Obituary: Pharmacist and preacher who left a legacy of care

Founder of the Aylsham Care Trust (ACT) Rees Coghlan.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Rees Coghlan, who has died aged 96. - Credit: MARK BULLIMORE

Few people have left as much of a mark on their community as Rees Coghlan.

Mr Coghlan - who has died aged 96 - was a pharmacist, Methodist preacher and founder of the Aylsham and District Care Trust. He was the driving force behind Aylsham's St Michael's Care Complex - the first integrated health and social care complex of its kind in the UK.

The new ACT Centre in Aylsham. The Coghlan family, left to right, June, Rachel, ACT founder Rees Cog

Pictured at the the ACT Centre in Aylsham just after it was opened in 2012 were the Coghlan family, from left, June, Rachel, Rees, Mabel, Patrick and Jonathan. - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

Patrick Coghlan, 67 - one of his two sons along with Paul, 69 - said his father was also very much a family man, who loved his little dog, Max.

Patrick said: "He was very dedicated and lived life to the full. He didn't suddenly retire, he kept working and helping people as long as he possibly could. 

"His motivation for everything was his very strong Christian faith, and he demonstrated that love of Jesus in practical ways."

Mr Coghlan was born in Erpingham, and when he was about nine his family moved to the nearby village of Matlaske where they took over the village shop. 

Work starts on Aylsham Community Centre, left are a group of councillors from Aylsham. Pictured is R

Rees Coghlan on the site of what would become the ACT Centre in 2011. - Credit: Colin Finch

It was at the shop where he later met his future wife, Mabel. They were married for 71 years and Mrs Coghlan is now 96.

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In his 20s, Mr Coghlan qualified as a pharmacist at the University of Nottingham and took over a chemist's in Loddon. 

Further branches followed in the Larkman estate area of Norwich, in Aylsham's Market Place and in Holt. 

The Duke of Edinburgh greets Rees Coghlan at the official opening of St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham in 2013.  

The Duke of Edinburgh greets Rees Coghlan at the official opening of St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham in 2013. - Credit: ANTONY KELLY

Patrick said: "He was a ahead of his time in a sense - he used to do a lot of special offers and he was very conscious of making things affordable. He did a lot of counter prescribing which was also fairly new at the time.

"He would make up all sorts of different creams and things for people who would come in with their aches and pains rather than going to their GP. 

The Duke of Edinburgh and Rees Coghlan at St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham in 2013. 

The Duke of Edinburgh and Rees Coghlan at St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham in 2013. - Credit: ANTONY KELLY

"I remember at the Norwich shop, Thursdays was a half-day but he used to go back about 5pm and open up for prescriptions. It was supposedly only for an hour but it was often 7.30pm or 8pm before he got away.

"He really cared and he had a lot of time for people."

 celebrate their 31st anniversary. Rees Coghlan and then Aylsham and District Care Trust chairman Jenny Manser

celebrate their 31st anniversary. Rees Coghlan and then Aylsham and District Care Trust chairman Jenny Manser cut a cake to mark the trust's 31st anniversary in 2017. - Credit: ANTONY KELLY

Mr Coghlan was a preacher on the Methodist circuits in Loddon, Norwich and finally Aylsham into his 70s.

Patrick said: "He retired from the shops in his early 70s and then went headlong into developing ACT, which he founded in 1985.

"It was a very small organisation initially and he spent his time building it up. He had a piece of land, where I used to run a riding school, and after that closed he had the vision to use it for sort of care project."

Rees Coghlan, founder and trustee of ACT, chats to St Michael's Care Complex resident Elsie Wilton, 88, in 2013. 

Rees Coghlan, founder and trustee of ACT, chats to St Michael's Care Complex resident Elsie Wilton, 88, in 2013. - Credit: ANTONY KELLY

This land, in Aylsham's west, soon became the home to four different projects - A housing with care scheme called Greenlane View, St Michael's Court Care Home, a health centre and the ACT centre - a community hub and cafe which run services such as counselling, volunteer car schemes, at-home care and meals schemes. 

Patrick said: "We thought he was overreaching, but he had the dedication to achieve whatever he set out to."

Prince Philip opened the complex in 2013. Mr Coghlan was chairman of ACT until he was 80, and was actively involved with the charity until he was almost 90.

Patrick said: "He used to drive the ACT minibus, and was involved in running the lunch clubs. He was a very busy man. He will be sadly missed."

For his community service, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen herself at Buckingham Palace. 

As well as his sons and wife, Mr Coghlan is survived by six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

A small funeral is planned for April 29, which will be followed by a thanksgiving celebration on April 30 at the ACT Centre. More details of this event are to follow. 

Patrick said:  "We felt it was appropriate to give thanks for everything that he has done, and all that he meant to people."