Tears and laughter as Corby says final goodbye to councillor who made 'indelible' mark on the town

The funeral of Cllr Mary Butcher has taken place this morning
The funeral of Cllr Mary Butcher has taken place this morning

It was standing-room only as the great and the good of Northamptonshire filled the Edgar Newman Chapel for the funeral of Corby's political grande dame, Councillor Mary Butcher.

Friends, family and political allies and opponents this morning (Wednesday, August 14) said a last goodbye to the Labour stalwart, who died suddenly last month aged just 63.

Mary during her mayoral year in 2010

Mary during her mayoral year in 2010

Civic figures from across the political spectrum were in attendance at the service led by Methodist minister Reverend Martin Swan. Mary's son, historian Lee Butcher, gave a moving eulogy and friend and colleague Cllr Ann Brown read a poem dedicated to her pal.

Leader of Northamptonshire County Council Matt Golby was in the 175-strong congregation along with Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, leader of Corby Council Tom Beattie, former Corby MP Andy Sawford, plus county and borough councillors from every party - all of whom, despite ideological differences, Mary counted as friends.

There were also friends from the arts, charities and from the county's domestic violence organisations.

Before the ceremony, Mary's coffin was driven past the Corby Cube so council officers could say farewell to their friend.

Mary Butcher's funeral cortege makes its way along George Street

Mary Butcher's funeral cortege makes its way along George Street

Abba's 'Dancing Queen' was played as the service began, as a nod to Mary's love of dancing.

Paying tribute to his beloved mum, Lee said that she had lived an vibrant 63-years and had 'inhabited every one of them'.

Reflecting the lives so many in Corby, Mary was the daughter of Scottish steelworks immigrants.

"Mary's story is that of Corby's story," said Lee.

Corby said a final goodbye to Cllr Mary Butcher this morning

Corby said a final goodbye to Cllr Mary Butcher this morning

"She was born in 1956 on the Beanfield Estate after her parents Alec and Margaret came here from Scotland to try to build a new and better life.

"The played their part in building this community."

Mary met her husband Bob, who died 12 years ago, in the town's Caledonian Club in the 1980s.

Lee said that Mary became an 'integral' part of the story of the town.

Goodbye Mary: Corby Council staff gather outside the Cube this morning to say farewell to Cllr Mary Butcher

Goodbye Mary: Corby Council staff gather outside the Cube this morning to say farewell to Cllr Mary Butcher

"She's left her mark in an indelible way," he added.

Mary learnt to dance as a girl and later qualified as a dance teacher before running a dance school at Exeter Community Centre and the Ex-Servicemen's Club.

"It was one of her proudest achievements," said Lee.

Mary went to Beanfield Comprehensive School and then on to a job working in the staff canteen at the steelworks. After the closure of the works, she worked in factory canteens and eventually moved to Asda, where she moved to a customer service role.

She dedicated her work-life to fundraising and became a regular feature on the ET's pages after winning national and international Walmart awards, where she was spotted by local politicians and was asked to stand as a councillor in 2007.

She represented the Beanfield Ward on Corby Council and then went on to become a county councillor.

Speaking of his mum's courage, Lee added: "She was rarely afraid to speak out on a range of topics. She became the voice of the never-ending struggle for domestic violence services in the county.

"I'm immensely proud of the role she played in Corby. She was unafraid to speak up for what she believed in.

"It's the word 'passion' that sums up mum the best.

"She committed herself wholly to a task.

"She connected with a great many people. I know they feel her loss keenly and, like her family, are adjusting to a reality without her."

He said he hoped people would remember his mum by adopting her virtues of courage, passion, commitment and fearlessness in sticking up for what they believe to be true and good.

"I will miss my mum enormously," said Lee, "But I hope her legacy will live on in all who knew and loved her."

Friend and fellow Beanfield Councillor Ann Brown said that the pair had been dubbed 'two old mayors' by Barry Scholes who formerly ran the boating lake cafe in Corby.

She said: "From one old mayor to another, God Bless You Mary."

Engelbert Humperdinck's The Last Waltz was played as the congregation said a final goodbye to Mary.

Donations were made to Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS) in lieu of flowers.