Hospice champion and amateur footballer Keith dies

Keith Varley who died aged 78 (s)
Keith Varley who died aged 78 (s)

A great-grandad and one-time keen amateur footballer who was instrumental in creating a renowned meeting place for players in the Lancashire Amateur League as well as helping to raise thousands for Pendleside Hospice has died.

Mr Keith Varley died in the hospice on Monday, February 29th, at the age of 78.

A former pupil of Mansfield High School in Brierfield, Mr Varley played football for Mansfield FC for several years before leaving to play for Nelson Grammar School Old Boys. While playing for the Old Boys Mr Varley recognised the need for a club house, which came in the form of the old Co-op Rooms in Larch Street, Nelson. In 1971, the building, which had been refurbished by the players, who had day jobs as builders, joiners and electricians, was officially opened by Clarets winger Ralph Coates.

The club house became a hub, not only for the footballers on a Saturday afternoon but also for the community after Mr Varley hit on the idea of putting on entertainment with resident bands The Manhattans, Lipstick and Vonny’s Magic on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday night became cabaret night with top acts such as Tom O’Connor, Lisa Stansfield, The Dooleys, Marty Wilde and American group Chicago Heatwave. Tuesday and Thursday night entertainment also became popular, before the club closed after 13 years in 1984.

Mr Varley went on to live and work in Durban, South Africa, for many years before returning to England 10 years ago. He then teamed up with Martin McCarthy and Glenn South to organise cabaret nights at St Peter and Paul’s Church Hall in Barrowford to raise money for Pendleside Hospice. Every event was a sell-out and together they raised thousands for the charity. Mr Varley leaves his partner Margaret, daughter Kathryn, son-in-law Andrew. He was also a grandfather and great-grandfather. His funeral took place on Wednesday at Wheatley Lane Inghamite Church in Fence followed by Burnley Crematorium.