A tribute to the sporting prowess of...Cyril Smith?


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Indy Politics

Weighing in at 29 stone, Sir Cyril Smith cut a giant figure in Liberal politics in the 1970s and 80s. His sporting achievements were – by contrast – slim.

Yesterday, the council in Rochdale, the seat he amply represented for 19 years, rejected a plan to remember one its most famous sons by naming a fitness and leisure centre after him.

The idea for The Sir Cyril Smith Sports Complex was reportedly floated by the late MP's godson, Councillor Dale Mulgrew. It was criticised by sitting Labour MP Simon Danczuk as "daft". The refurbished centre, due to open next year, will house a swimming pool, sports hall, fitness rooms, dance studios and a youth gym.

An email from Mr Mulgrew to fellow councillors reported in the local press suggested "a totemic, significant memorial in lasting tribute" to match that of the Lancashire mill town's other luminary, the singer Gracie Fields, who has a theatre named after her.

"Clearly, a lot of Cyril's work was around education, and clearly the new leisure centre will have a schools dimension because it will be used during the day by our local education establishments," the email said. "This is about a lasting memorial, irrespective of the facility, and Cyril would have promoted the community and social aspects of this building."

Sir Cyril – known as Big Cyril to his constituents – blamed his outsize girth on a glandular condition which also affected his mother who was equally large. However, it was noted that he retained a deep affection for the cuisine of his native Lancashire, especially fish and chips. As a result, tailors had to cut eight yards of material when making his suits.

A spokeswoman for the council said: "There was a suggestion the centre be named after Sir Cyril Smith, but this was subsequently withdrawn. The name will be announced in due course."