A LEGENDARY South Tyneside children’s entertainer left it to others to blow his trumpet when he was rewarded for providing 25 years of fun.
One of the borough’s best known – and loved – personalities showed his serious side when he became only the eighth recipient of South Tyneside College’s most prestigious honour.
At its annual graduation ceremony, Ray Spencer MBE, who entertained as Tommy the Trumpeter for 25 years, received the annual Dr Winterbottom Fellowship Award.
The award, named after Thomas Winterbottom, the 19th century founder of the original marine school on which the college grew, was introduced in 2011.
It is given in recognition of an individual’s services to its work, to the marine industry or to South Tyneside, and is for those in the spheres of academia, industry, science, commerce, the arts, community, public and voluntary service or business.
Ray, 57, who retired from his role as Tommy last year, is a former college business studies student and was a performing arts lecturer between 1984 and 1999.
He is also executive director of the Customs House in South Shields, where two annual graduation ceremonies for students were recently held.
About 130 students from the world-renowned South Shields Marine School – part of South Tyneside College – received course awards which included certificates, diplomas and foundations degrees in marine engineering, nautical science and marine operations.
And dozens of learners from the schools of adult learning and employability, creative industries, and engineering, were also given their academic credentials.
Courses they have successfully passed include therapeutic counselling, management and leadership, criminal justice, education and care, hairdressing and management, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computing.
Ray said: “I am enormously honoured to receive this fellowship in the name of man who did so much for the community in which we today live and work.
“I first came to the college as a child to see a live theatre production, and from that I gained my love of theatre, so I have a lot to thank the college for.
“I am very proud to share this award with others who have benefited from having an internationally-renowned institution on their doorstep.”
Lindsey Whiterod OBE, the college’s chief executive, said: “Ray has been a superb ambassador for South Tyneside for many years and is a very worthy recipient of the Dr Winterbottom Fellowship Award.
“He is known to thousands for his light-hearted side, but he has done a great deal to put South Tyneside on the map, not least through his drive and dedication to make the Customs House an outstanding entertainments venue.
“I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”.
A number of outstanding achievement awards were also presented to individual students across both ceremonies. They included awards for studies in HNC, HND and National Certificate in nautical science, HNC, HND and foundation degree in marine engineering, Chartered Institute of Management level 5 Diploma Management & Leadership, and HND Business Management.