IN 63 years as a journalist covering everything - including the battle of High Moor landfill and thousands of other stories - there is one assignment I struggle with.

That is writing a eulogy or tribute to the amazing people whose lives and times I’ve been proud to share over the years in this very unique part of Britain. Just how do you find appropriate words to cover the breadth and community feeling for a man who is a legend?

Because Police Constable 4991 Martin Warburton is in every sense just that.

Warby, his universally-loved name, was a giant of a man. Big in statue, huge in personality, warmth, kindness and humour. And, as Mick Nield of Oldham Mountain Rescue says, Martin’s way of policing was like he was in a scene from the TV series, Heartbeat.

In my early days on Warby’s patch, I quickly discovered there was the due process of law ... and Warby’s law.

For example, I needed to speak him on an inquiry. I rang Oldham police headquarters and asked for him by name. The lady switchboard operator said affectionately: “Hang on sir, he may be out collecting sheep in the back of the police Land Rover...”

Over a pint sometime later, I asked him about his early days and what moulded him as a young copper. He told me how on patrol in Oldham town centre he watched a teenager push a toddler off a kiddies' roundabout.

It just wasn’t right, said Martin. So he walked over and as the ride finished he told the teenager to stay put.

Martin said I put some more money in the slot and the lad went round again and again. I kept on doing it until the boy was completely sick of the ride...

Then, his bright blue eyes twinkling, he said: “I don’t think that young ‘un will be pushing any little un’s off rides again do you Kenneth?”

Yes, Warby’s law.

And another snapshot: A mini-van laden with a bunch of local lads who had over imbibed with a gallon of three of the falling down lotion, was wending it’s way slowly homeward only to be pulled over by Warby.

Later, in hushed tones, the driver who told me what happened next said when he was stopped his whole life flashed before him. Warby asked him to close my eyes saying take deep breath and blow into this...

Martin produced a a balloon from behind his back and the driver blew into it. Then he steered them home.

The driver said he never drove again with a drink inside him.

Warby’s law again ...

Everyone in Saddleworth has their own, very special treasured memories of Warby none more so than his loving, grieving family: Daughters Lisa and Deborah and grandchildren Sam and granddaughter Ashleigh and Joseph and two great grandchildren Angus and Mabel, and partners Gabriel and Adam.

But they can take comfort and be immensely proud they are part of Martin’s indelible fabric adding to the rich tapestry of Saddleworth’s colourful history.

Martin was as dependable as our dry stone walls. And the police describe him with great affection as ‘a cornerstone of community policing.’

He served more than 25 years as an officer and, as a tribute to his quiet burning passion for the community, a retirement apartment block built opposite the police station in Uppermill, was named Warburton Court in his honour.

Cllr John Hudson, a former mayor Oldham, who has seen four spells as chair of Saddleworth parish council, said Martin was very low key about it.

He told me: “Martin was a truly wonderful police officer. A great representative for police and the whole community. He was respected by everyone and balanced being a good policeman with great care for people.”

And, as a tuning fork of the community, the public outpouring social media described Warby as "a one off" and a "great character". One lady summed up the feelings by saying in a post: “He was the epitome of a community bobby. He knew everyone and everything that was going on. He was firm when he needed to be and also kind when needed.

“He had a great sense of humour and fun but we all felt safer when he was around.”

Amen to that.

Police Constable 4991 Martin Warburton you are indeed a true man of the people, and on behalf of the people of Saddleworth, we salute you and your memory.

A service celebrating Martin’s life will take place on Friday (January 10) at Saddleworth St Chad's Church, at 12.30pm, followed by drinks in The Church Inn