Pendle theatre and music stalwart Brian dies

A highly respected Pendle man involved in many organisations has died in hospital.
The late Brian Bird (S)The late Brian Bird (S)
The late Brian Bird (S)

Mr Brian Bird (80) was a very effective person in all the groups he was involved in. He passed away on Sunday at the Airedale Hospital.

He made his entry into the world in May, 1934, at the maternity hospital in Colne, the only child of loving parents Albert and Margaret Annie Bird. The family lived in Colne then, but recently Mr Bird has been an Earby resident.

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His early education was at Primet Primary School, then Colne Grammar School. On leaving the grammar school his headmaster’s report said: “B. Bird attended this school from August, 1945, to December, 1950. Throughout this period he was regular in attendance and satisfactory in every way. Bird showed himself to be of excellent character, good ability and genial disposition and I can recommend him as a boy of great promise.”

He became an apprentice at the British Thomson Huston Co. After serving his five year apprenticeship in Colne, Coventry and Birmingham, he resolved to change his career as soon as possible.

He was called to serve in the Royal Navy, where he said he learned about being a man! Brian loved the Navy days so much he was nicknamed “Anchor Face”. He was uniquely the last National Serviceman to be enlisted into the Royal Navy.

He went on to serve on three ships – HMS Sluys, HMS Ocean and HMS Victorious. On leaving the Navy he worked for the Prestige Group in Burnley, then Hyndburn Council, taking early retirement to set up Phoenix First Aid training while working as a volunteer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park in Malham.

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During his Navy days his talent for rugby, which had begun at grammar school, continued to blossom, and on returning home he joined Colne and Nelson Rugby Club where he enjoyed many years of the game.

It was during this time that he was introduced through rugby friends to Colne Operatic Society, and began a fabulous 50 year association with the local theatre world on stage, on numerous committees and a most significant highlight – the acquisition of the Hippodrome Theatre in 1978 along with Keith Walton, then chairman of St John’s Operatic Society.

Mr Bird was also in Colne Orpheus Glee Union. It was also through his love of singing that in 2002 he formed the Songbirds Entertainment Group – four women and four men.

It was during the early years at Colne Operatic Society that he met and married Rita Wilcock, and subsequently their union was blessed with the arrival of a daughter Roseanne who 29 years later had a son Max, Brian’s only grandchild.

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His marriage did not last. He then met Tessa while working at Malham Centre in 1997. They married in 1999. They made their home at Water Street, Earby.

During his 80 glorious years, Brian was honoured to have been elected president of Colne Operatic Society, Colne Orpheus Glee Union, Colne and Nelson Rugby Club, Colne Probus Club and he was a past president of Colne Rotary Club.

Mr Eric Beardsworth, chairman of Colne Orpheus Glee Union, said: “Brian was a life member, our compere at concerts, and a versatile baritone soloist, whether it was romantic songs such as ‘I Won’t Send Roses’ or comic numbers such as ‘Tit Willow.’ He was always helpful to new members and set a great example with his enthusiasm. Everyone at the Orpheus will miss his singing abilities and his terrific sense of humour.”

For years, Mr Bird hosted the Leader Times Stage Awards, and in 1998 he was given our Lifetime Service Award because of all the wonderful work he had done in theatre for years.

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Mr Bird’s funeral will take place at Skipton Crematorium on Wednesday at 11am.

It will be followed by a get-together in his memory at the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre in New Market Street, Colne, at 12-30pm.

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