It was standing room only at St Cuthbert’s Church last week as Hartlepool, and Belle Vue, said good bye to Bob Farrow.
Hartlepool is blessed to have community champions dotted around the town, determined and caring men and women who love their area and want to see it improved. In Bob Farrow, Belle Vue had the best.
He was the energetic force making sure that the Belle Vue Sports and Community Centre was established.
He ensured that it received funding to have a high quality building and equipment located in the heart of Belle Vue, for people of the area and further afield to use and enjoy.
The youth and sports facilities at the Centre were of exceptionally quality- thanks to the insistence of Bob- who believed, quite rightly, that the people of Belle Vue deserved the best.
It wasn’t just the equipment on which Bob made an impact. He did something much more intangible, and much more valuable. Bob Farrow was an ordinary man with an extraordinary ability to relate to people.
“Ordinary” is often used as a negative or dismissive term, indicating something or someone who is not special or lacks exceptional quality. I don’t mean that about Bob at all.
When I say Bob was ordinary, I mean that he was a bloke who liked to talk about football while having a pint.
But he had this unbelievable ability, better than anybody I have ever met, to put people at ease and talk to them at their level without changing who he was. That takes something very special in a person.
It was that ability to talk to people on their level and genuinely make them believe that they mattered that showed the true character of Bob.
People can point to the regeneration and the new housing in Belle Vue and say that Bob was instrumental in securing that for the area.
That is all true. But I know he touched individual lives on a unique and very special basis.
Kids who were in danger of straying off the straight and narrow, getting involved in drugs and crime, were pushed back on the path of decency thanks to a quiet word from Bob.
Lives have been transformed thanks to his lovely and decent qualities.
I’ve got so many fond memories of Bob, memories that I will treasure forever.
I used to love, when I was in the area, to pop into the Belle Vue Centre and have a cup of tea with the strong stalwarts of the area.
Sitting round the table with Bob, his wife Roni, as well as other real characters like Rose Simpson and Bull Clark are some of the happiest and funniest times I have known as the town’s MP.
It saddens me that some of these great characters are no longer with us.
I also recall Bob coming down to London. He was off to Buckingham Palace. I don’t think it was the time he was actually receiving his MBE, but once he got in with Her Majesty he was never away from her place.
I asked Bob and Roni to come and have a few drinks with me in the Strangers Bar.
By chance, my dad was down in London with me that week, and by even more of a coincidence, Cameron’s Strongarm happened to be the guest ale in the bar.
It felt like Hartlepool-on-Thames that night.
As would be expected, all the MPs loved Bob and Roni and, at the end of the evening, he turned to me and said: “Parliament is just like the Belle Vue club.”
The incredible turn out to pay respects at Bob’s funeral showed how respected and loved he was in the community.
He was Mr Belle Vue, a huge champion of the area.
I lost a good friend and will miss him greatly. My love and sympathies to Roni and her family.
I hope they take some comfort in their time of loss by knowing how much he was loved. We’ve lost a great man.