Months after his death from cancer, a much-loved North-East grandad has achieved his aim of raising £100,000 for local charities through his passion for the sport of shooting. PETER BARRON reports

AS the British Army’s clay pigeon shooting champion, Tony Masters’ aim was always true.

And how proud he would have been to know that he’d hit the biggest target of his life – months after his death.

Two years ago, Tony, a driving force behind Marne Clay Shooting Club, at Marne Barracks, Catterick, set his sights on raising £100,000 for good causes through a series of charity shooting events.

Club members embraced the fundraising campaign, and the £90,000 mark had been reached when Tony was, sadly, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last May. When he died, aged 60, in July, the appeal was still £5,000 short.

However, the members weren't going to let the club, or Tony's target, die with him. Led by Tony’s son, Phil, and chairman, Richard Thompson, they rallied round in the run up to Christmas and have now hit the £100,000 mark.

“The club members wanted to do it in Dad’s memory because he was such an important figure in the club’s history,” says Phil. “The club wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for the hard work he put in over decades. He was never the type to shout about his achievements, but I know he would have been thrilled to know we’d reached the target.”

Tony, who was born in Northallerton, joined the Army as a teenager and served for more than 30 years, ending up with the rank of Sergeant Major.

In his role as Motor Transport Warrant Officer at Marne Barracks, he was in charge of the fleet of vehicles at the North Yorkshire base, and it was while he was stationed there that Tony got involved in the shooting club.

Shooting was a lifelong passion and he competed all over the world as a member of the Army’s clay target shooting team. He was the Army’s clay pigeon shooting champion on several occasions – winning the competition every time he entered.

As he reached his normal military retirement age, Tony became a careers advisor in Bishop Auckland and Darlington before putting even more time into running the shooting club.

He’d been instrumental in founding the club and took over the running of it in 1997. Initially, there were just a few hand-traps but, under his leadership, it grew to the point where it now has more than 40 electronic traps and around 250 members.

“He put his heart and soul into the club and created an ethos based around encouraging more people to get involved in the sport, while helping local causes at the same time,” explains Phil, who serves as club secretary.

“He was a charitable person throughout his life, always raising money for good causes. If someone was broken down by the side of the road, he would stop and help – that’s just the kind of person he was.”

Tony’s dad, Peter, was also a committed member of the club before he also died of cancer in 2014.

The £100,000 has now been distributed to charities, including St Teresa’s, Butterwick, Herriot, and Willow Burn hospices; Macmillan Cancer Support; Help For Heroes; The Riding For The Disabled Association; Alzheimer’s UK; Dementia UK; and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).

Local churches and a wide range of smaller community organisations have also benefited, including Bedale Under-10s girls football team.

“He was a just a larger-than-life character, who will always be remembered as a strong and very caring man. He would love to know that the money had gone to such good causes,” adds Phil, who works as a solicitor for BHP Law in Darlington.

Tony, who lived in Darlington, also leaves a daughter, Lianne, and three grandchildren.

In his honour, The Marne Clay Shooting Club’s logo has fittingly been adapted to incorporate a picture of Tony in familiar pose, taking aim with his shotgun.

A lasting reminder of how making a difference was his aim in life.

THANK you to Ian Wilkinson who was quick to pass on a personal memory of Meat Loaf after the rock star’s death at 74 was announced last week.

Ian, originally from Shildon and now living in Darlington, recalled a colourful encounter with the Bat Out of Hell star during the “Monday After The Masters” charity golf tournament at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2006.

The tournament traditionally attracts leading players and celebrities, and Ian – a former tennis coach and maths teacher – was there after becoming friends with members of the American rock band Hootie and the Blowfish.

When Meatloaf heard Ian’s accent, he went over to him and said: “You must be from the North-East of England!”

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The singer then proceeded to loudly tell everyone within earshot about the monkey that was hanged in Hartlepool after being mistaken for a French spy. Meat Loaf had become fascinated by the legend after hearing about it when he appeared on Sky Sport’s Soccer AM, and randomly adopted Hartlepool FC as his favourite football team.

“He was just a really lovely, friendly guy and very knowledgeable about Hartlepool,” recalls Ian. “And let’s just say he was a very enthusiastic participant in the karaoke that followed the tournament!”

A WORD about this growing world-wide obsession with a daily puzzle game called Wordle.

I readily confess that I too have become an addict. My wife and I have a friendly competition over a morning cup of tea in bed, to get the brain working for the day ahead.

However, bar far the bigger puzzle is why so many people feel the need to share their little coloured grid on social media every day to show how many attempts it took them to work out the five-letter solution.

I honestly don’t need to know that it took four attempts for Ken, of Chipping Sodbury, to work out that the answer is VAPID.

If anyone you know is guilty of this affliction, please have a word. 

FINALLY, as a horse-racing fan, I couldn’t help noticing that a horse called Unexpected Party won the 1.45pm race at Ascot on Saturday.

Do you think Boris Johnson backed it?