War hero, gym founder and businessman Ken dies (88)

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A DECORATED war hero who lived an incredibly packed life to the full has died aged 88.

Mr Ken Cowgill, of The Paddock, Burnley was a familiar face after turning a small window cleaning round into one of the area’s biggest cleaning firms in the 1960s.

His son Adrian described him as a hard-working man who helped others. “He was my dad, my boss, my best friend and my golf partner,” he said.

Born in Brierfield, Mr Cowgill attended Walter Street School before being drafted into the Army for the Second World War aged 18. He served in the 16th/5th Queen’s Royal Lancers as a tank commander spending much of his service in North Africa and Italy and was seconded for covert operations with the Special Air Service, including an attempt to kidnap Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Days after returning from duty in 1946 he married his teen sweetheart Ethel, who wrote to him everyday for four-a-half years while he was away.

After a stint as a delivery man for Bob Lord’s butchers he bought a window cleaning round before expanding into industrial cleaning and forming Ken Cowgill Ltd, in Colne Road, employing 40 men. In 1965 he bought a Nelson motorbike shop, a bicycle shop in Duke Bar and a garage in Harle Syke which became one of Honda’s main dealerships.

Work took up a lot of his time but fitness was always important, recalled Adrian. “He started a gym in Chapel Street, Brierfield, in 1951. He trained with Reg Park, who was Mr Universe in 1951. He also looked after Burnley players from that time including Jimmy McIlroy, Jimmy Adamson and John Connelly.

“He loved golf as well though and refereed a Ryder Cup match in 1961 where Arnold Palmer and Peter Alliss played. He was good amateur golfer and in his years with Nelson Golf Club was house chairman, greens chairman and captain.”

Despite work and social commitments, Adrian said he will remember his dad as a man who had time for others. “He wasn’t bothered about himself and just wanted to help other people. He was a real grand fella.”

Mr Cowgill leaves wife Ethel, son Adrian, daughter-in-law Sue, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His other son Bryan died 13 years ago.