TWO ‘soulmates’, who ran Burnley pubs together for many years, have died within 11 days of each other.

Retired publicans Alan and Ellen Heyes, both 78, had been together for 64 years after meeting when they were 14.

Their son Ray, 60, spoke of how his mum told his dad ‘not to be too long behind her’, while she was being cared for by him at their cottage in Hurstwood.

Ray, of Deerpark Road, Burnley, said: “They were soulmates. They did everything together.

“Everyone who knew them said they were the most devoted couple they had ever met.”

The couple, who married when they were 18, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last November.

They both took jobs at the Crooked Billet, in Worsthorne, and then the Peels Arms, Burnley, which has since been demolished.

While working there together, they saved up enough money to take over the Baltic Fleet in Briercliffe Road, in 1971, where they were landlord and landlady for 22 years.


Ellen was diagnosed with the heart condition, pre-cardiomyopathy, in 1991, leading the couple to retire two years later.

Ray, a dad-of-two who used to run the North Valley Hotel, Colne, and the Park View pub near Turf Moor, said: "Their popularity started when they were at the Baltic Fleet, and they were the life and soul of the community while they were there, and maintained a lot of friends from that time.

“But when my mum was diagnosed, my dad didn’t want to put any strain on her heart.

“She was given 10 years to live, but she survived 20. She was a tough lady with a strong character. She was the youngest of 11 so she knew how to defend herself. She wasn’t having any of that 10 years business.”

The couple, who were born three months apart, bought a holiday home in Alcudia, Majorca, travelled extensively in North America, and when they retired became keen gardeners at their home.

Ellen was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital on February 6 and then discharged to receive end of life care at home on February 13.

Ray, who now works for Revenue and Customs, said: “My dad just couldn’t cope, knowing that she was near the end.”

Two days later, Alan suffered a seizure and was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital at 2pm. At 10pm the same day, Ellen passed away at home. Alan died 11 days later in hospital.

Ray said: “They were wonderful parents and grandparents. Family was everything to them, and they led an incredibly happy life together.”

The couple also leave son Graham, 56, and their grandchildren.

A joint funeral will be held tomorrow (weds) at St John the Evangelist Church in Worsthorne at 11am. Family flowers only, and any donations should be made to The British Heart Foundation c/o Alderson and Horan Funeral Services, Rossendale Road, Burnley.