KEIGHLEY said a final ‘thank you and farewell’ today to one of its best-loved characters.

Trinity Church at Fell Lane was packed on Friday as people turned out in their hundreds for the funeral of ‘Mr Keighley’ Ian Dewhirst. Proceedings were also relayed to the foyer and an upstairs area, which housed those unable to be accommodated within the main church.

Tributes were paid by family and friends, with laughter and applause ringing out as some tales about Mr Dewhirst’s inimitable style were recounted.

The local historian, who died last month aged 82, was well known for his countless talks to organisations throughout the district and beyond.

Mr Dewhirst, a retired reference librarian, also wrote several books. And he had compiled the popular Memory Lane column, in T&A sister paper the Keighley News, for more than a quarter of a century.

Conducting the service was the Rev Brenda Sugden.

She said Mr Dewhirst was a “man of humility with a great knowledge of local history”, which he was always willing to share, and that his sudden death had come as a huge shock.

He was born in the Fell Lane house where he’d lived all his life and worked for 24 years as a reference librarian, retiring in 1991.

He received the MBE 20 years ago in honour of his services to local history, was awarded a doctorate by the University of Bradford and even had a diesel train named after him.

“All the tributes that have come in show just how much Ian meant to the people of Keighley and the surrounding area,” said the Rev Sugden.

She said countless people had enjoyed his talks, which were always “informative, lively and amusing”.

A family tribute from Mr Dewhirst’s nieces said their uncle “lived his life to the full and was a true gentleman”.

“Much of his life was dedicated to his work – travelling near and far to fulfil engagements – but we his family got to share another part of his life,” they said, describing holidays, walks and other shared moments.

“We have so many happy memories of our time together.”

Susan Hepworth, a friend of Mr Dewhirst’s for about 47 years, said he was hugely keen walker. They first met on a Holiday Fellowship hike.

“He was like no-one I had ever met and he was to become a firm friend,” she said.

Chris Phipps, a media historian and author, told those at the service that he had met Mr Dewhirst in 1992 when he recruited him for TV programme The Dales Diary. “He was a total natural in front of the camera,” he said. “I called him ‘One Take Ian’ because you never had to do a re-shoot!”