Stories that hit the headlines in 2014

Alnwick Remembrance Service 2014. Picture by Jane Coltman
Alnwick Remembrance Service 2014. Picture by Jane Coltman

The second part of our look back at the big news stories of the past year in north Northumberland.

The highlights from January to June were published last week.

Help us turn this house into a home for little Aidan.

Help us turn this house into a home for little Aidan.


The Gazette teamed up with Alnwick-based building supplies firm MKM to launch the Aid for Aidan campaign to help transform a run-down property into a family home for Aidan Jackowiak Smith and his family – dad Karl, mum Vikki and brother Daniel.

In an interview with the Gazette, the leader of the council, Grant Davey, hit back on the issue of post-16 transport, saying that due to funding changes, responsibility had shifted to the schools and colleges themselves. It came as the proposals for the rebuilding of the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick were unveiled to the public.

Our campaign was described as exhibit A in the fight against nuisiance robocalls as the Gazette team met Information Commissioner Christopher Graham in Westminster to hand over the 2,000-name petition.

Crowds at the pastures concert 2014'Ella Janes, Toploader, Simple Minds

Crowds at the pastures concert 2014'Ella Janes, Toploader, Simple Minds

An Alnwick family were ‘absolutely devastated’ after their four-year-old pug Merlin died from overheating on a cross-channel ferry crossing. Kirsty and Deane Wallace explained that P&O’s policy meant they weren’t allowed to return to their car or stay with their pets during the trip.

Longframlington microlight pilot Eddie McCallum was welcomed home after a 11,000-mile journey from Northumberland to the USA and back in just over 100 hours of flying time. Watch a video of Eddie’s return.

Lesbury athlete Laura Weightman was the woman of the moment as she landed a 1500m silver medal in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.


Lee Kershaw after having his first prosthetic limb

Lee Kershaw after having his first prosthetic limb

An incredible video of a surfing seal off the coast of Amble sparked worldwide interest with more than two million online views, even catching the attention of pop megastar Lady Gaga. The creature mounted the boards of Matty Stanley, from Amble, and Andrew Flounders, of Morpeth, while they were in the water.

Cease24, a domestic-abuse service based in Alnwick, closed with the loss of six jobs, leaving Northumberland as the only county in England without an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser.

Aidan Brunger, the son of a Lesbury man, was one of two Newcastle University students killed in Malaysia after a row in a bar while they were working at a hospital in Borneo.

The Highways Agency had to issue an apology to motorists after chaos reigned due to junctions onto the A1 at Alnwick, Shilbottle and Hampeth being closed without adequate signage.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Prospective Conservative Anne Marie Trevelyan near the A1, north of Morpeth, and Regional Director Highways Agency Jeremy Bloom.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Prospective Conservative Anne Marie Trevelyan near the A1, north of Morpeth, and Regional Director Highways Agency Jeremy Bloom.

In a busy week, Simple Minds and Toploader rocked a 5,500 crowd at the Pastures in Alnwick, Brenda Blethyn was in Alnwick Market Place filming further episodes of ITV detective drama Vera, which later also filmed at Duchess’s Community High School and athlete Laura Weightman followed her Commonwealth medal with a European bronze medal and she spoke to the Gazette about her ’incredible season’.

Following the bank holiday weekend, the tourist industry in north Northumberland reflected on what was described as a bumper summer.


Fast-food giant McDonald’s submitted a planning application to build a drive-thru restaurant on the outskirts of Alnwick, creating 65 jobs in the process.

Lee Kershaw, 49, from Shilbottle, was set up with a photography business and exhibition a year after what he thought was a sore throat saw him having his leg amputated and foot partially removed when he developed life-threatening septicaemia.

Fury erupted in Rothbury after the village’s minor injuries unit, based at Rothbury Community Hospital, closed without warning. It followed a review by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which found it was used by less than one person a day.

Two illegal workers from Bangladesh were arrested by Home Office Immigration Enforcement officers during a raid on Varanda India Restaurant in Alnwick.

