A RESPECTED college principal who played a key role in opening up the farming industry to North-East children has died.

Alan Hetherington was born in Newcastle in 1939 and had a lucky escape as a baby when his home was bombed during the war. He was saved from being crushed only by his cot.

At school he showed an aptitude for arithmetic and he went on to study Agriculture at Newcastle University.

He met his wife, Brenda at a dance, and the pair were married on Boxing Day, in 1963.

On graduation, the couple moved to Kirkly Hall, in Northumberland, where they were given the stone gatehouse which they loved but ambition saw them move to South Wales after Mr Hetherington was offered a job at Usk College.

The couple had two children, Andrew and Carolyne.

During his time at Usk College, Mr Hetherington was successful in the field of pig husbandry and published several articles on the topic in Farmers Weekly.

He also won best breed with one of his large Whites at Smithfield Show - something he was particularly proud of.

After being offered a job as farm manager at Houghall College of Agriculture in 1977, the family returned to the North-East and settled in Bishop Auckland.

Mr Hetherington was soon promoted to vice-principal and then principal - the youngest in the UK at the time.

Improvements he made at the college, in Durham, included installing a new pig unit with an annual output of 1,800 pigs, dairy housing, sheep sheds, silage pits, potato storage and a new beef enterprise.

His daughter Carolyne Grant, said her father also helped organised the first open days at the college to give children an insight into the industry.

Mr Hetherington worked at the college for 20 years before taking early retirement in 1997.

He also served as a Justice of the Peace during the two decades.

His other passions included rugby, sailing, dancing and travelling, both as a family to Europe and further afield to New Zealand and Australia, with Mrs Hetherington, after his retirement.

The couple, who enjoyed 55 years of marriage, had six grandchildren and often visited their daughter after she emigrated to New Zealand where their grandson, Angus, has followed in his grandfather's footsteps and developed a passion for farming.

Mrs Grant described her father as an "exceptional person" who had a "life well lived".

She said: "For me, I will always remember car journeys to school in Durham with dad listening to Barbara Streisand and putting the world to rights.

"At uni in Manchester, he would pick me up and take me and all my friends for a curry and great debates."

She added: "Dad was such a knowledgeable and intellectual man, he loved a good argument which I was always happy to have."