Multi-talented gift shop owner embraced his life in Staithes

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Terry Lawson, who has died aged 75, was one of the best known and best loved figures in Staithes.

His contribution to the community ranged across the local lifeboat, poetry, music, photography, singing, drama and youth work.

And as proprietor of The Gift Shop, he knew everybody and was locally renowned for sourcing every need from hardware and crockery to a single screw or nail.

Born in Northallerton in 1938, he came to Staithes with his wife Ann to take over the store in 1965. An electrician by trade, he also worked underground at Cleveland Potash mine and served in the Royal Signals in Germany. But it was his involvement with the RNLI and regional arts that made him a celebrated figurehead of the village.

For the RNLI he was a crewman on The Royal Thames, the last lifeboat at Runswick Bay. At Staithes he was one of a small squad who revived and re-opened the station, helping to build a temporary boathouse and becoming a helmsman on Lord Brotherton, the first inshore lifeboat stationed there. He also served as tractor driver, with the Launch Authority and management team, receiving an RNLI silver statuette for his long service and an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party.

As an accomplished photographer, with a particular passion for capturing Staithes in all seasons and weather, his work was featured on ITV’s Dales Diary and is held in the National Archives via Whitby Museum. He exhibited across Yorkshire and his postcards marked many a tourist’s visit to Staithes.

His lifelong love of poetry endured to the end. He was published in the press and various collections. As a founder of Teesside Write Around he saw it grow from a newsletter to a full-blown Literary Festival, was a leading light in Outlet and Write Now poetry groups and taught classes in creative writing under the auspices of Leeds University.

He sang as one of the original members of the Staithes Fishermen’s Choir and was recorded by the BBC at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and for several CDs. His great love of jazz saw him play for Northallerton Town Band, various dance bands and for many years his trombone led the traditional nightgown parade at the start of Staithes Lifeboat Weekend, an event in which he played a leading part in regenerating.

Yet another string to his bow was acting. He was a stalwart of the Hinderwell Drama Group, staged film shows at St. Peter’s church hall in Staithes and was an energetic fundraiser for the village’s first Youth Club.

Iain Baxter, a former fellow helmsman with the Staithes RNLI, said: ‘Terry made a massive contribution to the return of the lifeboat and a massive contribution to Staithes. He was central to everybody’s life in the village.’

Terry Lawson died peacefully at home after a long illness. Shortly before his death, sitting on a bench on the harbour front, he declared himself a lucky man for living in a place he loved and a happy man for the love of his family. He leaves his wife Ann, his children Tim, Jane, Simon and Jonny, his brother Michael and nine surviving grandchildren.

His funeral will take place at St. Hilda’s, Hinderwell at 1.15pm on Monday October 14.