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Leslie Chapman

Michael Meadowcroft, the former West Leeds MP, pays an affectionate tribute here to Armley resident Leslie Chapman who died last month and who will be remembered as one of the community's most active and remarkable figures.

Leslie Chapman, of Aberdeen Grove, Armley, who died on 19th March aged 78, was a remarkable man. Inventor, painter, musician, electronics buff and community activist, he had a lively mind and views on every subject - often very unusual!

I first met Leslie at one of my Councillor’s surgeries at Armley Library. He was beginning a campaign against unscrupulous private landlords who were taking over terraced houses in Armley and elsewhere, converting them without planning permission into bed-sitters and circumventing rent regulations by pretending they were bed and breakfast establishments. His persistence made sure that I was not allowed to let the pressure drop, and between us we eventually had a number of successes. Somehow he always had new information as to the tactics of the landlords, both in Armley and in other parts of Leeds.

On one occasion, Yorkshire Television wanted a film of a typical surgery for an educational programme and Leslie was one of a number of constituents who agreed to take part. When the cameras rolled he proceeded to give me a much harder time than he ever did on a routine visit!

From time to time in connection with this housing campaign I visited Leslie and was amazed to see scores of beautiful landscapes in oils around the house. These had all been painted by him, mainly in the Yorkshire Dales, until in latter years his eyesight prevented him from being able to focus clearly enough for his own high standards. Apparently even the most complicated of river and woodland scenes were completed by him in a matter of hours without any detriment to the care and detail required.

He was passionately interested in music, also a participant rather than as an observer. He had played violin in the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and, until an accident had damaged his hands, he had been an excellent pianist. A recording of him playing a Faure Ballade demonstrated a real delicacy and fluency of touch. He possessed a large record collection, plus considerable musical knowledge, and until my election to Parliament entailed my being away from Leeds too much it was a regular Sunday lunchtime treat to visit Leslie and listen to some unusual piece of music, perhaps connected to the Faust legend to which he had a particular attachment.

Leslie Chapman had always had an alert interest in scientific developments and had been involved in a number of innovations. He claimed to have been responsible for the idea of automatic traffic signals which were first installed at the junction of Park Row and Bond Street in 1928. He worked with John Logie Baird at Scarborough on the experiments which led to the development of television. He also tried to patent a number of inventions, including a gyroscope which, if installed in tankers, would prevent them from overturning. In recent years he had taken up micro electronics and made automatic light sensitive switches for use in securing premises.

In common with many remarkable individuals he had a difficult side to his personality, and there were areas of his life that he preferred to close off completely to outsiders. Sometimes he could seem very awkward but he would always respond to a request for help from a friend - particularly if it involved demonstrating his practical or technical skills! We have lost a member of the Armley community who had a multitude of skills and was a genuine character.