Hundreds of tributes to popular resident

Ray had a number of hobbies, one of which was growing show leeks. He is pictured above with trophies won at a Wansbeck Leek Show.

Ray had a number of hobbies, one of which was growing show leeks. He is pictured above with trophies won at a Wansbeck Leek Show.

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A man who was well known for his success in the Morpeth Olympic Games, among other things, has died.

Raymond (Ray) Surtees was a popular teacher and was a member of a number of clubs and societies. He lived in a house on the Kirkhill estate for much of his life.

Ray Surtees crosses the finish line to win the 120 yards sprint at the 1948 Morpeth Olympic Games.

Ray Surtees crosses the finish line to win the 120 yards sprint at the 1948 Morpeth Olympic Games.

After being admitted to hospital two weeks before his death, he died with his family around him on March 25 at the age of 84. He leaves wife Margaret, children Michael, Lorraine and Adele and six grandchildren.

St Mary’s Church was packed for his funeral, which took place last week.

Mr Surtees lived in quite a few Northumberland towns growing up as his father was a policeman. He eventually came to live in the Court House at Morpeth and attended Morpeth Grammar School.

In July 1948, aged 18, he won a gold medal and £150 as the winner of the 120 yards sprint on a grass track at the Morpeth Olympics – the venue was Grange House Field. Only two Morpeth men won the race in the 20th Century as it was a big event that attracted runners from across the UK and abroad.

Mrs Surtees said she found it amazing that many years after the event, a lot of people were still coming up to her husband when they were out in Morpeth to talk to him about his success.

Later in 1948, Mr Surtees did his national service with the RAF as a motor transport driver.

At the age of 22, he went to Trinity College in Carmarthen, Wales, where he graduated in 1954 with a general teacher’s certificate with a special course in physical education.

He was a very good dancer and he met his wife in a ballroom in Newcastle.

Mr Surtees started his teaching career at Seaton Burn Secondary School and left in December 1959, when he got married. The following January, he took up a post at Longhirst Hall Approved School and his first home with his wife was in Longhirst village.

The couple moved to Kirkhill in 1962 when he took up the post of deputy head back at Seaton Burn. Their children were born between 1966 and 1969.

He became headteacher at Bedlington Station Secondary School in March 1969. Unfortunately, this building was mainly built of wood and during one very windy night, it burnt down, so in 1974 he was appointed headteacher at West Sleekburn Middle School, where he stayed until he retired.

Together with an excellent staff, he ran a well disciplined and successful school and he was liked by many of the pupils. Tributes have been paid by a number of former students in letters, the book of condolences and on Facebook.

Mr Surtees served for 30 years as a magistrate and he became a chairman of the bench.

He was a member of Morpeth Operatic Society in its heyday and he was a member of Bedlington Rotary Club for more than 25 years.

He played cricket, golf and bowls and his other hobbies and interests included photography, growing bedding plants and the theatre. He also had a lot of fun with his friends competing in the growing of show leeks.

Mr Surtees was a caring person and he was at the centre of a happy and united family.

In the autumn of 2009, he had two strokes and this was the start of a gradual decline in his health. Mrs Surtees said that she and her husband were extremely grateful throughout his long illness for the care and support they received from their immediate family, relatives, close friends and neighbours.

She also thanked all those who have passed on their condolences to the family since his death.