Tributes paid to the ‘racing reverend’ Barry

Reverend Barry Whitehead and daughter Eve McQueen

Reverend Barry Whitehead and daughter Eve McQueen

A vicar with a passion for motor racing and building his own cars recently died at the age of 86.

Rev Barry Whitehead, from Standish, spent more than 40 years working in the Church of England.

His career included 19 years as a vicar in Aspull, leading services at churches in the borough and visiting Wigan’s industrial firms as a chaplain.

He loved motor sports and decided to build his own car in 1969, despite being untrained in mechanics and engineering.

He spent years driving his single-seater racing cars in hill climbs and sprints, later joined by his daughter Eve McQueen.

During his funeral, she said: “Alongside the calling he had for the church, he was a man who was just passionate about cars and engines - taking them apart, building them, improving them and thoroughly enjoying himself in the process, usually!”

Mr Whitehead was ordained in Liverpool in 1955 and became a curate, before taking a role as chaplain with Liverpool Industrial Mission in 1961.

He spent most of his time in Wigan, visiting Park Forge, Clarington Force and Gullicks, along with other firms.

He worked with apprentices and was instrumental in developing team building courses, introducing many young people to caving, abseiling and orienteering.

Mr Whitehead became vicar of St Elizabeth’s Church in Aspull in 1977 and stayed until his retirement in 1996.

He continued his work with the mission and in 1983 he became part of a team in Liverpool to respond to issues after the Toxteth riots.

He also worked with Northern Churches Training Group to train clergy and lay people, as well as designing training material for churches across the Liverpool diocese.

Mr Whitehead led services at other churches when needed, with his last service at St Mary’s Church in Lower Ince on Easter Sunday.

Outside the church, he liked to swap his dog collar for overalls.

Mr Whitehead loved machines and got his first motorbike when he was 16.

His first race was in a friend’s Aston Martin in 1968 and after more races in his family car, he was inspired by a book to build his own.

He went on to build eight cars, which were initially named MBS1 for “mini-based special” but later changed to RBS for “Reverend Barry’s special”.

He took part in many races in his cars, with his family going along to watch, and he was still driving up until two years ago.

Mr Whitehead was also interested in the outdoors and enjoyed caving, walking, climbing, abseiling and rifle shooting.

He died of prostate cancer late last month, 19 years after being diagnosed with the disease, and a funeral was held at St Wilfrid’s Church in Standish.

He leaves four children, six grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.