Bronze bust will honour naval hero

A BRONZE bust of Morpeth maritime hero Admiral Lord Collingwood will officially be unveiled next month.

The £4,000 sculpture has been commissioned to occupy a prime spot in Morpeth Town Hall in recognition of the ’Northumbrian who saved the nation’.

Admiral Collingwood had a long and distinguished career in the Navy, but he is most famous for leading the British fleet to victory at Trafalgar following the death of his friend and colleague Lord Nelson.

Major celebrations were held in Morpeth and across the region to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle in 2005 and in particular recognise Collingwood’s contribution.

And it has become a tradition to raise a toast to the admiral outside his Collingwood House home in Oldgate on Trafalgar Day.

Now a permanent reminder of the great man will take pride of place in the Town Hall.

The bust is made from the same cast as a Collingwood statue in Menorca, where he was based in later life, and was paid for through a public appeal organised by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust.

Morpeth Town Council and the Friends of Morpeth Museum each gave £900 for a plinth.

The bust will be unveiled during a day of events on Thursday, March 7, marking the anniversary of Collingwood’s death in 1810.

There will be a service at St James the Great Church in Copper Chare at 10.45am, followed by the official unveiling of the bust in the Butter Market of the Town Hall at noon.

A civic reception will then take place in the Ballroom for invited guests, including Royal Navy personnel from HMS Collingwood and HMS Calliope, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland Iain Moffat, visitors from Menorca and members of the recently formed Collingwood Society.

Throughout the afternoon three talks about the life of Admiral Collingwood will be given in the Corn Exchange and there will be guided tours of Collingwood House.

There will also be traditional music and dancing, and rum-flavoured grog will be served.

Morpeth Flower Club will be making arrangements on a nautical theme to decorate the Town Hall.

Morpeth Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner said: “British people tend not to be very good about singing their own praises, but it is good that local prominent people from history are recognised and their contributions are not forgotten.

“We really are trying to involve the Royal Navy as much as possible in the Collingwood bust unveiling, but it is also for the people of Morpeth.

“All of the events are free, people just have to turn up on the day.

“It should be a lovely celebration.”

Admiral Collingwood was born in Newcastle in September 1748 and first went to sea at the age of 12, gradually rising through the ranks.

He married Sarah Blackett in 1791 and the couple moved to Morpeth, where they had two daughters.

Collingwood enjoyed nothing more than wandering along the banks of the Wansbeck, where he would scatter acorns to grow oaks for Royal Navy ships.

He said: “Whenever I think how I am to be happy again, my thoughts carry me back to Morpeth.”

After Trafalgar Collingwood was appointed Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean fleet, but he asked to be allowed to return home. His request was declined on the grounds that his country needed him, but in 1809 his health deteriorated and finally Collingwood was given permission to return to England. Sadly, he never made the journey and died just out of Port Mahon in Menorca.