‘Mr Garrick’ theatre man Clifford dies: tributes

Burnley Garrick Club: Clifford Spencer. T310509/2c
Burnley Garrick Club: Clifford Spencer. T310509/2c

A LEADING light of Burnley’s stage and music scene who received an award for 70 years’ service in the same choir and was involved with one of the town’s most famous amateur theatrical groups for six decades, has died.

Talented Mr Clifford Spencer (86), who was known as “Mr Garrick” due to his continuous and unfaltering dedication to Burnley Garrick Club, of which he was president, died at home on Tuesday, July 31st, after a short illness.

His wife Dorothy (84), who has also been a Garrick member for 60 years as an actress and director, said her husband was “a true gentleman” who was young at heart.

“He was much loved by everyone that came across him,” she said. He was very understanding and very very artistic with a beautiful singing voice. He acted and directed for the Garrick for 60 years.”

One of Mr Spencer’s first acting parts after joining the Garrick in 1952 was in “The Hasty Heart” in which he played the role of Tommy.

His last role was to direct the award-winning production of “An Inspector Calls” at the ACE Centre in 2010.

In the intervening years Mr Spencer was involved in every aspect of the group.

Mrs Spencer said theatre helped them both after their son Simon’s death in 2005.

Garrick treasurer Mr Peter I’Anson said: “I’ve been treasurer of the Garrick Club for the last 10 years and I always had lots of help and support from Clifford. He was first class in every way and I can’t imagine the Garrick without him.”

As well as his commitments to the Garrick, Mr Spencer, of Woodgrove Road, was heavily involved with St Stephen’s Church, having joined the church choir in 1938, aged 11. In 2008 the tenor was presented with an award for 70 years’ service and remained a member up until his death. He also sang in the Nelson Arion Male Voice Choir, who will sing at his funeral, for 30 years.

Mr Spencer’s talents were not limited to the arts. He was a keen sportsman and played football until he was 29, continuing his love of the game by becoming a referee, from which he retired at the age of 48.

Mr Spencer, who married his wife in 1950, left school at 14 and worked as a solicitor’s clerk until joining the Army towards the end of the Second World War.

A stomach ulcer cut his stint as a trainee officer and, on his return, he went into industry where he became the managing director of Reedley packaging company IMS.

Mrs Spencer added: “He was never an old man, he never walked like an old man. When you are in theatre you work with much younger people and that keeps you young. He had a great faith right up until the end.”

Last Wednesday’s Garrick rehearsal of “Calendar Girls” was cut short after members heard the news of Mr Spencer’s death.

He also leaves grandsons Andrew and Martin.

His funeral will take place at 10am on Saturday, August 11th, at St Stephen’s Church, Burnley followed by cremation at Burnley Crematorium at 11-20am.