THE sudden death of a former Mayor of Bolton at the weekend has come as a "huge shock" to the family, his children have said.

Tributes have flooded in for Honorary Alderman Guy Harkin who died on Saturday morning, aged 72.

Described as a "political heavyweight", he was a prominent figure in Bolton for almost four decades, representing both Daubhill and Crompton wards for the Labour Party during this time.

His son Sean and daughter Marie told The Bolton News that their father had recently been in hospital following a short illness.

He said: "Our Dad’s sad passing has come as a huge shock to us as he was so fit and healthy until the last three months of his life and even then we were unaware there was anything wrong with him.

"He was such a big character who has had a positive impact on the lives of so many people. Knowing how well-liked he was is a great source of comfort to us and we would like to thank everyone who has sent us messages of support.

"He will be greatly missed by us, our Mum, Colette, his grandson Charlie and the rest of his family.

A councillor in Bolton for nearly forty years, Ald Harkin served as mayor between 2012 and 2013.

He was made an Honorary Alderman in August last year in recognition of his decades of service.

Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Hilary Fairclough, sent her condolences to Colette Harkin and her family.

She said: "Guy was a well-respected Councillor who always got everyone’s attention when he spoke due to his way with words and his stories.

"He was a wonderful Mayor of Bolton and it is so sad that he had only just retired from politics and been given the title of Honorary Alderman."

The leader of Bolton Council has also paid tribute to the former mayor.

Cllr David Greenhalgh described Alderman Guy Harkin as a “fine orator” and “talented politician” who was respected across all parties.

He said: “He brought humour and wit to the council chamber as well as considerable political expertise and knowledge.

“His anecdotes, which would have people in stitches, were legendary, but so were his attacks on his opponents.

“When Guy Harkin spoke, you may not always have agreed with it, but you listened. He had a natural presence that you can’t be taught.

“On behalf of the whole council, our condolences to Colette and the family.”

Ald Harkin was first elected as a Labour councillor for the Daubhill ward in 1980 where he served for 24 years, including 21 years as the deputy council leader.

He was also chairman of Greater Manchester Transport and North West Employers during this time.

In 1987, he unsuccessfully stood as the Labour parliamentary candidate for Bolton West constituency.