Matt Hutchinson's arresting life story has been put down on paper for his nearest and dearest. Lest you miss out on his fascinating tales, here's a taster...

MATT Hutchinson was a Spennymoor lad who left school at 14, without qualifications but with a last day caning on each hand. For three years his conduct had been exemplary.

"A going away present," said Mr Glasper, the teacher at Rosa Street school.

"I'd rather have had a word of endearment," says Matt, who's 85 and retains painful memories.

He became a leading bomb aimer in the war, a chief inspector in Durham Constabulary, an able wicket keeper and a cricket umpire of high standing. The story of his life has been written simply for family and friends, a pity because in the telling it's compelling.

They lived in a nine bob a week house in Craddock Street, no electricity and a netty out the back. His mother was so ill that he recalls seeing her out of bed three times in 46 years; his pitman father died three weeks after her in 1963, almost inevitably from pneumoconiosis.

Matt recalls the 1927 eclipse of the sun, egg jarping, Garnet's toffee bars, Sir Alan Cobham's Flying Circus, tonsils out, Spennymoor v Sheffield Wednesday, the R-101 airship.

"I was enjoying a portion of toasted teacake followed by raspberry jam at Aunt Kate's in Tudhoe Colliery at the time."

He had a year at the dole school in Bishop Auckland, six as a brickie's apprentice, became PC 637 in 1939 and was posted to West Hartlepool, where soon the bombs were flying.

After one raid, chief constable Sir George Morley arrived in plain clothes - plain clothes and gaiters - ducked beneath the bomb site rope and was confronted by an officer identified only as War Reserve Bostock.

Sir George announced himself. "If you're the chief constable, then I'm the King of the Belgians," said War Reserve Bostock. The chief subsequently commended him.

Doubtless boosted by the shilling a week boot allowance, PC Hutchinson married Irene Geldard from Middlesbrough in 1941, the principal wedding present a one bar electric fire.

Soon afterwards he volunteered for the RAF, was posted to the Far East, flew many missions with American Liberators but was finally grounded by the sand fly which bit him in Bengal.

His autobiography tells of the murder of a policeman in Coxhoe in 1940, the Easington pit disaster in 1951, undercover operations to stop illegal gambling in Bishop and Sacriston and swine fever and murder (probably unconnected) in Cockerton.

He retired as chief inspector in charge of administration at Darlington, lamenting then as now the absence of bobbies on the beat. "Promises by politicians of all parties to increase numbers have never materialised," he says. "There are children today who've never actually seen a policeman walking."

Always a sportsman, though not as good a runner as his club-footed school friend Jackie Cram - a forerunner, perhaps? - he liked a flutter, was divisional police snooker champion, kept goal for the county force at Roker Park and bought Manners' best beef steaks for each hand before keeping wicket at Bishop Auckland.

Cricket's declining sportsmanship worries him. "The sooner that red and yellow cards are introduced against intimidation, the better the game will become."

After 61 years marriage, Matt and Rene Hutchinson now live contentedly on a farm near Middleton Tyas in North Yorkshire. Their family have some very enjoyable reading.

FOR more general distribution, Travelling Preacher - the story of John Wesley's 45 horseback tours of the North-East - will be launched in Durham on Saturday.

The book's by Geoffrey Milburn, a retired Sunderland University historian, the launch is at North Road Methodist Church where Dr Leslie Griffiths, a leading Methodist minister and broadcaster, will also lecture on Wesley.

Marking the tercentenary of his birth, Dr Milburn tells not only of Wesley's remarkable successes in the region but of the opposition - the street mobs, the misdirected fire hoses, the disputes among members and the anti-Methodist farces at Newcastle's theatres.

There's also the story of how his brother and local congregations conspired to prevent his marrying Grace Murray, a widow from Newcastle.

"If you want to know that one," says John Wearmouth, chairman of the North-East branch of the Wesley Historical Society, "you'll have to read the book."

Priced £4.75, Travelling Preacher will be available from book stores or by post (£5.50, including postage) from G E Milburn, 8 Ashbrooke Mount, Sunderland SR2 7SD.

SEVENTY years old and "an avid reader of all things Amos", John Gray from Wilberfoss, near York, writes his first letter to a newspaper.

Chiefly he supplies family information on Ord and Maddison, the agricultural engineering company about which an earlier column had enquired.

An earlier Maddison, however - "my great x 8 grandfather" - lived in Ellersgill (now Allersgill) near Stanhope and was one of the founders of Bishop Auckland Grammar School.

John sends a page from The History of Durham recording that an establishment to be called The Free Grammar School of King James was granted on the petition of Ann Swyfte with other funding from Ralph Maddison.

The old school badge gave the founding date as 1605, meaning that the 400th anniversary is nigh upon us. What's being planned in celebration?

IF not since 1605, Lez Rawe taught PE and other things at King James I Grammar School for an awfully long time, though the column still can't manage forward roll play.

Next Thursday, March 13, he and Betty mark their diamond wedding with an all day open house to which all friends are invited. They're still in Bishop Auckland.

Food's provided, presents are discouraged - "we have been blessed in so many other ways" - but small donations welcomed for the GI (Liver) Research Fund at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle which helped save Lez's life and at 80-odd get him back on the tennis court.

It's a remarkable story. We hope to tell more of it next week.

BISHOP Auckland's famous old boys include Stan Laurel and one or two more - but can any school, wonders Stan Coates, match the class of Coatham Grammar in Redcar in the late 1940s?

His note's prompted by a memorial service in York Minster for Judge Gerald Coles QC, a Coatham boy whose father (memory suggests) had several seaside fish shops.

Coatham contemporaries, Gerry Coles read law at Oxford and Stan Coates at Cambridge. Among school mates at the time were Ian Bancroft, Raymond Pennock and Rex Hunt, all knighted.

Sir Ian was head of the Civil Service and later Lord Bancroft of Coatham, Sir Raymond was an ICI director and president of the CBI, Sir Rex is well remembered as governor of the Falklands at the time of the Argentine invasion.

Like Gerry Coles, Clifford Lauriston became a QC and a judge, whilst John Baycroft is an Anglican bishop, John Lister also became an ICI director and Len Whalley a general in the RAOC after joining the Army on National Service in 1948.

As they were all leaving, says Stan Coates - now in Guisborough - a kid called Paul Daniels was seeing how tricks were in the first form.

It's not bad, says Stan, for a small town like Redcar. Can any other challenge it?

Three months after we reported the death at 70 of ultra runner Joe Teesdale, a sympathetic e-mail arrives from Dan Coffey, known in those never decreasing circles as the Clockwork Mouse.

Like ultra distance running, some things take a little longer.

Joe, from West Auckland, was organiser of a 1,000 mile race around Gateshead Stadium in 1985 in which the Mouse roared Beethoven's Ode to Joy whenever things got desperate.

This month Dan - "I haven't yet learned to be sensible like other people," he says - takes part in a 48 hour race in what was Czechoslovakia. He is 72, the clockwork as regular as ever.

FINALLY, and in exchange for a lift to work from Mr Alan Cowie, a reminder that the Late, Late Jubilee Show - Alan and Rod Burtt's affectionate chronicle of 50 years of Darlington life - is at the Civic Theatre next Wednesday.

Rod, it will be recalled, is the Tory councillor who has spent most of the past half century engaged to be married to the lovely Judith Kent. Alan is originally a Shildon lad and promises that the old place won't be forgotten.

It's almost sold out, only seats in the gods vertiginously remaining. It would be lovely, says Alan, to have a full house.