Tributes to well-known sportsman and Clitheroe community servant

The late Malcolm Blackburn
The late Malcolm Blackburn

A well-known local sportsman who was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Millennium Honours List for his services to the community of Clitheroe has died at the age of 85.

Malcolm Blackburn, of Buccleuch Avenue, Clitheroe, was rewarded for his work as a Sunday School teacher, lay reader, cricket coach and magistrate with a trip to Buckingham Palace in February 2000.

A former captain of Clitheroe CC 1st XI, he also enjoyed a cricket career which lasted almost 60 years – the highlight of which was playing a test match for Uganda in the 1960s.

Although he died in Nelson earlier this month, Mr Blackburn spent most of his life in Clitheroe and was passionate about his hometown.

Born to Harold and Bertha Blackburn in 1934, Malcolm attended Pendle County Primary School and Clitheroe Royal Grammar School before studying at Liverpool University.

He served in the Army during his national service, rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Army Education Corps before embarking on his career as a chemistry teacher.

After three years on the staff at Hutton Grammar School, he and his wife Judith headed out to teach in East Africa shortly after they were married.

It was during that two year stay that Malcolm – an accomplished batsman at the time – was called up to play for Uganda in a test match against Kenya … although it proved to be a solitary cap.

Upon returning to England, he spent time teaching back at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School and at Turton High School before he was appointed deputy head at St Wilfrid’s in Blackburn in 1975 – a position he held for the next two decades and where he was held in high-esteem.

Away from work, he served as a magistrate on the Blackburn, Darwen and Ribble Valley Bench for 22 years and was also involved with the Samaritans in Blackburn. As a committed Christian, he was a lifelong member of St James’ Church, Clitheroe, serving as a Sunday School teacher for many years. He served the church as a lay reader for around 45 years – during which time he did a lot of work on the United Reformed Church circuit – and was on the Parochial Church Council for several decades. Malcolm was also a trustee at the church and was involved in the appointment of the last two rectors.

Malcolm was chairman of governors at St James’ CE Primary School for 10 years and after his retirement he was responsible for setting up its after school club. Sport was a huge passion for him too and although his own football career ended after university, he was a lifelong supporter of Blackburn Rovers. He was heavily involved at Clitheroe CC most of his life, captaining the first team on two separate occasions – before converting from a batsman to a spin bowler later in his career. Malcolm was also a highly-successful coach for various Under 11s, Under 13s, Under 15s and Under 18s sides at Chatburn Road over many years.

One of his greatest achievements came in the mid-1980s when he led an Under 15 side including his son Richard and nephew Marcus to become county champions at Old Trafford.

Malcolm was involved with various charities including Population Concern – raising more than £10,000 with an appeal at St Wilfrid’s – and the Clitheroe Churches Furniture Store.

Malcolm passed away in the Nelson Manor Care Home earlier this month after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

As well as his wife Judith, he leaves three sons - Stephen, Richard and Martin and six grandchildren.

Judith said: “As a family we have been overwhelmed by the lovely tributes paid to Malcolm and all the cards we’ve received over recent days. We are so grateful for everyone’s sympathy and support.”

Following a private cremation, a thanksgiving service will be held at St James’ Church, Clitheroe at 11-30am on Friday.