Tributes to local legend Brian

Brian Fairhurst
Brian Fairhurst

A well-respected Leigh man described as a “local legend” who helped to build a successful chain of high street stores has been remembered.

Brian Fairhurst, who worked for decades at family firm Pramland of Leigh, recently died in The Christie Hospital aged 86.

Pramland of Leigh in 1963

Pramland of Leigh in 1963

Great-grandfather Brian’s main working concern was the business’ toy department, with other members of the family leading the selling of baby wear and prams.

Founded by his mother Helen, who was known in Leigh as Nellie Higginson, the firm had six different premises in Leigh and Atherton over the years, though never more than two or three at the same time.

Brian began working there after doing his national service, though he had started his working career aged 14 when he left Leigh Boys Grammar School to help in his grandparents’ newsagents, and remained at Pramland until he retired aged 70 when the business shut its doors in 2001.

He was remembered as a devoted family man and someone who became loved by generations of Leythers who visited the shops, with tributes flooding in on social media.

His daughter Alison Hull said: “When people came into the shop he knew who they were. He knew all his regular customers by name and knew their children and what they had bought before.

“He was a bit of a character as well, he loved jokes and had a great sense of humour.

“I remember he went to a couple of Old Leigh Photographs events and when people realised who he was they were coming up to him and chatting to him about when they were customers in the shop.

“He was very well known and much loved. Tributes on Facebook have called him a Leigh legend and some people have even called it the end of an era. My dad would probably have laughed at that but then puffed up a little with pride knowing so many people thought so well of him.

“He was also a wonderful father to me and my sister. We had wonderful times together. He used to take us on Sunday outings.

“He was also a fantastic piano player and loved singing all the old songs. I remember duetting with him when I couldn’t have been much more than four years old. He also loved all the old film musicals like Oklahoma.”

Pramland became extremely well known in Leigh, with its Chapel Street store renowned for the bright window displays which lit up dull winter evenings and its premises on Bradshawgate which had a model train in the shop window which would run around a track if a member of the public put a penny in a slot.

Brian lived on Warrington Road in the same house from when he got married to Sheila in 1954 until the end of his life, spending his last few years there as a widower following her death in 2009.

He was a devoted Bolton Wanderers fan, taking his children to night matches at Burnden Park in the 1970s, and also regularly watched England’s international games.

Alison remembered this led to much good-natured banter with his father in law, who was a rugby fan and told Brian he “wanted to watch a man’s game”.

Brian and Sheila had two children, Alison and Deborah Barton, and five grandchildren, with a particularly proud moment in the final year of his life coming when he got to hold his great-granchild Frederick Thomas in August.

He was admitted to The Christie in September and sadly died there on October 21.

His funeral will be held at Howe Bridge Crematorium on Thursday November 2. Donations are being gratefully accepted for the Manchester hospital where he died.