One of the Duke of Northumberland’s longest serving members of staff has been given a heartfelt send-off after retiring from a lifetime’s career.
Past and present members of staff at Alnwick Castle were among 150 guests at the farewell party for 67-year-old Graham Luke last week.
The Duke and Duchess were also at the celebration at the Guest Hall and presented Graham with a print of a painting of the castle by the artist Alexander Cresswell.
It was painted for their daughter Katie’s 21st birthday and a similar print was given to Prince Charles when he opened The Alnwick Garden.
Colleagues also clubbed together to give Graham and his wife Eileen a substantial amount of holiday vouchers. The couple were also given a life membership of the Garden.
Graham completed 51 years working for Northumberland Estates, starting as an apprentice joiner at the age of 15.
He transferred to the maintenance squad, eventually working as the liaison between the clerk of works and the castle. About 18 years ago, he moved into fire regulations and became responsible for all the Duke’s properties from Inverness to Albury in Surrey.
“Every day has been different, that is why I loved working there,” said Graham. “It was interesting working with the film companies. I was even an extra for one day, but I was bored to tears – I spent all day hanging around.
“I think it was one of the Robin Hood movies, but I’m never going to be a film star!”
Graham still plays a major role in the town’s social and fund-raising scene. He has been a member of Alnwick Lions for more than 30 years, twice serving as president of the club, and is a key part of the town’s Christmas Lights team.
After he retired in April, you may see a lot more of Graham around Alnwick but one thing is for certain, you’ll not catch a glimpse of him on your television sets!
Graham worked for three Dukes of Northumberland – Hugh Percy, the 10th Duke, and his sons, Harry , the 11th, and Ralph, the 12th and current Duke. He has also served under three Duke’s agents and four clerks of works.
“I must have been particularly tough on the clerks of works,” he joked.
He remembers his first wage was two pounds, 17 shillings and sixpence for a five-and-a-half-day week.
In his speech at the party, the Duke thanked Graham for all he had done for Northumberland Estates and the family over the years and wished him a very happy retirement.