TRIBUTES have been paid to a Ryedale man who served in countless public, political and religious roles throughout his life, and who died only weeks after his wife.

James Edward Ford Longman - known as Ford - died after a life of energetic and dedicated public service on February 27, a month after Dilys, his wife of almost 60 years, died. The couple, who lived latterly in Slingsby, both had Parkinson’s disease.

Born in Watford in 1928, Ford was the eldest of two sons of George and Alice Longman. He grew up in the shadow of the Second World War, and remembered gathering scrap with a handcart to raise money for the war effort. After his education he served in the RAF, then joined the civil service and signed up for a degree at Birkbeck, the evening college of the University of London, where he met Dilys. They married in 1954.

The couple were very active in both the Liberal party and the Quaker society in London, but moved north in 1961 when Ford took up a job as assistant director at the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust. They lived in Bishopthorpe, where their fifth child was born in 1965.

There Ford’s social, political and religious activities became even busier and through the 1960s and 1970s he served on 10 government committees on social services and penal matters, was chairman of the board at HM Borstal in Wetherby, and consultant to the Government of West Berlin, among other things.

His five children, however, say they were always more interested in the places he went and people he met, including lunch with Bobby Charlton, trips to East Berlin with UNESCO, and a friendship with Beatles’ publicist Derek Taylor that led to work for Apple Records and a role organising John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s wedding celebration at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 1972, the family moved to Leeds and then Scotland, before returning to Yorkshire in 1980 when Ford and Dilys fell in love with the ruined Healaugh Priory, near Tadcaster, which they restored and ran as a B&B. They later moved to Thornton-le-Dale and then Sheriff Hutton, always running their home as a B&B, until retiring to Slingsby in the mid 1980s.

Ford worshipped at the Quaker meetings in Clifford Street and New Earswick. He was a school governor, county councillor and as vice-chairman of Ryedale Motor Neurone Disease Association. Central to both Ford and Dilys’s lives were their five children, thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.