Allan Horsfall –Tribute to a True Homo Hero

Publish Date: 31/08/2012


If you are a gay man and you don’t know the name of Allan Horsfall you certainly owe him a great deal.

Allan Horsfall who has died at the age of 84 was a local councillor in Nelson, Lancashire who went on to become one of the first and most inspirational campaigners for gay rights in British history.

In the 1950s Allan was a colliery clerk and Labour councillor in Nelson. He discovered inconsistencies in the way the law against homosexuality in Britain was applied. In 1959 Allan tabled a motion to back the decriminalisation of homosexuality and introduced his local Labour party to ideas of law reform for gay men. At the time the local party firmly rejected them.

Not dissuaded from his mission, Allan went on to  set up the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee (later to become the Campaign for Homosexual Equality) which had it’s first public meeting on 7th October 1964 in Deansgate, Manchester.

Early meetings were supported by the Church of England, Manchester Diocese who provided meeting rooms and the group received support from the Bishop of Middleton.

Talking to Outnorthwest in 2004 Allan said “People didn’t want it to be official or to have minutes taken, they were frightened of having their names mentioned and being outed.Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.”

Even after homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain in 1967, Allan continued his campaigning work.

In 1998 he worked on the case of the Bolton Seven – a group of men who were prosecuted under a law which stated that sex between men was illegal if more than two men were present.It was the last major case to come to court before British sexual offences laws were reviewed.

Allan commented about the Bolton case: “There was a situation where gays were getting into trouble that involved no public sex, no young men, no group sex and I protested –writing a letter to the Bolton Evening News. The editor said he had received visits from the police after carrying my letter and subsequent letters of support for the reform.”

In 2000, Allan received The Pink Paper Award for services to the gay community. He was also honoured in 2004, along with other gay rights campaigners, at a ceremony at Manchester Town Hall, recalling how they had lobbied for change in the law during the 1960s.

Regarding his own life Allan recalled: “Interestingly in all my dealings with the press before 1967 no-one ever questioned my sexuality. Blackmail happened before ‘67 but gays weren’t beaten up as a blood sport as they have been since, in a way many people were right to be worried about coming out because since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, homophobic incidents increased.”

On his campaigning work he added “We only get a reaction from people when things are taken away from us, only then can we drive things forward.”


‘We all walk in Allan's shadow. He was active in LGBT campaigning until a few months before his death. Allan deserves a Queer State Funeral.’ Peter Tatchell.

‘Allan’s contribution to gay rights is he invented it. Allan was the founder of it all and a great inspiration to me and a lovely, lovely friend’.  Journalist and fellow CHE member Fellow Ray Gosling.

 “Allan made an invaluable contribution to the campaign for LGBT rights”. Pink Triangle Trust Secretary, George Broadhead

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation would like to add to these tributes as Allan was one of the few people to drive things forward at a time when no one used the term ‘gay’, same sex relationships were illegal and there was no LGBT political movement campaigning for change.In over 50 years of campaigning Allan Horsfall was a true pioneer and a true hero. Without him and others who have followed in his footsteps, none of us in Britain would enjoy the freedoms and protections in law that we do today. We owe him so much.

Our condolences go to Allan’s family and his many friends.

A tribute to Alan’s life and work will be given at a Humanist funeral ceremony to be held at Overdale Crematorium, Bolton, England at 2.45pm on 6 September 2012.

For more on Allan Horsfall please read Mike Newman’s summary of Allan’s achievements as part of Mike’s ‘Pioneers & Progress’ work: