TRIBUTES have been paid following the death of a loyal off-field servant of a Northern League football club.

Bernard Fairbairn, who followed his father and grandfather as secretary of Tow Law Town FC, died in hospital after a short illness, on Thursday, aged 83.

He was surrounded by his family at his bedside on what would have been his 54th wedding anniversary to wife Pat.

Mr Fairbairn was Tow Law’s secretary for 46 years, despite living for the last four decades while filling the role in Darlington, 25 miles to the south.

He succeeded his father and grandfather, both called George, as secretary, marking a century of Fairbairn service to the Lawyers.

Known during his time, "in office” as, "shrewd, meticulous and affable", he formed a strong administrative triumvarite with chairman Harry Hodgson and local sub-postmaster Harry Dixon, as treasurer.

All three have now passed on.

Mr Fairbairn, who would have been 84 next week, served on the Northern League management committee between 1976 and 88 and was also a league vice-president.

He did national service in the RAF and for 32 years was manager of a brickworks at Eldon, near Shildon.

Speaking in recent years to former Northern Echo columnist Mike Amos, he said he saw taking the secretarial role as, “a Fairbairn family tradition”, and did not find the regular trek up the A68 a problem.

“I’ve never really been tempted to stop at home.

“I’ve had a few funny journeys. Once or twice I had to turn back because the A68 was impossible, but it usually rewarded the effort.”

Read more: February 24 2022: Bernard Fairbairn dies

His son Kevin, also a former Lawyers’ committee member, ended any prospect of a fourth generation Fairbairn in office by stepping down when his father retired in 2007.

Highlights of his era at Tow Law included the Northern League title in 1994/95, the FA Vase final appearance in 1998, when 4,000 fans travelled to Wembley to support a team from a town of only 2,000, in 1998, and the 5-1 FA Cup first round victory over then Fourth Division Mansfield Town at the Lawyers’ Ironworks Road ground, in 1967.

Steve Moralee, who succeeded Mr Fairbairn as secretary, spoke of his predecessor as, “a great servant” of the club.

He added: “Normally the term ‘legend’ is associated with players or managers, but Bernard is a true legend at Tow Law.”

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