'He wanted you to do your best' - daughter remembers well-loved father

Cottenham coach driver on cruise

William Coles (left), known as 'John', while on a cruise which he enjoyed doing during his life. - Credit: Family

The daughter of a well-respected coach driver who was “always encouraging you to do your best” has paid tribute to her late father. 

William Coles of Cottenham, known as ‘John’ to many, first helped his family bakery business, delivering bread to villagers after leaving school at around 14 to 15-years-old. 

But John, who died at the age of 91, may be most remembered for his time as a coach driver for different firms in and around his home village, whether that was driving football fans or schoolchildren. 

“He was a coach driver for around 30 to 40 years,” Mary Lancefield, John’s daughter, said. 

“His reputation built over the years. When I spoke to the undertaker after he died, he said dad used to drive him to school, so lots of local people knew him from seeing him out and about.” 

Born to Arthur and Ruby Coles in 1929, John, one of three children, spent time delivering and making bread, as well as taking care of animals on the family farm. 

After returning to Cottenham following a divorce, John got in touch with Ted Young of Young’s Coaches in Rampton and soon became the firm’s transport manager by the early 1970s. 

Cottenham coach driver in Malta

John Coles (right) with late wife Jill in Malta. - Credit: Family

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“As a young man, he worked for Herbert Robinson in Cambridge delivering cars. Then he went to work at Young’s and drove school coaches,” Mary said. 

“He was fanatical about keeping cars washed and clean, and used to go shooting with some of our farming neighbours for pheasants and rabbits.” 

The former volunteer car driver for Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge also had time for sports, too, such as football, wrestling and boxing. 

On occasion, John drove Cambridge United’s first-team to away matches and also took workers to their place of work. 

After the death of his second wife Jill in 1998, John then lived with companion Mary and was a fan of cruises, including to the Caribbean and the Fjords. 

Mary said her father was well-respected by many he met, and his positive attitude to life is something that will always live with her. 

“He always wanted you to do your best and you had to have a routine getting up early in the morning and crack on,” she said. 

“He wanted you to enjoy yourself in life.” 

A funeral service will be held at the Fenland Crematorium in March tomorrow (Friday) at 2.30pm.  

To watch the service, go to https://www.obitus.com/ using the username: Lewe7040 and password: 398016.