AN arthritis charity branch has been forced to close after a long-standing member stepped down from the group.

The Accrington branch of Arthritis Care has closed after nearly 42 years serving people in the community.

This comes after Irene Barnes, from Accrington, who helped at the charity for 39 years across every position of the organisation, stepped down.

The group, which was most recently based at the Poplar Club in Wellington Street, said it had been unable to form another committee since and has been forced to close.

Mrs Barnes, 87, said she had many great years at the group but times have changed.

She said: “It is quite sad.

“The last few years have become more difficult, but I’ve had some great years here, it’s been very nice.

“It’s just unfortunate to see but times have changed.

“People used to have different ways of being entertained.

“People are retiring and being able to go on continental holidays these days.

“I just feel at this age you just don’t know what tomorrow brings.”

Mrs Barnes, an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Hyndburn, announced 12 months ago her intentions to step down from the club.

The group was formed in 1976 by Raymond Higham and used to have 150 members attending monthly meetings, but this has dropped to 20 in recent times, with few looking to work on a committee.

Two years later Mrs Barnes and her husband Edward, who died in 2007, were singing at a social event they were asked to join.

The ‘remarkable lady’ first joined as vice-chairman and served in positions throughout the group before finishing as secretary.

As well as holding committee meetings and social events to help people in the area, transport used to be provided to help get people involved from throughout Hyndburn.

Susan Haworth, from the Rotary Club of Church and Oswaldtwistle, was one of those who provided transport help.

She invited Mrs Barnes and final Arthritis Care president Peter Hopwood to a Church and Oswaldtwistle Rotary event where Mrs Barnes was presented with a certificate to mark her many years of service with Arthritis Care.

Rotary president Lyndon Heap said: “All Rotary members are sad to hear about the impending closure of this fine organisation which has been very prominent in Hyndburn.

“We applaud Irene for the dedication she has shown over the past 39 years.

“Irene has been an outstanding person who has served as chairman, treasurer, secretary and organiser.”