TRIBUTES have been paid to district and county councillor Alan Wedderkopp, who has died at the age of 89.

Cllr Wedderkopp represented Wilton and Sherford on Somerset West and Taunton Council and Comeytrowe and Trull on Somerset County Council.

He was a tireless worker for his community and was often seen cycling around town.

Alan - full name Frederick Alan Wedderkopp - was born in 1932 and brought up in North Shields, Newcastle. His was a wartime, working class upbringing, with his father working as a welder in the shipyard and he and his two sisters growing up in and around the homes of their extended family. When his school was bombed, Alan had half days at another local school, and he was evacuated for a short time until his mother, whom he was missing, brought him home.

Alan’s early years in the working class estates of Newcastle were fundamental in how he approached life and how he related to others. When he was a boy, local children still died of measles and he remembered sitting for hours in the GP’s waiting room as wealthier people paid to be seen first. His father was a union man and Alan would sit at the back of meetings listening to the discussions of the working men fighting for a fair deal. Alan’s motto was: “I pity the man who can not feel the lash on another man’s back,” and he fought for fairness all his life.

Somerset County Gazette:

Alan, front, in his younger days.

Alan worked many jobs, from coal miner, when he led a workers’ strike, to corner-shop owner, abattoir cleaner, merchant seaman, North Sea beach lifeguard, travelling vacuum cleaner salesman and potato harvester. He served as a mechanic in the Korean War, where he represented his unit as a boxer, long distance runner and footballer. He was proud to have not seen a shot fired in anger.

The job that defined Alan’s working life was that of oilman. Beginning at the bottom as a roughneck on early North Sea rigs, he spent three decades working his way up until eventually he was supervising the running of whole rigs. He experienced sandstorms in Syria, hurricanes off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the ice roads of Canada and the wide open expanses of the Indian Ocean. At one point he held the world record for longest horizontal drill, under the North Sea.

After retiring from the rigs, Alan worked as a taxi driver in Taunton, and listening to the perspectives of his passengers led him ultimately into politics. A socialist at heart, Alan joined the SDLP and could easily have been described as a ‘Liberal Lion’ - always striving for justice and fairness for all, particularly those in the greatest need. Despite spending much of his working life in the oil business, he was green before it was fashionable and the environment, particularly housing and flooding, was his passion.

He was a Liberal Democratic councillor for eighteen years, serving on both the county and district councils at various points. He took his roles seriously and they became a full-time job as he sought to understand the inner workings of local politics in order to best serve his constituents. Knocking doors and speaking to those on his patch was important to him and people could often be heard saying to him: “I’m not a LibDem but I always vote for you…” He was enormously dedicated and worked conscientiously for his constituents to the very end.

Alan is survived by Judith, his sister, and his seven children - Alan, Jan, Joanne, Danny, Josh, Ben and Sophie. They, and many others, will miss him profoundly. As Alan would say, “I’ll see you at the assizes...”

Alan was noted for his sense of humour and shortly before he died, he joked to family members: "I'm joining the Conservative party so that they lose one of their members."

Among the tributes paid to Cllr Wedderkopp, fellow LibDem district councillor Cllr Habib Farbahi said: "I am profoundly saddened at the death of Alan Wedderkopp, a member of our Lib em’s team for two decades.

"Alan was one of the most trusted and popular member of the LibDem family who made a huge contribution to our community in the West of Taunton and beyond.

"Alan was passionate about the environment and providing housing for the most needy.

"On the personal note Alan was a fatherly figure and I will miss him dearly. He had a wicked sense of humour and wanted the very best for his community and party. Alan is simply incomparable."

Natalie Dyson said: "I will miss him dearly, what a wonderful man. I was absolutely devastated to hear the news.

"Only a matter of months ago you could still see him cycling around the ward visiting residents.

"And he called me only two weeks ago and was as chatty as always.

"I feel very privileged to have had him as our local county and district councillor. What an absolute force of nature. Rest in peace Alan, you have left a big hole in many hearts."

Brian Larcombe, chairman of Comeytrowe Parish Council, said: "Alan was a very much valued county and Taunton ward councillor for the western side of town and Comeytrowe.

"He was a man who always paid a high respect to people, their needs, their concerns, and their ideas.

"Everyone was important to him; a man of true social commitment who devoted his time and ability to those he represented, and beyond.

"On occasions like this it's easy to say someone 'will be missed' but in Alan's case he deeply will be: it's hard to imagine his consideration for others; his particular manner and humour not being with us.

"A man of commitment and foresight; a pragmatist and an environmentalist, - an active councillor driven by a want to make things better.

"Someone who gave his time to others and asked little for himself. He was a special person and all the public should hope for in a hard working councillor with true ability and vision. He will be very sadly missed both as a friend and colleague. I feel very privileged to have known him. God bless Alan."