The Duke of Northumberland, Rev Michael Boag, vicar of Rothbury, and Sir Alan Beith MP give their festive messages to Gazette readers.


With a warmer, drier summer, a milder winter (so far) and an improving economy, there is good reason to be more cheerful this Christmas.

More people have jobs and the good summer brought more tourists to boost the local economy.

We now have the (economic) climate for growth and investment and it is really heartening to see small businesses beginning to expand and recruit.

It was also fantastic to see the Aln Valley Railway making significant headway in 2013.

The development of modern school facilities in Alnwick has, in contrast, been frustratingly slow and I hope that real progress can be made in the near future.

The region gained welcome publicity from Robson Green’s wonderful programme, Tales from Northumberland, which showed the county in all its glory – the people, traditions, culture, coast, landscape and heritage. I am sure it will bring more visitors to the area and will be a great benefit.

Kielder Water had a good year and achieved Gold Tier Dark Sky Park status which will protect England’s largest area of starry skies and encourage astronomers and interested general public.

We have so much to offer and it is good that the message is getting through.

My family and I wish all of your readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as we look forward to 2014.


From East and West, North and South they came.

Hundreds found their way to the centre of Rothbury on the last Sunday of November to celebrate switching on the village lights.

A river of children bearing lanterns made its way up the High Street, to the Armstrong Cross and from there into the parish church, where a warm welcome, mulled wine and sausages awaited them.

But that was not all they found. As the children came up to the food tables in front of the pews, they could see in the distance the crib figures standing on the High Altar with little candles flickering in front of them. It was a magical experience.

Looking into the darkness, the children could see Christmas was coming; they had just one more month to wait.

And now Christmas is upon us, it is here, the waiting is almost over – let the fun begin! For any of us to capture, or recapture, the wonder and excitement of Christmas Day we need to start with, or find again, a sense of expectation and simplicity of approach.

The message of the angels was, and is, the same as ever, let there be peace in this world, in our hearts and in our homes.

The celebration of the birth of Jesus proclaims that simple message and when we attune ourselves to that same expectation, then will we find its fulfilment. May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the love of Mary and Joseph and the peace of the Christ Child be with you this Christmastide.


I wish all Gazette readers a lovely Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Christmas is a bright festival at a dark time of year - especially in Alnwick where the lights are a riot of colour.

It is just what many of us need. If there are children around, it is a magical time.

It can also be a time for remembering those in our families who are no longer at the table on Christmas Day. The Christian message at Christmas is that Jesus came as a baby and was the one who offered us forgiveness and peace from God.

In Parliament last week, we have been reminded about peace and reconciliation with several events in memory of Nelson Mandela. He had learned that message in Sunday School, but it was during his 27 years as a political prisoner that he began to put it into practice.

It changed South Africa and helped prevent a bloodbath. The Alnwick Playhouse will shortly be showing the film about the way in which Berwick resident Eric Lomax achieved an extraordinary act of forgiveness of one of the men who had been involved in torturing him in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

In my work on the Justice Committee I have been meeting victims of crime who have been prepared to talk to hardened criminals and bring them to the point where they look for forgiveness and turn their lives around. In all these ways, people have put into practice the Christmas message. It is not just words in a carol. The New Year will be my last full year as an MP before I retire in April 2015, and I plan to make it another year of action on issues which matter to the constituency.

A busy New Year!