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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Eventful life of former Carlisle mayor dedicated to those most in need

Friends and former colleagues of one of Carlisle’s best known political characters turned out in force to bid him a fond farewell.

Colin Paisley photo
Colin Paisley

Colin Paisley, city mayor from 1994-95, who died last month aged 75, was given a woodland burial on Wednesday after a civic funeral at St Cuthbert with St Mary Church.

There were many warm tributes for Mr Paisley, who turned his life around after beating an addiction to heroin and devoting much of his time to helping others.

In his eulogy, the Rev Keith Teasdale, chaplain to Carlisle City Council, gave a brief summary of Mr Paisley’s eventual life.

Born in Raffles, Mr Paisley was afflicted by poor health during his childhood.

As a young man he fulfilled his ambition to join the RAF but he had to leave after being struck down by pneumonia. Following this, he moved to London, living in Earl’s Court, and landing a job at Victoria Wines.

“He became assistant manager at the King’s Road branch,” said Mr Teasdale.

Regular customers included celebrities, like the cast of the hit TV show Upstairs Downstairs, who rehearsed next door.

Mr Paisley immersed himself in the capital’s vibrant music scene, visiting jazz clubs, and he became, in his own words, “a hippie”.

But sadly, said the minister, during his time in London, Mr Paisley developed a chronic addiction to heroin – an experience that would go on to profoundly affect his life.

By 1981, he had conquered his addiction and decided to turn his back on London.

“He came back home to Carlisle, and began living in Warwick Road, in a bedsit, and he was determined to help others,” said Mr Teasdale.

His experience of addiction shaped much of the rest of Colin Paisley’s life and his politics, giving him a unique insight into the drugs issue and helping to fuel his compassionate determination to make a positive difference.

After marrying, he and his wife became councillors for the city’s St Aidan’s ward and Mr Paisley threw himself into politics, with the emphasis on helping those most in need.

He helped create a community garden near his Orchard Street home, and visited soldiers from the local regiment who were serving in Northern Ireland.

Drugs remained an issue he cared about passionately, and he remained active in fighting for the needs of people affected by addiction and their families.

“There will be many people who have benefited from his work and campaigns,” said Mr Teasdale.

Even while he was in Kingston Court care home, he did what he could to help other residents.

Before the funeral service, some former city council colleagues paid their own tributes to Mr Paisley.

Councillor Jessica Riddle said he used his own experience of addiction to understand and help others.

“He really was committed to helping addicts and their families,” she said.

Councillor Heather Bradley recalled how Mr Paisley was in the habit of answering his phone with the words: “It’s Colin here: how can I help you,” a genuine expression of a man who liked helping people.

Fellow former mayor Craig Johnston recalled how Mr Paisley helped launch a campaign to beat loan sharks in Carlisle, and how he had been incensed when a doctors surgery said it would not treat people from Raffles.

He added: “There are a lot of people who find life hard, and he was always an advocate for them, and wasn’t scared to stand up and fight for them, no matter how controversial the issue might be. That’s why I’m here today.”

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