Tributes paid to former South Tyneside librarian who established a popular heritage club

Tributes have been paid to Hildred Whale, who has died.
Tributes have been paid to Hildred Whale, who has died.

Tributes have been paid to a popular senior South Tyneside librarian and local history and heritage champion, Hildred Whale, who has died.

Hildred, who was 72 and lived at Westoe, died peacefully in hospital just before Christmas after a short illness.

Until her retirement in 2011, she had been South Tyneside Libraries’ information and education co- ordinator, having worked for the library service in South Tyneside for 46 years.

She also established a monthly Wednesday Heritage Club, based first at the old library in Prince Georg Square and now at The Word, featuring talks on aspects of local and regional history.

Friends and family who gathered for the funeral service at a packed St Jude’s Church at Laygate heard that over the 13 years that the club has been running, more than 200 events have been held, drawing an audience totaling over 20,000 people.

Hildred began her career at the old library and museum in Ocean Road in 1965. In 1976, the library service moved to new premises in Prince Georg Square. The transfer of stock and staff was a massive undertaking, the then- Hildred Carlin later recalling how it took place against the background of plans for her imminent wedding to fellow librarian, David Whale.

They had been neighbours as children in the Barnes Road/South Eldon Street area of the town, meeting up again as adults through their jobs. In 2011, David followed his wife into retirement, stepping-down asthe library service’s development and planning co-ordinator.

At her funeral, he recalled his wife’s dedication to her role and to the placing of the library service at the heart of the community.

Away from work, she was a homemaker, gardener and formidable organiser, as well as a member of the Customs Voices community choir, members of which performed a selection of songs at a pre- service reception held at the neighbouring Living Waters Church.

David said he had been moved by the many messages he had received from people paying tribute to Hildred as a friend and colleague, and remembering her kindness, warmth and abilities.

Writer Michael Chaplin praised her “sensibility and energy.” The Word, he said, was the embodiment of her lifelong civic values and beliefs. “South Shields will miss her greatly,” he said.

To historian and television presenter John Grundy, Hildred was “notoriously persuasive, dogged as a trail-hound, but so charming and impossible to resist. I am desperately sad.”

Ray Spencer, director of the Customs House, said both Hildred and David were “amazing champions of all things South Shields. She is a great loss to the borough.”

The funeral service was followed by interment at Harton Cemetery.

By Janis Blower