Leyland legend Barn Owl Bill has died after 'long illness'

An iconic Leylander who dedicated his life to saving injured birds of prey has died.

By Tom Earnshaw, Reporter
Monday, 9th September 2019, 11:57 am
Updated Monday, 9th September 2019, 12:57 pm
Bill with wife Carole, who ran the owl sanctuary with him
Bill with wife Carole, who ran the owl sanctuary with him

Bill Higham, known as Barn Owl Bill, died in hospital on Wednesday last week (September 4).

Bill, along with wife Carole, have been well known members of the Leyland and wider Lancashire community for almost three decades after founding the rescue centre in 1992.

But it was prior to that, in 1988, that Bill took in his first barn owl.

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Bill Higham, known as Barn Owl Bill, has died

From then onwards the RSPCA, RSPB, local police and members of the public began asking Bill to take in birds found injured or orphaned.

Soon Bill became known as Barn Owl Bill and trust has continued under this name.

Many of the birds the charity has taken in have been wild animals that have had unfortunate incidents. There has also been some unwanted pets.

South Ribble Coun Matthew Tomlinson, councillor for the Broadfield ward in which Bill lived, said: "Over the years I had several chances to encounter Bill and his owls, including being in his house to see all the birds on more than one occasion.

Bill in his younger days

"He was one of Broadfield's characters and certainly well-known in the community.

"Nobody can deny his absolute devotion to the birds he looked after.

"It sounds like a cliche but the world is a worse place without him."

In a post on the rescue centre's Facebook page last Thursday (September 5), a charity spokesman confirmed Bill's death.

The post read: "It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of Barn Owl Bill yesterday in hospital after a long illness."

The post has gained more than 100 comments paying tribute to the man and his wife, Carole, who ran the rescue centre with Bill.

Lisa Chadwick wrote: "So sorry Carole this is very sad news! I remember the days you would come into my pet shop on Bannister Drive with owls on both your shoulders. Thinking of you dearly. Take care. RIP Bill."

Nicole Dennett said: "I’m so sorry to hear this - sending love to all the family. He was such a lovely man who put his heart & soul into the rescue of the birds."

Debbie Thomas added: "Carole and everyone, please accept our most sincere condolences. What a wonderful man to dedicate his life to saving our amazing feathered friends. Keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers. I hope you will be able to continue his legacy. Love and Prayers from Groton, CT, USA."

Jude Dornan said: "Oh, how sad. A part of our local fabric has gone. Huge condolences."

The rescue centre was on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year and was known for never refusing a rescue.