TWENTY yards away, they’re enjoying a few of pints in the warmth of The Duke William pub, but grandad Barry Hunt is preparing for another cold night in his sleeping bag in the shadow of the cenotaph.

It’s just gone 10pm in Skelton, at the foot of the Cleveland Hills, and Barry has another nine hours to go before he packs up.

On October 31st, the Mayor of Loftus embarked on a mission to sleep out at 11 local cenotaphs ahead of Remembrance Sunday, to raise money for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). He started at Guisborough and, by the time I caught up with him, he’d done Saltburn, North Skelton, Boosbeck, Lingdale, Carlin How, Brotton, and Skinningrove.

Skelton, last Thursday, was number nine, and he still had Easington and Loftus left to go. Yesterday morning, Armistice Day, he finished his sleep-out at 7am, popped home for a shower and a bite to eat, before returning to St Leonard’s Church in Loftus to lay a wreath as Mayor. Not bad for a 70-year-old.

When the money’s been counted, Barry expects to have raised around £7,000. That’s on top of the £24,000 he raised two years ago when he was Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland. His fundraising activities then included sleeping on a Redcar street on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, with the money going to Coatham House, a haven for young homeless people, and a Saltburn community charity called Earthbeat.

“When I became Mayor of Loftus, I started thinking about what I could do to raise money and, with the centenary of the end of the First World War, I had the idea of sleeping out at the 11 cenotaphs,” he explains, as he settles down on a bench.

Barry’s dad, Ronnie, was a musician, who served with the West Yorkshire Regiment Band at Burma when he was just 17. Barry also has a son, Paul, who’s seen active service with the Royal Air Force.

He recalls being moved when, as Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland on Remembrance Day, he read out a letter a First World War soldier had sent to his wife. The soldier died, aged 23, two days later.

“You just can’t comprehend what it must have been like for them,” says Barry. “So, what I’m doing is nothing really.”

Nevertheless, the locals have treated him like a hero: coming out to see him, bringing him hot drinks, and keeping him company.

“We’re really proud of you,” says one woman, who lives opposite the cenotaph in Skelton. “Just knock any time if you need to use the loo.”

Andrew Fulton, general manager of nearby Boulby Potash Mine, has called by for a chat. The company has donated £250 towards Barry’s fund. “He’s shown such tremendous personal commitment to an incredible cause,” explains Andrew.

After a working life spent “on the doors” at pubs and clubs, and manging Billy Paul’s bar at the Madison nightclub in Middlesbrough, Barry knows how to look after himself. Nevertheless, an encounter with a mouse had him spooked a few nights back.

“The cenotaph at Boosbeck is in the middle of the graveyard so I spent the night in there in the pitch dark. During the night, a little mouse came out and scared the life out of me. I’d rather fight a rottweiler than a mouse but, luckily, it scarpered,” he recalls.

“Other than that, it’s not been too bad. I haven’t slept much but the rain’s kept off, apart from it being a bit cold and damp at Skinningrove, and a touch of ice at Saltburn. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is remembering what those lads did – and raising money for the charity.”

Barry Hunt, you’re a hero.

TEACHER Mike McGrother is another community hero who has done so much to enhance a spirit of remembrance.

Mike has been the creative force behind Stockton’s 1,245 Sunflowers project, in which families, individuals and community groups planted sunflowers in memory of local men who fought and died during The Great War.

In 2014, it was a privilege to compere the launch event alongside the much-missed Ali Brownlee, from BBC Tees. On Sunday night, I was honoured to be back in Trinity Gardens to help bring such a thoughtful, poignant tribute to an end.

Mike, you’re a star.

THERE could never be enough space to do justice to the countless other community heroes who’ve risen to the occasion in this special year of remembrance.

However, I can’t let today pass without mentioning Alan Frankland, of Redcar.

Just after 7am this morning, at his local swimming baths, great-grandad Alan will complete his mission to swim 100 miles to mark the centenary of the war’s end.

Day after day, starting last November, Alan has breast-stroked his way to his target. In the process, he’ll have raised more than £1,000 for the Royal British Legion, of which he is local branch president.

Alan, you’re an inspiration.

FINALLY, a little salute to my Mum, who’s had an accident at 87.

Black ice caused her to fall off her bike and fracture her shoulder. Despite being black and blue, her biggest concern was that she’d have to stop delivering papers to the “old people” down her street.

Mum, you’re amazing.