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There was a blog on this site in 2020, around the first anniversary of Sam’s death. The blog is now closed, but the posts have been saved and appear here . . .

Your Memories of Sam

25 April 2020 

Hello. I’m Geraldine or Gerry, Sam’s mum. Sam left me so many wonderful memories, from the day he was born to the day he died, he lived life to the full – every day was an adventure. I’m digging out photos to put on this site, but I know there will be plenty of other memories out there which would be great to share together to help us celebrate this life well lived. Please add your stories in your reply to this post – Your Memories of Sam.

37 Responses to “Your Memories of Sam”


My memories of Sam are spilt between when we were quite young and then later after we’d all been to Uni/ away travelling and living in other places.

I remember him always giggling and playing tricks or whispering to someone about things he found funny.
We all played out on the green together, huge football games or rounders with sprawling age groups piling in together. Water fights up and down the back lane and swimming In the river (quite brave considering what went into it)! At one point we used the frame work of a den that some of the much older kids had started and then nicked off with several tree logs that had been felled and stacked by the path awaiting collection. We made an amazing log-cabin-type-den and had to slither on our bellies to get into it. We had a look-out hidden by the main path so that we wouldn’t give our den away to dog walkers. However, not everyone could whistle so those who couldn’t, disappointedly hit a tree with a stick.
That’s how I mostly remember Sam, as part of the group, the rabble of kids that we were. The Blackhall Millions.The Blacky Millers.
I remember camping in his back garden once with a tent of girls and a tent of boys. Eventually the boys were told to go and sleep inside the house by a disgruntled Gerry, because we were all talking and giggling way too loudly despite several shouts to ‘shut up!’ from the overlooking houses.
I remember him being cheeky and quite annoying! He was always enthusiastic, I rarely saw him grumpy or bored, if ever. Later on when I got to know him as an ‘adult’ but let’s face it- we were always and will still be ‘The Street- kids’. We talked about our travels, went clubbing in the toon, I was delighted to discover the gem that is Erraid, we went for an occasional walk and battled charades at Christmas!

I find it hard to imagine that he’s not about, somewhere. Perhaps because I only saw him in the summer and at Christmas for the past several years. Or perhaps because he is still so vivid in my mind as an energetic character who brought people together and created adventures. I sort of can’t miss him- because he’s still here in my head reminding me not to be beige and to go for it. But then, I do miss him, because he was such a big presence and there was always a funny story or some kind of intrigue around him. Thanks Sam, you left a mark with us all. Love you xxx

Tom Ling

Hi – I am proud to be Sam’s uncle -Thomas or Tom (like Geraldine or Gerry I seem to be called differently in different contexts but happily I like both labels). Rowena (my wife) and I have many and fond memories of Sam. From a young baby even then full of energy and an alarming knack of suddenly arching his back like a salmon, to an inquisitive child always curious, and then an orchestrating teenager managing pals’ events and most often his wider family. It was great seeing him grow and develop. Ideas and ideals matured and became deeper and richer. His famous curries arrived later and later. He had firm views but loved to expose them and talk and argue – and laugh. The glint in his eye was never far away.
Just earlier to today I was wearing one of his jumpers. I like to do that at least a couple of times every month and often more. It’s partly to feel him near but also because he had such damn good style. He didn’t dress flamboyantly but very thoughtfully and tastefully. Where did that gene come from?
On the subject of genes, he loved his mum and dad with a deep passion. His brother Joe was equally loved. And he was a great orchestrator of family events. He had a tenacity about making sure we all gathered together especially around christmas but, really, on any other occasion when he was back in the UK. I know he did the same for his friendship groups, organising events at Blackhall Mill or the island.
I remember Joe and Sam meeting me on bikes in Durham. I was cycling the length and breadth of the country for my 60th birthday. The brothers met me at Durham cathedral and became my outriders as I crossed the county line and up into Blackhall Mill. Non-stop chat and laughing all the way. As always, energy, humour, intelligence and compassion….
Love, pride and great memories

Corrie Ling

Sam – his early years

I was visiting Gateshead about 28 years ago, with my children, Neil and Jennie. Geraldine and Andy made us very welcome, and the cousins had fun together. Sam and Joe were into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and by the end of the holiday, I had agreed to make turtle suits for them. We bought material, stuffing and a pattern and we returned home on the train with the precious bundle. By Christmas, the outfits were given to Sam and Joe, who loved them to bits! Andy made them weapons, and their room was made into a turtle home. Very happy memories, and if anyone wants a turtle sewing pattern, I have it.

