TV Secret Millionaire tribute to local hero

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THE man hailed as the driving force behind a major campaign to bring a community venue back into use has died.

 Easington Social Welfare Centre secretary, Cyril Dunn, appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire when marketing tycoon Carl Hopkins went undercover before handing over £12,000 to help revamp the former miners’ hall.

 Cyril died of heart failure last Wednesday. He was 72.

Mr Hopkins, from Leeds, still kept in touch with Cyril and his wife, Anne, 70.

The self-made millionaire worked as a street warden in Easington Colliery and witnessed the good work being done by local groups before revealing his true identity in the 2008 programme.

Mr Hopkins, who lived in the village’s Noble Street during the course of the show, has sent flowers for Cyril’s funeral.

He said he still speaks about Cyril when he gives speeches to hundreds of schoolchildren across the UK.

Mr Hopkins added: “The effort and passion he put into the welfare centre and how he tried to draw together the Easington community and communities beyond there just inspired me.”

Cyril, who grew up in Hartlepool and attended the town’s St Bega’s School, served his time at the town’s Richardson and Westgarth engineers before becoming a mechanic at the pit in Easington, where he lived for 50 years.

He was a trustee at the centre, in Seaside Lane, before becoming secretary. He spent the past 20 years helping to revive the building, built in 1934, which has been earmarked for a £1.7m revamp.

Cyril, a former Easington Colliery Parish Council chairman, attended a meeting two weeks ago and managed to secure £100,000 funding towards the work at the hall, which provides a number of activities for all ages.

Centre manager Geoff Price said: “Cyril was the main driving force behind the centre’s redevelopment.

“He had a passion for this building that was a testament to the mining industry and its heritage.

“Going back to the turn of the millennium, when the centre was rundown, Cyril was one of the main advocates in saving it and turning it around and making it useable.”

Cyril’s son, Michael, a 46-year-old gas engineer from Easington Village, said: “It was fantastic for dad to be involved in The Secret Millionaire.

“He was just gobsmacked that somebody had taken the time and effort to come up and see what they did and they received a fairly decent amount of money towards the welfare centre.”

Michael, who is married to Nora, 47, and dad to Martin and James, added: “My dad’s legacy is the welfare hall and how successful it’s been in the past 10 to 15 years.

“I’m absolutely certain the team at the centre will continue to do what my dad strived to do.”

Grandson Martin, a 20-year-old sports journalism student at Sunderland University, said: “He wasn’t just my granddad, he was my hero.”

Cyril also left behind a daughter, Susan Lewins, 51, her husband Brian, 51, and their children Sarah and Jonathon.

Cyril’s funeral was due to take place today at Easington’s Church of Ascension, in Seaside Lane, followed by interment at Easington Colliery Cemetery and a celebration of his life at the welfare centre.

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