HISTORIAN Steve Chapples has been looking back at the life of Burnley’s sheepdog man, Eric Halsall.

The Halsall and Chapples families knew each other well. In the 1960s, Steve’s parents Leslie and Phyllis and Eric and his wife Rita all lived in the Brunshaw and Pike Hill area.

Said Steve: “He was a familiar sight in his deerstalker, tweed jacket and walking boots, smoking his briar pipe, always with a collie at his side.

My father, like Eric, worked as a linotype operator and part-time journalist. Both men reported from the press box at Turf Moor, as did I, when my father was double booked and for years Mr Halsall wrote a popular country notes column.

He published the first of his seven books in 1961 entitled Hill Dog, a novel about a border collie called Rhaq, which worked at Lonktop Farm. The Lonk breed of sheep became Eric’s particular speciality.

He went on: “Eric never ran a dog himself, but planned sheepdog trials locally and judged all over Britain and Europe.

He became director of the International Sheepdog Society in 1964 and as an estate officer for the National Coal Board, he toured the north getting to know many of the farmers, who bred sheep on the wild terrain of Calder Valley.

Of course, he is best remembered as the co-presenter of the surprise hit series “One Man and his Dog” with Phil Drabble, which began in 1975 and continued for the next 14 years.

Eric was at a loss to explain the mass appeal of the programme, but as his wife said later, One Man And His Dog was only one point short of winning a BAFTA award.”

Born in Burnley in 1920, he attended Burnley Grammar School and was a keen footballer; he had a trial at Turf Moor, but did not make the grade, so he started a Scout troop at St Catherine’s Church, which had a football team.

He attended a Scout camp at Huntroyd Park in June 1947, which was attended by the Chief Scout Lord Rowallan. As a child Eric had rheumatic fever, which left him with a weak heart. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he wanted to wanted to join the RAF, but was refused on medical grounds.

He married Rita Greenwood in 1942.

Eric died aged 76 and after his wife’s death his archive of 2,000 volumes on plants, trees, reptiles, mammals and birds was donated to the Natural History Centre at Towneley Hall.