THE Duke and Duchess of Northumberland were yesterday at the official opening of a school’s tribute to one of the county’s most famous sons.
In a rare public appearance together the couple were among the guests at the opening of a new library and computer centre in memory of former Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, Sir John Riddell, who died last year.
Sir John’s wife Lady Sarah, son Sir Walter, and the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Martin Wharton, were also at the unveiling at the Northumberland Church of England Academy, at the James Knott campus, Norham Road, Ashington.
The Duke was present as one of the sponsors of the academy, while the Duchess attended in her capacity as the current Lord Lieutenant.
During the opening of the facility, which will officially be known as, Sir John’s library and ICT room, Lady Sarah welcomed the honour as a fitting tribute both to her husband’s love of books and his great affinity with the people of South East Northumberland. She said: “It was a wonderful occasion, and I was deeply impressed by the school. He would have been enormously proud and pleased.
“My husband had a passion for books. He read and collected them all his life so the idea the James Knott campus might have a library for the children there was a very appealing one. I’m sure John would have loved it.
“It means everything, a wonderful chance for me to continue to see what plans the school has. I couldn’t be more touched.
“Being Lord Lieutenant, your work takes you to a lot of places in the county but South East Northumberland is where most of the people are. He made a lot of friends there and it meant a lot to him.”
Lady Sarah, who unveiled two glass plaques, made by local artist Janet Rogers, added: “My family were thinking after my husband died what we could do which would be something he would have liked to support.”
The school choir sang at the opening. Phil Hearne, executive director of the academy, said: “We received a significant amount of donations towards setting up the library and ICT suite at the James Knott campus.
“At first, we had no idea where the money was appearing from. But it happens that Sir John had an affection for this area of Northumberland.”
Part of the funding came from donations made by friends and family as requested at Sir John’s funeral. The ICT suite contains 25 computers and a 50-inch interactive television screen.