GALLERY: Family of George Campbell angered at renaming of March leisure centre

George Campbell's daughter Anne Gunn with Cllr Jan French.

George Campbell's daughter Anne Gunn with Cllr Jan French. - Credit: Archant

The family of the late George Campbell have spoken of their deep sadness, dismay and disgust at the way the renaming of the March Leisure Centre has been handled by Fenland District Council.

George Campbell.

George Campbell. - Credit: Archant

His widow, son and daughter were shocked to learn of the decision to overturn the honour bestowed on the former mayor of March and said it was “hugely disrespectful” to the memory of “someone who demonstrated selfless personal public service to the community”.

George Campbell with his wife Margaret, second left, at a civic function.

George Campbell with his wife Margaret, second left, at a civic function. - Credit: Archant

Daughter Anne Gunn, former news editor of the Cambs Times, who was present with her mother at the naming of the new indoor pool in 1984, said the family had been deeply offended and saddened by events.

She said: “We are amazed at the insensitivity of those involved who made no attempt to contact or consult us about the decision.

“It is very sad for my 88-year-old mother Margaret who still lives in the town and was by George’s side on many civic occasions. Did anyone bother to think about how she might feel when this was discussed?

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“Friends and well-wishers assumed we knew all about it and were incredulous and horrified when we told them it was news to us.

“The whole point of naming a building after someone is that it remains in perpetuity to keep that person’s memory alive.

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“What right do these people think they have to ride so roughshod over us, effectively erasing history?”

The original outdoor pool was formally opened on July 21, 1965, by Mr Campbell, then chairman of the old March Urban District Council. It had cost £69,000.

Mr Campbell died on June 20, 1984, aged 59 – the formal opening of the new indoor swimming pool was on October 3, 1984.

Peter Skoulding, then chairman of Fenland Council, proposed the idea of naming the new pool in his memory.

Mr Campbell was also the local magistrates’ court clerk, presiding over proceedings in North Witchford Court, Wisbech and Ely.

He was a governor of Westwood Junior School, had campaigned successfully for the re-opening of the cinema, was a former director of March Town United Football Club, a March Round Tabler and was involved in countless projects to improve several amenities for the town.

His headstone is in Eastwood Cemetery, March, with the inscription ‘George Alfred John Campbell who enjoyed serving his town’.

Mrs Gunn’s brother David Campbell said: “It was clearly someone’s ‘bright idea’ with no regard to personal feelings and history and, just as importantly, a complete waste of money.

“Who exactly did they consult about doing it and what else are they planning to re-brand? What, exactly, is the relevance of re-branding?

“The whole point is that the centre is a facility for a specific community.”

Margaret Campbell, who lives in a sheltered housing scheme in March town centre for vulnerable elderly people, said she was stunned and upset by the news.

Her husband’s former colleague, Freddie Grounds, visited last week to tell her before she read it in the newspaper.

She said: “I was taken aback - I know it is nearly 30 years ago but I never expected this. I have never known anything like it before and I am very unhappy by it.”

The family feel that an apology given by Councillor Pop Jolley and the hasty decision to install a memorial plaque on the building fall woefully short of what should have happened.

Mrs Gunn said: “We are not ‘anyone who has been upset’. We are George’s family who, more than anyone, knows the selfless personal contribution he made to the community of March.

“He was passionate about public service and, unlike some of those today, was not in it for personal gain.

“He simply wanted to do the best he could for the townspeople - and working as part of the old March Urban District Council to secure a swimming pool was a part of what he achieved.

“In accepting they have made a big mistake, we would hope that those in charge at Fenland District Council would do the right thing and talk to us but that has not yet happened.”

She added: “This is not the end of the matter.”

March councillor Jan French met Mrs Gunn on Tuesday and promised she would work to ensure a “proper outcome” to the leisure centre naming row.

“It must not be forgotten the substantial contribution her father made to this town,” said Cllr French.

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