THE family of a much-loved great-grandad and respected historian have paid tribute to him after he died in a fire at his Accrington home aged 94.

Robert Rush, of Hodder Street, suffered 40 per cent burns to his back, arm and leg in the fire on Monday evening and was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital where he died the following day.

Firefighters believe the blaze was started by a match being dropped on an armchair while Mr Rush was attempting to light his pipe.

Retired pharmacist Mr Rush, who had been married to his wife Mary for 69 years, had a lifelong love of trains and trams and is best-known for the many books he wrote about them over the years.

Speaking exclusively to the Observer his daughter Frances Greenfield, of Walton Brook, Accring-ton, paid tribute to him, remembering him as a kind and gentle man who loved his family and was adored by his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She said: "He was a very private man and a gentleman. He was also very proud in that he was dignified and quietly-spoken.

"I never knew him shout or raise his voice.

"He didn't argue with people either, and to be honest I don't think he really knew how to. It just wasn't in his nature. He was a very peaceful person.

"I never heard him or my mum have rows. They had their disagreements like everyone else but they never shouted when resolving them.

"I remember telling someone once that the day my parents argued would be the day we'd fly the Union Jack from the house."

Although Mr Rush's family were originally from Norfolk, he was born and brought up in Accrington where he attended Peel Park Primary School.

He was the very first pupil to qualify for grammar school from Peel Park, which is where many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren have also gone.

After attending Accrington Gram-mar School, he studied to become a pharmacist even though his true ambition was to be a train driver.

He then spent all his working life as a pharmacist, the last job he had being a manager for Accrington's Boots store before his retirement in the 1970s.

As well as writing books about his beloved trains and trams, he was also a skilled illustrator and did many drawings of engines for books. He was also a prolific writer of letters to the Observer, particularly on the subject of Accrington town centre.


He took up watercolour painting when he was 89, originally to pass the time during a rainy holiday.

Frances said: "His work had a lovely, child-like simplicity to it. We have several of his pictures framed and hung up where they have pride of place.

"Considering he had never done any painting before, he did very well and they were very good."

As well as Frances, Mr Rush leaves his wife Mary, daughter Norma, sons-in-law Jack and David, six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, a sister Veronica and nephews Ian and Keith.

Crew manager Phil Jones of Accrington Fire Station said firefighters arrived at the scene at 8.40pm on Monday.

He said: "The man's wife heard the smoke alarm and went in to the living room to see her husband engulfed in flames.

"He wasn't very mobile so he was unable to get out of the chair quickly enough.

"When we arrived the ambulance service was already in attendance so the crew assisted with first-aid and providing burn gels.

"The man was conscious but because the fire would have burned his nerve-endings, he wouldn't have felt much pain at that stage.

"Thankfully, the smoke alarm alerted his wife before the flames had chance to spread."