Richard Edward Gratton, my late uncle Eddie, was a prominent personality in the realm of amateur theatre and sports in the north-east region of England for over 60 years until his demise at the age of 83 due to anaemia and Alzheimer’s disease. He was an enthusiastic educator, teaching English and drama at several state secondary schools.
Eddie was born in Thornley, Co Durham, to a coal miner named Dick (also named Richard Edward) and Elizabeth (nee Hardman), who later became a Methodist preacher. Eddie began his early performing journey with local Methodist eisteddfods, where his elocution skills earned him various accolades. He pursued his education at AJ Dawson grammar school, Wingate, from 1950 to 1957, participated in county-level school rugby, and met his future wife, Ann Smith, whom he wedded in 1961 after national service.
While serving the nation, playing rugby and cricket, he also indulged in boxing for the RAF. He refused to get commissioned and opted for teacher training at Westminster College, Oxford, where he met Ann, who also pursued teaching as a profession. They lived in Co Durham, predominantly in Blackhall Rocks.
Eddie was a celebrated cricketer, and he played for clubs like Thornley, Castle Eden, Blackhall, Horden, Seaham, and Mainsforth. His passion and dedication for cricket revived Blackhall’s membership and attracted young players to senior cricket. During cricket season, he always carried his kit and played in matches that would take him as far as Nottinghamshire.
In the early 70s, Eddie joined Hartlepool Operatic and Dramatic Association and made his directorial debut with "Blithe Spirit" in 1974. Later, he acted and directed for various groups all around the north-east, including Opera Nova in Darlington, Stockton, and Murton. In musicals, he displayed his powerful bass baritone voice and dramatic talents, becoming famous for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
Eddie founded the Brierton Players for former pupils to continue performing with him while he produced and taught at Brierton Comprehensive School, Hartlepool. He retired from teaching in the 90s, as he disagreed with Conservative government reforms that he thought focused too much on exams and neglected to nurture students’ creativity.
After his retirement, he enjoyed playing cricket and golf, singing in light operatic, musical, or north-east dialect repertoires on both sides of Tyne and Tees, raising funds for charity through the Freemason organization. The Guardian interviewed him in 2006 in that capacity. In 2019, back injury and memory issues caused him to seek hospital and then residential care; Ann passed away in the same year.
Eddie is survived by his children, Richard, Ruth, Rachel, and Rebecca, his grandchildren, Molly, Joe, Isabelle, and Thomas, and his sisters, Doreen and June.