We are here today to celebrate the remarkable achievements of Dr Colin Daniels.
Like most diamonds, Colin had many facets to his life. First and foremost, he was a devoted family man. He loved his darling wife Norma, and his three children Mark, Helen and Catherine. He would speak of them with pride and joy and especially about his granddaughter, Georgina, and her latest accomplishments as an ice-skater.
The early years
Born in Warrington, Colin remained in his home town throughout his childhood, eventually progressing to Sir Thomas Boteler Grammar School. This was a busy place for him, as he was a linesman, member of the first 11-cricket team, choirboy and thespian. As a choirboy, he was actively sought by rival churches, and obviously good at singing, as Lady Daresbury once slipped him a ten-shilling note for one song, soloing during a broadcast of ‘Songs of Praise’, but Gilbert and Sullivan seems’ to have been his particular forte, with amateur performances in the Mikado, the Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore. I think that must have given Colin his wicked dry sense of humour. At many meetings that we both attended, he didn’t have to say a word he would look down over his glasses and then roll his eyes to the heavens. You knew he wasn’t impressed by others foolish notions!
After his ‘O’ levels, the world of work beckoned, and Colin looked beyond the family business to Civil Engineering, where he joined the renowned Arthur Monk and Company. Further study delayed the inevitable National Service and during this time, he met the love of his life, Norma. The day after they were engaged, he got his call-up papers.
Being well educated and not one for the usual roles, Colin used his talents to become a ‘Meteorological Assistant, Royal Artillery’ as weather forecasts were a vital part of accuracy in long-range artillery. Posted to Celle, in West Germany, as part of the BAOR he was close to the remains of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which had a profound effect upon him. He witnessed the phenomena of its birdsong, which can be heard clearly outside the camp’s wires, but is always silent within.
Promotion followed; he became a bombardier and he was once a member of the detail taking service personnel to guard Spandau Prison and its infamous inmates Rudolph Hess, Albert Speer and Karl Doenitz. Finally, he became a sergeant. During this time, Colin managed to secure a two-week pass home, where he used the time well as he married Norma and they took a honeymoon in Jersey. He declined the offer of training for a commission to return home, to a house in Thelwall where he could be with Norma.
Full of energy and drive, he kept himself busy outside of family life too.
Resuming his professional career was formative in every sense.
He threw himself into business and making a career in the construction industry.
A past President and Treasurer of the Warrington and District Association of the National Builders Federation, and a former member of the North West Regional Council of the National Federation of Building Trade Employers, he was a Life Member of the National Builders Federation.
Latterly Colin was Chief Executive of the Warrington Chamber of Commerce and Industry that serves Warrington and Vale Royal, and Chairman of Cheshire Chambers Enterprise Ltd, which serves the sub-region of Cheshire and Warrington. A director of Chambers of Commerce North West Ltd, he coordinated the work of the 16 Chambers of Commerce in the North West Region. He was very involved in the establishment of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Council subsequently morphing into the LEP and was directly involved in a number of important sub-groups including enterprise, international trade and skills development. As Chamber President Nigel Schofield said, “Colin was a stalwart of the business community for many years both within Warrington and the North West, and will be fondly remembered by so many for his enthusiasm to support business and his
numerous acts of kindness and abundant common sense”.
As Chairman of Warrington 2000 Plus Limited which owns and operates two incubator buildings in Warrington, he was always giving a helping hand and sage advice to ‘start up’ businesses. As Deputy Chairman of ‘Warrington and Company’, he championed Warrington to the world actively promoting the economic expansion and inward investment for the town. He hosted the Bank of England’s surveys of local business sentiment. He wasn’t afraid of talking truth to power as he said he quite enjoyed “telling petty emperors and empresses that they were not wearing any clothes”! As you all know, he had a particular regard for cycle lanes and traffic calming measures and the planners who proposed them’.
The next facet was politics:
Colin wanted to make a difference! He was both a borough councillor, leader of the Conservative Group and parish councillor from 1977 to 1986. In 1992, he was Conservative parliamentary candidate for Warrington North at the General Election and, for five years, chairman of the Warrington South Conservative Association. He served on Cheshire County Council’s education committee from 1994 to 1999. During a general election, he had to ferry a cabinet minister, Gillian Shepheard around a number of constituencies in Cheshire. At one meeting, a woman approached Colin and said, “You must be special branch”! He patted his left shoulder and whispered in menacing tones “if I told you, I would have to kill you”!
But above all, the enduring facet was Colin’s love and belief in education:
Colin was a remarkable individual! His personal qualities strike me as one of the most important aspects that define who he was. He was highly intelligent. He possessed a great understanding of people and institutions and how they operate. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things
Warringtonian: it was the Wires not the Wolves.
He was in some ways a paradox: a person of steadfast principle with a very strong sense of right and wrong and a desire to do the very best for all those with whom he came into contact. However, he was able to blend that sense of purpose and defined moral compass with the realism of trying to achieve what was possible. He had a charming way of securing agreement. He was forthright, but would listen. Unfailingly courteous, he would, if he could find a
compromise way that seemed to satisfy everybody. It was a remarkable talent and ability that he deployed to the fullest extent.
He was Chairman of the Corporation of Warrington Collegiate for 26 years from 1989 dealing with some brilliant, but also some challenging principals. He took a very proactive and strategic role, including the complete rebuilding of the college without any borrowing. Colin served continuously on the board of the Colleges National Association, now the AOC, and was chairman of the National Employment Committee and the National Joint Forum for
Further Education until 2002. He was one of the joint architects of the introduction of the flexible employment contract for the Further Education Sector. He was a former member of both the Further Education Governors National Council and the National Self-Regulation Group for Further Education. After his last forum, the lead negotiator of the Unions came up to him and said with a grudging respect “You were impossible to deal with – you were always so reasonable and polite, but wouldn’t budge an inch”! He played a significant role in the successful transfer of the Collegiate’s Higher Education provision at Padgate to the University of Chester in 2002.
He was also Chairman of Thelwall Infants School for 34 years from 1978; governor of Thomas Boteler High School; governor of Green Lane Special School and a member of the Court of the University of Salford. In all of his roles, he was a highly effective chair with unrivalled ability to pull people together behind a shared goal.
All of this work was recognised by the University of Chester. In 2016, for his outstanding contribution as a senior member of the University Council for 18 years, he was presented with a doctorate in business administration in Chester Cathedral, subsequently followed by a fellowship from Warrington Collegiate.
His charitable works.
Colin was an active Freemason for over 50 years joining the True Light Lodge in 1968, becoming worshipful master in 1979. He raised funds for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution for all that time sometimes as a National steward dealing with two and a half thousand guests and bringing order out of chaos.
He was a Trustee of Warrington Charities Trust and an active supporter of the Army Benevolent Fund, for which he gave fund raising talks on the ‘Mulberry Harbours’ – the floating, portable harbours without which D-Day would have failed. Their Warrington connection is that some sections of it were built by his old company – Arthur Monk and Co. His charitable work included Cancer Macmillan Nurses, Ryfields Retirement Village and being a trustee of the Warrington Charities Trust.
So many facets to this gem of a man.
We will be very much impoverished by Colin’s passing, but what an outstanding life, led to the full, having such a lasting impact and leaving such a rich legacy. He lives on through the memories of Norma, his family and us his friends!
God bless you Colin! God bless!