Tributes have been paid after the death of a “genuine, decent” trade unionist who helped thousands of Bolton workers over the course of his life.

Tony Cowell, who died earlier in May at the age of just 63, was best known as a leading activist in Bolton Unison for many years.

Working as a refuse collector for 45 years, his lifelong service to the union was driven by deeply held socialist values, which he believed fully aligned with his strong Christian faith.

Bolton Unison chair Phil Chanin said: “Tony was always someone who lit up a room as he walked in and he always had a mischievous grin.

“Everybody would stop to speak to him and listen to his jokes.

The Bolton News: Tony speaking about his beliefs and his faithTony speaking about his beliefs and his faith (Image: Bolton Unison)

“He was a genuinely, decent, trade unionist at heart, he always supported and cared about his members.

“We will all miss his laugh and infectious enthusiasm.

“Our thoughts are with his beloved wife Doreen.”

The Bolton News: Tony was a long standing member of Bolton UnisonTony was a long standing member of Bolton Unison (Image: Bolton Unison)

Having served as a longstanding trade union activist, Tony first became a workplace representative for public sector union Unison in April 2010.

From there he went on the become environmental services deputy convenor in March 2012 and then full-time convenor in March 2014.

This involved working full time from Unison’s Bolton office in the town centre, a role he stepped down from in 2016 to return to the council’s waste collection services.

One of the highlights of Tony’s life’s work as a trade unionist came when he helped Unison to win around £300,000 in backpay for around 2000 of his fellow council and school workers.

This was after a row had broken out with the authority about miscalculated holiday pay.

Another side to Tony’s life's work was his service as a Reverend at St Michael’s Church in Great Lever, having been ordained as an Anglican Priest at Manchester Cathedral in 1998.

ALSO READ: Thousands of school and council workers to vote on strike over pay

ALSO READ: £300k back pay for workers after 'miscalculation' 

ALSO READ: Binman dines out with television stars to guess Who's Doing the Dishes

But television viewers will also have recognised him from his many game show appearances including on Deal or No Deal and Catchphrase.

With many years of service behind him, Tony stood down at Bolton Unison’s annual general meeting earlier this year, in anticipation of his planned retirement for late 2024 or early 2025.

His death in March prompted an outpouring of mourning and tributes from his many friends and comrades from over the years.

They had said that throughout his life, Tony always maintained that his Christian faith, and trade union principles were fully aligned with his socialist values and beliefs.