Rotarian recalls his life in Boys Brigade

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A SPECIAL meeting of Morpeth Rotary Club welcomed local people who had been presented Rotary’s highest honour – a Paul Harris Fellowship.

Not everyone could attend, but those present were Les English and Gillian Irvine, as well as club members Alan Clark, Barry Swan, John Pringle, Rhona Dunn, Jim Dunn, Simon Foley, Jim Miller and George Strachan.

Representing members now sadly deceased were Sheila, the wife of Jack King, and Jim Mackay’s daughter Elizabeth.

Paul Harris founded the organisation in 1905. Rotary clubs qualify for award fellowships according to the amount of money they raise for international and local charity work year by year.

The entertainment was provided by Morpeth Rotary Club’s Junior Vice-President Jim Dunn, who had been awarded his fellowship before he became a member when working at the Morpeth flood relief furniture warehouse.

He gave an interesting talk about parts of his life and work linked to the Boys Brigade (BB), football and some of the jobs he has done.

He was born at North Seaton Colliery Village in Single Row where cold running water and outside flush toilets were installed when he was 11. The posh houses were in Double Row, but most houses were pulled down when the colliery closed in 1967/68.

When he was three, his dad started a BB Company and so Jim was very active in the organisation from then up to eight years ago when he retired from the Morpeth Company, although he is still Vice-President.

The highlight of the BB year was the annual camp along with camping weekends. His first international camp was when he was 15, on the playing fields of Eton, where it rained and rained. It included a parade of 2,500 lads through London for a service at Westminster Hall and back by a torchlight parade in the rain through Windsor Castle.

Jim’s first international BB trip was aged 19 with a week each in Austria and Switzerland along with three other lads from North Seaton Colliery. BB is the oldest uniformed organisation in Morpeth and so it always leads the Mayor’s Parade.

After a course at Stocksfield, he was a unit training officer for 20 years and met his wife Rhona there as she was a keen BB supporter. At school, he did well on the Junior then Senior football teams and was invited to trials for a Sheffield club by a football scout. He said he couldn’t go as he was going to the BB annual camp.

Jim failed the 11+ and after leaving school at 15 with no exam passes, he got a job doing woodwork with a builder. He then moved to the building section at the new Co-op in Newbiggin with a day release to college.

He did well at college and went on to teach construction, completing ONC and HNC qualifications at night classes. He was at college for over 26 years, starting as an assistant lecturer on £510 a year.

It was hoped that Jim would talk about the rest of his life story later in the year.