Village stunned by sudden death of church stalwart

Joe Birkby
Joe Birkby

The area has been stunned to learn of the sudden death of a man who worked tirelessly for his church and community.

Whether in his role as a churchwarden at St Mary the Virgin, Goosnargh, or as chairman of the ‘Friends’ of Goosnargh green, retired Myerscough College lecturer Joe Birkby, 77, was also known locally and further afield for his passion for bee keeping, often being referred to as the “bee man”.

Fellside Team Rector, the Rev Jeff Finch, said the clergy and parishioners of St Mary the Virgin, had been saddened to hear of Joe’s sudden death last Thursday.

Paying tribute, he said: “Joe was an extremely popular and well loved local figure who contributed so much to church and community.”

Joe was nearing the end of his second four-year term as a St Mary’s churchwarden and in recent years had also been lay chairman of the Garstang Deanery synod .

Mr Finch said Joe’s commitment to both St Mary’s and the Fellside team had been “truly outstanding” and everyone would miss his contribution to the life of the church.

Every year at the May Bank Holiday he said Joe and his wife Sheila would lead two walks to “beat the parish bounds” and this Monday proved no exception, his family proud to continue a fine tradition in his memory.

He added: “Our hearts reach out in sympathy to Sheila and family as we mourn with them the loss of a faithful and true friend.”