TRIBUTES have been paid to a construction pioneer and charity champion who ‘inspired countless people’.

Alan Watson MBE died on December 22 at the age of 91.

The former managing director of Watson Steel was also a long-serving former board member at Bolton Lads and Girls Club, where he began as a swimming instructor.

After graduating from Cambridge University and completing his national service in the Royal Engineers, the former Bolton School pupil returned to his hometown to work for the family business — which was then known as Robert Watson and Co and based at a mill in High Street, Daubhill.

The firm grew to become one of the country’s leading contractors and, in recent years, has completed projects including London’s Olympic Stadium, the Macron Stadium, The Big One rollercoaster in Blackpool and London’s Millennium Dome.

Mr Watson’s son, Patrick, said: “Under the stewardship of my father and uncle, the company was modernised to the point where it was a high-profile international contractor.

“Recently they have done steelwork for the Olympics and other major projects like that.

“Most of the major steel contracts in Britain are his legacy.

“In retirement he was very active and he loved the outdoors.

“He did a lot of trekking and walking, including the Camino de Santiago and other treks in Europe. He trekked in the Himalayas and the Andes too. He was always very fit and active.”

He was awarded an MBE in 1999 for services to young people and the construction industry, having spent 50 years working with Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

He helped to raise £125,000 for the club’s centenary appeal in 1989 and was instrumental in the club’s move to its £4.2m building in Spa Road.

Mr Watson had swam and rowed competitively at Cambridge and began giving swimming lessons at the club in the 1940s.

He also served as a governor of Bolton School for many years, where he had been head boy.

Karen Edwards, chief executive of Bolton Lads and Girls Club, said: “I was deeply saddened to learn about the loss of such a great person.

“Alan was such a wonderful and generous man who will be greatly missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know him.

“A delight to chat to every time he visited us, Alan inspired countless people for over half a century as a supporter of the Club.

“As vice president of the charity, Alan was always genuinely interested in the work of the Club, so on behalf of everyone at BLGC, we pass on our heartfelt condolences to Alans family and friends as I’m sure he will be missed terribly.”

The father-of-five, who also had three grandchildren, died at Royal Bolton Hospital after suffering kidney failure.

His funeral will be held at 12pm on January 12 at the West Chapel at Overdale Crematorium.

His family have requested that donations be made to the Lads and Girls Club in lieu of flowers.