Whitehaven News column – 11th December 2014

Goodbye to a Great Man
It’s fashionable these days to be cynical about politics and politicians. For many people, politicians are self-seeking, vain, useless, corrupt and worse. It isn’t true of course, but the unaccountable, anonymous nature of social media makes it easier for claims without foundation to take flight, for baseless insinuations to be believed, for lies to pass as truth and opinions to pass as facts.
Peter Watson, a former teacher, Copeland Borough Councillor and founder of the remarkable ‘Egremont Today’ newspaper died suddenly last week. Peter was a man dedicated to public service, enriching our community and building a fairer society. He was a selfless, unique figure who undertook a great deal of charity work and who always practiced what he preached. He launched ‘Egremont Today’ with an old, battered printing press when he believed that the voice of ordinary people wasn’t being heard, that the people of the community he loved were not being recognised and because he wanted to make a difference to change that and to address its consequences.
Without knowing it, you will have seen Peter walking by the side of the road in all weathers, paperboy sack across his back, delivering Egremont Today by hand. Literally in howling wind and driving sleet, you will have been able to pick out his slight figure as he went about his work. From nothing, the paper now has a circulation of 12,000 and is a valuable community asset. A stunning achievement. 
As an antidote to the modern prevailing view of politicians – perhaps councilors in particular – Peter was unparalleled and unheralded. His was a life well lived, in the service of others and with an incredible love for his family and wife, Connie.
I doubt that our community – potentially any community – will ever see the like of Peter Watson again. In many ways, he was a giant and every single one of us is poorer for his passing.
A friend and colleague called Jim Innes, co-founder of the West Highland Free Press, thought Peter one of the most important, shining examples of community leadership he had ever seen and Egremont Today one of the most remarkable achievements he had ever encountered. I’m sure that Peter knew this. 
The next time a friend or neighbor begins the predictable attack on politicians, remind them that not all politicians are the same, and remember Peter Watson; a retired teacher who was a selfless public servant and an example to us all.

In our modern age of celebrity, greatness is often confused with fame. You may not know, until reading this, who Peter Watson was, but those of us who knew him were aware of his greatness. No doubt, we should have told him. Goodbye to  a Great Man.

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