Mourning death of community champion Derek Heffernan

A POIGNANT and fond farewell was paid at the funeral of community stalwart Derek Heffernan.

The former parish and borough councillor and Mayor of Oldham died peacefully aged 80 on Saturday, December 21 with his family by his side.

People packed out Holy Trinity Church, Waterhead, January 6 to pay their last respects to a popular man who was heavily involved in community life for more than four decades.

Guests included family, friends, parish and borough councillors, the Mayor of Oldham Cllr Ginny Alexander and the leader of Oldham Council Cllr Sean Fielding.

Derek Heffernan with wife Di during his year as Mayor of Oldham

The service, led by the Reverend Dr Paul Monk, included prayers and hymns ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’ and ‘Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God’.

Family contributions included a poem written by daughter Sara, who also read a few words on behalf of wife Di, a reading chosen by daughter-in-law Anuaska, and a reading by grand-daughter Isabella.

Civic appreciation was led by Cllr Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Oldham Council.

He said: “Derek will be very sadly missed by friends and colleagues not only in the Liberal Democrat group but across both the councils. 

“He was a man of few words but always spoke common sense and was listened too.”

The Revd Monk looked back over Derek’s life, which began on October 3, 1939. He moved to Liverpool for work, where he met future wife Di.

After moving around the country, they settled in Austerlands in the 1970s, where they lived in the same house until about three years ago.

Derek was heavily involved in charity and community work, including his legendary bacon butty mornings, coffee mornings, tapas nights and other fundraisers.

He was a governor of Knowsley Junior School, Springhead, where both his children were pupils.

A Liberal Democrat, he was elected on to Saddleworth Parish Council in May 1987 and served until 2018, twice holding the role of chairman in 1992-93 and 1999-2000.

In 1995, he was elected to Oldham Council to represent Saddleworth West Ward, which became Saddleworth North in 2004, and served the ward until 2019. 

He was elected Mayor of Oldham for 2016-17 and was a member of the Mayor’s Appeal Fund Committee for many years.

Derek made it a hat-trick of civic titles when he became Mayor of Austerlands in 2019. He continued the tradition of leading down the first band at the Scouthead Whit Friday Band Contest in June.

Following the funeral, the committal was at Oldham Crematorium followed by a wake at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham.

Derek’s ashes will be laid to rest under an oak tree in Indian’s Head Memorial Park at Dovestone Reservoir in Greenfield.

The borough flag was flown at half-mast on the day of his funeral and a Book of Condolence is available at the Civic Entrance (Rochdale Road Reception) at the Civic Centre or you can sign an online book at www.oldham.gov.uk/derekheffernan

There is also a book on condolence available to sign at Saddleworth Parish Council’s offices at the Civic Hall, Lee Street, Uppermill.

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