Childhood in borough a highlight for ex-MP

A WHITLEY Bay boy who went on to become an MP, founder of a major music body and disabled rights champion has published his memoirs.

Denis Coe, who was born in Whitley Bay in 1929 and grew up in Cullercoats, has published his memoirs – Variety Certainly Adds Spice – recalling his extraordinary and varied life.

After publishing his life history, Mr Coe said that regardless of whatever work he went on to do in education, politics and art, he would always look back on his Whitley Bay childhood fondly.

"It was a very happy time, I have to say, and I always look forward to going back," he told the News Guardian.

Mr Coe was given a Scout Silver Medal for Gallantry after he saved a young girl from drowning in Cullercoats Bay when he was only 14-years-old.

He first left the north east when he was 18 to serve in the armed forces before returning to the area to begin a career in teaching.

One of his many teaching jobs was at the then Queen Victoria Junior Boys School in North Shields.

However, one of the first big changes in Mr Coe's life came when he left the north east again to move to London, where he studied economics at the London School of Economics.

It was this that triggered his move into politics and he was elected to Middleton and Prestwich as a Labour MP in 1966.

Politics didn't keep Mr Coe for long though, and he left to work in the arts world.

He went on to establish the prestigious British Youth Opera, which still provides budding young musicians with professional performance opportunities to this day.

Mr Coe, who now lives in Hertfordshire, said the decline of Whitley Bay as a holiday resort has been one of the most striking changes in his time.

"It used to be a real holiday town," he said.

"It was very important, my grandfather and grandmother even used to take in the same boarders every summer.

"You don't get that impression now, it's much more residential.

"That's been the biggest change since I was a youngster."

"We used to congregate around the Spanish City which was the central amusements then – I loved my childhood in the north east."