Colin Wedd obituary

Other lives: Former leader of Doncaster borough council who set up a racing school to train jockeys

My friend Colin Wedd, who has died aged 82, was the leader of Doncaster borough council from 1998 until 2001, and before that a councillor on South Yorkshire county council and a key figure in the local Labour party. He also served his community as a schoolteacher, patron of the arts, and by his contribution to the horse-racing industry.

Born in Cambridge, Colin was one of three sons of Percy Wedd, a post office telephone operator, and his wife, Gertrude. He won a scholarship to Cambridgeshire high school for boys and later studied modern languages at Durham University. During national service in the Royal Artillery he rode horses for the first time, and began a lifelong love affair with everything equine, from recreational riding and training apprentices as jockeys to serving as the chair of Doncaster racecourse.

He stayed in the north after graduating to take up a post teaching modern languages at Don Valley high, a school on the outskirts of Doncaster with a progressive reputation. He told the interviewing committee that he was likely to stay for only three years, but became a fixture there for the next 25, retiring as the head of sixth form and then returning as chair of governors in the 1990s.

Colin played a significant role in the Labour movement in Doncaster. He became chair of the district Labour party, where he gave sound, pragmatic leadership. In 1981 he was elected to South Yorkshire county council, and made his mark among the stalwarts of the “socialist republic”, who chose him as the secretary of the Labour group, an influential position within the ruling policy committee.

The 1980s were turbulent times in South Yorkshire, with the miners’ strike and massive numbers of unemployed people, and the county council put great emphasis on creating employment opportunities. Colin led one of these initiatives: to set up an apprentice racing training school. After the abolition of the metropolitan county councils in 1986, he continued as chair of the new school, which grew to become the Northern Racing College, where he forged links with other European racing training schools, and also established a group of the Riding for the Disabled Association.

He was elected to Doncaster borough council in 1992 and became the deputy leader before taking over the leadership in 1998 for three years. He made an impact on every organisation with which he was associated, including establishing a small art gallery in Doncaster and mounting exhibitions of local artists’ work. Many will attest to his humour, courtesy, wise counsel, urbane charm and friendship, despite having to cope with periods of ill health.

He is survived by his wife, Stancee (nee Gill), whom he married in 1999.

John Cornwell

The GuardianTramp

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