Tribute to kindhearted South Shields great-grandfather who dedicated his final years to bringing people comfort by carving and handing out thousands of miniature wooden crosses

A man who dedicated his final years to carving and handing out thousands of miniature wooden crosses has been remembered for his independent-mindedness.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 6:00 am

Jim Roberts, who was born at Laygate, South Shields in 1932, had been a choir boy at Holy Trinity Church and remained a devout Methodist throughout his life.

He began his professional life as a naval architect, before he turned to mining - eventually becoming director of the National Coal Board.

When he returned to the North East, having been based for some number of years at Belton, Lincolnshire, his family says a lifelong interest in woodwork developed into carving miniature crosses that “turned into a real passion of his”.

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Jim Roberts, and some of the many crosses he made to spread kindness. He will be deeply missed.

"When he retired, he came straight back up north – which is where he belongs,” said granddaughter Amanda Wooldridge.

"He already did a lot of woodwork with kids with disabilities – making toys, model kitchens, all sorts of things, really. But it was about 10 years ago that he started to make crosses out of scraps of wood.

"He’d use scraps of wood he had in his garage. There’d be 12 notches he’d singe into the side of the crosses to represent the 12 disciples.

"And they ended up all over the world – they’ve ended up in New Zealand, Norway, and on the graves of the unknown [World War] soldiers in France and Belgium.”

Mr Roberts with his granddaughter, Amanda, and great-grandchildren in South Shields. He will be deeply missed.

According to Ms Wooldridge, Jim made more than 1,000 of the crosses during the pandemic, bringing them to care facilities near his Washington home.

The director of Northumberland-based wellington boot company, Squelch, added that her grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit and independent-mindedness had been passed on to several generations of his family.

“These crosses brought people comfort, whether they were religious or not,” she said.

"Obviously this past year has been a very lonely time for a lot of the elderly. And making these crosses for them has really kept him going during the pandemic.

Mr Roberts (pictured, below) as a young boy with his family in Laygate

"It was really important for him to get them out to people he felt were suffering or going through a really hard time.

"It was typical of him. He always taught me not to follow the crowd – to go out there and do your own thing."

Mr Roberts passed away, aged 89, at his family home on Thursday, March 25.

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Mr Roberts with his beloved late wife, Ethel.

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Mr Roberts (left) at the christening of his great-grandchildren in Greece.
Mr Roberts' family say his interest in carving the miniature wooden crosses turned into something of a passion during his final years.
One of the late Mr Roberts' hand-carved wooden crosses