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Tributes paid to pioneering former Accrington libraries chief

Brian Ashton was district librarian for two decades and established the reference library in 1962

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Brian Ashton, the former borough librarian for Hyndburn. Tribute pic from son Tim Ashton.

Tributes have been paid to a long-serving librarian who was a key figure in the running of the borough’s libraries for more than 30 years.

Brian Ashton served as Hyndburn’s district librarian for two decades and was instrumental in establishing its reference library in 1962.

He had been suffering with Alzheimer’s for many years, and had contracted pneumonia shortly before his death on August 5. He was 83.

A founding member of the Hyndburn Local History Society, Brian was born in Accrington and began his library career as an assistant at Padiham Library, before he was called up for National Service in 1951, serving as a radio operator in Korea.

Brian met Marion in 1966 through their mutual love of tennis and within a year they were married. They set up home in Rimington and had a son, Tim. Tim said words were his father’s life passion.

He said: “My dad just loved books, it was definitely the right job for him. He was also really big on local history.

“He was a very kind person and just helped people. Dad had a quirky sense of humour and a turn of phrase that you wouldn’t expect.

“Everybody regarded him as a gentle man, a great listener and the most patient guy I have ever known. The saddest thing is really for my mum, but also for his grandkids.”

Brian had moved to Accrington Library as first reference librarian in 1960, where he was promoted to deputy borough librarian, and then borough librarian.

Brian Ashton, the former borough librarian for Hyndburn. He was featured in the Accrington Observer in 1994 when he retired

Brian became district librarian for the whole of Hyndburn in 1974 until he retired in 1994. Tim said he had presided over the ‘golden age’ of libraries.

He said: “My dad would be absolutely horrified with the state of the libraries now. There is always a perfect time for some jobs and he was lucky to get the best out his.”

Brian’s wife Marion added: “A blessing to be had from those last few years is that he was not aware of the ruination of his, and our libraries. It’s really tragic.”

Brian was also responsible for bringing the Tiffany collection into the limelight at Haworth Art gallery. Brian leaves his wife Marion, son Tim and grandchildren Charlotte and William.

His funeral was held at St John’s RC Church, Clitheroe on August 16.

Former Accrington librarian Brian Ashton ended up organising an inadvertent library sleepover for celebrated explorer Ranulph Fiennes.

His son Tim revealed that it came about through his library lecture programme in the 1970s.

Tim said: “Ranulph had nowhere to stay after his talk and so asked dad, in true explorer style, if he could camp out overnight in the library itself.

“After some persuasion dad reluctantly agreed to his somewhat unorthodox request - dad was most concerned about leaving his precious books under the jurisdiction of a stranger - no matter who they were!”

Ex- colleague Helen Barrett, who worked with Brian for many years, said: “Next morning Marion came in early on her way to school to cook him some breakfast!”

She added: “One of Brian’s major achievements in this period was the creation of the disabled access door, a much-used facility.”

Brian was also delighted for Accrington Library to be acknowledged by writer and journalist Magnus Magnusson for the help given to him in his book “Rum, Nature’s Island”.

Brian had always hoped to visit Rum, but sadly sea sickness prevented him from making the trip.