He ran a much-loved youth club for 40 years and has organised a popular Irish dancing session for the last 15 years, but unsung community champion Eddie White described himself as “unworthy” when his voluntary efforts were recognised with a Teesside Hero award.
Middlesbrough-born Eddie became a well-known face to generations of the town’s teenagers while running Sacred Heart Youth Club on Linthorpe Road for four decades between 1966 and 2006.
Now aged 84, the father of four and grandfather of six continues to organise the monthly Irish dancing session at the Erimus Club, off Cumberland Road, whilst he is a stalwart gardener for the Catholic church within the Sacred Heart parish.
After being surprised by the presentation of a Teesside Hero award by Teesside Philanthropic Foundation before the start of a recent dance night, an emotional Eddie reflected: “I do feel unworthy of such an award because I couldn’t do the things I do without the support of an awful lot of other people.”
Asked why he puts so much of his own time into helping others, he said: “We all have a responsibility to be put something back.
“If something needs doing and we can help, we shouldn’t leave it other people. In my younger days I was part of the Young Christian Workers Association. Maybe that’s where I got the desire to help others from.”
England won the World Cup when Eddie first became involved in the running of Sacred Heart Youth Club back in 1966 under the leadership of Peter Dahms.
He then spent more than 30 years as youth leader for a hugely popular club that attracted 150 local youths to its weekly discos and many others to its football, lads and girls nights.
“Men and women in their 30s, 40, 50s and 60s still approach me now to say what great memories they have of the youth club and how much they appreciated it,” said Eddie.
“Some people told me it kept the kids off the streets but that was incidental for me. If I could help keep on the straight and narrow, to respect the premises, other people and themselves then I could see the benefit.
“Hopefully, some of my beliefs and philosophy rubbed off on them as young people. I’d certainly like to think the youth club had a positive impact on them.”
In November 2001, he organised an Irish dance to raise funds for the youth club. The night proved so popular that he was asked to run it more often and he continues to organise the monthly sessions at the Erimus Club 10 times a year, attracting around 70 music and dance fans every time.
Boro fan Eddie, who has been married to Irish-born Nora for 56 years, said: “Most Catholics on Teesside have an Irish connection somewhere along the line and I had a close affinity with Irish music, so it made sense to run them as a regular fundraiser.”
Fifteen years on, profits from the sessions continue to raise money for Sacred Heart’s church build fund including future hope for a new church hall.
And his voluntary work doesn’t stop there. He was a member of the board of governors at St Michael’s, St Paul’s and St David’s schools for 24 years, and remains part of a small team of volunteers that care for the lawns, hedges and plant flowers around the grounds of Sacred Heart Church.
Sacred Heart parish priest, Fr Stephen Maughan, paid tribute to the Teesside Hero by saying: “Eddie is a gentleman and represents all that is best about Middlesbrough.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have anything but respect for him. Eddie never does anything for attention or for credit, but if anyone deserves recognition for his contribution to the community, he does.”
Presented with his award by Mandi Allen of Philanthropic Foundation patrons Hunters Estate Agents, he also received a voucher for Mohujo’s restaurant and £1,000 for a local charity of his choice, which he has asked to be split between Teesside Hospice and the north-east group of the Downs Syndrome Association.