MY personal memories of Barbara Castle come towards the end of her long political career.

Of course I was aware of her as a young man growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Who wasn't?

But it was when I was the parliamentary 'lobby correspondent' for the Lancashire Telegraph working at Westminster that I first came into her direct orbit.

I attended her 80th birthday party at a Labour Conference in Blackpool attended by the great and good of the party.

When she stood up to speak the diminutive redhead shone like a bright candle and her passionate oratory lit up the dark room.

Over a glass or two of Chablis afterwards she was fun, fascinating and forthright.

Later I used to have to ring her at her Buckinghamshire home, suitably named Hell Corner Farm given her fiery nature.

The calls would normally follow the then Baroness Castle launching an embarrassing attack on the policies of the New Labour government, Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet minister lieutenant and her successor as Blackburn MP, Jack Straw.

She felt they were deserting the party's principles on issue such as pensions, social care and welfare.

When I got through, her carer would ask who was calling.

As I replied 'Bill Jacobs from the Lancashire Telegraph' a voice would come from the far side of the room demanding 'Who is it?'

After informing the doughty politician of my identity, Barbara would declare: "Of course I will talk to him."

As she came across the room to the phone, the dutiful carer would tell me the baroness was very frail and I should not take up too much of her time.

Some 45 minutes later, with Barbara in full flow, I would wonder if and when she would stop giving me her strong views on the subject in question.

Even well into her later 80s Baroness Castle remained a phenomenal woman, a real star and one who loved the political spotlight!

She would have loved every minute of this weekend's unveiling of her statue in her beloved Blackburn and I am sure will be there in spirit.