Tribute to Donald Rigg - a man at the heart of his community

Civic role: Donald and his first wife Annette, wearing ceremonial robes,  were Mayor and Mayoress of Todmorden in 1970-71
Civic role: Donald and his first wife Annette, wearing ceremonial robes, were Mayor and Mayoress of Todmorden in 1970-71

A former Mayor of Todmorden, Donald Rigg, who has died at the age of 86, was a lifelong supporter of his community.

Donald was born in 1931 and in his early years lived at Co-operative Street at Walsden, going to Walsden County School and Todmorden Grammar School. He started working at an accountants in Manchester, and after National Service in the Royal Navy went to Manchester University where he got a degree in politics and economics. On graduating he did various export sales jobs ending up at Matterson’s crane manufacturers in Rochdale.

He decided to supplement his income by getting agencies with several of the major insurers of the day, selling motor insurance. This was at a time when there was a vast increase in the number of cars on the road so there was a big market to aim at.

He later branched out into other forms of insurance, and the business grew large enough for him to leave Matterson’s and go full time. His first office was at District Bank Chambers on Rochdale Road, but he eventually needed more space so he rented offices on the ground floor of the Masonic Hall. The number of offices he rented gradually expanded to include half the offices available there.

He branched out into estate agency and eventually set up a separate office for this on Burnley Road. There were branch offices, in Burnley and then Hebden Bridge. The Todmorden and Hebden Bridge agencies survive to this day as Reeds-Rains. The insurance business later became Mid Pennine Insurance Brokers and eventually closed about ten years ago.

In the late 1960s he stood as an Independent for the Walsden Ward of Todmorden Borough Council. He put loudspeakers on his car to campaign around the town - with success. He remained on the borough council until it was dissolved in 1974 and the town was merged into Calderdale. Around the same time he was a member of Todmorden Civic Trust. They undertook various environmental improvements around the town, including getting the town hall stone cleaned for the first time.

During his Mayoral year of 1970-71 it was decided to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the borough charter in 1971. A special committee was set up and he served as chairman. Numerous events were planned for the year, a marquee was set up on the park and many events took place there. He organised with Waterside Plastics to use their Futuro Space House as a ticket office and it was brought down from Waterside to the front of the Abraham Ormerod medical centre with a large crane. This gave many people an opportunity to have a look inside it and hopefully buy tickets!

He had always had an interest in sport and he felt very honoured to be invited to be president of Walsden Cricket Club. He had been a member and supporter for many years and always remembered falling in the river trying to get in as a child. Donald served two terms as club president and was involved with the refurbishment and replacement of some of the club’s buildings. He also started the Donald Rigg Trophy for an annual match between Todmorden and Walsden, who did not normally meet because they were in different leagues.

Some land at Bellholme became available and he spent many years with Bellholme Sports raising money to improve drainage, set up a pavilion and lay out sports fields. The ground is now used by Todmorden Borough Football club and also as the start and finish of the annual Boundary Walk. In later life he moved to Hebden Bridge and was involved in the running of Old Town Cricket Club and Midgehole Working Mens Club.