STAN Frith has paid tribute to a man he considers one of the finest bowlers in history.

Highly decorated Keith Birkett, a 50-year employee at Roberts Bakery in Rudheath, died on his 74th birthday last month after battling with motor neurone disease.

And his former pairs partner and teammate Stan, who has also enjoyed success in the sport at the highest level, says his pal’s achievements over six decades will never be forgotten.

“As things are at the moment within the world, people may not be aware of what he won over the years and what a major player he was in Mid-Cheshire for a long period of time,” said Stan, 82, from Weaverham.

“He was a top-class crown green bowls player over 40 years or so and we should pay tribute to him. He achieved a lot in the Mid-Cheshire area but was also well known in Winsford, Warrington and the bowling world as a whole.”

Grandfather-of-two Keith, who lived in Barnton and previously Lostock Gralam, won many of the sport’s top individual and team honours.

And while he was a competitor on the green, he has been described by many former teammates and rivals as a gentleman off it.

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“He won the Cowley Cup in 1966 at the age of 20,” said Stan, but that was just the start for the former Lostock, Farmers Arms, Owley Wood, Wharton Cons and Spinner & Bergamot club man whose talent with woods saw him chalk up a staggering 88 appearances for Cheshire.

The Cowley Cup was won again in 1972 and 1980, while further individual triumphs came in the Guardian Cup in 1981 and 1983, and the Roberts Bakery Cup in 1987.

He played in three winning teams in the Brunner Cup, the county’s premier competition – with Farmers Arms in 1972 and 1978 plus 15 years later with Wharton Cons.

Keith, who played football for Lostock Boys Club in his early years, won the Pogson Pairs five times between 1972 and 1989, when on four of those occasions he had Stan at his side.

“And he won the Award of Merit, which is the best performance at county level, on two occasions in 1978 and 1980,” added Stan.

But the highlights were probably Keith’s successes on the national stage, including the British Open in 1980 at Birmingham, one of the major competitions in the country at that time.

Keith, who started out as a Roberts Bakery delivery driver before making his way into management and finishing off as a community ambassador giving bakery history talks to the likes of schoolchildren and community organisations, got his name on the Whitbread Masters silverware in Liverpool, too, in 1979.

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Keith out in the community delivering his bakery ambassador role

After starting at Lostock, he called Farmers Arms his home club for 15 years, then Owley Wood for around 10 years before finishing his career with Wharton Cons and finally Spinner & Bergamot, whom he helped win the Littler Cup in 2014 with his wife Tamsin as captain.

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Stan, a teammate of Keith’s for a large chunk of his career, has fond memories of ‘playing the circuit’ with his pal, who leaves Tamsin, son Carl, stepdaughter and stepson, Siobhan and Callum, plus granddaughters Sophie and Lucy.

“We were both on the circuit for pairs and individual competitions. We’d a travel a lot into Lancashire and Yorkshire, which was one of our favourite counties for playing,” he said.

“Keith loved his food and we used to love going to Mirfield where we were quite successful. He loved the pie and peas there and looked forward to it even if we got beat.

“Like me, he had to stop playing because of old age and injuries.”