A FAMILY has paid tribute to a much-loved cricketer who had a wise word for everyone and a cracking sense of humour.

Eric Barlow, often known as Big E or the Big Fella to friends, died aged 79 at the Royal Bolton Hospital on Sunday morning.

He was well known in Little Lever, particularly for his work with the cricket club.

Mr Barlow’s family say they have been inundated with kind words of support since his death, from people of all ages, on Facebook and around Little Lever.

He leaves his wife of 59 years, May Barlow, his two children Carol Balduin and Gary Barlow, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Mrs Balduin said: “The majority of people have always called him a gentleman who was never stuck for advice or a wise word for people.

“We have had so many kind wishes for the family.”

Mr Barlow said: “He never shouted or raised his voice. He always had a bit of banter for everyone—even with the nurses at the Royal Bolton. They were fantastic with him.”

It was a mutual love of sport that first bought Mr and Mrs Barlow together when they were teenagers in 1947 — he played for Little Lever Cricket Club and May looked after the scores.

They married at St Matthew’s Church, Little Lever, in 1953, and later bought a milk round business which they ran for 32 years. They also helped to build Little Lever Cricket Club.

Mrs Barlow said: “He broke his leg when he was 15 and he asked if I could go round with some comics and that’s where it all started.

“He used to joke he just wanted me for my comics.”

She added: “I’m heartbroken.

He was my world and I don’t know what I’ll do without him.”

When Mr Barlow retired from cricket he turned his hand to umpiring and in 2009 he won the prestigious Hubert Pendlebury Award.

The cause of his death is still unknown, but he had been in hospital for three weeks with septicaemia and pneumonia.

Mr Barlow’s funeral will be at 12.45pm on Friday, December 14, at the King’s Church in Little Lever before cremation at Radcliffe Crematorium at 2pm.