Goodbye, Spike – hundreds gather for funeral of celebrated Sunderland historian

Michael Bute

Michael Bute

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SUNDERLAND has bid farewell to the man who chronicled some of its most fascinating stories.

Crowds packed Sunderland Minster yesterday to say goodbye to historian Michael Bute.

Funeral of local historain and author Michael Bute at Sunderland Minster on Thursday.

Funeral of local historain and author Michael Bute at Sunderland Minster on Thursday.

Michael, 68, who died last week, was the man who highlighted Lewis Carroll’s links to Wearside and the influence Sunderland may have played on his best-loved works in his book, A Town Like Alice’s.

Funeral hymns included For Those in Peril on the Sea, in tribute to Michael’s time with the Merchant Navy.

Among the mourners was comic artist Bryan Talbot, who drew heavily on Michael’s research for his best-selling graphic novel Alice in Sunderland.

Michael’s nephew Warren Tumility shared memories of the devoted family man and practical joker, while Norman Kirtlan, of Sunderland Antiquarian Society, paid tribute to his friend.

“Lewis Carroll, it is said, owes a great debt to Sunderland. He owes a bigger one to Michael Bute,” he said. “Michael Bute wasn’t just a walking encyclopedia of life in the East End – he was so much more.

“To my mind and indeed, many others, Mike was as much a part of East End folklore as Samson Bessford and Atta Matta and the many others he held proudly as sons and daughters of the rich seam of history in that place he called home.

“If Mike had a voice that reached and touched audiences across Durham, telling tales of local lads made good, people and places long gone, there was another chord that sounded much further and reached a community whose borders stretched across Britain and probably the seven continents, too.

“The subject of one Lewis Carroll was one that Mike made his own. While establishing Carroll’s place in Sunderland – and indeed, the importance that the town played in his work, Mike quietly became one of the most celebrated speakers on the life and time of Charles Dodgson – aka Lewis Carroll.”

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