William Birtle

Sports enthusiast William James Birtle has died aged 96.

Usually known as Bill, he was an avid footballer, cricketer, golfer and indoor bowler who was captain of Penrith Golf Club and secretary of Wetheriggs – later Wetheriggs United – Football Club for over of a decade.

One of four children born to the late Tom and Cecelia Birtle, Bill and his younger brother Fred were born in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, and the family moved to Penrith, Tom’s hometown, in 1929.

They lived above and ran a bakery in Old London Road, and Bill acquired another brother, Gordon, and a sister, Joan.

Young Bill attended the former Meeting House Lane Infant School, Penrith, and then the nearby National Boys’ School, which has since also closed. At the latter, he won a scholarship to study at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, where he picked up football and cricket colors.

After completing his education, he began work as a junior clerk with the NFU Mutual Insurance Society in February 1943, but in December of that year he was called up to join the Fleet Air Arm as a trainee pilot.

However, he was withdrawn from active service until September 1944, so he continued to work for NFU Mutual. It was during this period that he met his future wife, May Pollock, who had been evacuated to Penrith with her parents following the destruction of their home in Liverpool during a German bombardment.

The couple married in May 1948, by which time Bill had moved to Newcastle to continue his employment with NFU Mutual. They then had a daughter, Susan.

It was in 1951 that Bill changed employers to work for the British Oak Insurance Company as an Inspector of Agents, and further career developments saw the family make several moves, first from Newcastle to Middlesbrough, then to Edinburgh and Glasgow. He retired in 1988 and the following year he and May returned to Penrith.

Always passionate about sports, he played football at Newcastle with Bohemian AFC. It wasn’t a North East team that he supported throughout his life, but Arsenal FC. He covered county cricket matches as a goalscorer for Associated TV and Tyne Tees TV, and was involved in charity matches hosted by the Lords Taverners.

As a golfer, he has played casually on many courses in the north of England and Scotland, and has been a club member at various times at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Douglas Park, Glasgow and, more recently from Penrith.

He captained the Penrith club in 1995. He also enjoyed playing with the Eden District Indoor Bowling Club.

Bill was secretary of Wetheriggs/Wetheriggs United Football Club between 1989 and 2000. Club chairman Barry Turner said: “Bill was a lovely man who gave sound advice and always made sure the job was done right. “

Wetheriggs wore black armbands as a mark of respect for his contribution to the club during their home game against Endmoor KGR at Castletown.

Bill made many friends in the places where he lived and worked, but his longest lasting relationship was with his late brother Fred and his wife, the late Jenny. This was continued by the children of Fred and Jenny.

He is survived by his siblings and all his cousins ​​except the youngest, Kathleen Thompson, who still lives in Penrith with her husband Stenny. His daughter Susan Watt lives in Livingston, near Edinburgh. He had three grandchildren.

The service of thanksgiving for his life was held at St Andrew’s Church, Penrith. Richardsons Funeral Directors, Penrith, were responsible for the arrangements.

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