Former Burnley play leader Gordon Waddington who was credited with changing the lives of hundreds of children dies at 90
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Gordon Waddington was appointed to the role of play leader at a new project set up by Burnley Borough Council in 1970 in the Stoneyholme area. The scheme was a tremendous success mainly thanks to Gordon. Based from a play centre, the scheme ran a wide range of sports and activities, both indoor and outdoor, catering for children aged four to teenagers. But Gordon would include anyone who wished to join.
The centre attracted youngsters from many different backgrounds and Gordon encouraged all of them to play a sport or learn a skill they would not otherwise have access to.
Paying tribute to him, Gordon’s daughter in law Christine Waddington said: “ Eighteen months after the centre had opened, the residents of Stoneyholme agreed that the area had started to improve and that they no longer lived in fear. The children were now playing sport on the site where youngsters once fought with knives and they praised the efforts of the play leaders in keeping the children out of trouble.
“ Lots of these children, now in their 60s, kept in touch with Gordon and his wife Eileen right up until his death, having reunions throughout the years. Many of the condolence messages that we received have been about how Gordon changed their lives for the better and but for him they are unsure how their futures would have been.
“ So many have said that he was the only man they respected and how they looked upon him as a father figure.”
After working at Stoneyholme for two years, Gordon then become a senior play leader in the town and worked in different areas including Hargher Clough, Sycamore Avenue and Bleak House where he had a massive impact on more young lives.
Gordon went to St Peter's Primary and the former Towneley High schools and Burnley College. In his mid 40s he went to the Bolton Institute of Technology where he gained a diploma in Psychology and Sociology.
A keen sportsman all his life, excelling in gymnastics, weightlifting and athletics as a teenager in 1961, Burnley’s Centenary year, he won awards in swimming, weight lifting, body building, rugby and tennis.
Gordon played for Burnley Tennis Club for many years and rugby at Belvedere and Calder Vale Rugby Club from the late 1950’s until 1982, when he had a hip replacement. He kept up his connection with the club until 2011.
He met Eileen before he went to do his National Service in Korea, at Taylor’s Dance School in Manchester Road, Burnley, and they married in 1956. Gordon and Eileen worked together, first as caretakers at local primary schools and then as play leaders. Eileen died in 2004, having battled with Multiple Sclerosis since the late 1960s, a condition she never let stop her from enjoying an active life.
Gordon retired in 1987 but still kept busy by spending time with his four granddaughters, Vicky, Sam, Terri and Sarah and taking regular exercise.
Gordon also leaves a son Tony, daughter Jacqueline and great grandchildren Libby, Charlie, Millie, Artie and Rafferty.