Well-known Burnley youth club leader dies

One of Burnley's best known post-war amateur sportsmen has died following a short battle with cancer.

Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 11:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th June 2018, 12:11 pm
Brian Bunting
Brian Bunting

Brian Bunting played football for Burnley Colts when the Clarets were at their prime in the 1950s. He also kept wicket for Lowerhouse, and was a leading table tennis player in the town.

But he is perhaps best known for running Stoneyholme Youth Club for 34 years with his wife Jean.

Brian (84), who lived in Minehead Avenue, was born in Manchester. His family moved to Burnley after the war and he started work as a miner at Bank Hall Colliery.

During the winter he played football with some of the Clarets legends of the day. In the summer he kept wicket at Lowerhouse in the Lancashire League, considered by many the best league in the world.

Brian, 'Zip' to his friends because of his lightning speed, had to contend with the deliveries from Lowerhouse’s West Indies pro Roy Gilchrist, at the time the fastest bowler in the world. He was also in the same side as another West Indies legend, Basil Butcher.

Brian was rated so highly, when Lowerhouse picked a team of their best ever pros and amateurs to play an ex-Burnley 11, he was in the team.

After Lowerhouse, he went on the keep wicket for Great Harwood in the Ribblesdale League, then Bank Hall and Hapton Valley collieries in the local Amateur League.

But some of Brian’s equally fine achievements were as youth leader at Stoneyholme, where in the days before mobile phones and tablets he kept teenagers occupied and off the terraced streets.

It was not surprising that the club was fiercely competitive at sport. For decades their football teams competed at the highest level in the town – more than one player went on to play semi-pro. It was the same story with the cricket teams.

And when the weather wasn’t good enough to play outside, Brian taught the youngsters how to play table tennis. Again the club competed in the best league in town.

For years Brian was their best player – despite the fact he would not give up his old pimple bat and move on to the modern rubber blades. Club members Sonia and Joe Gizzon later became leading Burnley players.

When Bank Hall Colliery closed in 1971, Brian went to work at Agecroft Colliery at Manchester, then at the local Hapton Valley pit before it also closed.

He retired in his mid-50s and switched his attention to his other love, gardening. He spent countless hours at his beloved allotment and he was a regular competitor at local flower shows.

One thing he never retired from was his love of a pint. He was a regular at St Andrew’s bowling club right up until his death.

Former Burnley Express reporter Robert Carson was a regular at Stoneyholme in the early days.

He said: “Brian was a superb sportsman and a great youth club leader. He kept youngsters like me off the streets and gave us an interest in sport which has lasted a lifetime.

“He wasn’t one to talk about his achievements.You only found out from other people just how good Brian had been at sport.”

Former Burnley Cricket Club record breaking bowler Trevor Jones was one of the many top local sportsmen who started at Stoneyholme.

A lifelong friend, the former Burnley Express Sportsman of the Year said: “I’ve known Brian since I was 15. He was my closest friend. I was one of the many hundreds of teenagers who passed through Stoneyholme Youth Club when he was leader. He had time for everybody. He helped me with my cricket and football and I learned a lot from him when times were hard.

“We were in the same football team at Stoneyholme and the Miners cricket team. I seem to remember we were always winning canteens of cutlery for some reason.”

David Clegg, former manager of Burnley United, is another life-long friend. He said: “One of local sport’s true gentlemen, Brian will be sadly missed by all those who were fortunate to know him.”

Brian is survived by his wife Jean, children Lee and Zoe and their five grandchildren. The funeral service will be at St Cuthbert's Church, off Briercliffe Road, Burnley, at 1pm on Tuesday, June 26th, followed by burial at Burnley Cemetery, Rossendale Road, at 2-30pm