AS the month of remembrance comes to an end for another year, it is fitting that a lovely old man, called Alan Frankland, is remembered with the respect he so richly deserves.

Alan was laid to rest at Kirkleatham Crematorium, on the outskirts of his beloved Redcar, yesterday afternoon, when he was rightly given a guard of honour by members of his local branch of the Royal British Legion.

Alan, who was a month away from his 90th birthday when he passed away, was immensely proud to be President of the Redcar branch, and he had a remarkable track record when it came to showing his support.

I first met Alan in 2018 after hearing of his epic efforts to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Every weekday, he was to be found at Redcar Leisure Centre, slowly but steadily swimming half a mile towards his target of clocking up 100 miles to mark the 100 years that had passed since the war that was meant to end all wars.

Only a painful kidney infection caused him to take a break from his punishing daily schedule, but he was back in the pool as soon as his doctor allowed.

On the cold November morning that his magnificent mission was completed, a month short of his 86th birthday, the standard-bearers of the Royal British Legion, Redcar branch, were waiting poolside to honour him, with a celebratory cake baked for the occasion by the leisure centre’s admiring staff.

“It’s been a long haul, and I’m feeling a bit tired now, but I’m glad I got there in the end,” Alan told me, content in the knowledge that his efforts had raised £2,000 for the Poppy Appeal.

A month later, it was The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards – the last as it turned out – and the opportunity to honour Alan’s achievement was irresistible.  He was invited to be a VIP guest in The Grand Marquee, at Wynyard Hall, but he knew nothing about the covert operation that had been planned, with military-style precision, behind the scenes.

When the moment came, Pomp and Circumstance began to play, as members of the Legion’s Redcar branch – standards raised – marched in from their hiding place behind the curtain. They collected Alan from his table before escorting him up to the stage, amid a flag-waving standing ovation, to be presented with a special award by athletics legend Steve Cram.

I’ll never forget the tears in the old gentleman’s eyes as the salute of a lifetime was played out in a blaze of patriotic colour.

It was a very special moment, but that wasn’t where Alan’s exploits ended. He followed his 100-mile swim by climbing Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales – and he took a poppy tin with him, so he could collect donations along the way.

He travelled to Ypres, in Belgium, to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate memorial to mark the 90th anniversary of the Great Pilgrimage, and he regularly visited schools and cadet units to talk to the younger generation about the importance of remembrance.

Though frail and nearing the end, Alan insisted on attending his last Redcar branch meeting last October and mustered the strength to issue one final order: “Before we go any further, can we have the standards the right way round!” he demanded.

“He was weak by then but his mind remained as alert as ever, and he wanted it done right,” recalls chairman Eric Howden.

Writing about the wonderful people of the North-East has been a privilege of mine that has lasted nearly 40 years, and meeting Alan was a particular pleasure.

Born in Dormanstown, he’d been married to his late wife, Allison, for 60 years. The couple had five children – Barbara, Derek, Christopher, Graham and Neil – as well as a proud collection of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In addition to his service with the Royal British Legion, and his fundraising adventures, Alan’s jobs included being a retained fireman, postman, factory worker, then gardener. And he reaped what he sowed because he will be remembered with great affection by many. Decency was Alan Frankland’s standard.

“Thinking of what those lads went through in the war was what kept me going,” he said, as he shivered on the poolside after reaching his 100-mile target in time for Remembrance Sunday the following weekend.

November seems the right month for a man of such impeccable timing to bow out. Rest in peace.

FROM the honourable to the entirely dishonourable...Matt Hancock has come third behind North-East football legend Jill Scott in 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'.

First things first – he's not a celebrity. He's paid to be a Member of Parliament, representing constituents who entrusted him with their vote.

He was also the Health Secretary who oversaw the Government's disastrous policy of discharging people from hospitals into care homes without testing them for Covid. It was a policy that was ruled unlawful by the High Court, and no one should ever forget that the deaths of more than 40,000 care home residents were linked to Covid.

The final shame came when he had to resign after being caught on camera, engaging in an extra-marital affair, and breaching the social distancing guidelines he'd insisted we all had to follow.

The Northern Echo:

Despite all of that, he was paid £400,000 by ITV to crawl around the jungle, eating a camel's penis and a sheep's vagina.

Hang on, though – the cash wasn't the real reason for accepting the air ticket to Australia to appear on the programme. Oh, no – he did it to show his human side, take the opportunity to engage with the electorate in a different way, and seek a bit of forgiveness.

Well, I don't buy any of that and here are my further thoughts on the matter:

  • MPs should be in their constituencies, or Westminster, working for those who need their help.
  • Hancock should have considered the feelings of those who lost loved ones during the pandemic before accepting ITV's grubby offer.
  • ITV executives should never have made the offer in the first place and should hang their heads in shame.
  • The right dishonourable MP for West Suffolk should be kicked out of politics because he clearly can't be trusted to show any judgement.
  • Those who voted for him – and I accept there were a lot of them – need to give their heads a shake.
  • And, no, I don't forgive him.

ON a lighter note, it was great fun, the other day, travelling round the region with North-East television legend Pam Royle, presenting awards to some special people.

Pam and I are proud patrons of the North-East Autism Society, and we were tasked with presenting The Star Awards to outstanding members of staff who care for some of the region’s most vulnerable people.

In its wisdom, the charity decided that the presentation party should be in fancy-dress, with Pam cast as Frenchy, from the classic film, Grease, and me in the admittedly unlikely role of Danny Zuko, played famously in the movie by John Travolta.

It was all going so well until one member of staff looked me up and down and asked: “And who are you meant to be – Roy Orbison?”

The Northern Echo: