A POIGNANT sadness filled the air as a community gathered to pay their last respects to a man who dedicated so much of his life to others.
Bill Cullen, former chair of Saddleworth Parish Council and committee member at Springhead Community Centre, passed away suddenly on 29 February after suffering a heart attack aged 66.
Around 150 members of his family, friends, councillors and local dignitaries gathered at St John the Baptist, Hey Church in Lees to provide a fitting send off for the unassuming community champion.
His coffin, laden with flowers, rested next to a photograph of Bill proudly wearing his chairman’s chains in 2012, as the congregation sang hymns and said prayers.
A tribute was given by Barbara Beeley on behalf of Saddleworth Parish Council, recalling Bill’s work for the community, modernising the council’s standing orders, and as consort to partner Enid Firth during her term of office in 2015.
Then Bob Rogers, on behalf of the Whit Friday Band Contest, gave a tribute praising Bill’s irreplaceable efforts for the annual event and said Bill took on every task with a smile as though it was his calling.
A moving address was given by Revd Canon Richard Hawkins, the Parish Priest, highlighting Bill’s love for the area throughout his life and work.
Bill was born in Greenfield and moved to Middleton aged 10, becoming the first in his family to go to a grammar school before enjoying a successful career as an electrical engineer with BT.
After early retirement, he became increasingly involved in community life in Springhead as well as serving 12 years on Saddleworth Parish Council as a Liberal Democrat councillor.
Strongest of all was his love for his partner Enid, whom he met almost 20 years ago on holiday with friends and they became an inseparable duo after she moved here from Selby 17 years ago.
Donations from the service will go to support the work of the church, where Bill was due to become warden, and the final committal was at Saddleworth Parish Cemetery.
Saddleworth Parish Councillors held a silent moment of contemplation for Bill, his life and contribution at the start of their March meeting, and tributes have poured in for the councillor following his sudden death.
Cllr Barbara Beeley said: “Anyone who needed help could always rely on Bill and he had principles and would stand up for them even when in the minority.
“He was an honest, kind and caring man who quietly worked to make his corner of the world a better place and his passing will leave a hole in the life of the local community which will not be easily filled.”
Cllr Brian Lord added: “Bill will be sorely missed by the Springhead Community Association where he was secretary and a tireless worker.”
Cllr John McCann said: “Bill was, with his partner Enid, a well known local activist: he did things rather than complain from the side lines. His energy and positive attitude will be much missed by his many friends.”
Cllr Robert Knotts commented: “Bill’s commitment to the Parish Council was second to none. It was a privilege to work with him and a pleasure to know him. He will be a great loss to the community.”
And Cllr John Hudson, a former Mayor of Oldham, concluded: “Bill was a truly splendid person.
“He just got on with things. Bill was a real asset to the community and did a host of jobs people never saw. He will be truly missed.