(Tuesday, August 29) Colourful councillor dies at 64

ONE of Ulster's most eccentric and controversial political characters, Robert Lindsay Mason, has died.

The Larne independent councillor was aged 64.

He died last Friday evening; apparently from heart failure.

A flamboyant maverick – "an absolute one-off, thank God," one ex-colleague said affectionately – he was renowned for his unusual behaviour, for championing environmental causes and especially for never shutting-up. At just his second council meeting, the police were called to remove Mr Mason from the chamber when he refused to stop talking. It was not the last time they were called.

On another occasion, a fellow councillor allegedly threatened to knock his teeth down his throat for being a nuisance.

And members of the media in Larne and Belfast also knew him as a frequent caller who it was impossible to get off the phone.

His friend and Mayor of Larne Danny O'Connor said: "There will be those who will now cry crocodile tears for him and there is no doubt he could be a pain.

"But I called him a friend and I am truly glad to have known him and will miss his company.

"He had his flaws. He would have argued a black crow was white and it was very difficult sometimes to get him to see and think outside the box. But that was partly due to the fact he suffered from Asperger's syndrome."

Mr Mason was born in Larne. His father was the manager of old paper mill in the town.

Later, he was educated at Royal School, Dungannon and travelled in America.

As well as political life, his interests included antiques and cycling.

Ex-mayor of Larne, DUP councillor Bobby McKee said yesterday: "Whatever you thought of him, life in Larne is certainly going to be a lot less colourful without him."

Making his point, he recalled Mr Mason once drove around the east Antrim town in a pink Cadillac.

"He couldn't reverse it; he'd always be asking me to reverse the car for him," laughed Mr McKee.

Mr Mason also added his unique form of colour to council, by flouting the convention of wearing a suit and sticking tracksuits and fluorescent baseball caps – even for official engagements.

While he always stood out in public, his role in political life stretched back more than 30 years.

He was elected for one stint to Belfast City Council in 1972, as a councillor in the Falls area, joining the short-lived Ulster Constitution Party.

In later years, Mr Mason became known for his crusades on various environmental issues and local concerns in the Larne area.

"He was very much ahead of his time on a number of causes," said Mr O'Connor. More recently, he had suffered increasingly poor health and family bereavements.

His mother and aunt both died, as did his dog Honey.

"That all hit him hard," said Mr O'Connor," and in recent months he was less and less well. He had a lot of trouble with his breathing and suffered from asthma."

Mr Mason is due to be buried at Clandeboye Cemetery, Bangor, on Thursday.