IN the second of our monthly articles on the work of Morpeth Lions Club to celebrate its 40th anniversary, member CHRIS OFFORD looks back at the Street Market and the Mayorathon, now called LionSwim. These both took place around this time of the year.
THE Lions’ Street Market was a major event and took some considerable manpower.
It started about four to five weeks before the event with a request for goods posted through the doors of the majority of the houses in Morpeth.
Nowadays, we are all inundated with plastic bags from charities wanting such items as household goods, clothes, shoes and books.
Twenty or so years ago this did not happen and the Lions’ annual collection was one of the few comprehensive collections of such goods in Morpeth at that time. We looked for all the items you put in charity bags today, together with furniture, carpets and electrical goods.
Lions followed up the leaflet drop with collections around seven to 10 days before the Market. As you can imagine, storage was a concern, but for several years, the Boys Brigade generously let us use their building in Manchester Street.
It was amazing how much was stored there in every spare nook and cranny. In later years, we used the milk depot opposite the station. It is hard to believe this now, but many residents saved up items for us for months before our Street Market.
On an invariably wet, windy and cold day, the Street Market was held in Back Riggs and part of the adjacent car park – where the Sanderson Arcade and bus station are now.
Not only did we sell goods, but we gave a delivery service in Morpeth on bulky items. We opened at 9am, but you could guarantee customers would be there from 8am onwards looking for bargains, particularly those with ‘antique shops’.
We soon learnt that when a dealer was keen on an article then it must have some extra value. What was left over on the day went to charity shops, or as a very last resort, to the tip.
The Street Market was not without incident. We suffered a little from shoplifters.
All our shoes were in pairs and one year Lion Stan Sullivan noticed that one of a pair was missing.
He spent the rest of the day looking for a one-legged person with a matching shoe.
Once when the pick-up van was out delivering, it was getting flashed by headlights of cars going down Castle Bank.
They thought they had better stop and got out to see part of a three-piece suite on castors heading for Goosehill School.
Why did we stop having the Street Market? A combination of factors came into play.
When storing at the Milk Depot we were burgled of some decent furniture.
Other charities started their regular bag collections for smaller items and there was far less available.
But most of all, the regulations on what we could sell, particularly on furniture and electrical goods, got far too onerous, so we called it a day in the late 1990s.
In its time, it was a tremendous source of funding, for example £2,600 was raised in 1990. However, it did mean a considerable commitment of manpower for that month.
In subsequent years, it was replaced as a fund-raiser by the Mayorathon or LionSwim as it is now known.
On one Saturday we take over Morpeth Swimming Pool and invite teams to see how many lengths they can swim in 55 minutes. Every team can get its own sponsorship – they keep half the money and the other half is handed to the Lions for charitable purposes.
It is mostly a mixture of clubs, Scouts, Guides and schools that take part. In the early days, we had Lions and Lions’ partners teams, but it has become so popular we cannot now get a swimming lane for ourselves. We do get and are grateful for local sponsors who help finance the event.
Over the years, Morpeth Swimming Club usually achieves the most lengths, but the Karate Club has come out on top on a couple of occasions.
The team getting the most sponsorship is invariably the Early Birds, a not so young team who swim most days in the early morning at the Morpeth pool.