Thanksgiving service for Frank Field takes place in Oxton

Final tributes have been made to the late Frank Field who “saw something in Birkenhead which nobody else saw”.

The former Labour Minister and crossbench peer Baron Frank Field who represented the town of Birkenhead from 1979 until 2019 has been buried at Birkenhead Priory followed by a memorial service that paid tribute to the late politician.

Though from London originally, local politicians and his family said he came to love the town for its people and stood up for them where he could.

He was considered a hugely influential figure in Parliament but a statement read out in the House of Lords on behalf of Lord Field of Birkenhead in 2021 revealed he was terminally ill and had spent time in a hospice. In April 2024, it was announced he had died and tributes came in from across the political spectrum.

On 17 June, people and politicians filled the pews at the Christ Church in Oxton who were there alongside Lord Field’s family and people from the Number Seven Cafe and Feeding Britain, two things he helped set up to help those in food poverty.

It was also revealed that earlier in the day, Lord Field’s ashes were buried at Birkenhead Priory in a private ceremony as his final resting place.

Those who spoke to the LDRS said he was a leader in his approach to politics and his Christian faith, working late hours to help people, lobbying for Cammell Laird shipyard contracts, and how he “played a big part in shaping the culture of our town”.

Dame Patricia Routledge DBE said Lord Field was “a rare person” and it moved her as someone from Birkenhead how passionate he was about the town, adding, “I enjoyed a rich friendship with Frank Field for nearly 40 years and we would meet in London and dine together. I had wonderful conversations with him.”

Ema Wilkes from NEO Community, a charity, said Lord Field had helped thousands of children through supporting their work, adding, “He never forgot people. He just was a really important special man for a lot of people and one that will be deeply missed. He showed communities aren’t voiceless.”

Peter Field, Frank Field’s brother

Peter Field said people had even come up to him with stories from decades ago about his older brother, adding, “A nicety or a favour is never forgotten in this area whereas in other parts of the country it might be easily forgotten or conveniently forgotten. It’s not conveniently forgotten in Birkenhead. I am very sad this is my first visit to Birkenhead. It feels like home.”

He said, “He saw something in Birkenhead which possibly nobody else saw. The resilience in the people. The wanting to do things and to work,” adding, “It’s heart-wrenching, really tearful. My daughter said to me ‘thank god the service is over in London because that was quite big’ and I said ‘don’t you worry about that darling because it’s going to be nothing to what Birkenhead does’ and I was proved right.

“The people turned out. He was a one-off, absolutely a one-off. Didn’t care for himself too much and sometimes I think he cared for other people too much and neglected himself a little bit.”

Speaking inside Number Seven, he said, “You can’t put it into words. I didn’t know what to expect coming here but I am absolutely blown away with what they have achieved.”

Moira McAdam, who is project manager at the Number Seven Cafe, said, “This town meant everything to Frank. To choose to be buried here speaks volumes. To choose to be laid to rest here that just speaks volumes,” adding, “Frank was very much a Birkonian, a Birkenhead person. He loved the town.”

Andrew Forsey, the managing director of Feeding Britain, said they originally had 12 partnerships set up across the country but there were now 110 and growing. He said people had been inspired by what Lord Field did with nearly 400 social supermarkets across the UK.

He said, “He would be appalled by the levels of destitution we are seeing in the town and across the country but he would think particularly when it comes to countering that destitution, enough people of good will have started to tackle it in different ways.”

Referring to the upcoming general election on 4 July, he added, “He would be hopeful, regardless of who wins this election, there would be enough of a head of steam so that we can genuinely make destitution a thing of the past in this country.”

The service at Christ Church, Oxton

Claughton councillor Steve Foulkes said, “Birkenhead needed a champion and he became a champion for Birkenhead,” adding, “The respect people held for him. It was always Mr Field. People understood that he was fighting for them.”

He said, “The main memory I have is the absolute respect in some of the roughest poorest parts of town, fellas who used to scare me when I was young had respect for him,” adding, “You do not just get that by chance.”

Alison McGovern, who is running as the Labour candidate in Birkenhead, remembers being called into a meeting about the future of Cammell Laird shortly after becoming an MP in 2010. She called him “someone for Birkenhead and the whole Wirral to be really proud of,” adding, “I was playing a supportive role but I knew he had seen the shipyard through its worst times and our position as Wirral MPs was to stand up for people’s jobs and the people of the town and I thought Frank has been through a lot in this place.”

Respect for Lord Field crosses political divides too with high praise from local Conservatives about the work he did in the town. Cllr Jeff Green, their leader in Wirral Council, said he remembered working with him on getting investment into schools when Cllr Green led the local authority, adding, “He was tremendous and he was absolutely totally and utterly committed to Birkenhead and was not afraid to take on difficult issues.”

Image: The order of service which had been curated by Frank Field before he died. All images credit: Ed Barnes

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The Rt Revd Julie Conalty, Bishop of Birkenhead, and Keith Addenbrooke, Vicar of St James’ Church in Birkenhead