Obituary: Trevor Bottomley, 96, co-op educator and overseas activist

A lifelong commitment to the movement included roles with the International Co-operative Alliance, Co-operative College and Plunkett Foundation

Trevor Bottomley, whose career included roles at the International Co-operative Alliance and the UK’s Co-operative Union and saw him help develop co-ops overseas, has died aged 96.

Mr Bottomley served at the Alliance as chief executive for education and development, where he founded two important educational advisory bodies – CEMAS and AGITCOOP.

This followed a lifelong involvement in co-ops which began at the age of 14 when he became a delivery boy for Trowbridge Co-operative Society.

fter wartime service in the RAF, Trowbridge sponsored him to study social and political science at Stanford Hall Co-operative College. He graduated in 1948 and served as  education officer for the Co-operative Union before returning to Stanford Hall in 1957 as national education officer.

Trevor Bottomley dedicated his life to co-operation

His work overseas began in 1960 when he was recruited by the Commonwealth Office, helping to develop co-ops and credit unions in what are now Lesotho and Botswana – where he was the first registrar of co-operatives and drafted its co-operative law.

Mr Bottomley returned to the UK to work before carrying out more co-op development work in Laos and Jamaica and, in 1974, taking his role at the Alliance.

He later returned to teach at Stanford Hall until his retirement in 1986, after which he carried out voluntary consultancy work for overseas co-ops.

As co-operative consultant and adviser he carried out numerous missions to more than 20 countries, specialising in marketing, management and field training.

Mr Bottomley was also a lifelong member of the Plunkett Foundation, which promotes rural community ownership in the UK, served on its editorial advisory board and as a part-time consultant.

He wrote several books on aspects of co-operative education and in 1982 was awarded the Hungarian Medal for Achievement and Excellence in Co-operative Development.

Mervyn Wilson, former principal of the Co-operative College, said: “Trevor epitomised the remarkable effectiveness of co-operative education at its best – providing opportunities for a young shop worker to transform life chances through education and then to use that education to serve the movement.”

In his autobiography, Happy Highways, Mr Bottomley wrote: “From wool scouring in Trowbridge to cattle marketing in Botswana: co-op bread boy to international co-op education executive; troopship mess-deck to first class cabin on an ocean liner; wartime airman in Assam to marketing consultant in Laos and a final mission to the Pacific Islands of Vanuatu; it has been a good and interesting life”.

He is survived by a daughter, Anne, a son, Steven, and four grandchildren.