A County Durham widow has donated £50,000 to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) in memory of her husband, who was instrumental in bringing both the Tyne and Wear Metro and Nissan to the North East.

Judith Brown, 76, and Peter Smith, 84, lived in Beamish for nearly 30 years before his unexpected death from a stroke in January 2021.

Following the death of her husband, Mrs Brown has recently received a compensation settlement which she has always intended would go to charity and decided she wanted to donate £50,000 to GNAAS.

The Northern Echo: Judith Brown, 76, and Peter Smith, 84Judith Brown, 76, and Peter Smith, 84 (Image: GNAAS)

She said: “I wanted to put the bulk of the money somewhere regional. The money was always going to stay in the North of England, and I know GNAAS covers the North East of England and the Lake District, where Peter and I spent a lot of time together.

“I thought of various causes, then I think I might have seen the helicopter go over, but it was literally like a bolt of lightning, and I thought, well that serves a purpose and is a worthwhile cause, and I got in touch.”

The Northern Echo: CEO of the Great North Air Ambulance David Stockton, Dr Ally Hogg, Judith Brown and paramedic Jemma KirbyCEO of the Great North Air Ambulance David Stockton, Dr Ally Hogg, Judith Brown and paramedic Jemma Kirby (Image: GNAAS)

David Stockton, chief executive officer at GNAAS, said: “We are incredibly grateful for the generous donation received from Judith, in memory of her beloved husband Peter. Like many charities at the moment, fundraising has not been easy for us, and we have been seeing a reduction in donations.

“When Judith got in touch offering to donate £50,000 we were blown away by her generosity. We’ve since met in person at our base, near Eaglescliffe, where we had the opportunity to show her around our facilities and hear some lovely stories about her and Peter.”

Mr Smith, who was originally from West Yorkshire, worked in various parts of England before coming to the North East for a job at Gateshead Council, later becoming County Treasurer of Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County Council until its demise in 1986.

The Northern Echo: Judith Brown at GNAAS' baseJudith Brown at GNAAS' base (Image: GNAAS)

After that, he was the Chairman of several NHS Trusts before becoming Chairman of Queen Elizabeth Hospital Trust in Gateshead.

During his 59 years of working in the public sector, he made some incredible achievements, including negotiating central government funding to construct the Tyne and Wear Metro, playing a key role in securing the arrival of Nissan in Sunderland with a land deal and a purpose-built terminal on the Tyne, and overseeing the building of the Peter Smith Surgery Centre in Gateshead.

Outside of work Mr Smith played football and cricket at a high level and became an enthusiastic member of Yorkshire and Durham County Cricket Clubs, visiting all the county grounds.

He was also a season ticket holder for Newcastle United, alongside his wife, and they regularly attended games together at St James’ Park.

The Northern Echo: Peter SmithPeter Smith (Image: GNAAS)

The couple enjoyed walking trips and visiting the theatre together, and Mr Smith was also a huge fan of the cinema, ever since attending wartime children’s matinees, and he continued with regular trips to Tyneside Cinema until 2020.

Speaking about the perfect Saturday, Mrs Brown added: “We would decide what we were doing on the Saturday and get the bus into Newcastle after 10am and have a cup of coffee.

“Then Peter, knowing I hate shopping, would say, I’m sure you’ve got some shopping to do, you like to wander around Fenwick, which meant ‘I’ve got time to go for a pint.’

"So, I would wander and then about half an hour later meet up with him and have a drink, and we’d go to the match.


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"Afterwards, we’d either go to the cinema, the theatre or Fenwick and have something to eat. It was always a routine around the football.”

Despite being extremely fit and healthy, Mr Smith died from a stroke while in hospital.

He is survived by his widow Judith, two children, Tim and Pippa, from his first marriage, stepdaughter, Charlotte, and his brothers, David and Graham.