Tributes for former Burnley altar boy who carved out a career in law

Former Burnley man Francis Whitehead has died at the age of 55
Former Burnley man Francis Whitehead has died at the age of 55

A former Burnley man, who carved out a successful career as a lawyer, has died after a short illness at the age of 55.

Francis Whitehead had intended to train for the priesthood when he left Burnley for Durham University.

But he switched direction and trained to be a solicitor, working in various places across the UK including Manchester and Macclesfield.

He eventually settled in Wrexham, North Wales with Brian, his partner of 27 years.

They were married in a civil ceremony in 2009 and Francis worked as a solicitor at Hopleys GMA in Wrexham.

Francis was a former pupil of St Mary's RC Primary and the former St Theodore's RC high schools. He also served as an altar boy at St Mary's RC Church in Yorkshire Street.

Musically talented, Francis learned to play the bagpipes as a child and although he hadn't played for many years he returned to the instrument for a family celebration held in Blackpool.

Francis' sister, Sharon Turner, said: "We were staying in a hotel and Francis went outside onto the beach and started to play the bagpipes.

"We all rushed out to watch him and passers-by started to give him money as they thought he was busking.

"He had to tell them he was playing just for his family."

Playing for his family re-ignited his love of the bagpipes and Francis played for the Wirral Pipe Band at gigs across the country. As a last poignant to their fellow musician the band will play at Francis' funeral which will be held at St Mary's Cathedral in Wrexham next Friday (September 27th) at noon.

The service will be conducted by Fr Malachy Brett Dean of St Barnabas Cathedral followed by the committal at Wrexham Crematorium at 2pm.

Anyone who knew Francis is welcome to attend.

Sharon said: "Francis was a lovely person who would have helped anyone. He had a kind heart and really was a good person."

Francis also leaves another sister, Violet, brothers Terence, Michael and Paul and several nieces and nephews.