A Man of the People

In my memory, most villages have been blessed with a local personality to whom residents could turn to in an informal way when they require advice or guidance on matters they found more than a little irksome.
Up at Lingdale we had Reg Simons, a local businessman, who acted as councillor or counsellor. Here at North Skelton, very much the people’s man was Harry Ingleby, always willing to help fill in the intricate forms, or advise on local government grants. I’m sure his newsagency shop on Vaughan Street was his ‘surgery’.
Whilst the emphasis on villagers’ problems have probably changed, the need for an ‘Ombudsman’ is still very much appreciated.

Over the past years, this need has been satisfied by a local man who has just announced his retirement. Born in the village, Ian Johnson spent his formative years at North Skelton, then the centre of a thriving mining community with prominent and successful football and cricket teams as well as a popular Silver Band.
An air of self-sufficiency provided a parochial pride that was evident in most villages. The situation has gradually changed over the years, especially with the closing of the Mines in this area, and there has been a definite change in village life and habits. ‘Shift-work’, especially at ICI where unemployed miners sought fresh jobs, disrupted weekend social activities provided by the Workingmen’s Club, The Bull’s Head and 50/50 dancing in the ‘Tute’. Young people now have to consider leaving the area to find employment, no longer can work near home be guaranteed. Even children have a choice of schools far and wide.

Now living at Skelton with wife Anthea, daughter Helen and son Richard, Ian has witnessed these changes throughout his lifetime. Luckily, the work situation has not affected him, as he has spent all his working life at Skinningrove Works for a company that has survived many ‘peaks and troughs’ during its existence.
Born at 14 Vaughan Street, Ian Johnson started his schooldays when 5 years of age at North Skelton Infants School along Layland Road, which has now become ‘Betterhome’ DIY store since the Junior School was re-located to Hollybush. When he was 11 he moved on to Stanghow Lane School, just up the road at New Skelton – this venue has also changed definition and is now divided into a number of flats.
The school-leaving age in those days was 14 years, but Ian was eager to further his education so he enrolled at Redcar Technical College. On his 15th birthday he became an Apprentice Centre Lathe Turner at Skinningrove Iron & Steel Works, now ‘Corus’. To achieve the grades which the job required involved several years of intensive study, sometimes once a week incorporating ‘Day & Night School’ attendance, beginning at 9am and continuing through to 8pm. Depending on his ‘shift pattern’, he would sometimes then have to work a 10 x 6 night shift immediately after a full day at college. However, the effort was worth it, eventually paying dividends for Ian who went on to complete a career spanning 47 years as a Section Engineer - just prior to retiring he was an Engineer with a development team.

Always keenly interested in sport, Ian joined the local Badminton Club when he was 12 years old. They practised and played their league games in the old Church Rooms which, would you believe, has been replaced by two dwellings – it doesn’t look as though there’s any evidence to say that ‘Ian Johnson woz ‘ere!’ He remembers with pride the pleasure he derived coaching the younger members on a Saturday morning all those years ago. He was also a keen member of the Stanghow Lane School Sword Dancers.
Ian has served the local community since 1966 as an elected member of Local Government, in which time he always put a lot of emphasis on helping residents in his Ward to solve their problems. He is a forthright man, who never shirked his responsibility even though at times it meant making perhaps a controversial decision. Surely these qualities have made him the type of Councillor a community needs, a man who effectively attended to any problems that faced his electors.

Listed below are just some of the Committees on which Ian has served:
Chairman Cleveland County Highways / Transportation.
Chairman Cleveland County Road Safety Committee.
Appointment to serve on the Northern Economic Planning Council by the Minister of Planning & Local Government.
Member of Langbaurgh Council’s Housing & Policy Committee.
Chairman Skelton Youth Club.
Member of Warsett School Governors.
Member of Skelton School Managers.
Member of Lingdale, Boosbeck, & Margrove Park School Managers.
Member of Skelton & Brotton Carnival Committee.
Chairman of Housing for Skelton & Brotton Urban District Council and Langbaurgh.

For 20 years he was Chairman of Skinningrove Athletic Club which embraced all the sports in the section, i.e. football, table tennis & bowls.
After 10 years he is still Chairman of Skelton Castle Cricket Club and, along with an ambitious committee, he is striving to attain (NYSD) North Yorkshire and South Durham League status for the club. This would be the ‘icing on the cake’, to compliment the tremendous strides the club has taken with its ground development.
For his services to football, Ian was made a Life Member of the then, Cleveland League.
Also, Ian has always been very keen to support and follow the fortunes of North Skelton Band.

On the subject of retirement, he scoffs at the mere mention of ‘slowing down’. During the cricket season, the ‘Castle’ will still have all his support, regularly attending both First & Second Team games, whilst during the winter months, he can be seen at the place of his birth, supporting the Hollybush Team, who play their home games here at North Skelton.

Ian – from all the readers of ‘The Key’ and others who have benefited from your diligent work, we wish you a long and enjoyable ‘retirement’ and thank you most sincerely for your caring attitude towards a grateful local community.

Jim Ramage

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