TRIBUTES have been paid to a former florist who became a tireless campaigner for the Lindisfarne Gospels to be returned to the North-East.

As a leading force in the Northumbrian Association, John Danby fought for years to see the priceless medieval treasures moved from the British Library, in London, back to the region where they were created in the late 8th Century.

Sadly, he died just months before the Gospels are due to begin a three-month loan to Durham, this summer.

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John Cuthbert, honorary president of the Northumbrian Association, said: “John was not only enthusiastic and committed to promoting the culture and heritage of the region through the Association but also had an amazing and enviable ability to enthuse and engage others.

“He was a good man with a good heart and a true Northumbrian.”

John Mowbray, who met Mr Danby through his work for Northumbrian Water, said he had sought the cultural regeneration of the region and it was a great shame he would not see this summer’s Gospels exhibition.

“John was a thoroughly decent man, a lovely man with a streak of eccentricity that just attracted you to him. He passionately converted many to his cause but also to him.

“The region has lost a great but unheralded man. He was a true Northumbrian and his bold endeavour brightened the lives of many, many people,” Mr Mowbray said.

Mr Danby was born in Whitehaven, Cumbria, but grew up in Hebburn, South Tyneside, and attended school at nearby Jarrow Grammar.

He took over his father’s fruit and flower shop, expanding the firm to include several branches across Tyneside and Wearside.

Married to Hazel, he had two daughters, Christine and Joanne, and five grandchildren.

He also loved his pet Border Terrier Tonic, mountain climbing and cycling. In his younger days, he played table tennis to an international standard.

Mr Danby was diagnosed with cancer last January and died at home in Washington, Wearside, on New Year’s Eve. He was 74.

His family is setting up a memorial fund in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support and his funeral will be held at St Chad’s Church, East Herrington, on Saturday (January 5) at 11am.