Obituary: Trevor Leonard

Newcastle’s ‘poetry mugger’, speaker and local philosopher


The Newcastle poet and amateur philosopher Trevor Leonard, who has died suddenly aged 79, was a professed socialist, public speaker, all-round thinker and humanitarian.

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. He was a member of his local writing group North East Bylines.

Born in Benwell, in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne, 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 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 as Brandling Park, Newcastle, the Edinburgh Festival and Speakers’ Corner in London.

His poem A Tyne Affair reflects his love of Tyneside: the sea is the soul of time/ It wanders us perfectly/ Draining our soreness /Swathed in melody.

Acquaintances would be stopped in the street while Trevor recited a few lines; one of them 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, for example, 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 was the son of Sol and Ada Leonard, a family with roots in Russia, and he had siblings in Israel and the US. He loved to attend shul, and often did a rendition of the haftorah in his own inimitable style.

The fact it was word-perfect somewhat compensated for his voice! He had been seriously ill last June but miraculously recovered after treatment in hospital. Trevor was a keen table-tennis player competing for Newcastle Maccabi for many years — well into his 60s.

At Rabbi Lipsey’s annual Pizza in the Hut event he was heard to say that he was in a good place with his writings and very comfortable with his life in Newcastle. But he was distraught during his final days by events in Israel and Gaza.

Trevor never married and lived in Jesmond during the later years of his life. He is survived by his brother Myer and sister Yetta and several nephews and nieces. He is sadly missed by his close friends in Newcastle and London.

Keith Armstrong, a friend and colleague from his writing group wrote a poem of appreciation on his passing: The voice is his own unique instrument/Dulcet in the sun.

Trevor Leonard: born February 29, 1944. Died October 24, 2023

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