Death of talented actor and former Burnley businessman who was ahead of his time

Talented amateur actor and businessman John Whittaker has died at the age of 89.
Talented amateur actor and businessman John Whittaker has died at the age of 89.
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A well known former Burnley businessman, who was ahead of his time, has died at the age of 89.

Mr John Allen Whittaker ran the former Oxford Mill in Harle Syke, from the age of 24 until his retirement at the age of 60 in 1989.

He had originally planned to study chemistry at the University of Manchester but was persuaded by his family to join the textile business.

At the time his older brothers, Horace and Joe, also ran mills in Accrington, each of them following in the footsteps of their father.

John spent four years training before he was appointed as Managing Director at Oxford Mill where he became a respected and popular boss.

Originally from Accrington, John studied at Accrington Grammar School before joining the Marines. He completed his Commando training and wore the distinguished Green Beret with pride.

One of the highlights of John's career in the Marines was when he served on HMS Anson and accompanied Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip when they boarded the ship for a tour of the Channel Islands where they were visiting troops. The princess was representing her father, King George VI.

A man with a great sense of humour, boundless energy and outgoing personality, John was also known as a true gentleman.

He was also a keen thespian and member of the Burnley Garrick Club now known as The Garrick, the Arts Club of Accrington and also Accrington Amateur Dramatic Society.

He played a series of leading roles in several musicals including My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Mack and Mabel and his favourite, Fiddler On The Roof. John can also be credited for producing a number of plays.

A keen runner and fitness enthusiast, John had conquered the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and the Pennine Way.

At the age of 41 he took part in the Fellsman Hike, an annual organised walk and fell race in the Yorkshire Dales from Ingleton to Threshfield. John completed the 53 mile route in 27 hours and 47 minutes.

Although John was separated from his wife, Nancie, the pair remained friends until her death in 2008.

During his retirement, John travelled the world and journeyed from America to the UK on the QE2.

John leaves his daughters, Katherine and Judith, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Paying tribute to her father, Katherine said: "My dad was a great character with unbelievable energy and enthusiasm.

"He had a wonderful personality and was also considered to be very handsome.

"He encouraged us to follow our dreams and he believed that if you wanted to do something there should be nothing to hold you back."

John's funeral was held at Accrington Crematorium yesterday.

There is a request for family flowers only but donations are being accepted for Parkinson's UK c/o Wolstenholme's Funeral Service in Accrington.