Tributes paid to lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter who founded '˜Wise Old Owls' groupÂ

Tributes have been paid to a man who devoted his life to his favourite team Sheffield Wednesday, and enjoyed a rewarding political career, following his death earlier this month.Â

Friday, 28th December 2018, 9:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 9:00 pm
Eric Kirby, pictured right, supported Sheffield Wednesday all his life

Eric Kirby, aged 82, of Pitsmoor, founded the Wise Old Owls '“ a group for over 50's who support Sheffield Wednesday '“ and was also known to many for his political work as Chairman of Brightside conservatives. 

Born in 1936, Eric would visit Hillsborough stadium as a child with his father, who would sneak him through the barriers, and it was here his love for the game grew. 

Eric trained as a referee but chose not to turn professional

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Eric's son Philip Kirby, 53, said: 'Dad was '˜Mr Sheffield Wednesday', if you cut him he'd bleed blue. From the day he took his first breath he supported Sheffield Wednesday.'

As a child nothing would stop him playing football, not even an air raid siren, as Philip added: 'He told us a story of how he was playing football with his friends on Minna Road. Apparently the air raid siren sounded but he decided not to go the shelter.

'They saw a bomber come across near the road to the right, he always said to never abandon a match.'

Eric with his first wife Dorothy Elaine and friends

Eric found love with his wife Dorothy Elaine, who he married in 1963 after a whirlwind romance where he '˜swept her off her feet', catching her as she fell down the stairs. 

The pair had two children Phillip, and Michelle, now 50, and enjoyed a happy marriage until Dorothy sadly passed away 15 years later.

Eric also trained as a class one referee for Premier League and Football League.

Eric enjoyed a rewarding political career in later life with his second wife Marjorie

Philip said: 'I remember one time the door went and I answered and Brian Clough was stood at the door. He had come to pick dad up to referee at a particularly difficult match, he had almost retired at this point. 

'He decided to stay with his family instead of turning professional as it would have taken him away from home a lot.'

His passion for both his beloved team and the sport carried on throughout his life, and he would attend matches regularly. 

He formed the '˜Wise Old Owls' in 2001, with an original membership of only 12 fellow Sheffield Wednesday supporters, who would meet on the first Wednesday of every month in the 1867 Lounge at Hillsborough.

Eric had Alzheimer's and dementia in later life

The group, which now has around 150 members, offered a chance for supporters to make friends, enjoy food and entertainment and would host guest speakers from all walks of life.

Philip said: 'He could talk the hind leg off a donkey, Brendan Ingle used to live on the same street as my dad and they would chat together. He was also very loyal, but to a fault and he knew it. He always saw the good in things, and thought he could sing!'

Later marrying his second wife Marjorie, Eric found an interest in politics and the pair attended the Queen's birthday party twice, and went for Christmas Eve drinks at Number 10 Downing Street.

He worked closely with Sheffield City Council throughout his political career, and supported the GMB union, even winning an award for his services to the council.

Towards the end of his life, Eric suffered with Alzheimer's and dementia and lived at Nightingale Care Home, Ecclesfield. 

A beloved great-grandfather, he could no longer attend matches at Hillsborough, but would enjoy to catch up on highlights from every match, and would be regularly visited by his family. 

A funeral car will be leaving Coop Funeral Services on Herries Road at 9:30am on January 5, where it will drive a circuit of the Hillsborough Stadium, near to Leppings Lane before a service at 10am at Grenoside Crematorium.

The family are inviting Eric's friends to attend the service '“ which will feature the Sheffield Wednesday chant as a send off song '“ and, if people would like, they are welcome to wear Sheffield Wednesday kit.

Anyone that would like to attend can contact Michelle Mitchell on 07766312370 or email 30chel@gmail.com