A PILLAR of the Alston community who ran several successful businesses in the area has died, aged 79.

John George Edward Williams, affectionally known as Patch, touched the lives of so many in his hometown as either a generous employer or a well-liked sociable gentleman.

John was born at Alston Cottage Hospital to parents Betty and George in 1941.

During his early life, he lived with his grandparents in Alston, attending Nenthall Primary School and then Alston Grammar School. He had four half-siblings on his mother’s side.

It was during these formative years that John developed his famous nickname, owing to the fact his trousers would always have patches on the knees from where he’d been playing in them.

Although he was a joiner by trade, he began working in coal mines as a young man. Starting at Flow Edge Pit, John moved to Clarghyll Colliery, just to the north of Alston.

A hard-worker, he eventually bought the pit in 1968 with two friends. They quickly turned the fate of the mine around, making it into a highly successful business. At its peak, the business employed 15 men underground and another five overground, delivering coal throughout the community and beyond.

With the money he made from the mine, John bought his second business, the Crown Hotel, in 1978, which he ran with his first wife Pat. He was a generous landlord and created a lively environment, which became the beating heart of his community.

John even built an extension to the pub, which hosted many memorable nights for people in the area. Wedding receptions, weekly discos and several sports teams were all commonplace at the Crown during this time. 

Often playing in the pub’s darts team, he was very competitive and remained so throughout his life. He was a passionate supporter of Manchester United football club, and even held a season ticket to Old Trafford stadium, which he used regularly. This love for the Red Devils rubbed off on his family, who all had no choice but to support the team.

Between his businesses, John became one of the biggest employers in Alston. Despite being a fair boss, he often joked that if he paid his staff on a Friday, then he’d have already taken half of their wages back by Monday, due to the success of his pub.

During this time, his son Carl ran the coal delivery business whilst his daughters Vivien and Carol would help their mother run the Crown.

He bought Bridge End Farm, Alston, in 1985, where he modernised the practices and used it as a base of operations for his continued coal delivery business. He lived there with his second wife, Carolyn, and her daughter, Stephanie. They went on to have a further two children, Jason and Kimberley. The family kept lots of horses and still ever-sociable, John ran a bed and breakfast from the property until 2005.

Throughout his life, John taught himself about the world, through reading the National Geographic and latterly by searching the internet. This fascination led him to travel extensively, seeing many exotic destinations. 

It was on one of these trips to the Philippines that he met his loving wife Mary. They were married in January 2018 and had two sons, David and Byron. 

 John’s appetite for business never wavered and in his later years he worked for his daughter-in-law’s family haulage company in Brampton, where he could often be seen wandering the yard with his labradoodle, Ruben.

 John is survived by his wife Mary and his seven children; Vivien, Carol, Carl, Jason, Kimberley, David, and Byron; as well as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 A private ceremony for close family was arranged by Co-operative Funeral Care of Haltwhistle.