Heartfelt tributes were paid to one of Fenland’s great public figures this week when more than 85 friends and former colleagues gathered in Wisbech to remember the late Mac Cotterell MBE.
They met at the Boathouse to mark the official opening of the Mac Cotterell Gallery there and to see his widow, Marjorie (Madge) Cotterell, unveil a portrait of him.
Mr Cotterell, who died last October aged 81 devoted more than more than 50 years of his life to public service to his community and was a member of Fenland District Council for 34 years, including two spells as leader.
One of his proudest legacies were the council’s nationally recognised Golden Age scheme, which is now nationally recognised. He also played a leading part in the revitalisation of the Port of Wisbech and was awarded the MBE in 2006 for services to the community.
In a touching moment that brought smiles from guests at the unveiling, Mrs Cotterell said: “The Port and Golden Age were Mac’s second and third loves. I like to think I was his first.”
Clearly moved by the occasion, she added: “Mac would have been honoured to see you all here today. I would like to thank you all for the concern and kindness that you have shown me since Mac passed away.”
Earlier Fenland District Council leader Alan Melton had paid his own emotional tribute to his old friend and colleague.
“Mac was a friend to everyone in Fenland - politics didn’t come into it,” he said. ”For me he was a dear personal friend, my guide and mentor, someone whose shoulder I could cry on. He was always there for me and he was also very generous.”
Cllr Melton said the Boathouse had been chosen for Thursday’s event “because this was Mac’s venue”.
“Mac had a particular passion for the Port. He loved it and everything about it. It was very close to his heart and he was down here most days, often accompanied by Madge.
“He knew everything about it. He knew exactly what was going on and around the river - he probably had the Nene flowing through his veins.”
Cllr Melton said it was fitting that there had been a Golden Age event at Coates that same morning and that nearly 70 people had been there. “Mac was very proud of Golden Age and the fact that it is nationally recognised is testament to him,” he said.
Mrs Cotterell said her husband had become ill in 2008 and had seen his illness as “an inconvenience that would get in the way of the development of the Port – he wanted to live long enough to see it through.
“He was adamant that a part of the Boathouse should be available for use by community groups free of charge.”
Father Paul West, vicar of St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Wisbech, also paid tribute, saying: “I speak today from the heart when I say that Mac was a great friend, mentor and guide who I will dearly miss. I always remember him when I speak to children and indeed people of all ages and aim to continue to share his love of Wisbech and Fenland.”
Following the official unveiling, all the guests moved upstairs to the Richard Young Suite for a buffet lunch. They included Barry Diggle, past chairman of Fenland District Council, Ron Harris, a former Labour leader, and Ernie Thompson, a former chief executive. Stephen Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, also attended.