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05 December 2014

I SUSPECT that Durham is the only cathedral with its own rocking horse. It has just been given a handsome one by an 84-year-old maker of rocking horses from London.

When Derek Thorp visited Durham to see the Lindisfarne Gospels last year, he remembered that a former fellow-airman with whom he had served in Singapore had had connections with the cathedral; so he made some enquiries and managed to get in touch with him.

He discovered that George Hetherington, a former cathedral chorister, was one of the volunteer stewards in the cathedral; so the two former comrades were able to meet again. "It was lovely to see George, and catch up on each other's lives," Mr Thorp said. "While we were chatting, I mentioned that I've spent my retirement making rocking horses. By the end of the conversation, we had decided it would be nice to donate one to Durham Cathedral, and so I started working on it as soon as I got home."

Mr Thorp recently returned to the cathedral to present it, and the horse will now be used by the cathedral's education team when working with schoolchildren and other young visitors. They say that it will be particularly useful during sessions about St Aidan, who famously received the gift of a horse from King Oswin, but gave it to the first beggar in need whom he came across.

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