Lives Remembered

Cecil Ward: Cool head during tumultuous times

Cecil Ward as painted by Carol Graham in a portrait hanging in the building which bears his name on Belfast's Linenhall Street
 

CECIL Ward was just 18 when he began his long association with Belfast city council.

It was 1947 when he joined what was then Belfast Corporation as a clerk of the council, a role he would hold for the next 12 years.

He rose through the ranks, taking up the position of committee clerk, then chief clerk, followed by a period as assistant town clerk before finally ascending to the top post of town clerk in 1979.

Over the next decade – a tumultuous time both for the city, as the Troubles raged, and politics during the period spanning the hunger strikes and Anglo-Irish Agreement – he always maintained a cool head and provided a calm voice of leadership when it was needed most.

Such was the respect he was held in, when new office accommodation was constructed on Linenhall Street in the 1980s there was unanimous agreement that it should be named the Cecil Ward Building.

Veteran Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said he was an "absolutely outstanding town clerk".

"He treated every elected representative the same and he was the same way with his staff – he was a very fair-minded person and no matter who you were, he always had a listening ear," he said.

"Cecil gave exemplary leadership over some 10 years and was admired by many other chief executives, not just in local government but through the public sector and private sectors.

"He had a tremendous vision for the city and I would describe him as a man ahead of his time.

"Even after retirement he regularly visited the city hall and was always available to offer guidance to those who succeeded him."

Party colleague Lord Empey, who was lord mayor at the time of Mr Ward's retirement in 1989, also said he made a huge contribution to the city.

"He was a very agreeable and very approachable person and very well regarded across all other areas of government," he said.

Outside work, Mr Ward had a keen interest in the arts and was former chairman of the Ulster Orchestra, leading it on several international tours.

Other public appointments included the Arts Council and Ulster Museum and he was a member of the Senate at Queen's University, which awarded him an honorary MA in 1988. He also received a CBE.

Mr Ward lived alone in south Belfast but had a house in Greencastle, Co Donegal where he spent much of his spare time. He was an avid walker.

He enjoyed good health until recent months and died aged 92 on June 15.

His funeral took place at St Thomas’ Church on Belfast's Lisburn Road on Thursday and was attended by many former council staff as well as political representatives.

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