FORMER Blackburn Rugby Club president and long-standing East Lancashire solicitor John ‘Willie’ Parker has passed away.

The sports-mad lawyer was 77 when he died at Royal Blackburn Hospital after a short illness.

Father-of-four Mr Parker, an open-side flanker for the rugby club and wicket keeper batsman for East Lancashire Cricket Club, retired from legal practice in 2011.

One of the founders of Farley, Parker and Pickles in 1960, he also worked in commercial law as well as in the partnership Parker and Pickles and then as a single practitioner.

Three-times married Mr Parker died on Tuesday and leaves a partner Sheila, three sons – James, 51, Andrew, 49, and Scott, 42 — and a 41-year-old daughter Rustine — as well as six grandchildren.

Mr Parker’s funeral will be on Friday at St Mary’s Church in his home village of Mellor before cremation at Blackburn Crematorium and a reception at the rugby club.

Andrew, a builder and rugby coach in Yorkshire, said: “My father was passionate, determined and stubborn.

“He lived life at 100 miles per hour and will be much-missed.

“He clearly passed his love of rugby on to me.”

Mr Parker was brought up in Blackburn and started playing rugby at St Bees School in Cumbria.

As well as being president of the club he was a trustee for more than 20 years.

He also acted as its legal representative.

Current Blackburn Rugby Club president Paul Whitehead said: “John Parker played a key role in the club for virtually all his life.

“He played for the club, was its president, acted as a trustee and was our legal adviser.

“He was a stalwart of the club for many, many years. He made a tremendous contribution in many ways.

“We will mourn his passing.”

His nephew, estate agent James Whitehead, said: “He was a solicitor and major figure in Blackburn life for 50 years. He was a remarkable man.”