South Tyneside great granddad sings Vera Lynn and more in weekly singalong with neighbours
Like neighbourhoods across the country, the residents of Cedar Grove in Hebburn have been out on their doorsteps each Thursday at 8pm to take part in Clap for Carers.
It’s been a particularly poignant event for resident Billy Gatens, 83, who’s been receiving treatment from South Tyneside Hospital for the past six years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
So grateful are he and wife Cathy for the great care he’s been given, he decided to lead a singalong after the Clap for Carers, and it’s snowballed into a weekly event that the whole square join in with – and it’s still going strong despite other Clap for Carers ending.
Billy’s favourite song to sing is Friends & Neighbours by Billy Cotton, which he sings every Thursday before doing a second song which changes every week.
So far, the granddad of nine and great granddad of six has covered a host of classics, including Is This The Way to Amarillo, We’ll Meet Again, Frank Sinatra tracks and Happiness by Ken Dodd – which was accompanied by his neighbours waving tickling sticks.
Billy’s son Stephen said: “My mam and dad are great fans of the NHS and he’s had incredible care from South Tyneside Hospital and local GPs, so Clap for Carers was very important to them.
“My dad’s a very humble man, but he’s funny and confident and he can hold a tune so he decided to sing after doing the weekly Clap for Carers. When that stopped a couple of weeks ago, people started asking him if his singing had to stop so he’s kept going.
“The virus may have stopped us living our normal lives, but it’s also brought people together and doing this once a week has really kept dad going.”
He added: “Cedar Grove is shaped like a square so it really lends itself well to people joining in. It’s an area that’s always had a great community spirit, but it’s been fantastic in lockdown. On VE Day, there was such an amazing sense of camaraderie.”