HURWORTH church was packed a couple of weeks ago for a memorial service to history enthusiast Sam Woods, who has died at the age of 79.

Sam taught the subject in Darlington for 40 years and in retirement he became well known in clubs and societies connected to railways and local history across the area. With his stentorian voice and ready smile, he was one of the many people who generously keep Memories on the correct path and who readily turn up for our talks and events.

The Northern Echo: Sam WoodsSam Woods going in search of a little local history

Sam was born in 1944 in Greenbank, which was then Darlington’s maternity hospital. His family lived in Surtees Street in the Denes before moving to Gilling West, from where he attended Richmond Grammar School.

The Northern Echo: A young Sam WoodsSam Woods

He did his teacher training in Winchester, surrounded by steam engines, before returning to Darlington in 1966 to teach at Central School in Gladstone Street. There he met Janet, who became his wife in 1971, and in 1979 they moved to Hurworth Place.

“When they viewed the house, Sam asked what was at the bottom of the garden,” said his sons, Neal and Tony, in their eulogy. “The face of the lady who was selling the house dropped as she said it was a railway line. This must have caused several previous potential sales to fall through, but this wasn’t an issue for Sam and the house was bought.”

The Northern Echo: Sam WoodsSam Woods

When Central closed in 1982, Sam moved to Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College as the principal tutor in history, health and social care, and he organised the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

The Northern Echo: (l-r) Teachers Sam Woods, John Charney and Mike Mountain who retire from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington, at the end of the summer term after clocking up 95 years of service between themSam, left, retired from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in 2006 with John Charney and Mike Mountain. Between them, they had clocked up 95 years of teaching

He retired in 2006, involved himself in numerous railway organisations, like the North Eastern Railway Association where he was assisting with the archiving projects, and immersed himself in several research topics, including Admiral Christopher Craddock, from Hartforth near Gilling West, who was killed along with 1,660 British sailors at the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile at the start of the First World War, and the Northern Belle, a luxury land cruising train that ran in the 1930s.

When Janet died in 2017, he found a like mind in Linda, who accompanied him to talks and meetings, and with whom he attempted to lunch in every garden centre café in the North East.

He died at home, with a book in hand, on February 22, and the turnout at All Saints on March 15 was testament to how many lives he touched.