Monsignor Tony Bickerstaffe, who has four days before his 95th birthday, served in parishes throughout the Diocese of Middlesbrough and also as bishop’s secretary from 1957 to 1970 and chancellor from 1963 to 1981, overseeing the changes in the aftermath of the second Vatican Council.
The youngest of six siblings, Mgr Bickerstaffe was born in east Hull in September 1924. His father was a docker and his mother died when he was nine. After leaving school, he worked at the Needlers sweet factory, where legend has it that he invented a new line of confectionary.
He served in the Navy towards the latter part of World War II and lost a brother on active service with the Marines.
He attended seminary at Mount Melleray in County Waterford, Ireland, before completing his studies at the Venerable English College in Rome. He was ordained in Rome in 1954, and continued his studies for a further year at the English College for his Licentiate of Sacred Theology.
His first appointment was as assistant priest at Our Lady and St Peter in Bridlington in 1955. In 1957 he was appointed bishop’s secretary and chaplain to Bishop Brunner, based at Nazareth House, Middlesbrough.
Bishop Brunner gave him the title of Monsignor in 1967 and he continued as bishop’s secretary under Bishop McClean until 1970, when he was appointed parish priest at St Alphonsus, North Ormesby, serving there until 1984.
Between 1984 and 1989 he was parish priest at St Anthony’s, Brotton, and from 1989 to 1994 parish priest of St Patrick’s, Whitby. He then returned to St Charles in Hull.
In 1998 Mgr Bickerstaffe retired to Hornsea and in 2007 moved back to Hull, where he was resident at Holy Name Care Home.