(Mayor of Chorley 1936-1939)
Ralph Gent was born in Chorley in August 1876 and died 1 August 1947 aged 71. He was the son of James Gent and Ellen Pass and married Mary Jane Ward (b 1876, d 31 Oct 1945 aged 68) on 15 August 1900 at St Peters Church, Chorley. He worked as a ‘Progresser’ in a cotton print works and had two daughters, Annie born 1904 and Ellen born 7 March 1906.
The following photograph of Ralph Gent (and others) can be found at the Lancashire Lantern Image Archive at http://lanternimages.lancashire.gov.uk/ and is copyright to the Lancashire County Library and Information Service.
Ralph Gent, an ardent Conservative, was elected Mayor of Chorley in the Coronation year of 1936 and remained Mayor for three consecutive years. Six years later he was made Alderman.
As a Freemason he was a Past Master of the Ellesmere Lodge. He was buried at St Peter’s Church and interestingly, the Rev J W Carpenter, vicar of St John’s Coppull who was also Worshipful Master of Ellesmere Lodge of Freemasons, took the Masonic Service at the graveside.
He was popular and well loved. An ‘appreciation’ of Alderman Ralph Gent appeared in the Chorley Guardian of 8 August 1947.
It is quite impressive that his friend manages to convey the image of a man who acted with the ‘simplicity of a child’, was ‘no orator’ and was ‘not lucid in his powers of expression’ and yet possessed the qualities appreciated by his colleagues so that they asked him to remain as Mayor for three consecutive years.
“… his memory will ever continue fresh and green in the minds and hearts of those who knew him. It was my privilege to know him intimately in his business, social and public life for the past 35 years, and of his character I cannot speak too highly.
His two main characteristics were, in my opinion, honesty and humility. He was transparently honest. To speak of his humility is to use the word that comes nearest to the fact, though it is far from being adequate.
Although he had served as Mayor of his native town and created a record with holding the position of Deputy Mayor longer than any other, he was never boastful or arrogant. Another phase of his humbleness of mind was seen in his readiness to recognise worth in others, and obligation to others.
He carried his honours with all the simplicity of a child. Don’t misunderstand me. Ralph Gent appreciated the honours bestowed upon him. He was proud to be Mayor of Chorley. He was pleased when he was elevated to the Aldermanic bench – of course he was human, but there was never any conscientious work on the Town Council is so well known that it is unnecessary to recite the various ways in which he carried out his duties; suffice it to say that he was diligent in his attendance at the meetings of the committees, and although he was no orator his views were respected by his colleagues.
By his honesty of purpose he won the respect of those whose political opinions differed from his own. In his thinking he was logical, and although not lucid in his powers of expression he was above all things conscientious. He had a high sense of duty, allied with kindliness and tact which won for him the ready loyalty of his colleagues and the esteem of all.
Space will not permit to recount his many activities. His love for his church, his quiet work of the Board of Management of the Chorley and Dis. Hospital, and the Workpeople’s Central Hospital Fund, his labours for Freemasonry, serving for twelve months as the Worshipful Master of the Ellesmere Lodge, performing the duties of his high office with advantage to his Lodge.
It was my joy to visit him often whilst he was in the Chorley and District Hospital, and I felt that his suffering bore testimony of his sincere and gently personality. Ralph Gent was indeed one of nature’s gentlemen. WS”
Ralph Gent died on 1 Aug 1947 and was buried with his wife, Mary, who died 31 Oct 1945, at the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, Chorley. They are commemorated on the same headstone of Ralph’s father, James Gent. Their children Ellen, who only lived for 11 days and Annie, who lived for 53 years are also interred there.