JOHN RUSHTON, the leading Ryedale historian and author, has died after losing his battle against cancer.

Renowned for his great wealth of knowledge about North Yorkshire’s history and heritage, Mr Rushton lived for many years in Pickering and was a prominent lecturer for the Workers’ Educational Association.

Mr Rushton was a prominent author of many historical reference books especially featuring northern Ryedale and only last month his vast collection of research was presented to the Ryedale Folk Museum’s new library and education centre.

He studied at University College and the London School of Economics before moving to Ryedale in 1959 to work for the WEA. In 2005 he was awarded the MBE for his services to the community in Ryedale.

His part-time work included barrel organ singing, time and motion study and carrying a sandwich board, he once recalled in an interview.

Mr Rushton was a tutor organiser for the WEA and developed local studies in several towns and villages in north east Yorkshire.

His annual local history exhibition in Pickering led to the formation of the Beck Isle Museum. For many years he was well-known for his appearance at Pickering carnivals in outrageous costumes.

A newspaper columnist, he also penned village pantomimes as well as the Pickering pageants.

His works as an author included several books featuring Yorkshire in the reign of Elizabeth I.

He was a former president of the Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society and was a key member of the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre.

One of his ambitions was to see a Museum of the Seaside created in Scarborough.

Tony Clark, chairman of Ryedale Folk Museum, in a tribute to Mr Rushton, said his enthusiasm for history and his knowledge of local history had been an inspiration to many people.

He said: “We were delighted that he should have chosen the Folk Museum to be the home of his vast collection of works because they will be a wonderful asset to students and researchers.

“John was a wonderful man to know and will be sadly missed by very many people throughout North Yorkshire.”