Tributes paid to Ernie Thompson, former chief executive of Fenland District Council, who has died aged 86

PUBLISHED: 10:26 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:26 19 July 2019

Tributes have been paid to former Fenland Council chief executive Ernie Thompson who has died aged 86. Current FDC chairman Kay Mayor led the tributes to him at a full council meeting. Picture; FAMILY

Tributes have been paid to former Fenland Council chief executive Ernie Thompson who has died aged 86. Current FDC chairman Kay Mayor led the tributes to him at a full council meeting. Picture; FAMILY

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Affectionate tributes have been paid to former Fenland District Council chief executive Ernest (Ernie) Thompson who has died aged 86.

Norman Topliss, who succeeded Mr Thompson as chief executive, said: "He was an honourable chap who was dedicated to doing the best for Fenland, and that was what drove him.

"He could be a hard task master, but there was always a twinkle in his eye, and he got the Council through a lot of difficult times. I worked with him for 20 years and it was a joy to be able to follow the example that he set."

Cllr Mrs Kay Mayor, chairman of Fenland District Council, who tributes to Mr Thompson at a full council meeting yesterday (Thu), said: "We are greatly saddened to hear of the death of Ernie Thompson.

"He was a true inspiration to many people not least because of his passion and commitment to local government, and commanded great respect from all who worked with him. His family is in the thoughts of all who knew him at the council at this time."

His son Nigel, now travel editor of a national newspaper group, was once a junior reporter for our sister paper, the EDP, and based in Wisbech. He offered a wonderful anecdote reflecting a warm, if slightly mischievous, side to his father's character.

"Dad was chief executive when I was a junior reporter on the EDP in Wisbech," said Nigel. "Try covering a council meeting when your dad is running the show!"

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Nigel said: "He had a very mischievous sense of humour. One time he phoned me at work to complain about a council story I'd written in the newspaper that morning. He said the quote I'd attributed to him was inaccurate.

"I was mortified of course and asked what was wrong. He said in the first sentence there was a comma halfway through. But he had paused for effect there, and I should have used a semicolon. He hung up laughing his socks off."

As a mark of respect to Mr Thompson the Fenland flag is flying at half-mast at Fenland Hall as a mark of respect, and will remain there until after his funeral.

Mr Thompson, who devoted 41 years to local government service - 19 of them at Fenland District Council -, passed away peacefully on July 1.

The public sector stalwart began his career at Liverpool Corporation in 1952. His first role locally was at Wisbech Borough Council, where he was working as deputy town clerk when it merged with Chatteris Urban District, March Urban District, Whittlesey Urban District, North Witchford Rural District and Wisbech Rural District to form Fenland District Council in 1974.

Following the merger he was appointed district secretary of Fenland District Council and became the authority's second chief executive in 1983, succeeding Eric Lewis. Mr Thompson retired after ten years in the top job, in February, 1993.

He also spent two years in what was then Malaya on National Service in the Army, and was promoted to sergeant, which was quite rare for a National Service soldier.

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