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Earlier in July we made a donation to South Shields Marine School’s Dr. Winterbottom Charitable Fund, as we have done every year since the fund was created in March 2016 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, founder of South Shields Marine School.

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 was 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 Fund is 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.  Two local objectives are to offer support with Health and Wellbeing 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.  It is also the most utilised.

Les Watson, fund chairman and founder of the charity explained, “In most cases of genuine hardship, the difference between a student being able to complete their course successfully or not, is often only a matter of providing a grant of less than £100 up to a few hundred pounds.  In some cases, once a student successfully completes a course it results in a job with greater financial reward and so we will supplement a grant with a loan that they undertake to pay back when they are working again.”

“It is down to trust and the fund’s objective of wanting to remove unnecessary stress for any of South Tyneside College’s students who are trying to improve themselves and their career prospects but need a bit of financial assistance.  The success rate is a great reward for the committee members.”

Overseas, the college has already established links with the Youth Contact Centre, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, which provides education for the many young people who are on low incomes or unemployed.  Students there have been benefiting from educational materials packed into a container and sent over from the college 15 months ago and remain in contact for future assistance.

As chairman of Solar Solve Marine I was invited to a presentation to formally hand over the donation on behalf of the company.  The Marine School is 157 years old and in 1961, when I was into my second year there as a Marine Engineer Cadet, I attended a memorial service to celebrate its 100th anniversary.  I attended for further short periods of time until I gained my First Class Steam Certificate of Competency in 1968.  During those difficult years of studying I never dreamed that someday I would be made a Fellow of South Shields Marine School, which I was very honoured to accept in July 2012.

I had the honour of handing over Solar Solve Marine’s donation to William Craik, Senior Technician at South Tyneside College and a member of the Dr. Winterbottom Charitable Fund committee, watched by four of the other committee members.

I was then invited to an informal meeting with the committee members and took the opportunity to reiterate how South Shields Marine School, later to be well known as South Shields Marine and Technical College and now South Tyneside College, part of Tyne Coast College has always been recognised globally as one the world’s best and probably the most well-known within the maritime industry.  Throughout my working life and through Solar Solve Marine we have communicated personally with hundreds of the thousands of people who have lived in the borough whilst attending the Marine School or South Tyneside College.  Every one of them has been full of praise for the education and local reception they received.”

“The Dr. Winterbottom Charitable Fund is yet another great example of how the people of South Tyneside welcome and look after their guests.”

The charity can be contacted by telephone on +44 191 427 3717 or email dwcf@stc.ac.uk or visit the website http://www.stc.ac.uk/