Livewire - October 3, 2012

Dick Gillingham

Dick Gillingham

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By Dick Gillingham of Fleetwood

The death of Len Preston, 86, is an immense loss to Fleetwood.

Len was a legend. A former Methodist lay preacher, teacher, chaplain to the Fishermen’s Mission and Fleetwood Town FC.

His support for my own passion, Fleetwood Museum, when we organised the 50th anniversary commemoration for the loss of the Red Falcon trawler in December 2009, was outstanding.

This was the greatest maritime tragedy in living memory, when on 14 December 1959, the Iago Co vessel was lost with all 19 hands near Skerryvore lighthouse.

Hundreds of townsfolk turned out on a bitterly cold day at the seafront memorial. Tears flowed from the eyes of hard bitten old men but amidst all this, Len led the service magnificently, calmly and with great dignity.

The event brought home why we are proud of our town.

Before Andrew Pilley catapulted Fleetwood Town onwards and upwards, we were all in the hard core of less than 200 regulars watching Fleetwood.

I saw my first game with my dad in 1956. The club did a pitchside presentation to mark my 50 years!

Len and one of his best mates Eddie Holt, an ex POW, who is now a close friend of mine, always stood near me at Fleetwood games exactly where my dad always stood before his sudden death in 1972.

I have been with Len at hundreds of games home and away and have travelled with him to some. His understanding of the game was considerable and he had played with Prescot Cables as a young man. He won a scholarship to the prestigious Bluecoat School in Liverpool.

My first contact with him came when I was still at school at Fleetwood Grammar School.

Many of my mates attended Mount Road Methodist Church where Len also worshipped.

He came to work at the Grammar School as a laboratory technician later becoming a highly respected teacher of physics both there and at Larkholme High School in Fleetwood.

When I was a sixth former playing for the school 1st XV rugby team, Len found it easy to arouse my anger and aggression from the touchline- one of the early motivators!

Len had time for people. He talked good sense and you never heard him tittle tattling about anyone.

His dry sense of humour was well known and at times you had to be thick skinned when he took the mick. The humour was well intended.

Among fishing families Len was well respected for his solid support and practical help. Ex-pupils from Larkholme have talked about his firm but fair approach.

Len understood Fleetwood and was proud of his adopted town.

Stephen, Len’s son, lives locally and his wife also. Len will live on for us all. He was, quite simply, a legend.