a really great guy, I was extremely priveliged to have had the opportunity to work with him at BHCC for a few months a few years ago. He was a workaholic, gave 150% effort compared to everyone else, and was extremely generous, gentle and kind. I only saw him at a couple of developer events after that but he was always good to talk to. Taken too soon.

    • Jack’s Mum Reply

      Thank you Sweetie. Your’s has always been one of the best true messages reflecting my son.

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