Tributes paid to popular Wigan 'legend' Big Al

Big Al - Alan Alderson
Big Al - Alan Alderson

Tributes have been paid to a popular Wiganer who was described as a local legend in his community.


Alan Alderson, known to many people as Big Al, died aged just 54 in hospital recently following a devastating short illness which had lasted for just a few weeks but put him in the intensive care unit at Wythenshawe Hospital.

Alan and Philippa

Alan and Philippa

His widow Philippa says she has received a flood of supportive messages from residents in Shevington expressing their sadness at his shocking and sudden death.

Alan was extremely well known in the village and was an enthusiast for motorbikes, fishing and rugby league, having played for Shevington Sharks as a prop forward in his younger days.

Philippa, 55, said: “Life was never quiet with Alan. He was a big man with a big personality to go with it, the life and soul of the party.

“He was well known as a character in the village. I’ve got loads of messages of support from his friends, which has been lovely.

“We had a party for Al’s 40th birthday and people have talked about it ever since. The DJ from the Plough and Harrow did the music and we were still partying at 6am the following day.

“We had so much fun over the years, such a lot of laughs. I’m absolutely distraught.”

Alan’s health suddenly began to deteriorate about a month ago after he had a takeaway meal.

He initially assumed he had food poisoning but when he got no better went to Wigan Infirmary where he was diagnosed with sepsis.

However, after completing a course of antibiotics he continued to become more seriously ill and eventually ended up in intensive care with endocarditis, a terrible infection which attacks parts of the heart.

Alan was transferred to Wythenshawe but, having also suffered a stroke, was eventually thought to have a very poor prognosis and the decision was made to switch his life support machine off.

Philippa said: “The more I talk about it the angrier I get, that something as simple as that could lead to his death.”

However, Philippa also spoke of the many good times from their 17-year marriage, the couple having tied the knot a year after they met in a pub in Kendal where Alan was staying while working as a plumbing and heating engineer and she was working behind the bar.

He introduced her to several of his hobbies which he pursued with a passion and has even passed some of his petrolhead enthusiasms on to his granddaughter.

Philippa said: “He absolutely adored motorbikes.

“We went to watch the racing at circuits and we took our granddaughter to Oulton Park every year. She came to her first one aged three and loved it.

“The first time I rode on the back of his motorcycle we went to Kirkby Lonsdale. It rained and then hailstoned and by the time we got back I was soaked to the skin. Alan thought I would never ride with him again but I absolutely loved it.

“His other passion was fishing, which he only started about three years ago. He would go out at 5am as dawn was breaking and not come home until 5pm or 6pm.

“He was also a doorman at Wigan Roller Rink when he was young and we went to a reunion. He hadn’t skated for about 20 years and tried to do the things he used to, like backwards skating and turns. All of a sudden he just went down on the floor.

“He sat up, said he had had enough and crawled off the rink.”

Alan’s exploits in the front row on the rugby pitch are equally fondly remembered at the club where he played a five-year stint in the 1980s.

One favourite story concerns an elaborate dive to celebrate scoring a try only to find it was an artificial surface rather than grass.

On behalf of Shevington Sharks club chairman Ian Robinson and vice-chair Steve Dillon prepared a tribute which read: “Everyone at Shevington Sharks was devastated to hear the news of Alan ‘Big Al’ Alderson’s death.

“Alan played for the Sharks and never gave anything but 100 per cent on the pitch.

“He was a larger-than-life character who had a very infectious personality. He was popular with all the players and staff.

“He was in his element when he was with the lads and some of his antics, especially in training, had them in stitches.

“He was and remained a Shevington lad, taking great pride in representing the Sharks.

“He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Big Al.”

Alan had lived in Shevington since he was 21, having moved aged one to the borough and been brought up in Beech Hill.

He is survived by Philippa and his older siblings Margaret, Dorothy and Stephen. He was also close to Philippa’s two children Billy and Paula and their five children.