RETIRED journalist, author and waterways enthusiast Bob Clarke, who was known as 'Mr Kinver', has died at the age of 80.

A respected authority on the South Staffordshire village he’d called home for many years – Mr Clarke kept a watchful eye on Kinver in his role as Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator and his unfailing ability to keep his ear to the ground ensured any matters of public interest soon became news headlines even after he'd retired from full-time journalism.

"He wasn't frightened of ruffling feathers," said Chris Dyche, treasurer of the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal Society, who had known Bob for many years through their shared passion for waterways.

In fact it was partly Bob's penchant for ruffling feathers that helped to prevent the planned closure of much of the country's canal network back in the 1960s.

Bob was press officer for the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society, which took on the British Transport Commission to force a government rethink of its policy of allowing the canals to decline and close.

The gutsy group of waterways enthusiasts defied the authorities and risked arrest to clear a section of the Stourbridge canal to allow a rally of nearly 100 boats in 1962 to call for the halting of plans that would have turned the canals into "a series of disconnected duckponds" according to Bob.

He always maintained if it hadn't been for the rally, which became known as the Battle of Stourbridge, "canals would have disappeared from the landscape".

Stourbridge News:

Mr Dyche said: "That was a turning point nationally for our waterways system.

"If the battle had been lost we wouldn’t have the canal system we have today – without a shadow of a doubt bureaucracy would have won. The Stourbridge town arm would have been a road. There were councillors who wanted to extend the ring road to the back of the A449."

He described Bob as "an excellent campaigner" and said: "He wasn’t frightened to say what he thought and wasn’t frightened to upset management and bureaucrats.

“I’d got a lot of respect for him because he always stuck to his guns. He was a very honest reporter. He had his own principles of what he thought was right.

"Bob wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea but his heart was in the right place - and from a waterways point of view he will be sorely missed. We haven't got his like today - people are too politically correct."

During his long career as a journalist - Bob worked on the Dudley Herald, the Express and Star, the Worcester Evening News and the Birmingham Mail.

Kinver based retired press photographer Graham Gough, aged 76, a former colleague of Bob's from his days on the Dudley Herald, described him as a "really good journalist" and said: "He would never miss a story - and he'd never let anybody else miss one."

Bob, of Jenks Avenue, also did PR for the old MEB and wrote numerous local history books including Kinver in Old Photographs, Kinver and Enville Collection: The Photographic Collection, Kinver Through Time, and an official guide to the rock houses at Kinver Edge where he'd been a keen volunteer for many years.

John Sharkey, secretary of the Kinver Edge Committee, said: "Bob was totally committed to Kinver Edge and the rock houses. He wrote two books 'Holy Austin Rock - from Ruin to Restoration' and 'Kinver Edge - A Gift to the Nation' which have been little earners for us.

"He was totally committed to Kinver - he was very much Mr Kinver."

Bob also wrote regularly for monthly waterways magazine Towpath Talk and Waterways World - and owned his own narrowboat Nemesis for many years.

However - his health declined rapidly after the death of his beloved wife Valerie, who lost her battle with cancer in July 2015, and he moved away from Kinver to be with his daughter in recent months before losing his own fight against the disease on May 9.

He leaves two children Rachel and Richard - and four grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at St Peter’s Church, Kinver, tomorrow (Thursday May 26) at 2.30pm followed by committal at Stourbridge Crematorium.

Donations will go to Cancer Research UK.