Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Former top council executive was‘a remarkable woman’
Fulsome tributes have been paid to distinguished Coatbridge resident Mary Castles, who died suddenly last month aged 69 after a short illness.
She was a former executive director of North Lanarkshire Council, and after retiring joined and became chair of her hometown’s constituency Labour party, as well as volunteering on the board of various Monklands organisations.
Mary was described as “a truly remarkable woman” by Sir Tom Clarke, the former Coatbridge MP, who called her “talented, thoughtful and unique”.
Mary, nee Mullen, grew up in Kirkshaws with parents Catherine and James Mullen, with her father being the local councillor and Provost of Coatbridge burgh.
She had been dux of St James’ Primary as a child and later began her local government career with Monklands District Council, going on to work for its North Lanarkshire successor and rising to one of its top posts as executive director of housing and social work.
After retiring from the local authority in 2015, she joined the Labour party and “immediately became a popular and much-admired member” of the constituency group, serving first its treasurer and then becoming chair in 2019, a post she held until her passing.
She also served in recent years on the boards of Coatbridge Citizens’ Advice Bureau and of St Philip’s School in Plains.
Mary was mum to Kenneth and Kirsty, her beloved children from her first marriage to Robert Adam, and proud grandmother of Elanur, Kenan, Callum and Amy, who were fondly described as “the apple of her eye”.
She had been married since 1993 to Tom Castles, the depute provost of North Lanarkshire and Coatbridge councillor, and is survived by siblings Owen and Catherine, respectively an author and teacher.
Her passions included travel, cookery and music, and her family said: “She could combine these hobbies, on one memorable occasion travelling to Australia to see Catherine, who had emigrated, and take in a concert by her idol, American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.”
Long-serving former MP Sir Tom, who had known Mary and her family throughout her life, said the news of her untimely death had made “minds and hearts stand still”.
He said: “There have been countless tributes from people of all political parties and many who had worked with her in numerous capacities.
“When I was asked to talk of women who had excelled in local government during my public life, I responded without hesitation saying that Mary Castles was among the very top, such was her impact on everyone who met her.
“In at least two of the elections when I was a candidate, she presided over the proceedings and count declaration with competence and impartiality in the way we had come to expect from her.
“When she retired from her working role and then joined the local Labour party she quickly became chairperson, and the party benefited greatly from a role which was shorter than any of us could have anticipated.
“She took on other responsibilities which benefited her community. Coatbridge Citizens’ Advice Bureau expressed their shock at her passing and appreciation of her well-informed contribution, and at her funeral the wonderful work she did for St Philip’s School was spoken of.
“Her funeral was entitled ‘in celebration of the life of Mary Castles’ – she had herself typically organised every detail and meant this final gathering to be uplifting, and like the rest of her life, it was.”
Coatbridge & Chryston Labour group secretary Andrew Bustard said: “We were blessed to know her local profile, years of political experience and tireless campaigning in the turbulent political era she navigated our constituency party through.
“She organised local events, secured election campaign donations and formed part of delegations to committees and conferences across the party.
“Her upbringing in the Labour party, coming from the family of the late provost James Mullen, made her a natural candidate for leadership of our constituency, and she was a great friend and mentor.
“Mary is remembered as a beloved wife, sister, mother and grandmother, and an unashamed supporter of her local community and our party. So many of our number will forever cherish the wisdom, hospitality, and time which she generously offered to those so privileged to make her acquaintance.”
North Lanarkshire Council chief executive Des Murray said: “We were all deeply saddened to hear of Mary’s sudden passing and all our thoughts are with her family and friends.
“Mary was a committed professional, who through her hard work rose to become executive director of housing and social work services before she retired.
“Her dedication and passion for equality and social justice were resolute and compassionate and she cared deeply about the people of North Lanarkshire.
“She and her family lived in North Lanarkshire, forging many friendships with people from all walks of life. She will be sorely missed by all those who knew her and who worked with her over her years of dedicated service.”
There have been countless tributes from people of all political parties and many who had worked with her in numerous capacities