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The 250th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, founder of South Shields Marine School, is being celebrated by the creation of the Dr. Winterbottom Charitable Fund, to help students in the UK and abroad.

Dr. Winterbottom was born in South Shields on 26 March 1766, graduated in medicine in 1792 and was appointed Physician to Sierra Leone the same year. During his 3 years of treating the local population and undertaking research into tropical diseases he made significant progress in understanding the symptoms of sleeping sickness. On returning to South Shields he practised as a GP for 27 years then retired and spent the next 35 years closely involved with local charitable and educational work. He made a major contribution to a number of the town’s charities but is most famous as the founder of South Shields Marine School which opened in 1861, two years after his death.

The Marine School is 155 years old and has always been recognised globally as one the world’s best and probably the most well-known within the maritime industry. It is still going strong and is now part of South Tyneside College. The Fund will be managed by a committee of governors, students and staff to reflect the remit of the college, which is to support its students locally, nationally and internationally.

Three of the local objectives are to set up funds for Health and Wellbeing; Business Start Up and Learning Hardship. The latter being designed to overcome barriers to learning by providing small grants to individual students who may need short term help to aid their education progression.

There are also three overseas objectives with the first one already in place and two that have been identified for development. The Youth Contact Centre, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe provides education for the many young people who are on low incomes or unemployed and is already benefiting from educational materials sent over from the college earlier this year. Dr. Winterbottom spent a number of years working in Sierra Leone and it seems appropriate to recognise this by applying the same objectives there and the Fund is actively exploring possibilities. Because of the global activities of the Marine School it has a significant number of students from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and it would be beneficial to build on them and so potential opportunities are being investigated.

John Lightfoot MBE, Chairman of South Shields based Solar Solve Marine and a Fellow of the Marine School, was invited to a celebratory fund-raising lunch to salute the Marine School founder and publicise the launch of the Charitable Fund. He happily made a donation on behalf of the company towards a successful launch of this worthwhile and commendable venture. Accepting the cheque on behalf of the Fund committee were college Students’ Union Committee members Kennedy Coulson, who is attending a Business Studies course and catering student Calum George. Also at the hand-over were college Chief Executive Lindsey Whiterod OBE and Leslie Watson chairman of the Fund committee.

Top Image – Dr. Linsey Whiterod OBE with John Lightfoot, MBE as he presents a donation from Solar Solve Marine to students Calum George and Kennedy Coulson, watched by chairman of the Dr. Winterbottom Charitable Fund, Leslie Watson.