David Smith obituary

My father, David Smith, who has died aged 89, devoted much of his life to helping others in his home town of Burnley in Lancashire.

He was born in the town, the son of Fred, a slater, and Gladys (nee Topper), a housewife, and attended Burnley grammar school. Despite wanting to be a farmer, he completed a solicitor’s apprenticeship at Cooper, Smith and Williams, qualifying in 1955, and spent his whole career at the firm, eventually becoming a partner. He met his future wife, Caroline Vanstone, at a dinner dance in Manchester and they married in 1963. In 1977 he took over as HM coroner for east Lancashire, a role he retained until he retired, aged 70, in 2003.

Outside work, David went from being a champion guinea pig breeder as a child to owning a full menagerie of animals at his home in Cliviger. He spent most of his spare time cultivating his spectacular garden and was chairman of Burnley Horticultural Society.

Religion played a massive part in David’s life. He joined the congregation of St Peter’s church in Burnley in the 1950s and became secretary of the parochial church council in 1972. During restoration work in the 1990s, the church suffered a great fire in the tower and roof, and David arranged funding and organised work to repair the damage. After retiring as secretary in 2019, he took on the financial management of the church, and organised Saturday morning recitals of classical music by musicians from all over the world.

In addition to his work at St Peter’s, David was a founder member of Pendleside Hospice in 1988, staying as a trustee until 2017. He was also one of the founding members, in 1964, of Burnley Civic Trust, which campaigns to protect the local heritage. He acted as secretary until his death.

His church work led him to being actively involved with the homeless charity, Emmaus, the housing charity, Abbeyfield, and Burnley’s interfaith organisation, Building Bridges. In the 1990s, he was appointed MBE for his work in the town, specifically at St Peter’s.

David is survived by Caroline, his children, Jeremy and me, his grandchildren, Rachel, Laura, Ruaridh and Flossie, and his sister, Helen.