World boxing champion Hogan Bassey wasn’t the only hard-hitter for Liverpool in the 1950s and early 1960s.

His good friend, battling Labour MP Bessie Braddock, packed quite a punch herself in the tough world of politics.

She always fought the city’s corner, proving herself a formidable campaigner on housing, health and social welfare.

Bessie Braddock, centre, with Harold Wilson and Ken Dodd at the reopening of the Cavern Club, July 1966

Bessie Braddock, centre, with Harold Wilson and Ken Dodd at the reopening of the Cavern Club, July 1966

As one commentator put it, ‘she brought her experiences of life in the slums right into the heart of Westminster.’

Born in Zante Street in 1899, Braddock honed her political skills as a crusading and controversial left-wing councillor. She was elected MP for Liverpool Exchange in the Labour landslide of 1945.

She worked as an ambulance driver during the war and attended every one of the 68 major air raids on the city.

Boxer Hogan Bassey and son Hogan Junior welcome Bessie Braddock to their home, June 1957

Boxer Hogan Bassey and son Hogan Junior welcome Bessie Braddock to their home, June 1957

It was a perilous task. Fourteen ambulance drivers lost their lives on one day alone in 1941.

In 1952 Braddock became the first female MP to be suspended from the House of Commons after protesting, somewhat forthrightly, that the Speaker had failed to call her during a debate on the textile industry.

At the time, the plight of the textile trade was of great concern to her constituents.

Residents show Bessie Braddock how they have to climb over demolition rubble to leave their home, July 1954

Residents show Bessie Braddock how they have to climb over demolition rubble to leave their home, July 1954

From 1953 to 1957, she sat on the Royal Commission for Mental Health, whose findings led to the Mental Health Act of 1959.

She served as MP for Liverpool Exchange from 1945 until 1970 and was Liverpool’s first woman freeman.

Forthright and combative as she was in public, Braddock was more modest and unassuming in her private life.

Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, right, talks to Bessie Braddock at Liverpool’s Gladstone Dock, September 1958

Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, right, talks to Bessie Braddock at Liverpool’s Gladstone Dock, September 1958

She did not smoke or drink and holidayed quietly with her husband Jack in Scarborough.

But she did enjoy the glamour of showbusiness and sport and numbered many well-known personalities among her friends.

In 1996 she joined forces with Liverpool group The Hideaways to reopen the Cavern Club after its Beatles heyday. Helping her relaunch the venue on July 7 were Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and comedian Ken Dodd.

Liverpool MP Bessie Braddock visiting slum clearance areas in the city, June 1962

Liverpool MP Bessie Braddock visiting slum clearance areas in the city, June 1962

She was also backstage at the London Palladium with Harold and Mary Wilson when Ken Dodd made his first Royal Variety Show appearance on his 36th birthday.

Braddock got to know Liverpool world featherweight champion Hogan Bassey and his family well and was with him at Buckingham Palace when he was awarded the MBE in July 1958.

Try combing that! Bessie Braddock tries to keep Ken Dodd’s unruly topknot in order at the London Palladium with Harold and Mary Wilson, September 1965

Try combing that! Bessie Braddock tries to keep Ken Dodd’s unruly topknot in order at the London Palladium with Harold and Mary Wilson, September 1965

She was proud to present Celtic’s Jock Stein with the Manager of the Year award in January 1966 – but even prouder to share the stage with the man who won the title of Outstanding Manager in League Football.

It was none other than fellow Liverpool legend Bill Shankly.

 

 

Many more favourite photos feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant new book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s – published next month.

Echo readers can pre-order their copy at the bargain price of £9.99 plus £1.99 P&P. Just go to our online shop or ring the order hotline on 01928 503777.

Orders will be dispatched in the week beginning July 9th 2018.

Don’t miss out on the remarkable story of an unforgettable decade!