PROUD poet Gary Leach scooped a prestigious award for his emotional retelling of one of Hartlepool’s most famous characters.
The 52-year-old from the town’s Powlett Road picked up a Northumbrian Association writing award last night for his poem “Lament to Pierre,” based on the legendary fate of Hartlepool’s infamous hanged monkey.
He was one of the hundreds of amateur writers who entered the Mail-backed competition, which called for poems and stories inspired by people and places in the North- East.
“The competition said entries had to be about an iconic person, place or building, so I had to call up and see if my subject qualified,” said Gary, a highways strategy manager at Durham County Council. “I was very pleased to win, and to be judged by people and know what they were looking for.
“I do quite a lot of writing and I like entering competitions, so this seemed like a good opportunity.”
Gary performed his poem to a full house at the historic Washington Old Hall, in Sunderland last night.
The runner up from the Teesside and Durham section was Sophie Hebblethwaite, 12, who wrote about her experiences at the Tall Ships Races when she visited Hartlepool for the weekend event.
Other winners were Jack Boke, 17, an A-level student from Hendon, in Sunderland, and Ivo Freiesleben, a home-educated 11-year-old from Ninebanks, near Hexham, in Northumberland.
The winners were presented with iPads donated by Teesside and Sunderland and Universities, and the Gillian Dickinson Trust.
John Danby, chairman of the Northumbrian Association, said it had been a wonderful evening and praised the high-calibre of the winners.
“They were amazing, so good, and the young people’s work was very impressive,” he said.
Gavin Foster, deputy editor at the Mail who attended the event, said: “We were absolutely amazed by the standard of the entrants and the response from readers.
“But someone had to win and Gary’s entry really struck a chord with judges and got to the heart of Hartlepool’s heritage.”
Car manufacturing workers were also honoured last night when Sunderland’s Nissan plant was given a Hotspur Award from the Northumbrian Association for its “bold endeavour” to benefit and raise the profile of the North-East.
The Northumbrian Association honoured the company with its Hotspur Award for its achievements and commitment in the region.
John Mowbray, from Northumbrian Water, who presented the award on behalf of the association, praised Nissan’s success at a difficult time for the region.
“Nissan is a bright spot for people in the North-East to look to,” he said.
“It’s about people making things and exporting things, and the more we can get of that the better.”
Ian Black, plant production manager at Nissan, received the award on behalf of the company.
He said it came after the company celebrated its 25th anniversary, the success of the Qashqai model and the decision to build the new Leaf electric vehicle at the Wearside plant.