Tributes paid to St Michael’s stalwart

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TRIBUTES have been paid to well known St Michael’s on Wyre resident, Mr Albert Clayton, who died on May 8, 2011.

St Michael’s parish church was packed for the funeral service, which was led by the Rev Andrew Wilkinson.

The address/tribute to his life was delivered by Dr John Mackie of Out Rawcliffe. It is reproduced in full below:

Albert Clayton was born in Catforth in 1938, the youngest of three brothers. His ambition was to be a regular soldier like his father and on leaving Kirkham Grammar School he signed up as an apprentice mechanic with the Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers. Service in REME took him to North Africa and to Cyprus, then embroiled in the EOKA terrorist campaign.

It was when driving a ten-ton truck back to barracks that Corporal Clayton ran headlong into a high-jacked vehicle deliberately abandoned by EOKA activists on a blind bend. In fact he would almost certainly have been killed if his battledress tunic had not been stuffed with oranges that he had ‘requisitioned’ from a roadside orange grove en route, which cushioned the impact of the steering wheel on his chest. As it was the serious injuries he suffered finished his military career.

Pensioned out of the army he went to work as a motor mechanic in a local garage. Over the years he worked in garages all over the Fylde, and it was while working at St Michaels in 1958 that he met his future wife, Margaret Bradley.

Albert and Margaret were married on the June 7 1961 in St Michaels, the village that was to be their home for the next fifty years. In the sixties and seventies Albert was a maintenance engineer with E.C. Pipelines, charged with keeping all the heavy plant in working order, a job that took him all over the north of England.

When pipeline work in the north came to an end, he was appointed manager of Loxham’s Garage in Preston. Motors were his passion as well as his work. In his spare time he was building motor cars at home, reconstructing ‘write offs’ with new and salvaged parts and a new body shell. With his wealth of experience he was eventually recruited as a Motor Insurance Assessor.

Unfortunately he then developed epilepsy, a late complication of the head injuries he suffered in Cyprus, and was forced into early retirement.

About this time he also developed rheumatoid arthritis. Although never one to complain, these afflictions severely affected the quality of his life for the next twenty years.

Retirement gave Albert more time for his wide range of interests. He appreciated art and was a very able sketcher and watercolourist.

He enjoyed music. He kept his garden immaculate, although he was never satisfied with the result. And he contributed much to the life of St Michaels.

At various times he was a parish councillor and a church sidesman, and for many years the unpaid verger.

He ran the Reading Room and the ‘indoor sports league’ (otherwise known as ‘the crisps and pop league’), holding garden parties in his back garden to raise funds for the upkeep of the room. He loved performing in the village concerts and he was an enthusiastic bowler - until arthritis put a stop to that. In 1977 he started the Raft Race on the River Wyre.

Initially to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee it became a popular annual event until Health and Safety and the cost of insurance stopped the fun. He organised the relief fund after the great flood of 1980.

He is remembered in the community with particular gratitude for his tireless work after the Abbeystead disaster, when he organised transport to visit the victims in hospitals scattered all over the North West.

Perhaps Albert’s most lasting legacy will be his prodigious work as a local chronicler and historian. He spent hour after hour transcribing St Michael’s parish records into digital format for publication by the Lancashire Parish Register Society.

At his own expense he transcribed and published the tithe records and maps of the parish for 1824, detailing the acreage, owner and occupier of every field. He painstakingly mapped St Michael’s ancient graveyard, recording the inscriptions on every stone.

He was an enthusiastic collector of old picture postcards. A founder member of the Red Rose Postcard Club based in Preston, he had thousands of these unique photographic records, each picture carefully identified by time and place.

He drew on his vast postcard collection for the two books on Fylde history that he published, and for the many exhibitions that he contributed to. He assiduously chronicled contemporary events too. His records of the 1980 floods, complete with aerial photographs, will be a valuable source for future historians. Because of his unique knowledge of local history he received enquiries from all over the world. If you wanted to get your facts right it was always best to check with Albert Clayton.

The articles he wrote for in ‘Focus’ were immensely popular, particularly those featuring local murders.

He had written a book about those historic crimes, but, not wishing to upset any surviving relatives of the people involved, he never had it published. Perhaps that is something we can look forward to reading before too long.

Albert did not have an easy life, but he was never one to moan. He made the best of the deal he got and enjoyed a challenge. He had a gentle sense of humour, although he did relish a good argument.

Always generous with his time, he was a helpful friend to a great many and will be sorely missed.

Fortunately, he has left a lot for the whole community to remember him by.

Albert’s greatest love was his family – his wife Margaret, their daughter Julie and his son-in-law David. He was devoted to his grandchildren Alexander and Olivia and spent many hours telling them stories – of which he had a great store. His family have our sympathy in their bereavement.

JM.