HE was the head of the historic family coal empire and a beloved husband, father and grandfather. 

Brian Sibley, a well-known and much-loved face around Nursling and Rownhams, the villages where he spent his entire life, has died aged 83.

Familiar to many as the generous coal man who would give you the coat off of his back, even if it was always covered in soot, he leaves his wife Sandra, four children Claire, James, Amy and Katie, and ten grandchildren. 

Daily Echo: A 90s picture of Brian and Sandra Sibley with daughters Amy and Katie

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Brian was also known for his vintage vehicles, a 1927 Rolls Royce is still rolled out for special occasions. His 1937 Albion lorry became an icon in its own right, travelling to rallies all over the country, including Netley Marsh, and loading up with family and friends each Christmas to travel around the village for carol singing and mince pies. 

Open days at the firm's yard in Toothill were a must visit, with steam engines, vintage vehicles, toys, sewing machines and other memorabilia.

Brian loved history and had a passion for the area, writing two books about Nursling and Rownhams, serving on the parish council and launching The Village News.

Daily Echo: Brian and his brother Ron as children

Involved in the 135-year-old family firm E.J. Sibley all his life, Brian and his siblings Evelyn, Pam and Ron, were born to Marjorie and Emuel.

Brian went to Rownhams School then Eastleigh Grammar School. Working briefly in a drawing office in Winchester, Brian soon felt the call of the family business and thrived as a coal man. 

He would drive lorries down to Nursling Station to collect the coal, load up and then deliver come rain or shine, regularly giving extra to those in need, particularly during post-war rationing and financial hardship. 

Daily Echo: Coal man Brian Sibley

Since 1972, the family has lived at Toothill, on a site on the edge of Mountbatten’s Broadlands Estate which served as the headquarters of Sibley's. The business moved there when the cutting of the M27 led to the compulsory purchase of the nearby previous location for the business, started by Brian’s great great grandfather Steve House in 1888 and made a limited company by his father Emuel James.

Brian's funeral will take place at St John's Church in Rownhams on Friday September 8 at 2pm. All are welcome. 

Daily Echo: A recent picture of Brian with his wife Sandra