Tributes paid to charismatic Nigel

Date published: 23 January 2014

TRIBUTES have been paid to acclaimed local theatre director, rugby commentator and former teacher Nigel Marland, who has died aged 65.

Mr Marland, who had heart problems, was one of the founders of the modern Lyceum Players in Oldham and was a very popular amateur actor and pantomime dame before concentrating on directing.

At one time heavily involved in the work of Oldham Theatre Workshop, he helped to nurture the talents of many young actors who went on to stage and TV success, and was a favourite of thousands of pupils at Hathershaw School over the years.

TV star Suranne Jones, from Chadderton, said: “I knew Nigel as I worked at the Lyceum Theatre when I was very young. He was a kind, generous spirit who loved the Lyceum and all who worked there.”

A lifelong Oldham Rugby League fan, Nigel was the matchday announcer at the club, editor of the matchday programme, chairman of the Oldham Roughyeds’ Supporters’ Association and was instrumental in forming the Squad Strengthener scheme to help fund players.

In the early days of hospital radio, he was part of the team that commentated from the old Watersheddings ground. Chris Hamilton, chairman of Oldham RL, said: “He was an effervescent character, very committed and put an awful lot of time and effort into what he did.

“Nigel was a close friend, somebody I could always rely on, and he had a devilish sense of humour which lightened any situation. He will be sadly missed.”

Mr Marland, who lived in Stoneleigh Street, Derker, first joined the Lyceum Theatre at 14 — telling his parents it would be a quiet place to do homework — but he really wanted to play snooker there.

At 18, he went to Leicester University to study politics and became the youngest chairman of the Oldham Liberal Association.

After his degree, he completed teacher training and started working at St Luke’s Primary, Chadderton, before moving to the now-demolished Greenhill School and then Hathershaw, where he taught maths and history.

He became an assistant head teacher at Hathershaw before a heart problem forced him to retire 14 years ago, before the first of two heart operations.

He was part of the group which was instrumental in regenerating the Lyceum Players, along with fellow teacher Mike Russell, who said: “Nigel will leave a long and tangible legacy, firstly in the lives of all those pupils he taught at Hathershaw. They were entranced by his wit, personality and unique teaching style.

“Secondly, in the time and effort he put into Oldham rugby and thirdly in the contribution he made to amateur dramatics in Oldham as an actor and as a director.

“He joined a failing scheme in 1971 and led a team which built the Lyceum up to the reputation it enjoys today. There will be a lot of people shocked at his passing.”

Mr Marland died at Wythenshawe Hospital on Tuesday after being admitted several weeks ago with heart problems. He leaves his brother, John, and sister-in-law, Gail.

Lorna Philip, deputy head teacher at Hathershaw, said: “Nigel was a hugely charismatic character and teacher. If we all compile our Nigel Marland stories it would certainly be a best seller. We are grateful for the contribution he made to so many lives.”