ONE of the Huddersfield Green movement's most dynamic and best-known figures and, say local environmentalists, its lynchpin, died last week at the age of 67.

"Gentle giant" Ian McCourtie, of Far Bank, Shelley, established Kirklees' own environmental charity.

He also represented the Green Party in local and general elections and spearheaded community work and environmental campaigns locally, nationally and internationally.

Mr McCourtie, a former Honley High School pupil and law graduate at St Peter's College, Oxford, was born in Huddersfield.

He had taken early retirement from his job as an English teacher at Salendine Nook High School to dedicate more time to environmental activism and green politics.

He was an early supporter of Greenpeace in Huddersfield and a founder member of the town's Green Party. He was set to stand for the Greens in Dewsbury for the second time in the forthcoming General Election.

Mr McCourtie lent his Morris Minor Traveller for Huddersfield's green movement's first waste paper collections in Golcar, Newsome and Edgerton in the early 1980s.

In the 1987 General Election he encouraged youthful Greens to stand as the party's first local candidates and acted as their agent and mentor.

Party members believe he also provided the "anonymous" donations which paid their deposits.

That same year he launched Huddersfield Friends of the Earth, to coincide with Kirklees Council's landmark State of the Environment Report, produced in collaboration with FoE.

As part of the campaign, he organised Huddersfield's largest-ever public meeting on environmental issues.

The speaker was Jonathan Porritt, then co-ordinator of national FoE, and he filled the main auditorium of the town hall.

Mr McCourtie took the role of water campaigner in the emerging local group, reflecting his passion for conservation of seas, rivers, and canals.

He was also involved in Waterwatch, Riverwatch, the RSPB, Kirklees Environment Partnership and the Otter Trust.

For several years, he lived on a narrowboat named Caroline. But he gave up the life on the water he loved to care for his mother at home in Shelley.

The long-time treasurer of Huddersfield Green Party stood in local and general elections, mainly in the Dewsbury area - his preferred canalside mooring.

In 1989, disillusioned by FoE's refusal to allow the local group to spend the money it raised in Kirklees, Mr McCourtie established Kirklees Friends of the Environment - now UK Friends of the Environment, a registered charity.

He was its treasurer until his death.

River clean-ups and restoration projects were his speciality and Snow Island, Spen Beck, the Colne, Holme and Calder rivers, the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal, Huddersfield Broad and Narrow canals, Kilner Bank and Grimscar Woods all benefited.

John Phillips, of Huddersfield Green Party, said: "I doubt there's a waterway in Kirklees which Ian didn't make it his business to champion and improve. But he also championed the forgotten corners of our urban environment."

Mr McCourtie - an imposing 6ft 7in - was a former basketball and rugby player.

He was also a keen writer ands shortly before his death had been working on the final draft of a historical novel set in Scotland.

Mr McCourtie leaves his mother, Phyllis Irene, and sisters Roselle and Pim.

His funeral is at 3pm tomorrow at Rose Hill Green Burial Ground, Birkby Hall Road, Birkby.