THE final whistle has sounded at the age of 85, for a former prominent Skipton sportsman who would later strike a wealth of harmonious chords in the arts and entertainment World.

An immensely popular personality with an impish sense of humour, Michael 'Mickey' Bell grew up at the Royal Oak Hotel, where his father Sammy, himself a former pre-war class act athlete was landlord.

Thus it would be no surprise that Mickey and older brother, Roy,would embrace the sporting ethos from an early age.

Mickey's life-long same age pal was a near neighbour, Melvyn Hawkins, who himself had passed away only recently. This sporty duo who were two of the earliest arrivals at the gym, when Skipton's "Mr Boxing" George Pendle" - a former star - endeavoured to revive that sport after the Second World War. Indeed the two ambitious young schoolboys boxed on Skipton's first revived show to be staged under A.B.A rules, at the Drill Hall in 1950.

Melvyn would continue to pursue his boxing career- eventually to a high level - but as the pair progressed through Ermysted's - Mickey became more engrossed in athletics and rugby where he shone luxuriantly in both codes. Indeed, besides other eminent achievements in athletics, predominantly as a sprinter and long - jumper - he reached the Yorkshire finals in both these disciplines and won a medal in the latter event.

His pace was also an asset on the rugby field where he proceeded to play first team rugby for Skipton when the "Reds" figured against some of the strongest clubs in the North.

Huge crowds were very much the order in that early 1950's era. And, despite the games invariably featuring as a physical war of attrition, "Tricky Mickey" - as he had often been known ever since his boxing days - was never short of bringing many smiles through his own indigenous brand of show-boating during the heat of the contest. Very much then a sign of things to come, in his eventual employment and vocational career.

Firstly though after leaving Ermysted's and fulfilling National Service, Mickey's sporting attributes earned him a place at Loughborough where he continued to excel in athletics and Rugby. And he also played first team rugby for Bedford.

Meanwhile,throughout his sporting career he also maintained a similar passion for the theatre world, which is where he found his niche in employment.

A talented actor and star of the dance floor, Mickey became a drama adviser - and late in life he gained his Equity card.

Indeed on one special occasion he managed to combine both his prime social passions, an occasion which would illuminate much of the entire nation.

Ubiquitous colourful character that he was, Mickey entered the first ever London Marathon, which in its inaugural staging in 1980, was almost entirely contested, purely by thousands of sports attired competitors. Except for just one Michael Bell and a couple of others.

The Skipton revered star ran the entire distance with an effigy of Prince Charles on his shoulders. This being at a time when His Royal Highness was himself enjoying almost pop star status. And later contact with the Prince, revealed that Mickey's enterprise and ingenuity had brought smiles and laughter to the entire household.

Mickey Bell, thus, from Royal Oak to Royal approval, a befitting appraisal of a son of Skipton, who proceeded to light up lives galore!

Roger Ingham