Peterlee Deaf Club chairman honoured for his services

William Johnson with his award for services to the community.

William Johnson with his award for services to the community.

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A CHAMPION for the hard-of-hearing community has been honoured for his services to the deaf.

Peterlee Deaf Club chairman William Johnson was presented with a Certificate of Merit for sterling work when he attended the British Deaf Association (BDA) Conference and annual general meeting in Edinburgh.

William received the accolade for being “the region’s sole deaf figurehead” since the demise of the North East Deaf Association and for his services to Peterlee Deaf Club, which he helped set up more than 40 years ago.

The 66-year-old, who has a family where four generations are affected by deafness, said: “My first language is British Sign Language.

“I always attend the BDA Conference and Congress every year.

“In 1990, I went to Brighton for the event to celebrate the BDA’s centenary and the patron Princess Diana used sign language to say ‘Congratulations BDA for 100 years’ - it made me cry and my throat dry.”

William, who lives in the Chapel Hill Road area, was born to deaf parents Winnifred and Sydney Johnson in Seaham Harbour.

He attended the Northern Counties boarding school for the Deaf in Newcastle as a boy and his younger sister, Jean Ramshaw, is also deaf.

He married a deaf woman, Doreen.

The retired joiner taught British Sign Language (BSL) at East Durham Community College and four other college-accredited courses across the North-East, including at Hartlepool Deaf Club, after setting up Peterlee Deaf Club at the former White House Community Centre, in Eden Lane, Peterlee, which is still open every Thursday, at Peterlee Day Centre, from 7pm.

BDA chairman Dr Terry Riley said: “William has been active in the deaf community for as long as people can remember and was the figurehead of the North East for over 40 years.

“He is part of a strong deaf family who are well-known across the whole of the North, East.”