Community response to flood

Rhona Dunn, Brian Gott, Les Brindley and Elphin Conroy pictured in 2010 with Kit and Ian Johnson, when the couple returned to live in their home in Collingwood Terrace.
Rhona Dunn, Brian Gott, Les Brindley and Elphin Conroy pictured in 2010 with Kit and Ian Johnson, when the couple returned to live in their home in Collingwood Terrace.

A big community effort was organised to support those hit by the major Morpeth flood 10 years ago in addition to the efforts of the then Castle Morpeth Borough Council.

Morpeth Lions Club undertook responsibility for fund-raising and communications and Morpeth Rotary Club looked after the collection and distribution of furniture and furnishings donated by members of the public.

The New Life Morpeth Church opened its doors as a warm place for flood victims to visit and have something to eat and drink, and the British Red Cross provided staff to visit flooded houses and check on the occupants, as well as administrative help in connection with the flood appeal.

In addition to running the furniture depot with the Rotary members, Rhona Dunn offered administrative services. Elphin Conroy, who died earlier this year, also did many hours of admin work.

Rhona’s husband Jim and Lion Les Brindley, with help from others, collected and then delivered furniture items to people living in temporary accommodation in Morpeth and surrounding areas.

Simon Pringle of Morpeth Lions Club said: “Fund-raising got off to a wonderful start, with money coming in from individuals, companies, organisations, churches, schools and charities.

“In some instances, Morpeth Lions members were actively collecting money or holding collections at the end of events organised by others for the benefit of the fund.

“Much of the money simply came through the post or directly into the bank account that was set up two days after the flooding. Amazingly, the final total was in excess of £208,000.

“We were fortunate that the Morpeth Herald editor at the time, Terry Hackett, was totally supportive of all our efforts.

“Each week, he ensured that pages of the paper were filled with flood-related news and that each page bore the Lions Club logo and details of the flood appeal bank account.

“When some people were about to move back into their homes, at the suggestion of Rhona and Elphin it was proposed that vouchers bearing the Red Cross and Lions logos be given to applicants.

“It was established that the main areas of need included white goods, carpets, removals and DIY products.

“Lion Les Sage, as a local businessman himself, approached local businesses that dealt with these items and obtained favourable deals – such as free carpet laying.

“For their part, the British Red Cross made funds available to employ two handymen, who would undertake small household jobs.”

Rhona went on to join Morpeth Rotary Club and in 2015, she became the club’s first female president.

She said that Brian Gott, then Morpeth Rotary president, sorted out some premises in Coopies Lane for the furniture depot, although circumstances beyond their control meant it had to move to two units in Pegswood and then an area at Northgate Hospital.

It was manned every day until August 2009.

Rhona added: “My life became a journey of working between the Red Cross, helping out Rotary and also working with Elphin Conroy.

“The furniture was free to anyone who had been flooded and there was no restriction on how much they could have. I met so many lovely people and we did our best to help people get what was comfortable to them.

“I cannot speak highly enough of the Red Cross – they worked all day, every day, and nothing was too much trouble.

“There was no one organisation better than another as together we all worked as a team and I feel that I have lifelong friends with all of these people, including the people who were flooded.”