TRIBUTES have been paid to a ‘town’s saint’ following the death of Maundy Relief founder Dorothy McGregor.

The Accrington nun, who created the Abbey Street charity to help the homeless and those in need, passed away yesterday. In recent months the 79-year-old had had a spell in hospital after suffering exhaustion and was being cared for at home.

Her family had also announced she had decided to step back from hands on management into a ‘spiritual director’s’ role recently.

Following the announcement of her death tributes were paid to her selfless devotion to the less fortunate.

Hyndburn Council also pledged to fly the borough’s flag at half mast in her honour.

A Freeman of the Borough, she was described as ‘a saint’ by town leaders, who said her legacy would live on.

During her time at the helm of the Maundy Relief centre, Dorothy was known to arrive ready to help the needy at 6am and would not live until late at night.

Hyndburn Council leader Miles Parkinson said: “We have received the very sad news and we will be flying the flag at half mast from now until her funeral.

“What she gave to people will never be forgotten and her legacy will live on. It was a great honour to have known her and she was a wonderful representative of Accrington.

“We are here to offer any help and condolences to her family as they prepare to make arrangements for her.”

Opposition leader Peter Britcliffe said: “She is someone who always put others first. She is the nearest thing to a saint Accrington has ever had.”

Acting manager at Maundy Relief Lucy Hardwick said: "What few people knew about Dorothy was how much fun she was. She had such a wonderful sense of humour. Our work here is really serious but Dorothy never lost her sense of fun and she kept all our spirits up."

Maundy Grange sponsor and Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh said: “We were all just so lucky to have known her. This legendary figure, who zoomed around Accrington in her bob, denim habit and red lipstick. She will be talked about for decades.

“I am so proud to be able to say she was my friend. Now that she is dead we all feel a great responsibility to carry on her work. The work has not died with her and I hope the whole town gets behind us in her memory.”

Dorothy became a nun at 65 in 1998. Previously she had worked in a variety of professions, from running a sweet shop, to becoming a senior registered nurse, psychiatric nurse and social worker. At 40, she began working for the probation service which highlighted problems facing poor familes.

In 1996, following a chance meeting in a printing shop, Dorothy, and co-founders the Rev Len Singleton and Alan Freeman, began operating a 24-hour food parcel service for the needy from their homes.

Finding a cheap terrace on Abbey Street the facilty opened on Maundy Thursday, 1998, expanding into the property next door in June 2000.