Spectators brave wind and rain to catch sight of flame

Crowds wait for the Olympic Torch to come through Morpeth.
Crowds wait for the Olympic Torch to come through Morpeth.

TORRENTIAL rain would not have been top of the wish list for Morpeth’s Olympic Torch Relay, but it certainly didn’t put off the spectators.

Thousands of people lined the route of the Relay across the town, with lines often going four or five deep.

With some 2,500 schoolchildren having prime spots in Bridge Street, most of the adult onlookers were left to find places in Howard Terrace, Copper Chare, Newgate Street or Castle Bank.

But wherever they were, spectators were thoroughly excited about the event.

Erica Condie, of Seghill, was there to support David Taylor, who as chef at St Oswald’s Hospice has taken part in numerous fund-raising activities for the charity and was running the first Relay leg from Whorral Bank to part way along Howard Terrace.

She said: “He was great with my dad when he stayed at St Oswald’s and he deserves to carry the Torch for all the things he has done for the hospice over the years.

“David is a kind man who is very generous with his time and we were always coming to Morpeth to support him, come rain, hail or shine.”

She was with her daughter Hannah, who will celebrate her 12th birthday at the Games in London as the family have tickets for hockey and athletics.

Morpeth resident Janet Sanderson, who also saw the first leg of the Relay, said: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us and we’re very excited.

“It’s a shame the weather wasn’t better, but there’s no way it would have stopped us coming out.”

The Wednesday and Friday coffee morning group at Marks and Spencer was in Howard Terrace. Member Judith Brodie said: “We’re here to support the Torch Relay and to give the runners a big cheer.

“It’s brilliant that the flame is coming through Morpeth and this will help to put it on the map.”

Belgian athlete Gerda Andries took the Torch from Howard Terrace to Newgate Street.

Spectator David Dickinson said: “I’ve come down from Northbourne Avenue to see the Torch. I didn’t want to miss it because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When you see all the places that didn’t get the Relay, it shows how lucky we are to get it coming through Morpeth.”

Morpeth Methodist Church gave people the chance to shelter from the rain, with bacon butties and tea, and also put up flags and bunting.

Receptionist Lorrie Bronsema said: “It’s brilliant that the Torch is going past our church and it’s good that Morpeth can celebrate people who have achieved many things or done a great deal for their community.”

Local sports coach Stephen Parsons carried the Torch along Newgate Street to part way down Bridge Street.

David Calder, 23, of Morpeth, said: “It is a one-off experience. I know Stephen Parsons and I think it is a privilege to see the Torch being carried through Morpeth.”

Ritchie Brown, 20, who is captain of Morpeth Hockey Club, also knows Mr Parsons through sport. He said: “We came down here to watch Stephen. It is a pretty special thing for him and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it.”

Mr Parsons passed the flame on to former Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Jim Alder in Bridge Street.

Among the onlookers near Oldgate was John Deakin, of Hepscott. He said: “It was a bit wet, but despite that it was definitely worth coming out to see the Torch.

“Having Jim Alder run the Bridge Street section was the right decision because he is our most famous runner.”

George Platt, 52, who has tickets for some Olympic events, was also delighted to see that Jim Alder was carrying the Torch.

“It is massively exciting,” he said. “It’s great that Jim Alder is carrying the Torch — I’m old enough to remember when he was running. It’s a very special day.”

Claire Fram, from Widdrington, who was in Bridge Street, said: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and something we will never see again. I doubt the Olympics will ever come to this country again.”

Steven Lane, 50, of Morpeth, said: “It is a very special event and I’m proud of the Torchbearers — I would have loved to have been one myself.”

And 12-year-old Libbie Blake said: “It is an amazing turn-out. The weather has been a bit bad, but we have got our hoods and umbrellas and there is a good spirit in Morpeth.”

She added: “There is a terrific atmosphere and it is the best place to see the Relay.”

Morpeth resident Carole Steel said: “The weather isn’t very good, but I knew there would be a good turn-out in Morpeth.

“We’ve been passing the time by taking the opportunity to socialise. It’s given everyone the chance to become friends and everybody has been talking and looking after each other.”

The final torchbearer was David Lowe, who took the Torch from Castle Square to Mafeking Park.

Morpeth resident Jean Horton, 62, said: “I was determined to come down to see the Torch. The rain didn’t put me off because I won’t get another chance.”

William Rittain, 25, of Rothbury, said: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience this and see the Olympic Torch. It is a proud monument of the Olympic Games and it brings people together whatever.

“It’s an absolutely great atmosphere despite the weather. If the weather is like this it all adds to the Great British Olympics.”