R. Bibby

(John) Roland Bibby (1917–1997)

John Roland Bibby was born in South Terrace, Cottingwood Lane, Morpeth, Northumberland, in 1917.  He spent the whole of his life in Northumberland except for a short period in Glasgow, and another in Gateshead, due to his work, and his war service in Burma in the 1940s.

In 1946 he was in the forefront of the party of people who were instrumental in the formation of the Morpeth Antiquarian Society  in 1946, of which he served as chairman for many years.   From the 1950s until his retirement he taught history at Blyth.
During this time, the Aniquarian Society’s tiny Museum was established in the Chantry chapel in the 1960s. and the first festival was held which grew into the highly successful Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering.  He was prime mover of the magazine “Northumbriana”, the periodical celebrating Northumberland.  He also set up the Northumbrian Language Society, of which he was both Chairman and a Fellow.

As a scholar and writer his articles on local history and topical issues for the Morpeth Herald appeared for over 50 years, with a short break in 1989 due to ill health.  He lectured in local history and language at every opportunity.  His ‘Bothal Observed’ is the definitive history of that village.  He was a dialect poet with a puckish sense of fun, and his championship of all things Northumbrian – music, dance, history, literature, language, customs and scenery led to many calls on local radio, TV, national media, and generated correspondence from all around the world.  His studies were deep and comprehensive and his knowledge was profound.

He was a modest, humble, gentle giant, whose mild demeanour belied a dogged if not stubborn determination to fight for all he believed in. He never spoke a word in anger.  After a setback he simply talked about the ‘innate contrariness of life’. dusted himself down and prepared to go back into battle against all he saw as destroying the natural beauty and harmony of his beloved Northumberland.

From the 1950s he lectured in History at Blyth.
In 1987 he was awarded an honorary M.A. by Newcastle University.


(Janet Brown)

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