WARM tributes were paid yesterday to a founding member of a North East charity which champions the region’s culture, traditions and identity.
John Danby – chairman of the Northumbrian Association – died at his home in the early hours yesterday after being diagnosed with cancer early in 2011.
The 74-year-old former businessman passed away peacefully just less than a week after spending his final Christmas Day surrounded by his family.
Mr Danby, who lived with his wife Hazel at Rickleton near Chester-le-Street, was a passionate and long-time campaigner for the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels from the British Library, to what he believed was their rightful home in the North East. The campaign led to him, and a group of like-minded people, setting up the Northumbrian Association in the late 1990s to maintain and promote North East cultural life.
He served as events organiser and treasurer of the association before succeeding Mike Tickell – father of Northumberland folk musician Kathryn – as chairman in 2007.
The association organises the annual Hotspur Awards, which honour individuals or organisations for “bold endeavour”, bringing credit to themselves and the North East.
Earlier this year it paraded a replica of the 16th Century St Cuthbert’s banner through Durham, after working for four years on a project to recreate the original.
Members of the Association also take part in the annual Cuddy’s Corse walk along a seven-mile route from Chester-le-Street to Durham, which is thought to have been taken by monks carrying St Cuthbert’s coffin for burial.
Mr Danby retired some years ago after running a number of flower and fruit shops in South Tyneside, and devoted more of his time to his passion for North East culture and his love of walking, cycling and the countryside.
He had completed a coast-to-coast bike ride not long before being diagnosed with cancer of the spine in January last year.
Yesterday his daughter, Christine Danby-Platt, said: “He was a man who believed passionately in the North East identity, and was all for the work of the Northumbrian Association. When the time came he wanted to be at home with his family, and he got his wish.”
John Cuthbert, former managing director of Northumbrian Water and honorary president of the Northumbrian Association, said: “I knew John as a colleague and friend through the association, and know I am one of many who will now miss his quiet and thoughtful leadership. John was passionate, enthusiastic and committed to promoting the culture and heritage of the region.
“He also had an amazing ability to enthuse and engage others. He was a good man with a good heart and a true Northumbrian. His contribution to the work to see the Lindisfarne Gospels returned to the region was invaluable. He will be sadly missed by his many friends.”
Mike Tickell, who helped Mr Danby set up the Association and remains a trustee, said: “John was a very creative and inspirational person, who loved the North East and its culture. He was always smiling and remained very positive throughout his illness.”
Association historian Chris Kilkenny, a long-time friend of Mr Danby, said: “John was always energetic and kind, and thought the best of people. He was enthusiastic about any project put in front of him and used to beaver away and do the groundwork to ensure that ideas became a reality. He seemed to know most of the people in the North East and was highly thought of.”