A HUGELY popular Redditch stalwart and former Redditch Council worker has died.

Larger than life Harold Bagby died in his sleep in the early hours of July 26 aged 82.

Harold, who appeared in the Advertiser on numerous occasions throughout his life, was well known in the town from his work on the switchboard as well as giving talks for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Born in Birmingham he attended the Birmingham Royal Institute for the Blind but hated it and so spent five months at Pembridge Place London, to learn telephony and typing.

In the meantime his parents moved to Hunt End and once his training finished he came home to live with them.

In 1957 he applied for the post of telephonist at Redditch Urban District Council.

He walked from Hunt End to Redditch every day and at weekends would think nothing of walking 20 miles with his guide dog.

Harold had seven guide dogs in his lifetime with the first called Candy Floss when he was aged 23.

His next dog Kim became world famous in November 1967, when they both appeared on Blue Peter, after Kim was given the National Dog Owners Association's premier gold award, for performing “the outstanding feat of any dog during the past year” for saving her own life, by leading Harold through Redditch to the vets, where it was found she was suffering from a serious liver complaint.

In March 1968 Kim also caused Harold to meet his late wife Jo, by her unusual misbehaviour at a weekend conference on religion, leading to an invitation to attend a group discussion on philosophy at Chaddesley Corbett where Jo attended.

In 1968 after a whirlwind courtship of just six months he married Jo and they set up home together in Astwood Bank and had daughter Abigail.

In 1981 Harold was honoured by councillors for his long and exemplary service and in 1992 he retired from Redditch Borough Council after 35 years service.

Abigail said: "He seldom left callers without a joke or cheery comment.

"At the time he left the council he knew the 400 plus extension numbers off by heart, knew his colleagues by their voices and was receiving 2,000 calls a day so he must have answered millions of calls in his time."

In 2003 his health began to decline.

After being admitted to hospital 2013 he was discharged into care at The Cedars Redditch, before moving to Lincolnshire to be near his daughter and grandson.

Abigail added: "He will be remembered for being a gentleman, a staunch royalist, with a character larger than life, who was determined not to let his disability get the better of him.

"His unfailingly warm, friendly and cheerful voice - that could also sing the equivalent volume and pitch of an entire choir - would never fail to light up a room or church."

There will be special memorial service at St Peter's Church in Inkberrow on Friday, September 20 at 2pm.