A Rothbury man described the Great North Air Ambulance as a necessity for rural communities as he reflected on a sickening farm accident, which saw a 1,200kg panel fall and land on his leg.

Thousands of people descended on Alnwick for the 10th food festival and beer festival, which saw the return of French celebrity chef Jean-Christopher Novelli.


Turbine protesters were hoping that the tide had started to turn after two windfarm schemes were thrown out by the county council’s planning committee. A total of 14 turbines – nine near Belford and five between Wingates and Netherwitton – were refused by councillors and unlike previous bids, they had been recommended for refusal by the planning officers too.

An Alnwick family told of how they took comfort from the fact that their son’s death had helped others after Stevie Graham, who died in February, was given a posthumous award for organ donation. His parents Barry and Stef said that three people benefitted from his organs straight away and two others received his heart valves.

Farmer Tom Robinson, who runs Ottercops Farm, near Elsdon, hit out after thieves snatched 270 animals over a six-month period in the latest case of a 15-year blight of sheep rustling.

There were dramatic scenes as a massive fire erupted near Shilbottle with 5,000 bales of straw going up in flames at Hillhead Farm in what was suspected to be an arson attack. Farmer Gordon Smith spoke of his shock.

Experts said that the historic Bondgate Tower in Alnwick is at risk of a serious collapse if vehicles continue to damage it, as the iconic structure, also known as the Hotspur Tower, was once again included in English Heritage’s annual at-risk register.


HMP Northumberland hit the headlines again after it was revealed that a £175,000 drugs haul was seized, reportedly from a prisoner’s work area.

Alnwick trader Lisa Aynsley spoke of her delight after she fought off Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur, who had asked her to change the name of her new menswear boutique, Hotspur 1364, based in Narrowgate. When Lisa pointed out that the store was named after the town’s legendary knight, Harry Hotspur – just like the north London club, Spurs backed down. The story hit national headlines.

Neighbours expressed dismay that the proposal by the Abbeyfield Society for a £8million investment in a flagship housing and care scheme for older people included the demolition of the historic Ravenslaw House, once home to the fishing tycoon William Hardy.

In one of the most concrete pledges made during many years of lobbying, the Prime Minister mentioned dualling the A1 north of Newcastle as one of six projects as he previewed the Government’s first long-term Roads Investment Strategy in a speech to business leaders.

Services of Remembrance were held throughout north Northumberland and turnouts were high as it fell during the year commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Watch the first and second of two videos of the Alnwick parade and service.},

The heartbroken parents of Clover Marie Nolan, from Alnwick, raised questions about the care she received. The six-year-old died after a streptococcal infection brought on sepsis, leaving the family devastated.

A report on the reorganisation of schools in Alnwick and the surrounding area sparked a return to the debate over the relative merits of two-tier and three-tier education. Among the options in a consultaion are bringing in a two-tier system and closing three middle schools and merging two of Alnwick’s middle schools.


Coalition politicians – including Prime Minister David Cameron – descended on north Northumberland as £290million was allocated in the Autumn Statement to upgrading the A1 north of Newcastle. The road will be dualled from Morpeth to Felton and from Alnwick to the North Charlton bypass, while there will be overtaking lanes and junction improvements further north up to Berwick.

Exasperated residents learned that works to the A1 bridge near the Willowburn roundabout will be back next year for at least six months, despite similar works causing chaos for more than a year in 2011. The Highways Agency said this is the second phase of those repairs to the 50-year-old structure.

Northumberland County Council announced that works on the B6344 road at Crag End, which has been closed since a landslip on Boxing Day 2012, would start in February for completion in October next year. The local authority has upped its contribution to the scheme which will now cost more than £9million.

A £5million investment in Alnwick-based house-building firm Cussins is expected to lead to 250 jobs over the next four years as the company targets sites in Alnwick, Longframlington, Longhorsley and Longhirst among other places.