TRIBUTES have poured in for a much-loved community figure nicknamed "Mr Allendale".

Nigel Baynes (63), owner of Baynes Travel, died after an accident at the company's yard on Thursday evening (March 10).

A leading figure in many of Allendale's events and groups, Mr Baynes' sudden death has left the village and wider Tynedale community in shock.

Mr Baynes was a former president of the Allendale Lions club and hugely involved in the village's annual bonfire, Christmas lights, and New Year's Eve Tar Bar'l celebrations.

He also founded Allendale Fair in 1983 and was Allendale's beloved long-standing pantomime dame.

Hexham Courant: Nigel Baynes was Allendale Lions' president from 2017 to 2019.Nigel Baynes was Allendale Lions' president from 2017 to 2019.

Margaret Stonehouse, a friend and colleague for more than 20 years of Mr Baynes, said: "Nigel has been deeply embedded in so many aspects of community life for 40 years that his sudden passing leaves the most gaping hole imaginable.

"He was truly a larger than life character with boundless energy and empathy for others, a hideously wicked sense of humour, and the most astounding ability to make people laugh.

"He ran his taxi and coach business with endless energy, would help anybody out of a scrape, and mercy trips were a speciality."

She added: "'Mr Allendale' is a one-off matchless legend."

Mr Baynes was also a retained firefighter for over 40 years.

In a statement, his colleagues at Allendale Community Fire Station said: "On Thursday night, our Allendale crew were called out to an incident. This time it was one of the worst types of call out anyone in any emergency service can receive, to one of their own.

"We quickly responded to the scene, but our efforts were to be in vain.

"On that night, we lost not just a cherished, popular and much-loved colleague, but a friend, a brother and a father figure to Allendale, the local area, our crew and the wider embraces of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service. We are heartbroken to say the least.

"Rest assured, Nigel was treated with respect, dignity and love throughout this tragic event not only by his team but by the paramedics and the police. We were privileged to be allowed to give Nigel a guard of honour as he left, which was one of the most difficult things imaginable. He would have been proud but I’m sure would have had a quick quip too.

"We would like to express our sincere thanks to our colleagues in our control room who had to take the call and mobilise the team, and the crews from Hexham and headquarters who attended the incident to help and support us at this horrific time. Also, to the paramedics from North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and officers from Northumbria Police who treated Nigel and us all with compassion and respect."

Flags at fire stations across Northumberland flew at half-mast over the weekend from Friday morning (March 11) until Monday morning (March 14) as a sign of respect and mourning. 

Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service Graeme Binning said: "Nigel was a pivotal, popular, and respected member of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s Allendale crew, and has been, since he joined the service in 1980. This length of service is a clear example of Nigel's commitment and dedication in providing a service to his community. 

"He will not only be missed by his family, friends, and colleagues, he was also a key and prominent figure within the Allendale community. Our thoughts, best wishes and focus are now with all those who have been affected by this tragedy. 

"Our focus at this stage is to support Nigel’s family and the crew at Allendale Fire Station.”

Coun. Colin Horncastle, Chair of the Fire Authority and county councillor for South Tynedale, said: “We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the death of Nigel Baynes. 

“Nigel was extremely well-known in his local community, not just for his work with the fire service, but for everything else he did for the people of Allendale and surrounding areas. 

“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this very difficult time.” 

A spokesman for HSE (Health and Safety Executive) said: “HSE are working alongside Northumbria Police to investigate this fatal incident. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family, friends and local community at this sad time. The investigation is at an early stage and as such we are unable to provide any further details.”