Former Wisbech town clerk pays tribute to former mayor - and adds to criticism of non attendance by councillors at his funeral

Councillor Roger Green and Patrick O'Dell in 2011 as the votes were being counted in Wisbech. Just t

Councillor Roger Green and Patrick O'Dell in 2011 as the votes were being counted in Wisbech. Just two months after the photo was taken Cllr Green died in a road accident. - Credit: Archant

When Patrick O’Dell, who was mayor of Wisbech in 2002/3, died in February his funeral went ahead without any Wisbech councillor, or current mayor Steve Tierney, in attendance. It attracted criticism at the time from another former mayor Nick Meekins; former town clerk ERBIE MURAT has now penned his own tribute – and joined the criticism of the current council.

Patrick O'Dell

Patrick O'Dell - Credit: Archant

A few of us interred Mr Patrick O’Dell and his beloved Betty, on Friday May 5 and I have waited until we did so to pay my proper respects to a man who devoted nineteen years of his life to the Town of Wisbech as a town councillor, writes ERBIE MURAT.

I followed with disbelief and disgust the excuses of Conservatives in Wisbech embodied in the ignorant arrogance of some of them.

Former mayor Nick Meekins really hit the nail on the head when he took them to task over their non-attendance at the service for Patrick on March 23 this year.

I was tempted to add my voice to this condemnation but I held my tongue out of respect for a very remarkable man, Patrick Bernard O’Dell, until after his interment, but I would now like to pay tribute to him.

Erbie Murat, (centre) with Patrick O'Dell, canvassing the support of Wendy Bunting in Gorefield. Mr

Erbie Murat, (centre) with Patrick O'Dell, canvassing the support of Wendy Bunting in Gorefield. Mr Murat stood, unsuccessfully, for a seat on Fenland Council in 2014. - Credit: Archant

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Patrick who died on February 23 aged 89 was interred on Friday May 5 at Kings Cliffe Churchyard, in a quiet ceremony re-uniting him with his wife Betty Eileen who sadly lost her fight against cancer in 1991.

Both Betty and Patrick served the town of Wisbech dutifully and with great civic pride since Patrick was first elected as a Conservative councillor for Leverington in 1986.

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For the current ‘so called’ Conservatives to display their total lack of civic pride and respect for a former colleague in failing to attend the service for their former esteemed colleague was completely unforgivable.

Councillor Patrick Bernard O’Dell ran away to the Royal Navy when he was 14 and served for 14 years travelling all around the world on their majesties’ service, sometimes in the most extreme conditions such as the Arctic.

Mr O’Dell then became a police officer in Luton for 11 years, following which he worked at Vauxhall Motors for 25 years, during which time he was a shop steward with the trade union for 19 years.

During his time with the Royal Navy and the constabulary he was a renowned boxer and rugby player for both organisations at national level.

After he retired to Leverington with wife Betty, Patrick was encouraged to run for council by two other highly regarded local councillors, Les Sims and Roger Green. Mr O’Dell went on to serve the town of Wisbech for 19 years as a councillor and as a member of a dozen different local organisations.

Following the passing of his beloved Betty, Patrick undertook to commit himself, following a very difficult year, to becoming mayor of Wisbech in 2002, supported by his sister Margaret.

With the full support of everybody on Wisbech Town Council, including the town clerk, the assistant clerk and the beadle, Wally, Patrick O’Dell had an exceptional civic year, subsequent to which he continued serving the town council for many years as a member of the finance and property committee.

When Mr O’Dell was mayor he raised serious concerns about the management of the market place, for example, and the fully supported the team of councillors led by former mayor Nick Meekins and the former town clerk (myself) to buy market place on behalf of the town.

The purchase price was £1.

And the vendor, Fenland District Council, gave the town £25,000 towards improving the market place. Mr O’Dell, together with other councillors spent a further £2 wisely. £1 bought the council chamber and the £1 bought 44.4 acres of allotments (including a gift from Fenland District Council of a further £18,000).

What makes some current councillors so special that they can treat a former mayor, who brought so much to the table, with such contempt?

FOOTNOTE: Wisbech town clerk Terry Jordan said at the time of Mr O’Dell’s death: “I understand that there has been some criticism levelled at the council for not ‘honouring’ the late Patrick O’Dell (the mayor of Wisbech for the municipal year 2002/03).

“At the request of the mayor, I am hereby setting out the council’s position in this matter.”

Mr Jordan said there was no automatic representation from the council at a funeral of a past mayor.

“However, if the council were to receive a request from the family or executors, it would be considered,” he said.

“The council received no contact from the family or executors at all. An officer of the council had been told of Mr O’Dell’s poor condition in hospital by a third party and was then informed again by that person of Mr O’Dell’s subsequent death.

“The council received no notification of any funeral arrangements. Notice of the funeral was given simply by way of a public notice in a local newspaper.”

He added: “I am fairly sure that the majority of the current Wisbech town councillors, who did not serve on the council at the same time as him, would not have known Mr O’Dell. Those who had served with him could make their own decision as to whether to attend the funeral.”

He said the council was not able to fly, at half mast, the Union Flag, “as unfortunately, when we went to fly the flag, we discovered that the rope had broken and, until someone can get to the top of the pole, we cannot retrieve the other end of the rope.

“In accordance with a decision of councillors’ the smaller flag pole has been taken out of service.

“Wisbech Town Council did stand for a minute’s silence in remembrance for Mr O’Dell at its February 26, 2018 meeting; the minutes reflect that fact.

“We hope to address the problem with the flag pole very soon.”

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