BANKSY’S WEEKEND: Blood donor scandal…Our local awakes with a ‘wake’

Desperate for donors, but if you live in Berwick you’ll have to travel 34 miles

ERIC WOOD HAS BEEN A BLOOD DONOR for 18 years. In that time, the retired joinery company worker has given 102 pints of blood, enough to fill the bodies of ten average-sized humans.

At 74 years of age, you might think that Eric has done his bit for society but he doesn’t see it that way. Neither does the NHS.

“There’s an urgent need for donations,” stresses the website of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) the Bristol-based organisation which organises the UK’s lifesaving system of national blood donations.

“Every day, thousands of people’s lives are saved or improved thanks to the generosity of donors,” the NHSBT site continues. “But, sadly, there are still lots of patients we can’t treat because we don’t have enough supplies. Please help.”

That is exactly what Eric wants to do. But that is not as easy as it might appear: he and his wife, Heather, live in the Tweedmouth area of Berwick upon Tweed, by far the largest town in rural north Northumberland.

To give blood Eric must make a 34-mile round trip to Glendale Middle School in Wooler, a journey which, combined with the donor session, takes a two-and-a-half hour chunk out of his day.

The only alternative? A 66-mile round trip to Alnwick.

“This is a ridiculous state of affairs,” says Eric. “For the last few years I have been having to go to Wooler as the number of sessions in Berwick have been greatly reduced – there was only one last year –  and are oversubscribed. The sessions in Berwick have always been fully attended.”

This state of affairs surely makes no sense: Berwick has a population of more than 13,000 while Wooler has only 2,000 and even Alnwick’s  population barely reaches 8,000.

The last time Eric was able to give blood in Berwick was in April, 2018.  The following year’s sole session was fully booked by volunteer donors almost as soon as it was publicised and before Eric could register.

The situation is starkly illustrated, says Eric, by the upcoming blood donor diary for the far north of England’s northernmost county: Alnwick has sessions in August and September; Wooler’s next session in a fortnight’s time is already fully booked leaving only a date in November available; Berwick, where most donors live, has NONE.

“Please flag up this situation,” Eric asked when he contacted The Clarion. “I’m not alone in this. Many people from the Berwick area also have to travel to Wooler at our own expense if we wish to donate.

EDITOR’S NOTE: At this point, any proper journalist would contact NHSBT for an explanation of what appears to be a troubling situation. That has been done but with the weekend intervening the NHSBT press office can only promise a response “in the next week”. The situation is too important to the community to delay publication. When it arrives, The Clarion will carry that explanation.

Pot calls kettle
In my opinion, Theresa May had a real cheek when she criticised the appointment of the new national security adviser David Frost as an man who possessed no proven expertise’.

Wasn’t she the Prime Minister who appointed one Boris Johnson as her foreign secretary?


My local awakes with
 ‘wake’ for The Byreman

Mine host at the Red Lion didn’t open his pub on Saturday, figuring (correctly, in my view) that the mad scramble on Day One would be impossible to control.

Almost finished: the Red Lion’s al fresco dining deck awaits christening with a special celebration

He is opening for business from Monday at 6pm and, unlike some lazy landlords locally who took all the government cash on offer, furloughed their staff and joined the lockdown at taxpayers’ expense, Iain has spent the time replacing his outdoor smokers’ shelter with a fantastic DIY al fresco (more on that expression later) dining area which will offer ten dining tables and quite a bit of bench seating for drinkers.

Friends of my old pal The Byreman, who died shortly after lockdown began and went to his Maker with only a skeleton family presence instead of the hundreds who would normally have mourned him, are gathering on Sunday (July 5th)for a private farewell that will christen the new outside bar, weather permitting.

He would resent not being there, despite the fact that we awarded him an annual ‘wake’ which he attended and enjoyed in each of the last two years! Thoughtfully, he put cash behind the bar to fund our farewell.

And al fresco? A couple of weeks ago an old Fleet Street colleague and regular Clarion reader, Chris Stevens, sharply corrected my usage, insisting that it should be one word: alfresco.

Crestfallen, I took advice from a native Italian speaker who said:Most people use the adjective alfresco to describe a meal, like a picnic or barbecue, that you eat outdoors but it can also be spelled al fresco, which is the way it’s written in Italian.”

This correspondence is now closed! – Ed.


  1. Your piece on giving blood is very timely. My appointment on 25 May at Tweedmouth was cancelled and the earliest date offerred to me is 15 November in Wooler – that’s more than 22 weeks later. Ridiculous. When I worked in London, I was giving blood about three times a year.
    When I spoke to a nurse in Wooler about the infrequency of appointments near me (I live in Etal) she blamed a series of cutbacks in staff in recent years. Yet the blood service seems to have plenty of money to spend on letters through the post, magazines, thank you notes and little badges. I don’t need any of those. I’d just like to give blood at least twice, preferably three times a year.
    For what it’s worth, my cancelled date was on Bank Holiday Monday. My third visit to Wooler in November will be my third Sunday appointment.
    One final personal gripe: I detest the fact that a local radio station or cheesy pop music is played quite loudly at the session. Each time I complain I am told it is played to drown out any “confidential” conversations between staff and donors. What nonsense. I suspect it is there to entertain the staff, who admittedly are there for hours, not the 45 minutes or so it usually takes to get in and out. Silence is golden.

  2. Wow, a mention in The Clarion, a journalistic high that eclipses editing The Sun on Boxing Day 2004 when 250,000 died in the tsunami. Stay strong Banksy.


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