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Tributes to ex-mayor and businessman ‘Mr Marketplace’

The late Mr John Cowgill.
The late Mr John Cowgill.
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A former director of the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times newspaper, Mr John H. Cowgill, has died.

Mr Cowgill, husband of the late Mrs Heather D. Cowgill, was up until his retirement the managing director of John Cowgill and Son Ltd, stationers and toy retailers in Clitheroe Market Place.

He was also an independent councillor on Ribble Valley Borough Council and Clitheroe Town Council for many years and was Clitheroe Town Mayor from 1982 to 1984.

An old boy of Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, leaving there at the age of 16, he travelled every day to Manchester College of Technology for a full time course in printing and business studies, getting his diploma in 1949.

He then served for two years in the R.A.F. finishing as a watch-keeping supervisor in Signal Command.

In 1951, he joined his father in the family firm of printers and stationers – The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times. The firm was launched in 1858 by his great grandfather – also called John – from his premises in Castle Street producing a free news sheet – The Clitheroe Advertiser. He was later joined by his son George and grandson John Clifford, who successfully bid for a rival publication, The Clitheroe Times.

In the amalgamation, the business moved to 6 Market Place and the Cowgill family kept Clitheroe up-to-date on local news until 1963. That year the newspaper was sold to United Newspapers and the name of the business was changed to John Cowgill and Son (The Printers) Ltd.

Around that time, the premises at 4 Market Place were bought and, after much building work, the two shops were knocked into one greatly expanding the retail selling space.

In 1920, John’s father, the late John Clifford Cowgill retired. The printing business closed down and John became managing director of the company and took over the retail side of the business, which he rapidly built up.

A firm believer in personal and courteous service, he was an active member of the Clitheroe and District Chamber of Trade and, in the 70’s, was elected president. In 1982, he was appointed chairman of Lancashire Chambers of Trade. Later that year, he was nominated and elected as a member of The Polite Society of Great Britain.

In 1977, the last large extension to the shop was made with an extension into what had been the former printing department, giving an extra 700 sq ft of selling space.

In 1979, John put up for election to both Ribble Valley Borough Council and also Clitheroe Town Council and was duly elected as an independent councillor. He was elected Mayor of Clitheroe in 1982 and served in that position for two years.

However, in 1993, after being the only remaining independent councillor on Ribble Valley District after serving 14 years, he had to resign on medical advice. He served on the town council for a further two years.

In November 1999, Mr Cowgill, having worked in the Market Place for 53 years, and having been known affectionately by many customers from Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley as “Mr Marketplace” decided enough was enough and he sold the business. His name, however, still shines over the Market Place as the shop premises are now called “Cowgills of Clitheroe”.

A keen sportsman in his younger days, he played cricket at Chatburn Road and latterly played with Waddington in the North East Lancashire League and was a member of the championship team in 1954. He was also a keen golfer where he was a past captain of “The Lancashire Stationers Golfing Association” and he won their championship on three occasions.

In conjunction with Clitheroe council and the local chamber of trade, Mr Cowgill wrote the first official guide to the town and district to be published. Many former members of The Clitheroe Amateur Operatic Society will remember him as their stage manager for many productions in the Old King Lane Hall.

He is survived by his two sons and five grandchildren.