Tributes to be made to local history stalwart for major contribution to community

Mike Kirkup pictured in 1990 with Paul Stearman, the first recipient of a grant from the Jackie Milburn Memorial Fund for disadvantaged North East Children.
Mike Kirkup pictured in 1990 with Paul Stearman, the first recipient of a grant from the Jackie Milburn Memorial Fund for disadvantaged North East Children.
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Tributes are being paid to a man who produced a popular local history magazine covering an area of south east Northumberland.

Born in Ashington, Mike Kirkup lived most of his life in the region. His books brought him recognition among North Eastern historical circles and a devoted readership of locals and Northumbrian expats around the world.

The Newbiggin resident died at the age of 82 on April 12.

Books such as Coal Town: Growing Up in Ashington, Pit Town and Pit Folk and The Biggest Mining Village In The World gave a voice to coal mining communities and honoured various characters.

As well as non-fiction wo-rks, the former miner, teacher and RAF radar engineer published stories and poems.

He was instrumental in publishing Tide Lines: A Celebration of Druridge as part of a campaign against plans for a nuclear power plant to be built at Druridge Bay.

His celebration of the area’s mining communities also extended to plays and musicals including Wor Jackie, and Fell ‘Em Doon – the latter written with local composer and long-term collaborator Derek Hobbs.

Perhaps Mike’s greatest contribution to the people and the history of Northumberland is A Creeful of Coals, a monthly magazine that he edited and produced for 25 years.

Since 1991, it has been sold in shops and newsagents in Ashington, Newbiggin, Bedlington and Morpeth, as well as the Woodhorn museum, and sent out to readers across the UK and various countries across the world.

In the Creeful, readers found a connection to the towns and communities of their childhoods. Bringing together historical documents, photographs, recollections and readers’ own stories, it reached thousands of fans each month,

The magazine was made possible by the generous input of its readers, who provided a constant stream of reminiscences, family histories, photographs, poems and stories.

He founded a charity, the Jackie Milburn Memorial Fund, to provide grants to disadvantaged children. In 2015, he received a Northumberland Local Heroes award.

Mike had three adult children and three grandchildren.

Keenly involved in local arts and culture, Mike was chairman of Wansbeck Writers Group, chairman of the Friends of Woodhorn Colliery Museum and president of the Ashington and District Male Voice Choir.

He also served his community as a school governor and as a member of Northumberland County Council.

Since Mike suffered a stroke, he was supported in producing the Creeful of Coals by his wife, Lorna, and friends.

As long as readers keep sending in their stories of Northumbrian life, they will endeavour to keep producing the much-loved magazine.

His funeral is taking place on Wednesday (April 27) in St Aidan’s RC Church, Ashington, at 1.30pm, followed by a cremation in Cowpen Crematorium, Blyth, at 2.30pm.