A FESTIVE fundraising tradition on the Northumberland coastline has been saved from extinction after a determined local businessman dived in to ensure it survives.
The annual Boxing Day dip in the freezing North Sea at Newbiggin-by- the-Sea has raised more than £100,000 for charities and good causes since it was launched almost 30 years ago.
The popular event looked certain to come to an end following the recent decision to fold the Ashington Lions Club – which has organised it since 1983 – because of dwindling membership.
Now the dip is back on and set to stay as a regular date in the calendar after Dennis Inglis, who runs The Old Ship pub on Newbiggin promenade with his partner Jackie Smith, stepped in to rescue it.
Dennis has enlisted help and support from the local RNLI lifeboat station, the town’s sailing club and local volunteers to make sure the dip goes ahead as usual at 10.30am on Boxing Day.
It will raise money for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, a charity which Dennis and Jackie regularly support. His daughter Suzanne, 14, from a previous relationship, had open-heart surgery at the Freeman when she was a baby.
Customers at the pub raise funds for CHUF every year by taking part in the dip, so Dennis decided to keep the event going on behalf of his favourite charity, and others.
He said: “The people of Newbiggin love the Boxing Day Dip and turn out in their hundreds to watch and take part. When I found out it wasn’t taking place this year I thought it was sad that the tradition had died. I talked to the former Lions Club chairman Hugh Barr to get some advice about what could be done to save it.
“I then contacted the RNLI and Newbiggin Sailing Club for support and, with a few local volunteers offering to help, we have the event back on.
“We want to keep it going this year and hopefully next year we can organise things earlier and make it bigger. We felt that if it disappeared for a year it would be harder to bring it back in 2012.
“I have been going round with posters telling people it is back on and there has been a lot of enthusiasm, because it is a great event for Newbiggin and for lots of charities. People can go into the sea for whatever cha- rity they want to support. We would just ask that they donate a couple of quid to CHUF at the same time.
“I just hope the message gets out that the dip is back on so that as many people as possible turn up on the day.”
The dip was cancelled by the Ashington Lions after the club folded recently when membership dropped to just three. Yesterday Mr Barr, 72, said he was delighted to hear the event would continue. “I think it’s a great thing because the local people really support it, it allows a lot of people to get to see Newbiggin and it raises money for good causes.”
For more information, call Dennis at The Old Ship on 01670 817231.