FURNESS has lost a pivotal member of its arts community and a renaissance man.

Bill Steel was born on Barrow Island on December 10 1929. The youngest of three children, he attended the Alfred Barrow School until aged 14, when he became an office boy in Vickers Armstrong Shipbuilders. Bill joined St John’s Youth Club and began taking part in their stage productions during his teenage years.

Taking part in a number of local musical societies during the 1960s, after returning from military duty in Egypt, Mr Steel developed his interest in the stage into a lifelong passion.

Bill was Chairman of the Abbey Musical Society, an organisation of which he was also a lifelong member. After stepping down from this role, he then became one of the ‘New Abbey Singers’ performing in 39 concerts for churches and charities across South Cumbria.

The active role Mr Steel played in the Furness arts community throughout most of his life has been remembered by friends and colleagues alike.

Cllr Helen Wall said: "During the years I covered the arts in Barrow as an entertainment reporter for The Mail, I knew Bill given his involvement with the Abbey Musical Society.

"I remember Bill as being a very knowledgeable and very committed member of the Furness arts scene. He worked very hard for local music and for cultural activities in the area, more broadly speaking.

"He was very talented, very supportive of others - younger members, in particular - and always had a powerful presence on stage."

Besides his contributions to the arts, Bill was also a keen and talented sportsman for most of his life. He captained St John's football team and Furness Brick & Tile Company, as well as featuring as a centre-half several times for Barrow AFC Reserves.

Even into his 70s, Bill continued his participation in local sport, umpiring amateur cricket matches in the Furness area until, his daughter remembers him telling her, "it takes me too long to change ends."

Bill passed away on Wednesday January 8, aged 90.