The characters in Clitheroe make this Ribble Valley market town very special

PUBLISHED: 19:47 02 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:00 20 February 2013

Andrew Burney and daughter Alice with his father David, who started off their veg stall in 1949

Andrew Burney and daughter Alice with his father David, who started off their veg stall in 1949

There is no denying the charm of this vibrant market town but it is its characters that really make Clitheroe special. Emma Mayoh reports

At 71, John Pye thought it might be time to starting slowing down a little. But there were people with other plans. The former owner of photography and printing firm Pyes, of Clitheroe, is also a magician and he has recently been named the international president of The International Brotherhood of Magicians.

John is only the fourth Briton and first Lancastrian to head the organisation in its 90 year history. It will see him travel the world meeting people in different magical clubs and communities. John said: I turned it down at first because it was such a lot to take on. But I was persuaded and Im very happy about that. It is a great honour. I want to be able to bring nations together through the art of magic. I want people to realise how much fun it can be and to try and get more people doing magic.

His passion for his hobby started as a boy when he received a box of tricks as a Christmas present. His enthusiasm blossomed and he spent many days in Clitheroe Library searching out books on conjuring tricks so he could create his own a pursuit deemed necessary after his mum scalded him for spending too much money on a bag he used to make eggs disappear. He performed in regular shows for fellow pupils at Clitheroe Grammar School and at local events as well as for family and friends.

His hobby has taken him around the world and he has even performed magic on the Great Wall of China. Wife, Carol, a retired schoolteacher, has accompanied him on his journey and was at one time a willing assistant who was regularly sawn in half as part of his act.

John said: Carols screams were legendary. One time we both heard a couple in the front row who were so convinced by it that they thought she was dead.

I remember doing an escape from a mailbag trick at school. Unfortunately for me, the person who had tied the bag had done it properly. I had to cut my way out of it. No one noticed though and they were impressed.

Despite his travels Johns passion for Clitheroe has never waned. He grew up in the town and now lives only a few miles away in Grindleton where he is vice chairman of the parish council. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of Ribblesdale.

He said: I was born and bred here and I couldnt think of anywhere better to be. This area is my life and always will be.


Magic of a different kind will be waved across Clitheroe until October 6th as the Platform Gallery, located in the old railway station building, marks the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witches.

Lancashire Witches 400 features the work of artists, local schools and groups who have explored the Witches story through the heritage of Lancashire, its historical context and its relevance to intolerance and injustice today. The gallery will also provide information and activities and workshops are being held.

Also marking this important anniversary are locals Jo Harding and Theresa Robson. The pair, who have written several books to coincide with local events, have edited an anthology of 13 poems about witches.

Entries for the new book, which will be launched this month, were submitted from across the country, including Lancashire. Jo, a former barrister who has run second-hand book shop Clitheroe Books for the past 17 years, said: It is a great opportunity to mark this important occasion in the areas history. There has been a really high standard and we are lucky in Lancashire to have a lot of talented people.

But there is one group of people playing a particularly important role in community life. The 24 retained firemen based at Clitheroe Fire Station have the towns safety as its top priority. None of them are permanently based at the station and also have other full time jobs including at Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop and Johnson Matthey Catalysts. But when their mobile alarms sound, they drop everything to come to the aid of people in need.

One of them, Stuart Lawson, has had to dash at a moments notice from his mechanics job at Beanfield Test Centre into the fire tender to help do anything from put out fires to rescuing people involved in car accidents on the nearby A59.

Unfortunately, when he arrived at one serious car accident he discovered a close friend, Mark Strange, was seriously hurt. But the 28-year-old said he was fortunate his training allowed him to help the save his friends life. Being on call for more than 100 hours a week has meant hes missed out on special occasions including having to leave a celebratory meal for his girlfriend, Victoria McKennas, birthday.

Although Stuart, who grew up in Clitheroe, knew it would be demanding he wanted to sign up to aid his local community.

He said: I wanted to be able to help people if they needed it. It a job that Im very pleased to be able to do.


We all just get on with what we need to do but, when I think about it, it is a job that makes me feel proud to be a part of a team like the one we have in Clitheroe.

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