Hundreds turn out to remember popular fish merchant and pub landlord

The funeral cortège, which included a lap of Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole

The funeral cortège, which included a lap of Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

Hundreds of people gathered on a historic fish market as others lined the streets to pay tribute to an "exceptional man".

Michael Cole, 73, was fondly remembered as a large turnout of people – all social distancing – gathered across Lowestoft to honour the popular wholesale fish merchant, long-serving pub and restaurant landlord and fundraiser during a poignant procession.

Touching tributes have been paid to popular wholesale fish merchant, long-serving pub and restaurant

Touching tributes have been paid to popular wholesale fish merchant, long-serving pub and restaurant landlord, tireless campaigner and fundraiser Michael Cole. Picture: The Cole family - Credit: The Cole family

With Mr Cole’s funeral taking place on Wednesday, December 9 at Christ Church in Lowestoft, only family were able to attend due to Covid-19 restrictions.

But the family arranged for people to pay their respects by lining the route of the funeral cortège, which included a lap of Lowestoft fish market before proceeding to the church.

The funeral cortège makes its way along Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole

The funeral cortège makes its way along Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

The fishing industry and wider community lined the route of the procession as it made its way through Mutford, Rushmere, Lowestoft and the fish market.

There was warm applause as the hearse and three limousines made its way along a circuit of the docks, where Mr Cole had dedicated so many years of his life.

Warm applause for the funeral cortège at Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole

Warm applause for the funeral cortège at Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

As a long-standing wholesale fish merchant at one of the biggest companies in the area – JT Cole Fish Merchants – which was founded in 1935 by his grandfather, JT Cole, he had began working on the fish market as a teenager.

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Initially Mr Cole earned £7 and ten shillings a week, before taking up a full time position in 1964.

The funeral cortège leaves Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole.

The funeral cortège leaves Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

A father-of-four and grandfather-of-two, before his funeral service his family had paid touching tributes to "one of the best known characters on Lowestoft fish market".

His family said: “Michael, along with brother Don, merged the company with Sam Cole Food Ltd in 2007, where Michael continued to work until October of this year."

Back then, Sam Cole Fish Merchants merging with JT Cole in 2007. Left to right: Sam Cole, Donny Cole and Michael Cole.

Back then, Sam Cole Fish Merchants merging with JT Cole in 2007. Left to right: Sam Cole, Donny Cole and Michael Cole. Photo: Nick Butcher - Credit: Archant

Hailing his dedication to work and commitment to the community, Mr Cole was involved in many clubs and organisations over the years as a Freemason, a former chairman and president of the Round Table, a proud member of the Lowestoft 14th scout group - who achieved the Queen’s Scout award and a former member of the Lowestoft lifeboat crew.

From 1989 he was landlord and co-owner of the Swan Inn at Barnby.

Touching tributes have been paid to popular wholesale fish merchant, long-serving pub and restaurant

Touching tributes have been paid to popular wholesale fish merchant, long-serving pub and restaurant landlord, tireless campaigner and fundraiser Michael Cole. Picture: The Cole family - Credit: The Cole family

Among the many people lining the route of the cortège were masons, colleagues from the fishing industry, friends and businessmen.

Warm applause for the funeral cortège at Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole

Warm applause for the funeral cortège at Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

Having known Mr Cole since the early 1980s through links with the fishing industry, Suffolk County councillor Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro was among those paying respects.

She said: "He was such a nice, genuine person who was kind hearted, well known and very well-respected.

"Michael was a very good businessman, and a good friend of my husband (Victor).

"He always made an effort to come down and say hello.

"Its just so sad."

The funeral cortège arrives at Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole

The funeral cortège arrives at Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

Businessman Peter Colby added: "He was an exceptional man - one of the nicest guys you could know.

"Being part of the Cole dynasty of fish merchants over many generations, they are an integral part of Lowestoft.

"It is testament to him the amount of people who have turned out today, not just here at the fish market, but many people who have turned out along the route and clapped - people are very sad he has gone.

"I am 78, and I'd known Michael more than 50 years - he was a major part of Lowestoft life.

"Michael was a wonderful man - a great guy who will be sorely missed."

The funeral cortège prepares to leave after a lap of Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole

The funeral cortège prepares to leave after a lap of Lowestoft fish market, ahead of the service for Michael Cole. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

After Mr Cole's death on Sunday, November 15 following a heart attack, he leaves a widow Shirley, four children – Michael Jnr, Rebecca, James and Laura – and two grandchildren Ethan and Everly.

His family said that they are planning to hold a memorial for Mr Cole next year "once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted."



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