A picturesque waterside memorial garden, created in tribute to one of Leeds’s most respected politicians, has been trashed.
The Lord Merlyn-Rees Riverside Garden, which sits beside the Aire and Calder Navigation at Knostrop Cut, Hunslet, was opened in March 2008 by the former Morley MP’s wife Lady Rees.
British Waterways, which owns the land, is investigating the incident. Coping stones have been removed, wording removed and a picture of Lord Merlyn-Rees has been damaged.
Peter Nothard, of Leeds Health Walks, said he had walked past the garden but that the condition had deteriorated: “I was so disappointed to see the damage and lack of care at the memorial. The wording on the circular stones is now incomplete as a number of them have been removed, I assume by vandals.”
Lord Merlyn-Rees was MP for South Leeds from 1963 to 1992 and was one of the city’s most recognised figures. He died in 2006, aged 85.
He was a key figure of the Labour Government in the 1970s, taking the hot-seat as Secretary for Northern Ireland in 1974 during the Troubles. He was Home Secretary from 1976-79 under James Callaghan’s Labour administration.
At the time of his death, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair said as well as being a leading figure in the party, the peer was “modest, generous, wise and loyal” and a personal friend.
When he retired from the House of Commons in 1992, he was created a life peer as Baron Merlyn-Rees, of Morley and South Leeds and of Cilfynydd in the County of Mid Glamorgan and entered the House of Lords, having changed his name by deed poll to allow his title to be Lord Merlyn-Rees, rather than just Lord Rees.
Coun Ann Castle, current Lord Mayor of Leeds, who attended the opening ceremony of the garden four years ago, said at the time: “I had a lot of respect for Lord Rees and remember the impact he had on Leeds. This garden will be an asset to the area and will prove a highly popular attraction, which will allow Lord Rees’s memory and legacy to live on.”
Police are working with British Waterways to establish what has happened.