Farewell to the town cod-father

Bill Crook, 70, who died suddenly. He was the chairman of the National Fish Fryers Federation

Bill Crook, 70, who died suddenly. He was the chairman of the National Fish Fryers Federation

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A well-loved fish and chip shop owner has died suddenly at the age of 70.

Bill Crook, who owned a number of fish and chip shops in Chorley and South Ribble, devoted his life to the trade, even becoming chairman of the National Federation of Fish Fryers.

The cod-father: Bill Crook

The cod-father: Bill Crook

The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear, but it is thought he may have suffered a heart attack.

Pat, his devoted wife of 39 years, said: “We were sat in bed watching TV when I think he had a heart attack. I tried to bring him round but knew I couldn’t. We took him to the hospital and he later died.

“It was so sudden. We had no goodbyes.”

Bill and Pat set up their first fish and chip shop on Friargate in Preston 26 years ago, and went on to have successful shops in Bamber Bridge as well as Skippers in Euxton, which their son Andrew now runs.

The cod-father: Bill Crook

The cod-father: Bill Crook

Pat, 67, says Bill was well known for his cheeky charm behind the counter.

She said: “It was the job he absolutely loved. He lived for the banter. He joined the federation because he wanted to give back to the industry that gave him so much.

“His favourite shop was in Bamber Bridge which we set up 17 years ago because that was where he grew up. When he was walking through the town he could hardly get down Station Road because everyone knew him.

“We eventually moved to Chorley and he loved it. We both did. He was such a jolly man and he could get anyone laughing.

“That was the kind of person he was - wherever he was he used to get talking to people, whether it was on the bus or in the cafe.”

Bill, who went all over the country for the federation and also judged the Young Fish Fryer of the Year competition, was also a keen gardener, enjoyed cricket, and loved spending time with his wife in southern Spain.

He leaves behind son Andrew as well as two daughters from a previous marriage, Alison and Janet, eight grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

Andrew said: “My dad achieved so much in his time and had three careers including four years in the police but fish was always his favourite.

“I came into the business about 11 years ago and he hasn’t worked in the shops for about four years now but that is how everyone knew him.

“I saw him every day. Not many people could work with their fathers and we had our moments but he was a brilliant man.”

A spokesperson for the National Federation of Fish Fryers said: “Bill was totally dedicated to his role as National President of the NFFF and he worked hard on behalf of the federation and its members.

“Many individuals and businesses have benefitted from his knowledge and experience.

“He was truly inspirational, a real gentleman, great to work with and he will be sadly missed not only by his colleagues at the federation, but throughout the fish and chip industry.”

Bill’s funeral will be held on Thursday at Brownedge St Mary’s Church in Bamber Bridge at 2.30pm. It will be followed by a private ceremony at Charnock Richard Crematorium.