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Darlington greengrocer among those honoured by Queen
A GREENGROCER who has worked tirelessly at a North- East market for more than 50 years has been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Robin Blair, vice-chairman of Darlington Retail Market Stalls Association, has been awarded a British Empire Medal after decades of dedication to the town’s covered market and the traders.
The 67-year-old said: “I am chuffed to bits, but not sure why they chose me of all people.
I am very passionate about Darlington and the market, but I’m just getting on with doing what I love.”
Mr Blair, whose family has had a stall in the covered market for nearly 140 years, is a prominent figure in Darlington and regularly campaigns for local traders.
In a letter published in The Northern Echo yesterday, the former Darlington Citizen of the Year called on traders to support his latest campaign against the proposed plans to demolish the town hall to make way for a 4,000sq metre supermarket.
He said: “Our town surely has enough supermarkets draining the life from the town centre. We will be fighting these plans.”
The Sadberge resident started working on his family’s grocery stall, JJ Blair and Sons, when he was seven, and has worked there since.
He said: “The thing I love most about the market is the different people you meet, and how it brings everyone together in a way that big supermarkets can’t.
“I have always loved Darlington and believe the covered market needs to stay in the town. It has so much history and brings so much to the town that I feel it needs protecting and it needs someone to stand up for it.
“We have worked hard to keep the market here and have overcome a lot over the past few years and I am going to continue to keep it going for as long as I can.”
Sadberge and Whessoe councillor Brian Jones said he was delighted for Mr Blair.
He said: “Robin has been a vital part of the market for at least 50 years and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person. I am very proud of him.”
From recluse to MBE
AN 81-YEAR-OLD man who lived as a virtual recluse for 30 years after going blind before setting up a charity has been awarded an MBE.
George Glass, of Stockton, went blind when he was in his 20s, and after three decades of struggling, he decided to establish a charity to help others in a similar situation.
Founding Stockton Blind People’s Voice, later to become BlindVoice UK, he and others began campaigning for better access, support and rights for blind people.
The charity also provides a support network for practical help.
Mr Glass, who recently stepped down as chairman, said: “It all started when, after more than three decades living as a virtual recluse, I decided to return to the world in 1986 and was appalled at the lack of support for blind and visually impaired people in the area.
“My life was a nightmare, but I battled on and became convinced that I had to fight the system to make essential improvements. I was determined to ensure no other blind person suffered like I did.”
Mr Glass was born with limited vision, which became progressively worse. By the age of 24 he was totally blind and withdrew from society, relying on his parents. At 55, he was forced to engage with the world again and took up a number of activities, including international chess, creative writing and learning German, before establishing the charity that would help ransform the lives of other isolated blind people.
In 2004, Blind Voice UK received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and he was presented to the Queen to collect the award.
Present manager of Blind- Voice, Christine Durnion, said “I am absolutely delighted George has been recognised for his work.”