Tribute paid to Todmorden Lions stalwart Albert Blackburn

Lions President: Albert filled the Todmorden club's top role on several occasions
Lions President: Albert filled the Todmorden club's top role on several occasions

A founder member and several times President of Todmorden Lions Club, Albert Blackburn has died at the age of 85.

Albert and his wife Audrey have served the Todmorden community through Lions for four decades, raising money for good causes as well as giving people a fun time in the process through events such as the annual Duck Race.

Albert was also Todmorden Lions secretary for two decades until ill health in later years meant he had to ease up on his responsibilities.

He was born and educated in Burnley, becoming a French polisher on leaving school and as a boy loved his sport, football, cricket and especially swimming.

Playing for Burnley’s water polo team, when he was called up for his National Service with the Royal Air Force, serving in Egypt, he swam for the RAF.

Albert and Audrey married at St Mary’s Church in 1955, two years after meeting at a Todmorden Co-op Hall dance when Albert had just left the forces. At 23 he bgean an apprenticeship training as an upholsterer at Vale Upholstery in Todmorden.

He contracted a rare neuro-muscular disease, Myasthenia Gravis, literally meaning “severe weakness”, which affects the eyes, causing double or blurred vision, and as it progresses affects some or all of the muscles of the neck, hands, arms and legs.

Albert spent long periods in hospital and the condition meant he could no longer do his upholstery job.

He and Audrey had to look for an alternative, and they took on a newsagent’s shop in Shade which they ran for ten years from 1964 to 1974.

Eventually, though still affected by his illness, Albert returned to upholstery work with a small firm in Rochdale. This led to work with Rochdale Council and Rochdale College and he studied for qualifications which eventually led to him teaching upholstery at the college.

Albert and Audrey formed a Myasthenia Gravis - MG - support group branch, now called Myaware, and travelled nationally raising money for the group as well as promoting awareness and offering help and advice.

The couple celebrated their diamond wedding in 2015 and were together 65 years, courting for two years and married for 63.

Albert leaves his wife Audrey, daughter Angela, three grandchildren, Sarah, Paul and Rachel, and three great-grandchildren.

His funeral service will be at 1.30pm on Friday, February 23, at St Mary’s Church, Todmorden, afterwards at Burnley Crematorium.

Friendship in a good cause: When travelling involved nationally in MG support group work began to get too tiring for Albert, he and Audrey looked for a local organisation to help and the new Todmorden Lions group was a perfect fit, doing so much for the their community. Aware of Lions’ role internationally, for example its work for blind and visually impaired people, Albert and Audrey recognised also a key part of Lions’ ethos was friendship. Albert said: “We are proud of what the organisation has done over the years and equally proud of our association with it. It has been a big part of our lives and through it we have made many friends.”