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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Obituary - David Towt of Cockermouth

A Cockermouth man who opened the town’s James Walker factory has died aged 80.

towt 1910
FOUNDER: David Towt

David Towt, of Challoner Street, died on September 24 after suffering a heart attack.

He set up a James Walker factory in Woking, Sussex, after he left school, but when that folded he moved up to Cockermouth to open a site in 1969.

He stayed with the company as production manager until he retired in 1994.

Mr Towt was born in 1931 and went to Woking Grammar School where he excelled in chemistry before opening the James Walker factory in Woking in 1950.

He worked in the office there until it folded in 1969 and then moved up to West Cumbria with friend Tony Gibbs to set up a factory at a time when there was high unemployment.

His wife Edna, 78, who also worked at James Walker, said: “David and Tony were the two main people who ran the factory.

“They opened it at a time when a lot of the coal mines were closing and unemployment was high.

“Apart from Millers shoe factory there was not much here so to have the factory in Cockermouth was a huge asset to the town.

“I remember when it opened up and he shook hands with the prime ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath.

“There were some people who didn’t think it was needed but I know a lot of people appreciated what he has done for the town.”

Mr Towt stayed on as production manager until he took early retirement in 1994 when aged 62.

Mrs Towt said he took retirement after he found the job of travelling to other places in the country too tiring.

It meant he could follow his main passion of steam trains.

He collected all kinds of memorabilia associated with trains including antique train sets, magazines and books.

Edna said: “Two of his most treasured books were damaged in the floods so he spent around £900 getting them specially restored.

“It was important to him as they were his personal belongings and one of the books was one of only 25 that were printed.

“There was also a picture of us next to the River Nile when we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and he was determined to get that and his books replaced because they were worth a lot of money.

“He also read a lot and was like a book of knowledge.

“Whenever we had relatives to visit we had to go for a trip on the La’al Ratty.

“There was another time when he took his great-grandson on a steam train where they were meant to get off at Settle, but he enjoyed it so much they ended up in Leeds.”

Mr Towt also had a love of fell walking and it was another thing that his daughter Melanie, 52, of Thirlmere Avenue, said he enjoyed doing with his family.

She said: “When friends came up we always went fell walking because he thought it was sacrilege if you didn’t walk when you come up to the Lake District.

“He had a fulfilled life and he always made the most of where we lived. His family always came first.

“He was also very independent, positive and never negative. If people were on a downer he would always try to help.”

Mr Towt leaves behind his wife Edna, children Melanie, Rachel and Christopher as well as seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His funeral was held at All Saints Church, Cockermouth, on September 28.

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