Court clerk, preacher and actor Michael dies

The Late Michael Eccles (S)
The Late Michael Eccles (S)
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Popular Pendle man Michael Eccles (78), who held key roles in the social, religious and legal life of the region, has died.

Mr Eccles, of Lancaster Gate, Nelson, went to church in the town but worked at Burnley Magistrates’ Court for many years, being appointed Deputy Magistrates’ Clerk.

Born in Colne in 1936, Mr Eccles lived in Nelson for most of his life, attending the town’s St John’s Infant and Junior School and then Nelson Grammar School. His parents owned a grocery shop in Bracewell Street, Nelson.

As a result of a school friend’s invitation, he started attending Salem Independent Methodist Church, Nelson, and was joined in the congregation there by his parents and sister, Christine.

Aged 13, Michael began acting with Barrowford Dramatic Society and, as a young actor, also performed with Accrington Arts Club, Colne Dramatic Society, Brierfield Parish Dramatic Society, the London Repertory Players at Colne Municipal Hall, Skipton Road Amateur Players, Nelson Grammar School, Walverden Players and Salem Youth Club Players.

As an adult he acted with Colne DS, Burnley Garrick and Nelson Civic Players (now Pendle Borderline Theatre Company).

Michael left grammar school at 16 and worked at Martins Bank, Nelson – now Barclays, before completing two years of National Service with the RAF.

Afterwards, he got the chance of a job at the Magistrates’ Court Office in Nelson and stayed in the service for 40 years. He was Deputy Magistrates’ Clerk at Burnley until he retired in 1997.

He married his wife, Jean, in 1963 and their sons David and Paul (who now lives in America) were born in 1966 and 1970.

At Salem Church he was a lay preacher, also talking at many other local churches and conducting marriage services and Christenings.

Michael was the church’s finance secretary, trustee’s secretary, Sunday School teacher and secretary, and for over 25 years, produced annual Nativity plays.

In 1958, he organised Salem’s Young People’s Service and was heavily involved in the sale of Salem and the establishment of a new church, bringing Salem and Bradshaw Street Churches together in what is now Nelson Independent Methodist Church in Netherfield Road.

Michael’s funeral took place yesterday. His wife Jean said: “I will greatly miss him – he has been a great husband and father. He has done a lot of work at church and done lots of acting. He acted for over 50 years with different companies locally and his last one was in 2001 with Borderline in ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’.”