Holy smoke! Bob’s at it again

Rev. George Liddle pictured with fundraiser Bob Waite opposite St Andrew's Church, Blackhall.
Rev. George Liddle pictured with fundraiser Bob Waite opposite St Andrew's Church, Blackhall.

A CHARITABLE chimney sweep has been given divine intervention in his latest fundraising drive.

Blackhall resident Bob Waite is busy trying to raise £2,000 to fix the bell at the village’s St Andrew’s Church.

The historic bell, hailed by officials at the Hesleden Road-based church as “the voice of the community”, has been out of action for around 20 years.

But kind-hearted Bob, fresh from raking in £4,500 for a winter wonderland at Blackhall Community Centre, now plans to take part in next week’s Boxing Day dip at Seaham to raise cash to get the bell working.

And to help him on his way one holier-than-usual well-wisher has pledged £25 towards the campaign.

The Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, has sponsored Bob after the 60-year-old was sent to clean the chimney at the bishop’s residence, at Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland.

Bob, of Arnold Avenue, said: “I got a phone call from the property management company who look after all the church’s properties.

“The bishop had a blockage in his chimney and they phoned me.

“When I found out whose house it was, I thought ‘this is a message from heaven’ – it was a cracking co-incidence.

“So I met the bishop and he sponsored me £25 to get the bell sorted – if it wasn’t for the church I wouldn’t have asked.”

Bob, who is married to Denise and dad to Gayle Waite, 34 and Tracey Coverdale, 35, added that he is dreading next week’s dip, but said it was for a good cause.

The Reverend George Liddle, who has been at the church for nine years, said: “Bob is one of many fundraisers who help the church and the great thing about Bob is he is a go-getter.

“I’m grateful that he thinks enough about the voice of the community, which is the bell, to really put an effort in so I do thank him and all those who support it.

“Lots of people have commented on how they would have liked to have heard the bell ringing.

“I think it’s a credit to the bishop as well – after Bob told me about that, I was walking around singing Chim Chim Cheree.”

Rev Liddle said the 81-year-old church was waiting for architects’ reports regarding work on the bell, but it was hoped it could be fixed in time for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations next year.

He added that it is hoped that the traditional church clapper will be replaced with an electronic clapper.

St Andrew’s Church is locally known as the ‘inside-church’ as it was originally built in a smokey area of Stockton in the 1890s.

It was taken down brick-by-brick and rebuilt in Blackhall with the blackened bricks on the inner walls.

Anyone who wishes to sponsor Bob can call him on (0191) 5865809.