A FITTING toast to one of Britain’s greatest naval heroes has taken place at his Morpeth home.
About 50 well-wishers gathered outside Collingwood House in Oldgate on Friday to raise a glass of ‘grog’ to Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood, hero of Trafalgar.
It was Lord Collingwood who led the British fleet to victory in the famous battle after the death of his friend and comrade Horatio Nelson.
But while the great man has traditionally been honoured with canon fire in Tynemouth on the anniversary of Trafalgar, there has been nothing to mark the occasion in the town he called home.
That all changed on Friday when the Morpeth Clocktower Bellringers sounded the bells in his honour, before Mayor Phil Taylor led the tribute.
He said: “The statue of Vice-Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood situated in Tynemouth, looking out for his nation, is well- known. Looking out for his nation is something he did throughout his whole life as a naval office and latterly as a diplomat, guarding and preserving the interest of Britain and its people.
“For that he deserves our acknowledgement and gratitude.
“But to us here now, gathered in Morpeth, gathered on Northumbrian soil, on the doorstep of his beloved home, he is one of our own — a local lad who did our region proud by his achievements and his example, and for that too he deserves our acknowledgement.”
He added: “Inevitably, the name of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson is widely commemorated on this day, but we should recall that it was Collingwood’s ship, HMS Sovereign, that first broke the Spanish line, and that it was Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood who oversaw the final victory.”
The Mayor raised a glass to Collingwood and led three cheers in his name.
Onlookers were given glasses of home-made ‘grog’, consisting of ginger beer, rum and limeade, to join in the toast, while an alcohol-free drink was provided for 22 youngsters from St Robert’s RC First School to take part.
The pupils also received acorns, remembering Collingwood’s tendency to scatter them throughout the area to grow oaks for British shipbuilding.
Parish priest Fr Lawrence Jones agreed to open Collingwood House, the current presbytery, for visitors to see where the Admiral lived.
And Fr James Doherty, who grew up in Morpeth and has now retired to the presbytery, was delighted to host the guests and play his part in the tribute.
“I think it is a great idea,” he said.
“It is good to see so many of the Morpeth people coming along for the toast and to see inside the house. It’s a bit awesome to know that such a wonderful man lived here.”
It is hoped that the toast will now become an annual tradition.