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Tributes for Mike King and the legacy he leaves for Leigh

March 18, 2022 6:01 PM

Mike King, an "irreplaceable" member of the Leigh community, has died aged 90.

Always a stalwart of Leigh, Mr King was born in Marine Parade and lived his entire life in the town, save for a brief period of wartime evacuation. A well-known sailor in his 1896 ketch, Hypathia, he first came to prominence in the 1960s with the hugely influential campaign he and others spearheaded in opposition to Southend Council's Road to the West.

Successfully preventing the destruction of Old Leigh, this campaign also saw Mr King elected as a Liberal Candidate for the town to fight against the Conservative's infrastructure plans. This determination saw him eventually elected onto the County Council, allowing him to take a lead in finally abandoning the road idea once and for all.

His passion for the town did not stop there, as he became one of the guiding members of newly founded Leigh Town Council, serving as its very first Chairman in 1996 and preventing the building of a relief road through Hadleigh Castle Country Park.

Following these huge successes for both heritage and landscape, Mr King then went on to steer one of the most important historical and nautical projects the town has ever known, with the restoration of the Dunkirk 'little ship' Endeavour, through the founding of the Leigh Endeavour Trust, in 2001. It was around this time that Mr King, alongside Mike Guy, founder and editor of The Leigh Times, Coun Peter Wexham, and the late John Porter, went to Kent to see the Endeavour, where she was foundering in Rochester: "It was obvious that we couldn't just leave her to rot," Mr King said at the time. This resolve, to see her rightfully restored led to tireless work with fundraising, accessing Heritage Lottery money and putting together a business plan, as well as sourcing Brian Kennell and Shaun White of Brian Kennell Boat builders, whom the Trust use to this day. Close friend Coun Wexham said: "It was a big task to raise the funds to rebuild the boat and get her back to Dunkirk with all the other surviving little ships, and the ongoing maintenance of a wooden boat, that lasts up until this day."

Coun Wexham, who explains that Mr King was still campaigning for things in Leigh right up until his last days, recalls fondly the huge impact Mr King has had on him and many who knew him: "Mike touched so many people during his life and was always a pleasure to know and will be remembered by so many local people. Rest in Peace Mike, alongside his wife Pat. I and so many have a lot to thank you for."

The current Chairman of the Endeavour Trust, David Norman MBE, recalled his friend fondly, and the legacy he has left behind or Leigh: "I had the privilege of working with Mike for the last 20 years and greatly admired his immense knowledge. I always looked to him for advice as Chairman, most recently as a week before he died. I had hoped that we would have had him around for a long time to come. Mike is simply irreplaceable and will be sorely missed by the people of Leigh who he served so well in so many different capacities over a long period of time. We mourn his passing."

The Town Clerk of Leigh Town Council, Helen Symmons, added "Leigh Town Council were saddened to learn today of the passing of Mike King. Even after he stepped down from Council life, he was very involved in other aspects of Leigh life, so was never a stranger to the Council, staying in touch with the Town Clerks over the years and always fully supportive. Leigh has lost a valuable member of its community and our thoughts go out to his family and friends."