In search of Big Meeting Billy: One of Durham Miners’ Gala’s most colourful characters

Billy pictured by our photographer at this year's Durham Gala.
Billy pictured by our photographer at this year's Durham Gala.
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He was as much a part of Durham Gala as the banners and the bands.

Now the family of Billy Huitson are searching for photographs of the late great-grandfather who entertained thousands as he danced for the crowds.

A 21-year-old Billy Huitson.

A 21-year-old Billy Huitson.

The former Easington Colliery miner, who dressed up in his old pit gear and was a regular sight outside the County Hotel at the Big Meeting, died just three days off his 91st birthday.

His loved ones are now appealing for people who took his photograph at the event to send them on so they can compile an album of photographs as a keep sake.

They they only realised how many people knew or recognised him after family members posted a message on Facebook to pass on the word he had died.

Granddaughter Natalie Goodwin, 32, said: “He just loved it.

He just loved life and loved to laugh.

Naty

“He never missed it.

“He would always be seen out on the street and he loved to see all the people.

“I put up a photograph of him at the Gala on Facebook and I got 150 comments and it was shared 200 times.

“We had no idea how many people knew him.

A family photo of Billy Huitson in his finest.

A family photo of Billy Huitson in his finest.

“Since he died, I’ve been sent some photos of him and I’ve put together a collage of photos of him.

“We’d love to see any more if people have them.”

The former pitman, who had worked at the colliery for more than 40 years, was among those interviewed at last year’s Gala celebrations.

He said: “I always like to take part, I absolutely love it.

A photographer captures Billy Huitson at the Big Meeting.

A photographer captures Billy Huitson at the Big Meeting.

“It is a fantastic day for the family and that’s what it is all about bringing people together.”

Billy, who died last month, was well-known in his home community and got the nickname Billy Pop after he and brother Jimmy would sell Villa drinks around the streets and he also spent a time in the Territorial Army.

He had a passion for dance and would enjoy travelling around the region to take part in events and would visit The Bridges in Sunderland often to meet friends and make new ones.

Billy was also a car enthusiast and would show his Morris Minor at rallies and would often help collect his neighbours’ shopping for them

Natalie added: “As a granddad, he was brilliant, and he would take us all over and would walk our legs off.

“He was absolutely nuts and he was such a character.

A shot pof Billy Huitson in action on Old Elvet one Durham Miners' Gala.

A shot pof Billy Huitson in action on Old Elvet one Durham Miners' Gala.

“He just loved life and loved to laugh.

“He was doing really well up until this year, up until July, just after the Gala, so that was his last year.”

Billy was married to Joyce for 16 years before she died of cancer aged 34.

They had a daughter, Florence, now 64, who is mum to Lisa, 44, Lynn, 42, Kim, 28, and Kadie, 27.

He went on to marry Ada, who died six years ago aged 89, and was step-dad to Judith, 70, and Robery 63, and granddad to Judith’s children Wayne, 49, Estelle, 46, and Trudy, 36, as well as Robert’s children Natalie and Mark, 22.

Anyone who has photos of Billy at the Gala can email them to Natalie via natogoodwin@yahoo.co.uk.

Billy Huitson makes friends at a Durham Miners' Gala in a shot sent into his family.

Billy Huitson makes friends at a Durham Miners' Gala in a shot sent into his family.