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Ian's on the crest of a wave.

Captain Cook had some strange companions on his voyages of discovery. There was a Roman soldier, Shildon's railway pioneeer Timothy Hackworth, the Squire of Pockerley Manor at Beamish and an 18th century wench.

Another time, Hereward the Wake came along. And an animatronic version of Turner, the great painter.

Ian Stubbs met them all when learning how the Tees Valley can fully benefit from its connections with the famous mariner, scientist and explorer.

He was dressed as Cook. He does it so often, some people think he is Captain Cook. Others think he thinks he is. "And why not?" laughs Ian.

"My funniest encounter was when I went to the museum at Beamish to encourage group visits to this area." That is when he met the Roman, Hackworth, and the rest.

"I went to Blackpool once to encourage group visits and met Hereward the Wake and Turner. It was Turner's birthday.

"There were others there too. They had invited lots and they had all come dressed up. Even the animatronic artist."

Ian, an assistant curator for Middlesbrough at the Captain Cook Birthplace and Dorman Memorial museums, will be dressed in his Cook best while the replica of the famous navigator's ship HM Bark Endeavour is berthed in Middlesbrough.

He was on the ship when it arrived on Friday, meeting Prince Andrew. "I was not sure whether to bow or salute because he outranks me. I was only a lieutenant on my first voyage of discovery in Endeavour.

"It was a great day for the town and the region and the seal of approval from Prince Andrew was perfect."

Friday was also the 92nd birthday of the Transporter Bridge and Endeavour sailed underneath it before berthing at Middlehaven, opposite the Riverside Stadium.

"I asked Chris Blake, the Endeavour's captain, if he would be interested in coming to Middlesbrough, so every time there's a problem of any sort, people will say 'It's your fault.'

"It's a great showcase because it shows what Middlehaven could be in the future. It's going to be a great and marvellous opportunity for the town.

"I'll be there every day it's open," he says. "People can have their photo taken with me if they want. It's amazing how many do."

Ian is a great student of the history of the town, and especially James Cook. He gives lectures on the life of the captain as well as dressing up as him.

"I have a filing cabinet in my head," he says. "I never use notes."

When he first starting appearing as Cook in the 1980s, he was in a borrowed costume.

"It used to be on a wax model in the Birthplace Museum," he explains. "It's just been put back on display."

Three years ago, he got another one. "The costume I use now is made to measure and paid for by the European Development Fund. It's completely accurate."

Ian was born and brought up in Pallister Park and will be 48 tomorrow ... "Trafalgar Day," he says proudly, scoring another historical point.

"I'll spend it giving out prizes at the Riverside Stadium with the Boro goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. He'll be there because of the Australian connection."

Ian attended St Pius' school, briefly St Richard's which was where part of the Evening Gazette is now, and then St Anthony's before St Mary's Sixth Form College.

He has always been a history fiend and was always desperate to join the museum service.

"My first job was on a job creation census of South Middlesbrough working out how many kids and cars they had.

"I kept trying for museum jobs while doing it and when the Cook museum opened, I applied for a job as a museum attendant.

"You know ... 'Don't touch this or that'. We call them 'Front of house' now. They're mainly retired people. I applied nine times and didn't get an interview."

The museum, celebrating its silver anniversary, had briefly opened in 1978 to coincide with Cook's birthday on October 27, then closed again until the following February.

"I applied every time they advertised for staff but in the end I was not getting an answer. Then I had a conversation with Cliff Thornton who was the curator.

"He is president of the Captain Cook Society and now works for the local authority at Basildon in Essex."

Cliff agreed to take him on and Ian spent ten happy years as an attendant.

"I then went sideways and went to work in the municipal buildings in the borough secretary's department.

"I was planning to get married and move house and it was more money and nearer home."

He became administrative assistant to the leader of the ruling Labour group on Middlesbrough Council, Ken Walker.

"I've always been politically motivated and I could have access to all the reports, but I always wanted to go back to the museum.

"Six years ago, I asked Ken Walker what he would think if I applied. He said 'Go ahead' and I got a job as assistant curator (trainee).

"I had to go to Newcastle for two years to do a post-graduate university diploma in museum studies.

"People had come from all over the world. I was the only one on the course without a degree.

"We did conservation, ethics - things like that, and then the others went off on a work placement. I did the work diary here at the Dorman."

He qualified. "After all those years I was finally successful," he says with great delight, "and now I'm really enjoying my work.

"It's split 50/50 between the Dorman and the Cook and I get involved in all sorts. I've now been with the council 25 years, man and boy."

He takes genuine pride in the success of the revamped Dorman, which has had 150,000 visitors since reopening in March.

"We have items from the collection on display that we would not have had room for before and all the stuff relates to Middlesbrough. "We have the recollections from a number of people and biographical pieces that we can offer people now.

"When they look at items and say 'I would like to see what it says in there', we can show them photocopies."

The staff are busy looking at ways to put even more on display.

"There's such a lot in the collection that people do not know we have. A lot is now on the website but it's nice to be able to see what we have got."

There are big plans for next year when the Dorman will be 100 years old.

It was founded in 1904 in honour of iron and steel magnate Sir Arthur Dorman's youngest son George Lockwood Dorman, who had died during the Boer War from a gastric complaint. "He was only 21 but was already a celebrity. He had been to Eton and had toured the world," says Ian.

The Dorman family lived at Grey Towers, which is currently being converted into flats. In the process, Sir Arthur's wood panelling has been removed to reveal spectacular peacock wallpaper underneath.

"It's Collinson and Lock, which the Lord Chancellor has," says Ian reminding us of the furore over recent London apartment redecorations.

"There are seven pieces left and we will conserve it. It's quite gaudy in a way but it will make a nice display panel."

Ian's wife works for the council in social services and they regularly take children Rosemary Elizabeth, 11, and James, seven, to see other museums.

"We don't drag them along; they want to go," he says. "We've been to the V and A in London and went to the Royal Armouries in Leeds the day after the Queen opened it.

"We've been to the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum at Salford.

"The Imperial War Museum is an amazing building. It has a big Harrier jump jet inside and is used like a film set. Scenes take place all around you and stories are read over the PA. It was an incredible experience.

"I like to look at what works elsewhere and how we could use it here.

"I think it's important that people know the Cook and Dorman are somewhere to go and what they can see.

"It's so vital that kids have the experience of other cultures and lifestyles.

"We are the ambassadors for the town. We have stuff here of national and international importance, but if we don't start telling people what we have, they'll never find out."

The museums are always happy to receive any donations, though not bikes or sewing machines, as they already have too many. With limited money, they can rarely buy exhibits.

Hopefully, as we become more appreciative, we can become wiser ... certainly wiser than the teacher and councillor that Ian overheard.

The teacher was on a school visit to the Dorman earlier this year. "She said the air raid shelter in the Town In Time exhibition was a bus shelter."

And the councillor, hearing of plans to put a gondola on Albert Park lake, piped up: "A gondola? Why don't we buy a pair and see if they will breed."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Oct 20, 2003
Words:1521
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