Many people in Lancashire will have been saddened to hear of the death of Mr John Keith Smith, aged 84, the former Clerk of Briercliffe Parish Council.
Keith Smith was born the son of a local government officer in Goole, near Hull.
The family moved to Hull and Keith attended Hull Grammar School before applying for his first post at Hull City Council where his father had been an official. Subsequent posts were held in Whaley Bridge, Pateley Bridge and Hebden Bridge where he held the post of Treasurer at Hebden Royd Urban District Council. In 1971 he moved to the Burnley and Pendle area to further his career in local government.
Keith was well known and much respected in local government circles, spending almost 20 years at Pendle Borough Council and prior to that at Burnley Rural District Council until Local Government Re-organisation in 1974. This was in addition to the 17 years spent as Briercliffe Parish Clerk.
He was, in many respects, the perfect local government officer in that when set a task, however difficult, by his political masters, he got on with it, finding solutions to problems. He was, as we would say today, a “can do” official taking pride and pleasure in finding cost effective and innovative solutions often when he was aware that the necessary resources were not in place to see the job through. When Clerk of Briercliffe Parish Council he would often give liberally of his own time to ensure that projects were successfully completed.
I remember a particularly difficult task he was asked to do by Briercliffe Parish Council. As is often the case the project was under funded and it proved to be hard work, harder than I had imagined. The Lancashire County Council wanted to build a bus turning circle opposite the bowling green on Burnley Road. The land had to be transferred from the Parish to the County Council – a time consuming job in itself – but this was nothing when compared to the task of getting the tenants to move their garages to new sites.
Every tenant, and there were a lot of them, had to be contacted individually, each garage inspected to see if it could be moved and arrangements had to be made to carry out the removal, or, in some cases, the disposal of an old building at the end of its usefulness. Keith managed the whole process without complaint, spending hours in his shirt sleeves at the site, often on Sundays, making sure that by the designated hand-over date, the site was ready for LCC.
His vast experience was recognised when he was appointed treasurer to the Colne-based Peter Birtwistle Trust, a provider of housing to the elderly. It was not long before he also held the post of administrative officer and in that capacity, he arranged for the Trust to become a member of the Alms Houses Association.
Keith did everything from collecting the rents, mostly by visiting the tenants in their homes, to arranging for the maintenance of the buildings. Keith took the lead in the building of the new bungalows at the Trust and It was from this post that Keith finally retired aged 78.
When on holiday in Canada, he insisted in visiting the place where Peter Birtwistle had made his fortune (London, Ontario) Another thing he wanted to do on that particular holiday, much to the surprise of everyone, was white water rafting, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed despite being unable to swim.
Keith had many interests outside his work. One of them was classic cars. He was the proud owner of a bright red Daimler and, pointing to the radiator, he signified that it wasn’t a Jag! I remember him having to give that car up and I expected something of a similar calibre as his next vehicle. When I saw him with his replacement car – it would be wrong to call it a new car – he again, with pride, asked me to step into his huge Ford (Zephyr Six, I think).
The Parish Council in Briercliffe knew how fortunate they had been to have Keith working for them and after a long period of excellent service they awarded him the highest accolade, the “Freeman of Briercliffe” award. This has only been presented twice, the other winner being the long-serving Vicar of Briercliffe, Canon Peter Hallam.
In addition to his professional achievements Keith was a dedicated family man; husband of Pat, who he met when at Hebden Bridge, dad of Lynda and grandfather of Sacha.
They are extremely proud of Keith’s dedication to his work, his service to the community and for being such a wonderful family man who supported those close to him.
They enjoyed helping Keith, especially at Christmas time, delivering Christmas presents to the elderly on behalf of the Briercliffe Welfare Fund. The recipients of the parcels loved the fact that he took the family with him.
In the Family Notices in the Express, which announced his death, Keith was described as “a truly good man” and no one who knew him would have disputed that. Keith will be sorely missed by family, friends and colleagues and not least by those on whose behalf he worked and those whose lives he did so much to improve.