Bedford has lost one of its hardest working, most committed public servants, Gordon Colling, who died on 4 June, had a string of positions he has held and bodies he has sat on that would make most people tire just to think about. Some might say it was in his genes.
Born in Sunderland 1933, Gordon’s parents were both councillors at one time.
He became a linotype operator in the printing trade, interrupted by National Service, in the RAF. After that he was accepted into Ruskin College, Oxford, the route to further and higher education for many young working class people at the time. His studies, however, were interrupted by a car accident in 1960.
He then joined the Typographical Association trade union staff and moved to Manchester.
Print unions were amalgamating fast in the 1960s and he found himself in the National Graphical Association, whose headquarters were in Bromham Road, Bedford, where he eventually became a national officer. That is when he became involved in local politics.
Gordon was secretary of Bedford Trades Council in the 1970s, stood as a Labour Parliamentary candidate in 1974 and became a Labour borough councillor, representing Kingsbrook Ward. His abilities soon led him to being leader of the Labour group and later to becoming a member of the Labour Party National Executive, a position he held from 1985 to 1995. In his final year on the executive, he became NEC Chair.
Locally he was a founder member of Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association and chairman from 1989 to 2004. By that time he had become a county councillor, representing Queens Park and again became leader of the Labour group, a position he held until the county council was dissolved.
Gordon was chairman of Westfield Middle School governors and a governor of both Biddenham Upper School and Queens Park Lower School. He was also elected to Kempston Town Council and was deputy mayor of Kempston at the time of his death.
As I said, quite a list. As well as obviously being very hard working and committed to helping others in society, he achieved all this without any of the usual flip side of being a politician. Gordon was a man of integrity, quietly-spoken and surprisingly modest. Not for him the wild rantings or false promises. I can remember Gordon calming me down on occasions, with a few well chosen words. He was highly respected, as much by his political opponents as his own party. And he always had time for anyone who needed help or just a big shoulder.
There is a saying that the graveyard is full of indispensable people but Gordon will be greatly missed, not just by his family and friends but by many in society to whom he unflaggingly gave his time, his wisdom and his help.
He leaves a partner Kay, son Trevor, daughter Dawn and six grandchildren.
Steve Lowe, Bedfordshire on Sunday, 12 June 2011