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Over 90 people gathered in the meeting room of Castle Pool this evening to pay their respects to Robin, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale who died in February this year.
Often emotional, often amusing, the audience heard eulogies from various friends and colleagues. Council Leader Sir Albert Bore talked of Robin’s humour and generosity.
Jack Dromey, Erdington’s MP, described Robin as ‘a legend locally and a massive presence nationally.’
Richard Temple Cox, CBE, former Chair of the Housing Action Trust told the audience that in 1991 Robin Corbett was at the forefront of lobbying at Westminster to get Castle Vale listed as one of the six Housing Action Trusts in the country. He managed to persuade Michael Heseltine to include Castle Vale. This decision meant that the Vale could be transformed during the 1990s and 2000s.
Richard Temple Cox said that Robin was’The Pied Piper who led the residents into the complex area of regeneration.’
Dr Angus Kennedy, OBE, former Chief Executive of the Housing Action Trust told the story of how Robin, at the top of one of the old tower blocks, was describing the plans for Castle Vale with such passion and vehemence that he knocked a cup of tea flying out of the hands of a government minister. It went all over her suit. But he convinced her, and won Vale an extra £60million as a result.
At the end of the official speeches, Steve Clayton handed over the microphone to anyone in the audience who would like to share memories of Lord Corbett.
A diminutive but passionate man, Saieed, from the Iranian Resistance spoke of his respect and affection for Robin. Lord Corbett had championed the cause of those opposed to and oppressed by the current regime in Iran. Robin had been doing so for three decades, and had realised well before most international political experts that the cradle of terrorism was the Iran regime, with its ayatollahs and mullahs. Lord Corbett had stood up for and campaigned for the oppressed in Iran. As he had on many other issues, nationally, locally and internationally.
Several others spoke. Mostly local people.
Most moving was an ex Vale resident called Forrester. Some years ago, he and his wife needed help with their daughter’s education. They wrote to Robin, their MP at the time. To their surprise, Robin Corbett turned up on their doorstep. Forrester described movingly the support that his family received from Robin over a long period of time.
The result: some years later, his daughter graduated in Law from Cambridge University. She now has a top job. After her graduation, Lord Corbett took the family to the House of Lords for dinner. He sent them a Christmas card every year, until this one, when illness prevented him from doing so.
Finally, Robin’s wife Val spoke. With warmth and a sense of humour, she recalled some fond times. She told the audience that, in his final weeks and on his deathbed, Robin had said that he was most proud of the work he had done in Birmingham and in Erdington, and most particularly in Castle Vale.
“Castle Vale is in my heart,” he said.