MBE honour for respected historian and naturalist

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A humble and hugely respected Burnley historian and naturalist has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

Mr Ken Spencer, who taught English language and literature at Burnley College, has written several books on birdlife, natural history and local history over the decades.

Whatever I have achieved is due to my parents, my brother Philip and my lifetime Barbara Bailey who died in 2004.

Ken Spencer MBE

The 87-year-old, who is a familiar face in Burnley Library, still walks most days with his binoculars keeping a close eye out for his beloved lapwing, the subject of his first book in 1953.

An old school gentleman, Ken was born Kenric Parker Grant Spencer in Burnley, the son of Cyril Spencer and Maria Grant, who married on December 30th, 1915.

His brother Philip was a renowned Oxford scholar and poet who was killed in an aeroplane accident in South Africa during the Second World War.

Ken said: “First of all, I must thank my nominees, whoever they are. I think they may include the Burnley Historical Society, the Burnley Civic Trust, the Weavers’ Triangle Trust, and people at St Peter’s and Burnley Library.

“Whatever I have achieved is due to my parents, my brother Philip and my lifetime Barbara Bailey who died in 2004.

“It was because of my nominees that I accepted being awarded this honour. In some respects I felt I was too old. I know that it will have pleased my sister-in-law that might have been, Ivy Starkie.”

Forever humble, the unassuming scholar paid tribute to fellow Burnley historians Roger Frost, James Howell, Brian Hall, Ken Nadin and the late Walter Bennett, and said Burnley was lucky to have been blessed with such luminaries.

He added: “We are very fortunate in Burnley to have so many people dedicated to the history and heritage of our great town. I am particularly pleased at the preservation of our Weavers’ Triangle.

“I see my MBE as an acknowledgement, but also hope it will give me greater clout in my other passion, that of assisted dying. I don’t think anyone should suffer in their final moments.

“I have been very fortunate in my life and have made many great friends through my hobbies. I still visit Burnley Library daily and answer people’s queries from around the world. The library staff are like my extended family.”

Mr Spencer, who has contributed to the Burnley Express over the decades, wrote his first letter to the paper in 1944 after hearing the song of a skylark.