Tributes have continued to pour in after the unexpected death of long-standing former Conservative councillor, and local election candidate for London Bridge and West Bermondsey, Toby Eckersley, MBE.
Mr Eckersley died suddenly two weekends ago, forcing the ward election in London Bridge and West Bermondsey to be postponed while elections across the rest of the borough went ahead, with a minute’s silence observed at the count in his memory.
Mr Eckersley was a well-known former councillor for Dulwich Village Ward who, in recent years, had given his support to the Aylesbury Estate leaseholders fighting Southwark Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order to buy and demolish their homes as part of the estate’s regeneration.
Beverley Robinson, an Aylesbury leaseholder and former chair of the Action Group, told the News: “I would like to echo what everybody else has said, that he was the quintessential English gentleman and he was just so passionate and focused about the fight for refurbishment of the Aylesbury and ensuring that leaseholders got a fairer rehousing offer.
“He helped us so much and was the one who looked at the human rights element of the campaign for the first time, and highlighting my personal circumstances as the example.
“Toby was integral and instrumental in achieving the new policy created by the council too, and I spoke to him almost every couple of days. I really miss him!
“We had our disagreements because of his passion for the cause, but he was so good, gentle and a helpful individual to me and I can’t fault him in any way and his advice was invaluable.
“And I will cherish the life lessons I have learned from him. I want to thank his family for sharing such a special person with ALAG.
“We thank him for his generosity, expertise and unwavering help and support for the Aylesbury Leaseholders and campaign.”
Mr Eckersley was also an active member of the Walworth Society. Jeremy Leach, on behalf of the group, told the News: “Toby was a pillar of Southwark life, having stood as a councillor in Dulwich between 1977 and 1986 and then again from 1990 to 2014.
“He was also closely involved in the Walworth Society from its inception in 2012 and attended many of our meetings, helping keep us on the straight and narrow. We will all miss him enormously.”
Roberta Judd contacted the News, last week to say: “I had the great pleasure of teaching Tobias (as I knew him) every Thursday, at Cardiac rehab for many years, not only at St Jude’s but also at the Castle leisure centre.
“I saw him for his very last class on Thursday, April 26, and explained to him that I wouldn’t be seeing him for a while as I was going in myself for a procedure at Guy’s on my knee. He said that he would really miss me and wished me luck.
“He was such a special gentleman and relaxed after his workout to a piece of music that he loved so very much, no one else in the class was aware that I played it especially for him: Mozart Piano concerto No. 21, also played in the film Elvira Madigan.
“I will miss him a great deal, his humility, his politeness, his gentle sense of humour and delight in coming to my class.”
The ward election for London Bridge and West Bermondsey will be held on Thursday, June 14, Southwark Council has confirmed, but at the time of going to print, the News had not received details of Mr Eckersley’s funeral.