TRIBUTES have been flowing in for Beth Graham - a former town, district and county councillor - who has died aged 91.
Miss Graham - renowned for being a formidable presence in local and county politics and who could be relied upon for fighting tough battles - died peacefully at Ingleborough Nursing Home, in Ingleton, where she had lived for the past few years.
She also served on the Yorkshire Dales National Park committee.
Miss Graham was born at The Folly, in Settle, on October 7, 1926.
Her grandfather and his brother, descendants of Scottish Borders family, were skilled cabinetmakers and joiners and had been drafted in to the town when The Folly was in danger of falling down. As part of the deal, the family were given rooms in the Grade 1 listed building and Miss Graham and her younger sister, the late Claire Brooks, were both born there.
The family also leased and refurbished the then crumbling Victoria Hall, turning it into a cinema.
Later the family was to open another in Settle before ending up with a chain of nine in small towns and villages.
Born into a family of stoic Liberals, Miss Graham and her sister were to follow in politics.
After attending Settle High and then Skipton High Schools, Miss Graham went off to London University and joined the Liberal Club. In 1950 she was sent off to stand stand for Parliament in Faversham, Kent, a town she had never even visited.
She was given a lesson in tough national politics and lost her deposit.
She went on to to become a Liberal Party agent in Leeds and then Bradford.
She was to fight three more Parliamentary elections, all in virtually impossible seats. By 1973 she had become more interested in local issues and joined North Yorkshire County Council, along with Craven District Council and Settle Town Council.
She retired from district and county councils in 2004 and from the town council in 2010. In 2013 she was given the Freedom of Craven and the title of Honorary Alderman.
She was chairman of the North Craven  Building  Preservation  Trust  for 12 years with playwright Alan Bennett as president.
As well as fighting to save the Settle-Carlisle railway line from closure, she rallied against plans to stop Settle Festival and the removal of the fair from the market place to Ashfield Car Park, suggesting those who complained should be issued with earplugs.
In 2009 she also threatened to boycott town council meetings in Settle after getting stuck in the lift; having to be released by new councillor Dan Balsamini.
Peter Leng, former town council clerk at Settle, said: “Many will be saddened to learn of the death of Beth Graham; a formidable character in local politics in the Craven District.
“She was a regular attender at meetings and always had the best interests of the local community at heart. Living in Settle Market Place for many years, she was in the centre of things. Her door was always open and she spent her life trying to help those less fortunate than herself.
“Beth Graham was involved in efforts to save the Settle-Carlisle Railway when its future was in doubt during the late ‘80s, also in the provision of the £8.5million, four-mile stretch of the Settle/Giggleswick bypass which opened in December 1988.
“As a town councillor in Settle, she did all she could to further the interests of the town and keep it on the map. She was a force to be reckoned with and contributed much to the preservation of the local scene.”
David Heather, former North Yorkshire County Councillor who was also a former chairman of Craven District Council and mayor of Settle, said: “For or against, nobody can deny Beth was a force to be reckoned with.  She spent her life fighting for the wellbeing of the residents of Settle and the surrounding district.  
“Beth gave her all, she was the first person to call on us when we moved to Settle.  
“Extremely persuasive, she got me, a committed left wing socialist, to stand for election as a Lib Dem councillor. ‘We are a broad church’ said she.
“Beth is an irreplaceable ‘one-off’. May God bless her.”
Pete Shaw, vice chairman and committee member of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, said: “FOSCL will remember Beth Graham as a staunch supporter of the railway.
“When the line was under threat of closure, between 1983 and 1989, Beth was vocal and persuasive at the many meetings.
“She was a formidable figure and important local authority representative.”
A spokesman for Skipton and Ripon Liberal Democrats said: “Beth was a hard-working councillor at all levels of local government. She was always there when people needed help, regardless of their political persuasion, and she worked wonders for Settle and the surrounding area. She had a sharp wit, could make her point clearly and succinctly, and took no prisoners in the Council chamber.
“Her grasp of national politics was another of Beth’s strong points. She ran several General Election campaigns, particularly for Skipton when her sister, Claire Brooks, was candidate, from 1974 onwards. The two sisters working together produced exciting times for Liberal/Liberal Democrat members and activists as well as having a great impact on the electorate, despite Skipton being a strong Conservative constituency.
“Beth’s influence on politics at all levels should never be underestimated.”
Craven District Council also paid tribute. Councillor Carl Lis, lead member for Greener Craven who served on the council with Miss Graham, said: “Beth Graham was totally committed to the communities of North Yorkshire and the Craven District Council Settle Ward in particular for many years. 
“She was tireless in pursuing any issue that she felt strongly about. I recollect getting notes from her on many occasions that she had sent to me in the early hours of the morning.
“She was also a valuable source of information across so many areas of local government.
“I remember going to her home on a number of occasions and being amazed by paperwork she had there; council reports going back years.”
Cllr Robert Heseltine said: “I feel exceptionally sad. Beth was a worthy adversary. She made me think and I had to do my homework to be ready for Beth at meetings. Together in politics, she and her sister could be bundles of fire. Outside politics they were a bundle of fun.”
A funeral service is to be held at Settle Parish Church on Friday, September 21, at 11.30am; donations in lieu of flowers for Ingleborough Nursing Home amenity fund.