THE chairman of the one of Blackburn's most historic veterans' associations has refuted speculation that the branch is set to close down.

Des Owen, a member of the Royal British Legion, claimed in Monday's Lancashire Evening Telegraph that they were at crisis point in Blackburn due to falling membership.

But Brian Barnes, chairman of the branch, said the association was still going strong.

He said there were 150 subscribing members and they would always be there for anyone who needed them.

Mr Owen had claimed that the legion's problems were caused by the increasing age of members and the lack of younger replacements.

Mr Barnes acknowledged the group's average age was high but said that people didn't become involved in the group till they were older anyway. He said: "Some people don't get to meetings but they are still paying their subs.

"I'm spokesman for the association and want to tell the public that we are not in a crisis situation. We are not on the verge of closing down.

"If people need anything they know we are here."

He said that Mr Owen had been trying to help by shocking people into becoming members but that he had been misguided.

He added: "I will have a few words with him and put him in his place.

"I don't think he will be speaking again."

The branch was one of the first in the country after Earl Haig founded the association in 1921.

Members meet once a month at the Longshaw Club, Blackburn, although from July they will meet on the first Monday of each month at Bowman Court, Trinity Street, Blackburn.

Anyone wanting anymore information about the association should contact Mr Owen on 01254 662328.