Tributes paid to popular showman

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AN EVENT organiser who helped attract crowds in their thousands has been laid to rest.

Bill Ward founded Seaham Civic Show, organised a visit by 10 warships for the 150th anniversary celebration of the town’s dock and ran the first Fatfield Show.

He also put together displays by the forces and emergency services in Seaburn and planned the Millennium carnival in Seaham as his final event at the age of 67.

His efforts as a planner gained him an award from the Showmans’ Guild of Great Britain and came in the wake of his main career as a policeman.

Born in Sunderland and brought up in Seaham, Bill joined Durham Constabulary after a time in the RAF and as a painter and decorator and patrolled Fatfield, Chester-le-Street and Stockton, before working in his home town of Seaham.

During his time with the force, he served in a series of roles including in CID and collecting forensic evidence.

The 79-year-old died earlier this month after suffering organ failure.

His funeral, held at St Mary Magdalen’s RC Church in Seaham, took place on Wednesday, on the 27th anniversary of his retirement from the police.

Bill leaves behind wife Eveline, 73, daughter Janice Graham, 50, and her husband Alan, 57, and their children Michael, 22, and Nicola, 18, and his son Derek, 45, his wife Christine, 47, and their 18-year-old son Alexander.

Christine said: “They were his baby, these events, and he was very proud of them and was meticulous in his organisation.

“He was a larger-than-life character and he was very helpful and friendly, but he didn’t stand for any nonsense and would tell you exactly what he thought, but then wouldn’t bear a grudge if there was difference between you.

“He had hundreds of friends and was very well respected and we’re sitting with around 70 cards sent to us, flowers and messages. He will be sorely missed in Seaham.”

The 150th anniversary of the Port of Seaham in 1978 attracted 100,000 people to the seafront and also featured an aerial display.

One of Bill’s proudest moments was gridlocking the town with traffic which meant he could play a joke on his son, who had been away, so he could not get home.

Seaham Show was launched in 1969 and ran until 1997, when his involvement ended, with the fun day held on land next to Seaham Leisure Centre.

He was then asked to put his expertise to use in 2000 for the millennium party in the July.

His family is to donate cash in lieu of flowers to the Great North Air Ambulance, Seaham Scouts, where he had helped run its police club, and the British Heart Foundation.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham