Community loses a fine champion

Joan Pringle in her Land Army uniform in the 1940's and another taken in 2010 .
Joan Pringle in her Land Army uniform in the 1940's and another taken in 2010 .

A CHARITY and community champion who was at the heart of voluntary service in north Northumberland has died, aged 93.

Joan Pringle passed away quietly last Friday at Northlands Care Home in Morpeth, where she had lived for the past three years. A resident of Alnwick for 63 years, she was very much involved in the voluntary community work that takes place in the town and surrounding areas.

Joan Pringle in her Land Army uniform in the 1940's and another taken in 2010 .

Joan Pringle in her Land Army uniform in the 1940's and another taken in 2010 .

Joan was born and educated on Tyneside but in 1940 she came to north Northumberland to work as a Land Girl at West Fenton. It was here that she met Dick Pringle from Alnwick, who was acting postmaster prior to being called up for army service. In 2008 she received her Land Army medal and certificate acknowledging this wartime service.

Joan’s experiences in the Land Army later became a topic for many humorous talks given all over the North East – mainly to ladies’ groups and for the benefit of charities with which she was involved.

Having been brought up to give voluntary service, this continued on moving to Alnwick in 1946 although never to the detriment of her husband and children – Simon, Hugh and Deborah.

Her involvement with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service lasted more than 50 years and saw her starting a clothing store long before charity shops made an appearance. She also founded the Speech After Stroke Club, which continues to this day.

When winters in the 1960s were more severe, she arranged sleeping accommodation and food for many stranded lorry drivers stuck in the snow. However, she readily acknowledged that this would not have been possible without a loyal, hard-working team of friends and volunteers.

For many years she was chairman of Alnwick Conservative Association and this brought her in contact with many people who were able to assist with her other fund-raising activities.

Her Christian upbringing led to her being closely involved with St Paul’s C of E Church. In addition she was secretary for Edlingham Parish Church where her mother, Hilda, is buried.

She was convenor for the Hotspur Group of the Women’s Institute and during this time could be seen baking singing hinnies at Alnwick Fairs.

At times it seemed that if anything was getting started in Alnwick, then Joan would be involved. Some of these included British Heart Foundation, MS Society, welcoming Vietnamese boat families, the Friendship Club, Brian Burnie’s Doxford Hall events and Alnwick and District Cancer Care Society.

This latter charity remained her chief involvement as honorary secretary. Thanks to generous public donations and fund-raising over the years, it provided assistance to local people undergoing cancer treatment. This often took the form of covering petrol expenses when travelling for treatment but also other relevant expenses or equipment. In 2010 this ceased and over £27,000 was distributed to local hospices and cancer care organisations.

All these and other involvements brought Joan into contact with the Alnwick community service organisations – the Lions, Round Table and Rotary Clubs. It was the Rotary Club that acknowledged her decades of service by awarding their highest honour – a Paul Harris Fellowship. Other awards were presented by WRVS, Alnwick District Council and the MS Society. Her work was also recognised nationally with the presentation of a British Empire Medal by the late Hugh, Duke of Northumberland.

Joan always felt that her service was a pleasure and a privilege, not just in helping local people but also for the friendship of her colleagues without whom little could have been achieved. Above all, her husband Dick, who died almost 17 years ago, was her constant support.

A service of remembrance will take place on Saturday at 11.30am in St Michael’s Church, Alnwick, followed by her long-organised ‘ham tea’.

Her family has requested no flowers, however, donations, if desired, to Alnwick Stroke Club or CLAPA can be sent care of Simon Pringle, 20 Queensway, Morpeth, NE61 2BG.