THE manager of the ill-fated Top Storey Club has died, aged 84.

Bill Bohannon was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and died on November 9.

His wife Beryl, aged 69, paid tribute to her husband, describing him as a devoted family man who continued to be haunted by the tragic events of May 1, 1961, when a fire ripped through the newly opened nightspot.

Nineteen people died, including Mr Bohannon’s first wife Sheila, making him a widower at the age of just 32 and a single parent to his six-year-old son Barry.

On the night of the fire, Mr Bohannon was inside the club and went downstairs to investigate after smelling smoke. He opened a door and was hit by a wall of smoke and flames.

He tried to get back up the stairs to warn people, but was overcome by the smoke and forced back.

Some of the club-goers jumped 80 feet from a window in a desperate attempt to escape the blaze.

The fire became a catalyst for new licensing safety laws to be introduced.

Mrs Bohannon, who lives in Blackpool, where the couple worked and later retired, said: “What happened never went away.

“It was always there. When we were away he would always check where the fire exits were in the building. The introduction of legislation after what happened did reassure him.”

In 2011, 50 years after the blaze, Mr Bohannon told The Bolton News that it was a night he would never forget.

Following the tragedy he went to live with his parents, and later joined the Merchant Navy, serving for more than a decade.

He then went into the pub business in Kent where he met his second wife Beryl, with whom he had two sons — Michael, who is now 50, and Christian, who is 43.

He came back to Bolton and went into the butchers trade, before moving to Blackpool to go into the hotel business.

Mr Bohannon, who was well-known on the music scene in Bolton, continued to play the bongos when he went to Blackpool.

Mrs Bohannon said: “Bill had been a widower at the age of just 32. It is hard enough to be widowed when you are older.

“He always put his family first and wanted to work from home.

“We spent all our time together when we were in the hotel trade, and when you spend that much time together you really have to get on.

“When I met him, I just felt comfortable with him, people liked him and he was a genuine person.”

A service and cremation was held at Park Crematorium in Lytham St Annes on Thursday.