“He was an entrepreneur, an entertainer, a cheese maker extraordinaire, a fighter and most of all an inspiration,” said sisters Faye and Theresa Kitching during the eulogy to their father –award-winning cheese maker Bob Kitching during his funeral last week.
There was standing room only at Our Lady and St Michael’s RC Church at Alston for the occasion and the sisters spoke of how touched they were so many people had gathered to pay their respects to an “amazing father, loving husband, brother and friend to many”.
Bob was a well known and popular face within the cheese world, both before and after founding Leagram Organic Dairy at Chipping, 13 years ago.
He also championed the cause of local produce.
On leaving school at 15, they said Bob had worked on the grocery and butcher’s counters at Longridge Co-op, but knew this was not his ultimate career and there was something “bigger and better on the horizon”.
“There was milk running in them there veins. He later decided to change his career path and got a job as a dairy worker at Unigate, which became the Milk Marketing Board then Dairy Crest Creamery in Longridge....and so it began.
“Over the years he acquired unique skills and techniques within cheese-making; he was a fast learner and soon worked his way up into the management team.”
Bob’s legendary cheese demonstrations, which took the family all over the country and Bob to most of the North West’s Women’s Institutes as well as to many schools and colleges, started when he worked at Wolfen Mill Dairy, close to the family home in Chipping.
In the late 90s Bob joined a group called the Friends of Leagram, helping to restore the gardens at Leagram Hall.
“Dad got chatting as he often did and voiced his ultimate dream to someday bring the art of cheese making back to the village of Chipping, where Lancashire cheese was first sold commercially.
“In passing conversation, Mr Weld-Blundell mentioned two buildings he had that might just do the job and the two of them became business partners and created Leagram Organic Dairy in 2000.”
The middle of three brothers, they said Bob grew up in the family home at New Row Cottages, Knowle Green, helping their uncle Jim on the farm, and up until the age of 11, Bob was a young lad, full of mischief.
But everything changed when he developed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and he was taken into the Christie’s Hospital for treatment and was taken as a stretcher patient to Lourdes.
But, they said “his strong and brave character shone through” and he was eventually allowed home after many months in hospital and recovered well.
Three years ago, however, Bob became ill again and was diagnosed with thymic cancer, a very rare form of the disease.
Throughout his life, Bob had a great faith and was a member of the Catenian Society.
He was also a member of the Red Rose Running Club, taking part in many runs and marathons, from Paris to Malta.
Together with his wife Christine, the pair also cared for many animals in need of a home.
“As most of you will know his cheese was his obsession and his job was his hobby, his passion,” they said.
“A dedicated follower of cheese.”