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Obituary: George Caldwell

Obituary: Hon Ald. George CaldwellWe're sad to have to report the death of Honorary Alderman and former Fylde Councillor George Caldewell who died on Saturday.

We understand he had several periods of illness in the latter years of his life whilst living at a care home in Victoria Road.

He was a man most definitely of the 'old school' - unfailingly polite and formal in character. For him, everything had to be ship-shape and correct. No half measures, no uncertainty and no fudging. It all had to be clear and above board.

In some ways - but with less idiosyncrasies - he reminded us of the great astronomer Patrick Moore of the 'Sky at Night'  fame. Both had extensive accumulated knowledge and a great command of the English language. They both commanded vocabularies the scale of which would put most modern folk to shame. And both were possessed of that indomitable spirit that bore echoes of empire and the strength of a character forged during experience of the second world war. In short both were wholly self-reliant, able, individualists.

He was born in Hindley, near Wigan - which at that time would have been a small industrial town chiefly with cotton and coal at it its heart, and it was a coincidence that both George Caldwell and George Formby both lived there, then - in a complete co-incidence - both moved to live in Lytham St Annes, where both lived on the Inner Promenade.

We understand he left school at the (then usual) age of 14 and secured an apprenticeship with W Russell (plumbing / electrical) at the junction of St Anne's Road East and Orchard Road.

Later in life he took up an academic role at Loughborough University (and elsewhere) and, whilst a Councillor at Fylde, he represented the Council on the Court of  Lancaster University.

He also had strong connections to freemasonry, both in St Annes and in Preston.

His forte as a Councillor was undoubtedly 'planning.' He had a thorough knowledge of it and exercised that knowledge to good effect.

But he had other interests, and he ably represented his constituents too. If Cllr Caldwell wanted to see an officer at Fylde about some constituency matter, he would first make an appointment  (not for him the casual call on the off chance of availability) and as an officer you would need to have a mastery of the facts of the matter to be discussed - so boning up in advance was essential.

Without doubt, this is the sort of independent-minded, strong willed councillor that we rarely see the like of amongst Conservative members today. He was never afraid to speak his mind - even it that resulted in disagreement with the official party line. Always wanting clarity and always wanting the details spelled out so everyone could see them before a vote.

That attention to detail marked him out from others, and some with less ability were wont to criticise what they saw as pedantic argument - not that such a criticism would have had any impact whatsoever on Cllr Caldwell had he been aware of it.

If he had a 'catchphrase' (he would not have approved of such a thing - or even of our use of the term") it would have to be the reverse of the Churchill Insurance Bulldog - whose catchphrase is "Oh Yes!"  - well in a similar tone, and with a similar shake of the head,  Cllr Caldwell's would probably have been "Oh No!"  - especially when someone was trying to shortcut procedure or trying to cut corners in the proper way of doing things.

It was all about the maintenance of standards in public life and about taking a principled stand - both characteristics that are sadly lacking in much of civic life today.

He thoroughly enjoyed a year from 1995 to 1996 as Mayor of Fylde and of course provided a thorough and professional face for the Council during that term.

He had been a Councillor for many years, and last stood as a Conservative for Fairhaven ward in 2007. But by the time of the 2011 election he had decided to stand down.

We said at the time "George Caldwell - Fairhaven's grand old grandfather of the Council. A real gentleman with proper old-fashioned values. Never afraid to speak against the party line when he felt the need. He hasn't been well for some time and is standing down. We're very sorry to see such experience and independence lost to the Council."

Sadly, his passing also removes from our society another proponent of, and advocate for, a way of life - and, indeed, an age - that is rapidly disappearing.

Perhaps he was ready to go.

We have no details of the funeral yet, but we imagine it might well involve St Annes Parish Church where, as a boy, he sang in the choir. May he rest in peace.

Dated:    31 March 2013


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