Star-maker's sudden death

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BRIAN WELLOCK - a highly-respected drama teacher, actor and "star-maker" has died suddenly at the age of 63.

He was one of the most popular and talented figures in amateur theatre in Burnley and Pendle and, as head of drama for many years at Edge End High School in Nelson, saw several of his students, including John Simm and Lee Ingleby, become regular TV, film and professional stage actors.

He leaves a wife, Joyce, and daughter, Elizabeth, who is also a keen and capable actress.

Brian, of Delamere Road, Harle Syke, was born and brought up in Barrowford. He attended St Thomas's CE Primary School and Barrowford County Secondary Modern School.

He left at the age of 16 and attended Burnley Art School, leaving five years later with a degree in art.

He joined Walverden Secondary Modern School, Nelson, where he taught art and English, and began drama sessions, although he did not have any formal training.

In 1972, he joined Edge End High School, Nelson, as head of drama, retiring early in 1994 but returning to teach part-time while also working part-time at Easden Clough Children's Unit, run by Lancashire Social Services, in Morse Street, Burnley.

While at Edge End, he nurtured the acting talents of John Simm, David Bardsley, Jamie Buller, Lee Ingleby, Steve Wayne and Paul Jowett, among many others. Plays ranged from Shakespeare to "Kes", and "The Word and Flesh" to plays designed for young people.

He joined St James's Players more than 20 years ago, initially acting but soon taking over the directorial reins and also doing artwork and set design. He was involved in well over 50 productions.

Brian himself was a great actor - he was equally at home in straight drama, comedy and pantomime and was particularly capable of great character performances - unique, eye catching and often very, very funny.

Brian also directed for the St James's Players with skill.

He continued his interest in art, and his sometimes idiosyncratic works were a real eye catcher. He was a regular judge in the art sections of Barrowford and Todmorden Agricultural shows.

He met wife Joyce when she began teaching PE at Walverden in 1967, and they married in 1974, spending their whole married life together in Harle Skye. Their daughter, Elizabeth, is 26 today. Joyce is press and publicity officer for St James's while Liz has followed in her fathers footsteps as a talented actress and singer on the local stage. Brian was a friend and acquaintance of many. He was gregarious character and was as much at home in Claridges in London as he was at Briercliffe Working Men's Club.

He loved film and, of course, theatre, was a committed Royalist, and in more recent years had even developed an interest in watching football on TV through Joyce, a Clarets fan and season ticket holder.

He had been in hospital for a routine operation, but was taken ill at home on Sunday and collapsed. He was taken to Burnley General Hospital, where he died. It is understood he had a suspected fatal heart attack.

The funeral will take place on Monday, at Burnley Crematorium at 1.40 p.m.