A community in County Durham has come together, smiling through sadness, to honour the life of a much-loved youth leader.

Hundreds of people paid their respects to Billy Robson from Consett who died earlier this month following a short battle with prostate cancer.

The charismatic chief executive, who was 68, helped thousands of youngsters with his work at Consett YMCA and Delta North over the years.

The Northern Echo: Billy loved fishing Billy loved fishing (Image: Contributor)A keen angler, he was also a devoted family man who had five children with his beloved wife Bernadette and doted on their grandchildren.

Family, friends, former pupils and youth club members, as well as local councillors attended a moving service at The Church of Our Lady and St Joseph in Leadgate on Friday afternoon.

Mourners were fondly reminded of Billy’s infectious zest for life and sense of humour.

His joie de vivre was such there is a sense of collective loss within the community, compounded by the relative suddenness of his death.

He had only been diagnosed in January.

Characteristically thinking of others, Billy, in his final days, urged people to address any health concerns they might have.

The Northern Echo: Billy Robson is carried into the church Billy Robson is carried into the church (Image: Gavin Havery)This message was echoed in his daughter Lucy’s touching eulogy which brought warm smiles of affection and recognition.

She said: “He always thought of others before himself.

“I believe Dad’s legacy will be in that he would help anyone.

“Whatever you needed, he would sort it.

“He was a do-er, even if he did want it done yesterday.

“Dad always listened, and spoke the truth in the simplest and most grounding of ways.

“He never held back, he was unapologetically authentic, and you could see that it everything he did.”

The Northern Echo: A floral tribute spells out 'Dad'A floral tribute spells out 'Dad' (Image: Gavin Havery)Lucy spoke of his devotion to her mam Bernadette, her and her sisters, Shauna, Emma, Rebekka, and Billy’s much-missed, son, Lee, who died from leukaemia in 2013.

She spoke of his bad jokes and kebab nights, fireman lifts up the stairs, endless laughter and so many ‘I Love You’s.

Lucy said: “Dad wholeheartedly lived for his family, his wife, his children, his grandchildren and extended family.

“You could see his love in the way he talked, the way he was at our door at all hours in the morning, making sure we had everything we needed, even if it was out of date, bringing sweets for the kids.

“He gave generously to everyone especially his love to us.

“Being fiercely loved by him was such a gift to experience and to witness.”

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Born in Leadgate, Billy worked as a motor mechanic at Consett Steelworks before it closed in 1980.

He then became a youth worker Consett YMCA, eventually taking over as chief executive.

He ran youth clubs several times a week, organised outward bound activities, created a music studio, an amateur dramatics group, and launched Consett Amateur Boxing Club.

He took children around the world on exchange trips and to compete in international tournaments with a particular passion for shuttlecock football.

The Northern Echo: Billy with a successful shuttlecock football team in 2010Billy with a successful shuttlecock football team in 2010 (Image: Gavin Havery)Billy turned the Consett YMCA charity into Delta North, an alternative education centre for children unsuitable for mainstream schools, in 2018.

His approachable, firm by fair, no-nonsense attitude, made him a hit with pupils who had got themselves in trouble and were at risk of choosing the wrong paths in life.

He gave them a chance, he gave them respect and, when people wrote them off, he would defend them saying: ‘There are no bad kids, just bad circumstances.’ He believed in them.

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Lucy said: “He changed the lives of so many people, that many have said to us, they would no longer be here if it wasn’t for my Dad, he saved them.

“He set up opportunities for young people, educated them, trained them and built up their confidence and self-belief through many different programmes and outdoor activities.

He took young people around the world playing football, coaching them and advocating for them and often keeping them out of trouble.

“His work eventually led on to the formation of a registered school, in the heart of Consett that still educates and supports young people of varying needs and backgrounds, many of those former young people are here today.”

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The service, which started with Ave Maria, was led by Father John Bagnall, and ended with a track by one of Billy’s favourite bands, Lindisfarne.

He was carried from the church to the soothing sounds of Meet Me On The Corner, the lyrics very apt for a man who gave so much of himself to others until the end.

“I’ll be there, I promise I’ll be there.”

The Northern Echo: Billy Robson Billy Robson (Image: Gavin Havery)