Arthur Staddon has received honorary lifetime membership of the Friends of Beamish after raising tens of thousands of pounds playing the street organ at the museum.
Arthur was given the award in recognition of his amazing contribution since becoming a regular Friends’ volunteer in 1989.
He said: “It feels very nice to receive honorary lifetime membership. Everyone at the Entrance knows I’m the organ grinder. I think I’ve raised nearly £50,000.”
Arthur, who is 88 years old and a retired chartered quantity surveyor, became involved with Beamish in 1967 through being a member of the Tramway Museum Society, the museum did not exist at the time.
He was on the Friends’ committee for a long while and Frank, Beamish Museum’s founder, was Chairman.
Arthur became involved with the museum on a regular basis when, at a meeting in 1989, it was announced that the Friends had a street organ and Arthur agreed to play it.
Ian Bean, Projects’ Director for the Friends, said: “To recognise the fantastic contribution Arthur has made to the Friends of Beamish and, as a result, to Beamish itself, the Friends’ Board decided to grant him honorary membership.
“Although announced at the Friends’ AGM, we decided it would be proper to mark the award with a certificate and John Grundy, the Friends of Beamish Chair, took the opportunity to present it to Arthur during one of his organ grinding Saturdays.
“He has been working the organ for over 26 years now, originally sharing the work with another Friend, Edwin Dalton, sadly no longer with us. The organ was originally purchased simply to entertain, but the organ players found visitors insisted on rewarding their efforts. As a result the organ playing has raised close to £50,000 in that time, almost entirely due to Arthur’s dedication.
“He also worked in the workshops for many years when the weather was too poor to play the organ, always happy cleaning and painting. He is an acknowledged expert on North East buses and trams with several publications to his name.
“Arthur was one of the group of supporters known as the Northern Tramway Sponsors, whose efforts brought Gateshead tram 10 and Sheffield tram 264 to the North East and established trams as a feature of the museum in the early 1970s, providing labour and funds towards this project.
“Arthur has many stories of these early days, some of which he has shared with us in previous Beamish Magazines along with his experiences as an evacuee during the Second World War.
“Arthur is still looking for more people to share the work but in the meantime will be very happy to accept your loose change to help him reach that magic total – if you can spare it of course.”
These days you can find Arthur playing the street organ near the tram stop between The Pit Village and The 1940s Farm.