A medal-winning neighbourhood community champion has been installed as leader of Durham City’s Freemen.
Seventy-four-year-old John Booth was unanimously elected chairmen of the wardens and now leads the freemen’s eight surviving trade guilds whose lineage is thought to stretch back to the early 14th century.
By happy coincidence the city’s Guild Hall is just yards from the premises on Elvet Bridge where John started his working life with a firm of painters and decorators – a five-year apprenticeship which was subsequently to qualify him for entry into the freemen’s ranks.
After “completing his time” he launched his own business, employing both tradesmen and apprentices, before taking up a post in building maintenance at Durham School.
Photograph courtesy of Geoff Kitson
From there he went on to Newcastle College where he was instrumental in developing the Construction Curriculum Centre, earning both regional and national recognition. He was the college’s Information and Learning Technology Manager when he retired at the turn of the millennium.
Hartlepool-born John spent his formative years in Ushaw Moor before moving on. When he returned to the village, after an absence of 36 years, he launched a local community action group which was instrumental in tackling anti-social behaviour and raised cash for the creation of a village garden.
In 2013 his leadership earned him a Neighbourhood Watch Outstanding Achievement Award and Durham County Council Chairman’s Medal for service to both his community and county. He currently serves on Durham Agency Against Crime as a board member.
John, who was born in Hartlepool, is Warden of the Barbers’ Company, a member of the freemen’s charitable trust and a key figure in the creation and continuing development of the freemen’s website.
A widower, John has two daughters – Rachel, the youngest who lives in Alnwick, is a Matron at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital while big sister Joanne, who is due to be sworn-in as a freeman in the near future, is Executive Director for Strategy at Saatchi and Saatchi in Dusseldorf. He has two granddaughters.
John said: “ I am delighted to be appointed Chairman of the Wardens which will enable the continued development and sustainability of the Freemen, being involved with the Charitable Trust will allow my passionate interest in the community to continue.”