'We will miss you old pal' - Tributes to a Sunderland historian who has been hailed a 'blessing' to Wearside

Tributes have been paid to a Sunderland historian, pigeon fancier and writer who has died aged 90.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 2:12 pm

Jack Curtis, who died this week after a short illness, has been hailed as a ‘gentleman’ who was immensely creative.

His brother Chas Curtis and sister Joyce Hopps told of the man who loved racing pigeons and was renowned round the world in the sport – from the USA to Australia.

As a child he made his own toys and was always a top performer at school, as a man, he wrote books on everything from pigeons to shipbuilding.

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Jack Curtis, the Sunderland historian and writer who has died aged 90.

Chas described his brother as ‘an articulate man who could hold his own with anyone’.

Jack, a father of two to Lynne and Judith, had numerous other achievements.

He apprenticed at the Old Sunderland Corporation Electricity Undertaking group until his National Service with the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).

Later, he became an engineer, at first serving the Hesleden area and then back in his beloved Sunderland.

Jack Curtis, the Sunderland historian and writer who passed away this week.

He did consultancy work and found himself consulting at Roker Park for 19 years. He finished his time at the North Eastern Electricity Board and worked for 47 years before retiring.

He was an expert electrician and the youngest ever foreman with NEEB when he was 28 and was involved in some hugely significant projects in Sunderland.

It was Jack who put in the main furnaces at Corning’s in Sunderland – the place which was synonymous with Pyrex.

Jack also put in the first floodlights at Sunderland AFC’s Roker Park ground and all the cables for the electrification of the cranes on the Deep Water Quay.

Jack pictured in 2004 beside the Gladstone Bridge. Jack had a huge knowledge of Sunderland's maritime history.

He was also a keen singer and member of the Hettons Lyons Male Voice Choir.

After the passing of his beloved wife Margaret, he became a member of the board of trustees with the Sunderland Maritime Heritage group. He was a member of the Living History North East group at the Donnison Centre, and of Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

He was a renowned public speaker.

Janette Hilton, from The Donnison School Heritage and Education Centre, said: “He has produced numerous public talks, publications, even starred in a local ‘musical’ as well as being an amazing fundraiser. The Donnison has been a haven for Jack and he was a blessing for us.”

Jack Curtis pictured in 2016.

Jack was a teenager working at Doxfords and making ‘42 mugs of tea three times a day’ for colleagues when VE Day came.

He had a real affinity to Sunderland’s nautical past. His grandfather Ralph Scott was a professional diver who was intrinsically involved in the building of Sunderland’s two piers.

The Trustees of Sunderland Maritime Centre said Jack ‘was one of life’s characters and a real gentleman who was very proud of Sunderland and the achievements of its people. His passion for the city’s history was always evident and he eagerly answered questions, vividly, always happy to pass his knowledge on.”

Jack was also loved at the Sunderland Antiquarian Society and they said: “He was a wonderful speaker and what he did not know about the docks, the River Wear and its history wasn't worth knowing. We will miss you old pal.”

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Rare film footage shows what Sunderland looked like in 1974
Jack Curtis who was an established Wearside author.

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