Tributes to Mr Popular and his tales

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An award-winning cricket club groundsman who built a career outdoors and enjoyed making people laugh has died aged just 56.

Andrew Colley, who has been dubbed an “old school social networker and raconteur” by his family, died of cancer in St Gemma’s Hospice on Thursday May 16.

Brother Paul Colley CB OBE said Andrew, who was born in Harrogate in 1962, lived at the family home in Clifford all of his life where he was well liked.

“Andy lived life in his local community with gusto, generous to a fault with both his time and money for family and friends alike.

“In stark contrast to nearly all of his siblings and contemporaries, he steadfastly refused to be sucked into the virtual world of computers, but instead built his social network in the old school way and it was extensive.

“Village pubs were his instinctive social hubs and it was here that he started his fabled story telling.

“A keen observer of human strength and weakness, he had a rare ability to weave together the essential facts of an incident with embellishments that provided eye watering laughter for those lucky enough to enjoy his company.”

Paul added: “He often worked seven days a week, so it was sometimes hard to drag him into family reunions, but he always came under false protest and they were golden moments.

“His increasingly outrageous stories morphed into impromptu comedy sketches, one including an Irish jig to rival Michael Flatley.”

The third of six children to Thomas and Susan Colley, was educated at Bramham Primary and then Boston Spa Comprehensive School.

“Despite having the same high intelligence that blessed his five siblings, he eschewed academics in favour of working outdoors and built his life around opportunities in farming, forestry and anything that would keep him in the fresh air,” added Paul.

From his marriage to Sherron, Andrew said that his two sons, Thomas and Shaun, were his greatest achievement and joy in life.

He won an award as groundsman at Clifford Cricket Club.

Later married to Janet, Andrew put work before his own health and failed to report feeling unwell until he physically collapsed.

“By that stage his cancer was so advanced that palliative care was the only option,” added Paul.

Andre had loved to travel, both in the UK and overseas, gaining great affection for Ireland and America in particular, where he invariably added new friends to his expansive social network.

“It explained in part why he typically had 30 visitors a day in hospital and why his nurses dubbed him Mr Popular,” added Paul.

Andrew was respected for his loyal friendships and community spirit in many towns and villages from Harewood to Bramham and Tadcaster to Clifford.

Paul added: “Andy continued to bring laughter at his bedside with his hysterically funny yarns about life.”