TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known Bolton businessman who devoted his life to creating opportunities for others.

Richard Hurst, chairman of the Richard Threlfall Group, the engineering firm founded by his great, great grandfather in 1834, died on Saturday following an 18-month battle with cancer.

The 73-year-old grandfather joined the family firm in 1979 and set about modernising it, so today it comprises of silicone compound manufacturer Silteq Ltd and pipeline valve maker Orseal Ltd, employing a total of around 30 people.

But Bolton-born Mr Hurst was also a keen sportsman who played a number of sports including golf and tennis.

"I've been no good at any of them, but I've loved them all," he once joked.

He made it his mission to support organisations in his home town, including Bolton Wanderers, where he was a life-long fan, and served as chairman of trustees at USN Bolton Arena for 11 years.

Paul Bartle, managing director of the Arena said: “We greatly valued the time, effort, advice and advocacy he freely gave to help further our objectives of building an active and healthy community.

“He was passionate about the lifelong benefits sport and an active lifestyle could bring and he took every opportunity to ensure that our organisation offered the opportunity to be more active to everyone within the town of Bolton.”

Mr Hurst, who lived in Heaton, was a governor of Bolton College and involved in organisations such as Bolton and Bury Training and Enterprise Council, Bolton and Bury Chamber of Commerce, Bolton and Bury CCTE, the Bolton Millennium Commissions Awards, Bolton Vision Group and Greater Manchester Learning and Skills Council.

"He was a very big personality - but a quiet personality," said his sister, Jane Caldwell, who is also on the board of the family firm. "He was always very helpful and supportive."

She added: "He led a full and active life. He always wanted to do anything he could to develop opportunities for people.

"He always had a very positive attitude." His determination to take on challenges was even present when he was diagnosed with melanoma 18 months ago and underwent experimental treatment at The Christie.

But after Christmas his health took a turn for the worse and on Friday he was taken to The Royal Bolton Hospital where he died on Saturday, surrounded by his family.

Mr Hurst was married to Jo and had three children, Matthew, Sophie and William.

Mr Hurst was determined that the company should continue in the family and so Matthew joined the board of the company last year.

"He wanted to carry on his legacy in the business. We want it to carry on in the family if possible," said Mrs Caldwell.

Current managing director, Dennis Crompton, said Mr Hurst will be greatly missed.

"It started with him being my boss and we ended up being close friends," he said.

Despite being past retirement age, Mr Hurst took an active interest in the business.

"He did not really officially retire although he only came into the office once a week," said Mr Crompton. "He was a fantastic businessman and visionary. Those Tuesdays will be solely missed." Funeral details will be announced shortly.