I WAS given the Cudworth district as my patch when I first joined the Chronicle about a decade ago.

I remember it being a daunting-but-enjoyable task; it was a large area as it also included villages such as Grimethorpe and Royston but the people there were friendly and I still keep in touch with many of the contacts I made back then.

People like Dave North, Cliff Gorman, Johnny Wood, Les Holt and Elsie Smith immediately spring to mind – always helpful and to this day remain so – but there was one councillor who stood head and shoulders above the rest for me.

That was the indomitable Charlie Wraith MBE, a happy-go-lucky bloke who was opinionated and often stubborn but always an absolute joy to be around thanks to his brilliant sense of humour and warmth.

Sadly, he died on Monday and will be missed by so many people.

I have no idea why he took me under his wing, but he did – to this day I am thankful he chose to, because he always kept me in the loop about the goings-on in his ward and never failed to give a quote or pose for a photo in the Chronicle’s district edition days.

We just got along and I even invited him to my son Arthur’s christening given the respect I had and will always have for Charlie; a councillor who became a friend.

A former Mayor of Barnsley who represented the Cudworth ward, he was first elected in 1974 but he was battling oesophagus cancer and had no choice to stop – reluctantly – after 49 years’ service.

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He received a distinguished service award at Barnsley Town Hall before stepping down – the first ever given by the council – and was rightly lavished with praise by his colleagues for his dedication to Cudworth and the borough.

In his final months, his health deteriorated and he only really made trips to visit his beloved late wife Marilyn’s grave in Monk Bretton, but we still enjoyed a chat and a laugh on the phone.

I last saw him on October 11 when I coaxed him out – I picked him up and took him to the unveil of Sir Michael Parkinson’s blue plaque in Cudworth, and everyone there was just so happy to see him.

I remember thinking I was glad I had insisted on taking him as he was able to see a true measure of his popularity, just weeks before he died.

He was an exceptional man but everyone who knew him can now take comfort in the fact that he’s back with Marilyn where he really wanted to be.

Rest in peace, Charlie.

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IT often irritates me when people needlessly moan about things.

You seemingly can’t do right for doing wrong in many cases, and not many organisations in Barnsley receive criticism as much as the council.

Fair enough, sometimes their decision-making can be odd, but why they still get stick for the Glass Works never fails to astonish me.

It looks brilliant, it’s better than its neighbours’ offerings and it’s a great place to visit.

Yes it’s expensive and yes it’s overbudget, but the usual mob of cynics are always too quick to get their pitchforks out and it’s becoming tiresome.

Their gripe recently? Several empty shops on Cheapside and Queen Street.

M and S ended its 90-year stay there but moved to the retail park off Harborough Hill Road, and several banks have closed their doors – how’s that the council’s fault?

Perhaps the council should lay on coaches to take the whining mob to Wakefield so they can have a mooch around its woeful city centre and count all the empty shops in the Ridings, which has arguably become the world’s worst shopping centre.

I’ve been more opinionated than most about some of Barnsley Council’s behaviour in the past but on this occasion, their forward-thinking approach to regenerating the town centre deserves nothing but praise.