Tributes to much-loved and respected Ribble Valley Am-Dram legend and Freemason

Bob Cleeve
Bob Cleeve

Talented thespian Bob Cleeve, described as a "treasure to the amateur dramatic society", died peacefully, but unexpectedly late on Christmas Day at the age of 76.

Bob, who performed in 97 theatre and musical productions, played an active role in the borough's theatre productions. He was a member of Waddington Drama Group, Oswaldtwistle Players, Clitheroe Parish Church Players, Clitheroe Operatic and Dramatic Society, and Stage Two Downham. Another love was being a member of Wrong Direction barbershop group where great fun was had both rehearsing and performing with a wonderful group of people.

Born in Farnham, Surrey, and brought up in Guildford with his older sister Janet, he attended Lanesborough School which now acts as the choir school for Guildford Cathedral and as head chorister in the choir of Christchurch Guildford, he sang the solo in Handel’s “I know that my Redeemer liveth”. His love of acting started quite young. In his teens, he attended Clayesmore School at Iwerne Minster, near Blandford Forum, Dorset, which among other things was very good for drama.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Bob joined the Merchant Navy in the role of trainee purser with British India Steam Navigation Company, where he went to sea on the MV Devonia, a converted troop ship for educational cruises. He met Brett in 1962 and eventually decided that life ashore might be more exciting, but stayed in the shipping industry in London with BI and later Hong Kong-based Worldwide Shipping, which was the world’s largest shipping company in its day.

Bob and Brett married in 1966 and in 1969 moved out of London into the sleepy wilds of north Essex near Saffron Walden. This gave them time to join the Cambridge University Gliding Club, based at Duxford Airfield. Many happy hours were spent at the Airfield waiting for a flight in an open canopy Slingsby T21 winch-launched glider.

It was in 1969 that Bob took up acting again to fill in time before Brett joined him in Essex and he never looked back since. In November 1972 their daughter Samantha was born in Cambridge and two years later a career opportunity meant a move to Clitheroe where in 1976 their son Nick was born.

Bob was a member of Saffron Walden Round Table and transferred into Clitheroe Round Table in 1974. It was at this time that he was introduced to the many ups and downs of being a Blackburn Rovers supporter. When he came out of Round Table at the age of 40, Doug Smith introduced him to Masonry and he has been an active member ever since, first in Castle Lodge and then in Limestone Rock after Castle closed. He has been Worshipful Master three times and also District Secretary.

In the mid-1980s he joined an HR company in Huntingdon, but remained in the North West looking after clients in this area. In 2005 he branched out on his own, but again old friendships remain with colleagues from those days and he always looked forward to seeing them at the annual dinner in the Melton Mowbray where we would have a good catch-up and a sing song.

He loved acting and at various times has been a member of Duxford Players, Waddington Drama Group, Oswaldtwistle Players, Clitheroe Parish Church Players, Clitheroe Operatic and Dramatic Society, and Stage Two Downham. Another love was being a member of Wrong Direction barbershop group where great fun was had both rehearsing and performing with a wonderful group of people.

In 2007 a friend introduced Brett to a choir called Sing Live (now Unlimited Voices) which led to opportunities to sing in some exciting places – the Epcot Centre in Florida for their Candlelight Processional in the run up to Christmas, followed by a cruise ship in the Caribbean, for Mass in St Peter’s in Rome along with daughter Sam, in Vienna, Salzburg, Krakow, Dublin, Northern and Southern Ireland, The Royal Armouries in Leeds, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Cathedral, St Paul’s in London, Brussels Cathedral and for the evening service at the Menin Gate – a great honour - and also World War One battlefield sites.

A spokesman for the family said: "New friends were made along the way and great fun was had. Some of the wonderful music from The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins was featured at his funeral as Bob and Brett have sung this eight times, the last being in Berlin in 2017 with Sir Karl conducting. In 1998 Bob became a granddad to Josh followed by Thomas in 2001, who have both enjoyed watching him perform on stage and with Wrong Direction. He loved being with the boys both when they were little and now as young men. He loved travelling and took every opportunity he could to see different parts of the world. He loved life and enthusiastically embraced his hobbies and was looking forward to what the New Year would bring."

He leaves a loving family, daughter Sam and son Nick, son-in-law Mick, grandsons Josh and Thomas and wife Brett, all of whom will miss him forever.