COMMUNITIES throughout the North Tyne have paid tribute to a ‘larger than life’ vicar.

Rev. Steve Wilkinson, vicar of Humshaugh, Simonburn and Wark, and Rural Dean of Bellingham Deanery, died on April 4 after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Hundreds of memorial ribbons were placed throughout the villages of Wark, Simonburn and Humshaugh to remember the 55-year-old, with 133 ribbons hanging on the tree on Wark village green (pictured).

Local resident Jane Abrams, who organised the memorial, said it would help remember the legacy Steve had left in the local area.

“I thought we can’t let this moment pass over we must create some form of community recognition,” she said.

“It was a fantastic thing to do, gave great respect to Steve and showed what a wonderful man he was.

“It helped give credence to what he had done in the local area.”

After informing Steve’s widow Melanie of the memorial plans in Wark, Jane asked the people of Simonburn and Humshaugh to create similar memorials. Jane said: “In Simonburn, there was a chain link of ribbons around the war memorial, which was appropriate as Steve was the one who linked us all together.

“We knew that he was coming towards the end of his life and we had planned for a memorial service for all to attend, but the lockdown laws prevented that.”

Instead, residents paid their respects from their doorsteps last Wednesday as the funeral car travelled through Humshaugh, pausing at the gates of St Peter’s Church by the ribbon tree, then travelling to St Mungo’s Church in Simonburn.

In Wark, the car drove towards the village green and paused near the war memorial and ribbon tree before arriving at St Michael’s Church for the burial service.

“It was a very beautiful occasion,” Jane added.

“Along with the ribbons, it meant we could all visually show our support with the family. I counted 133 alone on the tree in Wark.

“It was such a good community effort.”

The ribbons have now been removed and taken to the family home in Humshaugh, but there are plans for a memorial service when churches are able to reopen.

Taking up his role in the North Tyne in 2016, Steve did not take a direct route to becoming a vicar.

Born in the Yorkshire Dales, he served in the police force for 27 years, starting out on the beat in London.

He then went on to work for the counter terrorism unit, lecturing at University of Chester and University of Central Lancashire.

His first role as a clergyman was as a chaplain to the police while he was still serving with them.

After retiring from the police, he knew it was time to go into the church full time, and he moved to Cramlington in 2011.

In 2016, he said it was the people of the North Tyne who convinced him to take on the job as vicar in the parish.

“It was the lovely people we met that made me want to come to the North Tyne,” he explained. “The people have been so welcoming. I just thought this is a lovely place and I can see myself enjoying living and ministering here.”

Being at the heart of the community was the most important thing for the popular vicar and his family, and residents in the North Tyne welcomed him with open arms.

One tribute said Steve, a father of three, would be remembered ‘as husband, father, parson and shepherd’.

“He was a larger than life character – a great man,” Jane added.