Tribute to author and broadcaster

A WELL-KNOWN author and broadcaster has died at her Morpeth home.

Linda McCullough-Thew died aged 95 at East Riding residential care home after a long illness.

True to her writer’s sense of the dramatic, she chose one of the most auspicious days in the calendar for this to happen, namely Christmas Day.

The writer, whose tales of Northumberland life captivated readers, was born Linda Summers in Ashington. Her family, like most others, were part of the town’s large mining community.

Upon leaving school, Mrs McCullough-Thew started work in the Grocery Department of Ashington Cooperative Society. It was to be an inspirational period, for the many stories of her time there were captured in her first book, The Pit Village and The Store.

She was to go on to draw on her own experiences for much of her writing.

The first work was published in 1981, but came to a much bigger audience six years later when it was dramatised by Channel 4 Television in 1987.

The production was filmed at one of the shops at Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham, and Mrs McCullough-Thew even managed to appear in the drama as a customer.

During the Second World War, Mrs McCullough-Thew decided to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), known as the women’s army.

She signed up in 1942 and was trained in anti-aircraft radar, which by the end of the war had led to her being transferred to the Army Education Corps.

This episode in her life became the title of her second book, From Store to War, which was published in 1987.

Mrs McCullough-Thew kept many items from those days and when she moved into East Riding various wartime memorabilia was found at her home and donated to Woodhorn Museum.

It was a timely gift as the museum was in the process of organising a Second World War exhibition.

After the war, the writer took a teacher training course in Newcastle, which led to a career in a number of schools, including in the Manchester area.

In the mid 1960s she pioneered sex education in schools and made several series of programmes on human relationships, which were broadcast on radio and television.

Mrs McCullough-Thew had married soon after the war ended and had a son Malcolm, who now lives in the United States. However, she was widowed just a few years later.

She lived in Sylvan Close, Morpeth, with her second husband Bill for more than 25 years.

The couple were very heavily involved with Morpeth University of the Third Age (U3A) and organised many of the group’s field trips about local and county history.

However, it was always writing that was foremost in Mrs McCullough-Thew’s mind, even to the exclusion of any domestic chores, such as cooking and cleaning.

Her final book, published in 1992, was a prequel to the first book and told of her childhood in the Rows in Ashington. It was entitled A Tune For Bears To Dance To.

Mrs McCullough-Thew had an eventful life. She was quite a determined character, but very nice with it, and has been greatly missed by many people in the town.

Her funeral took place at Blyth on Wednesday.