Trevor Leonard, the Newcastle poet, amateur philosopher, professed socialist, public speaker, all-round thinker and above all humanitarian, died this week at the age of 79.
In all his activities Trevor was motivated to do good in the world; he hoped above all that his poetry would in some way help achieve that objective.
Born in Benwell in 1944, Trevor attended Canning Street School followed by Ascham House in Gosforth, Pendower Commercial and John Marley schools. He was articled to a solicitor for five years and began writing at the age of 22.
His career development was held back when he experienced mental health issues in his 20s and 30s, which he talked about openly in later life.
He was a member of, but only occasional attender at, Newcastle Philosophy Society, but his main interest was always poetry. He spent many years carefully crafting a work setting out his humanitarian views, which he performed – the only word for his style of recitation – in public in such places at Brandling Park, Newcastle, the Edinburgh Festival and Speaker’s Corner in London.
Acquaintances would be stopped in the street while Trevor recited a few lines; one described the experience as being “poetry mugged”. He was always keen to explain his theory that the works of Shakespeare were written by Queen Elizabeth I and others. He sometimes adapted Shakespeare’s work for his own purposes (“the summer of our content”). His work was published on the “Tyneside Poets” blog, edited by Keith Armstrong, in 2015.
Trevor was a vegetarian and would often repeat one of his own lines – “OPAL – Our peace, animals live.” He was arguably a sort of Communist – though he never used the term – who thought everyone should live in a council house and receive whatever their needs demanded, and no more.
Later he was a member of a small, rather noisy, eccentric group of mainly elderly men who regularly disturb the peace of Jesmond cafes with their poetry and discussion of whatever current affairs have attracted their attention. Trevor, who was Jewish with family roots in Russia and siblings in Israel and the United States, was distraught during the final days of his life by events in Israel and Gaza.
He never married and lived in Jesmond during the later years of his life.
From “The Bardic Promise”
Many ways join the complete society: Apples are ready The carpets are laden Do we need education? I have doubts myself The sorrows of learning are like fires We always learn to keep away from. Ethical honesty is the only real learning matter; Paces of understanding are related to character. When we feel expressive The wings of time bring us poetry. Since time immemorial a falsehood has been here; The echoes of language raw are all we need. The matters of skill are generated by learning in particular. Beauty is our worthwhile endeavour, The colours of emotion celebrate creation. Where does education lead us? On blowing temper trails; There are those who can and most of us can’t. In ships of celebrity they guide promises of future. The cousin of nature is expression, It values our wellbeing, Proves our memory. We are all created creatures Juices of love make us generous. Trevor Leonard (1944-2023)
North East Bylines has been asked to share the following message with our readers:
As you know, Trevor was a unique and special person. With his passing, the chances of Newcastle becoming a socialist republic are diminished, the world of poetry has lost something unique and theological debates will be less rich. We also lost a person who was so kind, loving and giving in a very authentic way.
If you met him or knew him and have a memory, a story, an anecdote or a picture, we would love if you would share it with us. Whatever you have, please send it to:
We will collate it and share it.
Likewise, if you know someone who knew Trevor – please pass this on to them.
With much love and appreciation.