Tributes for a true Padiham 'champion' and former mayor who became first person to receive Freedom of the Town honour

Tributes have been paid to a well known businessman and champion of Padiham, Bob Clark.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Bob with his wife Ann when the couple became Mayor and Mayoress of Padiham in 2011

Bob died on Monday at the age of 79, just a week after he became the first ever person to receive the Freedom of the Town award. The honour was presented to Bob by Padiham Town Council to recognise his years of hard work and dedication to the town he loved so much.

The award was presented to Bob, who was known to many as 'Mr Padiham' at Memorial Park in a special event to unveil an engraved stone in honour of the park's 100th birthday and also to remember those who gave their lives in WWI. It was Bob's idea to erect the stone and he also funded the project.

Paying tribute to Bob, former Burnley MP Peter Pike said: "As MP to Burnley I always found Bob to be a great fighter for Padiham and always such a nice and kind man.

Bob at the Freedom of the Town presentation surrounded by family, including his wife Ann, granddaughter Sophie and Sophie's partner Jason (photo by Naz Alam)

"The Padiham Archives Museum is one of the many things he worked and fought for.

"I also always found his dedication and commitment to maintaining the annual memorial to the Hapton Valley tragedy was an outstanding tribute to those that had died and suffered in that appalling mining disaster."

Born in Mitton Street, Bob attended the former St Matthew's Primary School and also St Leonard's School where he excelled academically and also at sport, particularly football. He was also musically talented and played the trumpet in the Padiham Scout Band.

At the age of 18, Bob took up weightlifting, and the sport known as 'physical culture,' which was a precursor to body building. He was part of the Strength Set Team at the Zelus Barbell Studio in Sowerby Street and won 23 titles, including Lancashire Bantamweight Weight Lifting Champion.

Bob pictured at Padiham Football Club after Bob's special Freedom of the Town presentation with (left to right) his sons Julian and Adrian and good friend and fellow town councillor Chris Smith

He also held a record that was unbroken for 17 years.

Bob was destined for success at just 19 when he qualified for the 1960 Rome Olympics after he was crowned British Bantamweight Weight Lifting Champion but, sadly, never made it as he didn't come from a wealthy family.

Bob followed in his father Denis' footsteps to work in the mines after leaving school at the age of 14. He started at Calder Pit, Altham, before going on to work at several other pits for the next 26 years, including Huncoat and Hapton Valley, where he ended his career.

Bob went on to become a trustee of the Hapton Valley Mining Disaster group and was responsible for organising an annual remembrance ceremony to remember the 19 miners killed by a coal explosion at Hapton Valley Colliery in 1962. Covid-19 meant that the service could not be held this year but instead Bob laid a wreath at the memorial stone in Burnley Cemetery on Sunday, March 21st.

Bob when he qualified for the Rome Olympics in 1960

After his mining career Bob ran a successful scrap metal and dismantling business which he continued to run right up to a few months before his death.

Community spirited and always keen to improve and develop Padiham, Bob was a founder member of the town council when it was formed in 2002 and he served two terms as Mayor of Padiham, from 2003 to 2004 and 2011 to 2012, raising thousands of pounds for charitable groups and organisations in the town.

Keen to support and promote sport he was commercial manager for Padiham Football Club and Chairman of Padiham Sports Club which combined the football and cricket clubs.

In 2004 Bob and his wife Ann were responsible for launching the Padiham Archives museum which is housed in the town hall, open to the public and providing an educational resource for the town's schoolchildren. The archives contain thousands of photographs and memorabilia, donated by the public, that chart the history and heritage of Padiham.

The couple first met as teenagers when Bob caught Ann's eye during his weightlifting. They were apart while Ann went to teacher training college in Liverpool and, on returning to her hometown, she married Bob.

They would have celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary in August.

Ann said: "Bob was such a kind and compassionate man who always went out of his way to help people.

"He gave his time to the people of Padiham through fundraising and private donations because all he wanted to do was help."

Bob, who was a great grandfather of two, enjoyed socialising at several local pubs where he placed collection box for causes in Padiham and he would raise around £1,000 annually.

Also known as 'Rupert,' the nickname coming from a teenage prank that went wrong when Bob found himself in front of magistrates after he attempted to try on a suit of armour at Burnley's Towneley Hall, joking that he could wear it to a fancy dress party to which he had been invited.

He had crept into the hall with a pal and a girl, whose father was the curator there, after it had closed to the public.

As he touched the armour, it set off an alarm and dozens of police officers, who were enjoying a dinner dance at the former Keirby Hotel, raced to the scene as they believed the hall was being burgled.

Bob found himself before magistrates and the chairman of the bench, who was a woman. She told him the next time he wanted a fancy dress outfit she would loan him her checked golfing trousers to dress up as Rupert the Bear.

Bob also leaves his sons, Adrian and Julian, daughter-in-law Anne, granddaughters Sophie and Hannah and a sister Linda.

In a bittersweet moment, Sophie discovered on the day her grandad died, that she had achieved a first class BA Honours degree in International Business Studies.

In honour of Bob the flags are flying at half mast at Padiham Town Hall and St Leonard's Church.

Bob's funeral will be held on Friday, July 23rd, with a service at St Leonard's Church at 10-15am followed by cremation at Burnley at 11-30am.

The funeral cortege will pause outside Padiham Town Hall, on the new area known as the Padiham Plaza, at around 9-45am and people are welcome to pay their respects. The cortege will also pass Memorial Park and West Street, close to the football club.

There is a request for family flowers only but donations are being accepted in Bob's memory to Padiham Football Club.