Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 13:02 UK

Former Wrexham MP Tom Ellis dies aged 86

Tom Ellis in campaigning mode
Tom Ellis was elected as a Labour MP but later switched to the SDP

The former MP for Wrexham, Tom Ellis, has died in hospital aged 86.

Tom Ellis was elected as the town's Labour MP in 1970 but in 1981 he became one of the founding members of the Social Democratic Party.

He lost his seat in 1983 when he stood for the new party in the newly-created Clwyd South West constituency and came second to the Conservative candidate.

Before entering Parliament, Mr Ellis was manager of Bersham colliery and Wrexham's Hafod colliery.

Mr Ellis, a widower, leaves three sons and a daughter.

He was a pupil at Ysgol y Wern and then Ruabon Grammar School before studying chemistry at Bangor University.

With the outbreak of World War II, he was called up and worked at an explosives factory in Penrhyndeudraeth.

After the war, he worked at Gresford Colliery in a career in mining that lasted until he became an MP.

A Welsh speaker, he once gave a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels in Welsh and was told this was "out of order".

'A man of Rhos'

Lord Thomas of Gresford, the Lib Dems' Shadow Attorney General, described him as a "very nice and very able man".

He said: "He was idealistic and very European-minded and those two things were the touchstone of his political career."

He said Mr Ellis was "very much a man of Rhos" and had deep roots in the local community.

Lord Thomas said Baroness [Shirley] Williams and Lord [Bill] Rogers, who were among the so-called Gang of Four who formed the SDP, had "great affection and high regard for Tom" and always inquired after him.

He said: "I know that they will be very sad to learn of his passing."

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: "Tom was a hard-working man and a principled politician who was admired by many people across north Wales. This is very sad news indeed."

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