A busy season of fun and fund-raising

Rhona Dunn with the Duchess of Northumberland at the opening of the Children's Garden of Light and Remembrance.
Rhona Dunn with the Duchess of Northumberland at the opening of the Children's Garden of Light and Remembrance.


Every year the Morpeth Rotary Christmas season is launched by a charity fund-raising collection at Morrison’s and a Christmas Concert with Ellington Colliery Brass Band.

This year a different event was added by the club’s first lady President Rhona Dunn, with the Morpeth Rotary ‘Tree of Light’, supported by Sanderson Arcade, the Morpeth Herald and other local businesses.

Twenty six members took part in the Morrison’s collection over four days from mid-November. They raised £1,500, which was up on last year. Rhona sent a letter of thanks to the Herald.

The concert, with around 160 guests, was conducted as usual by the Brass Band Musical Director Jonathan Fenwick. There were a number of solos from band members, including John Colvine, Principal Cornet and Business Manager. John has played with the band for more than 40 years. It was its first formal Christmas concert of the season.

The concert was introduced by new Rotary member Bob Kendal, and started with a Christmas Fantasy, mainly of carols. It was followed by some music from 1582 with a version of Gaudete Christus est natus, using an arrangement from 1973. There was participation throughout, with the audience joining in with carols from the Methodist hymn book.

John played solo in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, before the band moved into pop culture with Fairytale of New York, first sung by Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl in 1987. This is a Jonathan favourite as he was born in that year. It has been in the Christmas top 20 in every year since 2005.

Other numbers were When a Child is Born and Do they Know It’s Christmas, which completed the first half. This last song was the biggest selling single of all time in the UK in 1997, has been number one in 13 countries and has been re-released three times.

After the interval there was a medley of Christmas songs, including the 12 Days of Christmas, written in 1780, with the audience trying hard to remember the words, and the protest song Stop the Cavalry that got to third top in the charts of 1980. John Colvine led the baritone section in Trumpet Voluntary, which was followed by Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, written in the summer of 1945 in an effort to feel cool during the US hot weather.

There was then the up tempo Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, The Kingdom Triumphant by Eric Ball, ex-Salvation Army Bandmaster and composer, and finally a rocking band encore of Merry Chistmas Everybody.

Rhona Dunn thanked the audience, the band, the Methodist Church and the ladies of Morpeth Inner Wheel who served the refreshments.

The Christmas ‘Tree of Light’ was launched as a new venture on November 14 by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Dr Caroline Pryor, Mayor of Morpeth Alison Byard, MP Ian Lavery, Methodist Minister Gary Ridley and Rhona. The aim was for people to celebrate and remember loved ones by adding a light and a message to the tree and the book of celebration while donating to three charities.

A Children’s Garden of Light and Remembrance beside the tree was opened by the Duchess of Northumberland on a cold and rainy December Saturday next to four reindeers, Rotary District Governor Terry Long and his wife, Medi Parry of Sanderson Arcade and Rhona.

A local singer who had been entertaining the crowds of shoppers at the arcade made a special trip to Rhona’s house to drop off his donation.

So far the tree and local people have raised over £2,000 to be shared between Barnabas Safe and Sound, the Great North Air Ambulance Service and Cancer Research.

The last event before Christmas was the Rotary Christmas Message, with a festive meal for members and invited guests and a thought for the season from Mike Willis, the Pastor of the New Life Christian Centre at Morpeth.

President Rhona gave a summary of charity fund-raising so far in the Rotary year, and other top table guests spoke. Mayor Alison Byard said she had often shared fund-raising activities with Rhona, starting with a terrifying sponsored zip wire run down a very deep quarry in Wales.

Rotary District Governor Terry Long, of Alnwick Rotary Club, thanked Morpeth for its 78 years of new projects and innovation, and for helping with the Rotary world effort to get rid of polio worldwide, which was now down to less than 400 cases.

Mike Willis said he was from the Medway in Kent, but moved to Morpeth 24 years ago. While he was working as an accountant with a large corporation, he felt a call from God and went on to work with young people. He was asked to lead his church from September 2008, which was around the time of serious local flooding and lots for the church to do. His message was that he did not want us to lose the real meaning of Christmas. He wanted us to praise God by having faith, but to match that by working with others to do good works to help people in need.

Throughout the event, Debbie, a talented local musician, had played the harp beautifully. She was given the £324 proceeds from a Christmas raffle towards the expensive new harp she has to have for her university course.

The evening finished with carols, accompanied on the keyboard by Morpeth solicitor Michael Gaunt. The wish for members, guests and the community was for a lovely Christmas and a peaceful New Year.