David Coates at Labour Party Gardent Party July 2016

Sad Passing of David Coates

It is with great regret that we report the death of David Coates, a life time member of the Labour Party.

David Coates at Swanley Labour Garden Party
David Coates is sitting on the first left.

David served with distinction as the first Labour Chairman of Sevenoaks District Council, as well as Mayor of Swanley.

In earlier years he had also served as a committee chairman for a South East London Borough.

David was a strong trade unionist who defended his members rights. In some cases his  struggle for justice went from indiviual industrial tribunal cases, all the way up to the House of Commons Committees, and even to the European Courts.

David figured prominently in the media in 1993 when he moved the “Scrap Trident” motion. To rapturous applause he stated:

Our days of empire are over, and trying to maintain military capability as if we still ruled a third of the world has a lot to do with the bankrupting of British industry.’

David’s commitment to international peace and justice never wavered, and he successfully moved a motion to scrap Trident at Swanley & District Labour Party’s branch meeting last year. Despite being in extreme pain he always went to branch meetings when ever  he could.

His wise counsel will be greatly missed by the Labour party.

Our condolences go to Kathy and family.

David’s funeral is to be held on 7th December 2pm at Eltham crematorium in the North Chapel. Please no flowers, anyone wishing to make a donation to the Ellenor will be much appreciated. This is the chapel that David opened many years ago, whilst on the Greenwich Council.

David’s granddaughter Fiona has written a very moving obituary:

Born in Plumstead on May 1st 1933 to Doris and George Coates, David Richard Coates was the second child of seven; four sisters and two brothers. David attended Conway Primary School before going to Bloomfield Road School for his secondary years.


David and his siblings were split up during the War. His eldest sister joined the army and his other siblings were evacuated up north. David was evacuated to Swanley Bevan Place, however he decided that his mother needed him and he wasn’t happy that she was on her own, so he ran away and managed to get on a bus back to Plumstead to be with his mother. They were later evacuated together, mother and son, to Lincolnshire.


In 1951, when he was just eighteen he started courting Kathleen who was sixteen, whilst he was in the National Service as the security in the Medical Corps. David and Kathleen met through their shared interested of entertainment. Kathleen was a keen tap dancer, whilst David had a passion for music, both singing and playing, at the time he was in a skiffle band. He continued to play his favourite instrument, the ukulele banjo and would entertain the elderly in residential homes, with his friends and family until he started to suffer with arthritis in his hand.


David started off his work career as a trainee French polisher for the Cooperative Funeral Service in Woolwich at the age of 15. He then went on to become the shop steward when he was in his early twenties. After this David became the General Secretary of the Funeral Trade Union(NUFSO) at just 36, the youngest general secretary, this amalgamated in to FTAT – Furniture, Timber and Allied trade union- where he became a national Officer – this amalgamated with the GMB – where he was a national officer until he retired in 1995. During his years working for the various unions, he was a speaker several times at the TUC conference – appearing on national TV. He was the English representation of the French funeral union and on the GFTU committee that helped and worked with unions across the globe, he acted as president for a year during his time with the GFTU.


During his youth David loved athletics and he became the Cooperative’s track and road speed walking champion. Kathleen spent many weekends in a back of van watching David walk and supporting him. He went on to join Cambridge Harriers and that’s when he took up running. He then started running for the Co=op as well. In fcat he raced against Chris Chatterway only to be piped at the post. A great achievement of David’s is that he ran the fleet marathon in his late twenties in a time of 2.43 in plimsolls.


In 1955, David and Kathleen married at St Nicholas Church, Plumstead. Nine years later, David joined the labour party and then went on to become a Woolwich Councillor which later changed to Greenwich Borough, he was a councillor for many years. In the 70’s he was put forward by the Co-operative movement to become the Labour MP for Woolwich.


David and Kathleen had three children together, Gail, Glen and Della. The family were all into entertaining and it was during the children’s younger years when the family travelled and performed in residential homes. In 1968, David and Kathleen bought a caravan on a site is East Sussex and spent every weekend down there as a family in the summer months, where they continued to entertain. After several years at the site, David helped to set up the first Cooperative site, run by the people themselves, this was a success and he then further helped to set up two more sites. Once the children were older, they David and Kathleen decided to leave the caravan site and bought a place in Spain in the late 1980’s, where David got involved once again and became the president of the owners.


David and Kathleen decided to move away from Plumstead to Swanley in 1981, then in 1988, David carried on his passion for athletics and became a founding member of Swanley and District Athletic Club and was the club secretary until 2010, when he decided to leave this position. During his time at the club he completed his level 2 in coaching and started a jogging group helped others to get into jogging and running. He also taught children essential athletic skills such as throwing, jumping and running. He introduced the Swanley summer relays in Swanley park. An event that still takes place now.


David competed in many events representing the club, such as the Kent cross country events, many 10ks half marathons including the London Marathon and the New York Marathon. Competing in events such as these David managed to raise over £84,000 for various charities. He raised £64,000 for a charity called Quest for Cancer (A research charity). He also wrote a piece on nasal cancer, which affected mostly those working with wood, linking to his career in the Funeral Trade. David wrote a piece on Nasal Cancer and raised money running the London and New York marathon with his youngest daughter, Della.


During David’s time of living in Swanley he became the first labour Chairman of Sevenoaks District Council in 1995/1996. Following his wife Kathleen who took the role upon herself in 2003/2004, David then became the Mayor of Swanley in 2009/2010. David was involved in the labour party until his death.


David and Kathleen were married for 61 years, they had three children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He is greatly loved by his family and friends and will be missed dearly.

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