Tributes made to ‘gentle gentleman’ Colin Smith, arts supporter and local government stalwart

“A MAN who knew everything but always made you feel you knew more” is one of the multiple tributes to Dobcross resident Colin Smith OBE, a former chief executive of Oldham Council and long-time supporter of the arts.

Colin, a former chair of Millgate Arts Centre, Delph and also of Oldham Coliseum’s Board of Trustees, died aged 80 on Tuesday, January 5.

He is survived by wife Marian and twin sons Andrew and Richard. Colin was also grandfather to Benjamin, Thomas, Alexander and Isabella.

Colin remained a director of Saddleworth Festival Ltd and had previously served on the boards of Manchester Concert Hall Ltd, Halle Concerts Society and Rochdale Canal Trust Limited.

Colin in France

Colin, who was awarded the OBE in 1999 for his services to local government, was also a long-term supporter of Dr Kershaw’s Hospice.

He was one of the first five trustees on the original Oldham Hospice Appeal in 1984, later becoming chair of the Trustees Group and chair of the Board of Directors.

“Colin will be remembered fondly by all of us here at Dr Kershaw’s Hospice,” said Mirriam Lawton, Chair of the Dr Kershaw’s Hospice Board of Trustees.

“We will always be grateful for the long-standing support he gave to the Hospice and the impact that he made.

“He was a well-loved and highly regarded past leader from within our community, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his wife and family.”

Edwina Rigby, President of Millgate and herself a one-time chair, added: “Colin was such a gentle gentleman, with a smile that put people at ease and a genuine care for his fellow man.

“His contribution to the generations he served in so many fields was gigantic.”

David Shipp, a former MAC treasurer, also praised Colin’s contribution for giving the theatre a “new sense of direction” in the early part of the century.

He said: “The Council had decided to close the library and Saddleworth Players only had a short lease from the Council on the interior of the theatre.

“Colin brought his financial and public sector expertise to bear on the situation.

“As a former chief executive, he also had many useful contacts and knowledge of how the Council operated.

“Under his guidance a new 30-year lease for the whole building was negotiated, including the structure and exterior.

“The Players assumed full responsibility for the building at a peppercorn rent and were free to make improvements as resources allowed.

“Colin also steered the Players to set themselves up as a charitable company, limited by guarantee, Millgate Arts Centre Limited.

“This was a more secure form of organisation, and appropriate to the additional responsibilities.

“Colin became the first chairman of the new board of directors and held that position for some 10 years.

“Throughout that time, he guided the company financially and in all its major decisions.

Colin and Marian on holiday

“He did all this in an entirely voluntary capacity. He was a great supporter of the arts in the local community and the theatre was very fortunate to have his interest and support at a critical time in its history.”

Colin was also is a former chair of the Board of Trustees at Oldham Coliseum, a long-time supporter and still a regular attender at the theatre up to our closure last March.

Chief Executive Susan Wildman said: “We are extremely sorry to hear of the loss of Colin.

“He was a superb chair of the board, extremely well respected for his knowledge and wisdom and held in great affection for his empathy, kindness and humour.

“Beyond his retirement from the Board he remained a passionate supporter of the Coliseum and of our work.

“We will miss seeing him at our shows and send our love and condolences to Marian and to all his family and friends.”

Colin, a self-confessed fan of Burnley Football Club, joined Oldham Council in 1976 as borough treasurer before becoming Chief Executive in 1983. For the next six years he combined both roles.

Oldham Sixth Form College and Spindles Shopping Centre were projects overseen by him.

Colin, who started as an accountancy trainee at Rawtenstall Council in 1958, retired from local government in 1999.

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