The RNLI flag has been flying at half mast at Staithes lifeboat station out of respect for Mike Wilson, one of the village’s most respected figures, who has died aged 74.
Every morning of the year Mike opened the big wooden doors of the lifeboat house and closed them again at night. He set up the honesty bookstall inside which became an ever changing library for the village and which raised so much money over the years that the RNLI awarded him a plaque in recognition.
Born in Guiseley in 1939, Mike’s first job was on the shop floor of the family firm of Silver Cross prams, famously used by babies of the Royal family, but Mike had ambitions to fly and soon left to join the RAF.
As a Flying Officer he piloted Hastings planes for Transport Command around Europe and the Far East but left after five years to be with his young family and retrained as a teacher. For the next 24 years he taught English at Guiseley School, passing over all opportunities of promotion to stay as a frontline classroom teacher and instil a love of reading and literature into generations of his pupils.
Partly inspired by his godparents who lived in Staithes, in 1970 Mike bought a holiday cottage near the harbour and on his retirement in 1990 the family moved from Ilkley to live permanently in the village. A tall, handsome man with a clear voice that could be heard in every corner of a hall, Mike was a natural choice to front and compere many village events from concerts to the annual turning on of the Christmas lights on the staith.
Another contribution to village life was his voluntary work with Staithes’ community bus the Coble Courier. He regularly drove shopping parties to Redcar and trained up others as drivers. But perhaps he was best known to visitors for his sprawling annual bookstall on the staith at the RNLI Lifeboat Weekend for which he and his wife Jan collected books all year round. He and Jan celebrated their Golden Wedding in 2013.
At a packed Thanksgiving service at St. Hilda’s, Hinderwell this week the Reverend Alan Coates described Mike as ‘a man of duty and responsibility, honesty and integrity, kindness and compassion.’ An entry in a book of tributes read: ‘Mike did something every day that made life better for someone. He was a gentle man and a gentleman.’
Mike died peacefully at home with his family around him. He leaves his wife Jan, a sister Pam, his daughters Lucy and Sarah, both artists living in Staithes, and two grandchildren Freya and Jamie.