Former mayor of Bury Mike Connolly has died at the age of 69.
His death was announced this morning (October 26).
Described as ‘Bury through and through’, he attended St. Marie’s R.C. Primary School and The Derby School before training to be a teacher in Sheffield.
Having lived in Bury all his life, he taught in primary schools in Radcliffe, Whitefield and Ramsbottom.
He also served as a headteacher in Blackburn before taking early retirement and becoming a councillor.
He was elected as a Labour Councillor for his dedicated East area in 1994 and represented the ward until 2016.
Coun Connolly served in nearly all senior positions within Bury Council.
In 2009, he became the deputy leader of Bury Labour Group.
He was one of Labour’s heads during a tense election in 2011, after three recounts failed to separate the Labour and Tory candidates in the Ramsbottom ward – both posting the same number of votes.
Under electoral rules, the outcome was decided by drawing straws. Labour’s Joanne Columbine drew the longest straw to gain an extra vote ahead of the conservatives, who lost power in the borough.
At the time, Coun Connolly said : “To win, albeit with the drawing of straws, is just absolutely amazing.
“It’s a testament to the work the Labour teams have done. We never expected to come here and get an absolute majority.”
Coun Connolly also had a number of regional roles, including the lead on police and crime matters and civil contingencies for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
He also served on the Local Government Association’s safer and secure communities board.
Coun Connolly was the leader of Bury council from 2011 until 2016, when Coun Rishi Shori took over.
In 2016, he was elected to be the mayor of Bury, taking over the reins from councillor Stella Smith.
At the time, he said: “As a Bury man born and bred, it’s a huge honour to be chosen to become mayor of my hometown.
“Bury is a fantastic borough and I’m looking forward immensely to being its ‘ambassador’. I will do everything in my power to live up to the responsibility that has been placed in me.”
His partner Ian Hargreeves served as his consort while mayor.
His mayorship ended in 2017 and he served as deputy mayor when North Manor councillor Dorothy Gunther took over the position.
He resigned from the council in June 2018 due to health reasons.
Sharing the news of Coun Connolly’s death, partner Ian wrote: “Mike has sadly passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning.
“I was with him to hold his hand.”
Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, leader of Bury Council, said: “Mike was Bury through and through.
“A man dedicated to public service and supporting those who needed it most. As one of our borough’s longest serving leaders, he achieved a great deal for our towns and leaves a big legacy for the place he loved.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Mike’s partner Ian, his family and friends.”
The Mayor of Bury, Cllr Tim Pickstone, said: “Mike was everything a local councillor should be. An outstanding ward councillor, Cabinet Member, Opposition Leader, Council Leader and Mayor, he was an example to us all.
“Bury has lost a much-loved local leader and a great advocate. Our love to Mike’s partner Ian, and to Mike’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Carl Austin-Behan, former Manchester mayor and now LGBT Advisor for Mayor Andy Burnham, said: “So sorry to hear the sad news that Mike sadly passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning.
“What an amazing person he was. It was a pleasure and joy to share our mayoral year together, Sending all our love to Ian and Mike’s family & friends, thinking of you, lots of love and RIP Mike XxX”
Organisers behind Bury Pride added: “It is with a heavy heart and great sadness to hear of the passing of former Mayor and Leader of Bury Council, Mike Connolly.
“His partner Ian and Mike were always huge supporters of Bury Pride and he will be missed greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ian at this difficult time. Sending much love.”