The inspirational life of Beamish’s visionary founder Dr Frank Atkinson CBE has been celebrated at the museum.
Friends, family and visitors gathered in St Helen’s Church, in our Georgian Landscape, in honour of “The Man Who Made Beamish”, who died, aged 90, on 30th December 2014.
Heartfelt tributes and inspiring stories and memories were shared by speakers including Beamish’s Director Richard Evans, Chairman Councillor Carl Marshall, Friends of Beamish including Chairman John Grundy, and some of the museum’s first staff and volunteers.
Richard spoke of Frank’s great knowledge, passion, determination and vision, pledging to “ensure his legacy is passed on to future generations”.
John described Frank as “a very great man”, paying tribute to his unique foresight in preserving the region’s industrial heritage.
Coun Marshall said: “The Beamish we all love would simply not exist without Frank’s amazing vision.”
Jim Rees, Beamish’s Assistant Director Development, referenced the tribute to Sir Christopher Wren in St Paul’s Cathedral, saying: “If you seek his memorial, look about you. That’s what I would say about Frank.”
The celebration, on Saturday, 9th May, also featured music and dance, and The Lambton Worm and Ilkley Moor Baht ’at were sung.
The medieval St Helen’s Church was a fitting location for the celebration. The church was moved to Beamish from Eston, Teesside, after being saved from demolition, and is still a work in progress, symbolic of Frank’s continually evolving museum.
Frank’s vision for a North East open air museum began in the 1950s. He took up his post as Director of Beamish in August 1970 and an introductory exhibition opened a year later. Frank retired in 1987 – the year Beamish was named European Museum of the Year – but he remained close to the museum he founded.
Frank was married to Joan, and had three sons Guy, Mark and Neil, and five grandchildren.