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Obituary - Milton Lane

Obituary - Milton laneWe are sad to note the death of a friend and former stalwart Councillor, (latterly Alderman) Milton Lane.

Coun. Lane was a man of the people, always interested in their needs and concerns, and happy to use his talents to represent them faithfully. In turn, the people of Kilnhouse rewarded him with their confidence year after year until he decided the time had come to let younger hands take over.

We remember him not as a great orator, nor a brilliant tactician or strategist. His contribution to items was often simply his vote which he would use to good commonsense effect, and his occasional interjection of humour that would lighten proceedings. However there was one subject on which he became formidable and tenacious. As a former chemist, he was wholly opposed to the addition of fluoride to the water supply, and it is principally due to his efforts and persuasion that Fylde consistently refused to vote for its addition and which has helped prevent the addition of what Coun. Lane would describe as poison to the water supply used by everyone.

Possible the greatest sadness of his municipal career was the year he was due to become Mayor when he suffered a stroke that affected his mobility and slowed his thought process somewhat. Undaunted, he declared he would continue and become Fylde's Mayor which, to his credit and in the circumstances, he did exceptionally well.

We recall an instance told to us by a friend of counterbalance, a former quite senior officer in the Council. A chap called Peter Johnson was the Chief Executive at the time, and he worried about Coun. Lane's ability and health in the role. One aspect in particular had given rise to concern for him. Coun. Lane had grown into the view that when the Mayor was asked to open something or officiate at an event, what the people gathered really wanted to hear from him was a string of humorous anecdotes and tales that would make, and keep, them laughing for the duration.

Coun. Lane had a lot of such tales but, because of the slowing down of his thought process, there would be quite long gaps and - what to those listening seemed to be 'awkward silences' - as he waited for the humour to subside and thought for a while of the next story. After a couple of these events, Peter Johnson confided in our friend that he would really like to help the mayor in delivering his speeches, in order to avoid the silences.

At the next event, (which was the opening of the Ribby Hall centre), the VIPs and supporters had gathered in the foyer of the building waiting for the Mayor to officiate and do the business. Coun. Lane did the perfunctory part of declaring the centre open, then launched into the beginning of his performance with "This, of course reminds me of....."

By the start of the third story, people were just beginning to become restless, but the Mayor had not sensed this and, after finishing tale number three, went into 'pause for thought' mode, at which time our friend started the applause for the opening. Catching the Chief Executive's eye, he winked and got a smile in return as he and the assembly joined in the applause to thank Coun. Lane.

The Mayor in turn recognised the applause as marking his job done, said thank you, and all ended happily.

The Chief Executive was later to recount that he had used that device to good effect at most of the functions the Mayor subsequently officiated.

That story is retold not as a criticism, but to illustrate the warmth and concern in which Cllr Lane was held by both his electorate, his colleagues, and the officers with whom he worked.

As time went, by, Cllr Lane got himself a narrow-wheelbase power scooter that would go into the sort of places you could not imagine it would be possible to get. He learned to turn it literally on a sixpence.

On one occasion, when Blackpool FC were thinking of relocating to a site at Whyndyke Farm at the end of the M55, a visit had been arranged to see a similar type of all seater stadium (which had tiers of seats going into the clouds) in use at a Yorkshire football club. The coach arrived at the town hall, and Coun. Lane appeared on his scooter. He dismounted did some clever things to enable it to be stowed in the luggage compartment of the coach's underbelly. Coun. Lane managed the steps up into the front seat of the coach, and set off with the rest of the party on adventure that would bring who knows what sort of challenges for him.

The group went into a ground floor reception at the stadium and our friend said he saw Cllr Lane on his scooter negotiating the doors in with ease, and getting a cup of tea at the table. The presentations about the design and build of the stadium were made, then the party was invited to the top of the terraces (in the clouds) from which a panoramic view of the stadium was available. As the main party started up the stairs, Cllr Lane was seen getting into a small lift.

At the top of the stairs, there was Cllr Lane sitting quietly on his scooter at the last row of the terrace waiting for everyone else to arrive!

It demonstrates the practicality, determination and indomitable spirit of a man that would not make a fuss, but would not be beaten either.

His passing is a sad loss to us all, and we convey our sincere condolences to his widow Margaret with whom he shared many happy years.

Dated:  4 March 2009


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