I find it hard to imagine that he’s not about, somewhere. Perhaps because I only saw him in the summer and at Christmas for the past several years. Or perhaps because he is still so vivid in my mind as an energetic character who brought people together and created adventures. I sort of can’t miss him- because he’s still here in my head reminding me not to be beige and to go for it. But then, I do miss him, because he was such a big presence and there was always a funny story or some kind of intrigue around him. Thanks Sam, you left a mark with us all. Love you xxx

Liam McCracken

I’ve known Sam for most of my life and I was lucky enough to count him among my best friends.
He was always full of energy and enthusiasm and really threw himself into things that he was interested in; family / travel / music / cooking / uni / partying / work / girls / casa taller… and never seemed to waste too much time on things that he didn’t think were worthwhile! Not a bad philosophy to live by, and this ensured that his life, while tragically cut short, was lived to the full. I genuinely find comfort in this, even though losing someone you love and miss so much is impossible to comprehend.

So many great memories. Instead of writing a long piece, I’ll keep adding different memories here as the moment takes. Here’s one from the archives:

When we were really young, living in Blackhall Mill, our friendship group used to get up to all sorts of stuff; and you could always count on Sam to push the boundaries, much to our amusement!! I remember we used to play ‘Toboggan’ in Sam’s house as kids. This basically involved talking one of our group into sitting on top of a big cushion, while the rest of us pushed them down the flight of stairs, so that they would ‘toboggan’, and emerge (hopefully) in one piece in the living room at the foot of the stairs. After the initial few successful runs without significant injury, Sam led the group into thinking of new ways we could spice toboggan up a bit… So the next person to toboggan directly into the living room (while Sam’s dad Andy was watching the news) was sporting a new look plundered from his parent’s wardrobe; including a bra and a couple of ties!

Jack Kane

I am also fortunate enough to be a part of the Blacky mill massive and have known Sam and Joe (and Gerry and Andy) since they moved here all them years ago.

When we were growing up Sam always tried to maintain a split between the ‘little uns’ (or the runts as he christened us) and the ‘big uns’, which would mean that sometimes we weren’t allowed to make use of every kids dream of the free house if Gerry and Andy were away. I’m not going to lie this used to annoy me! But over the years we eventually managed to prove ourselves and the groups totally merged.

Sam always loved big gatherings and events – Christmas, new year, Erraid trips all spring to mind. One memory I have is a few years ago when about 30 of us hired a couple of big log cabins in Kielder for my birthday. It was January and turned out to be a really snowy weekend, so as I’m sure you can imagine Saturday afternoon turned into an epic snowball fight which lasted for hours. Sam was in his element and I can still picture the devious smirk on his face while planning attacks and launching snowballs at anyone and everyone – there was no teams so everyone was a target! He was also definitely an instigator of the next game which involved sitting on a sledge while holding onto the back of a moving car… We won’t talk about that one though!

It is hard to fully understand or accept that Sam isn’t here any more. I think similar to what Sarah said above, that may be because we only saw him twice a year on his returns from Colombia these days. He was definitely a fun-loving unforgettable character who is remembered by all he met. We all miss him and I think the number and range of people at his funeral show you the type of man he was and the impacts that he had.

I know there’s a lot more of these memories and thoughts to come, people are just trying to work out if their stories are acceptable for this forum!


Far too many memories to do Sam justice, I think his special power was creating memories, if nothing was happening then he would make something happen…

My earliest memory is of him crying on our first day at Chopwell Junior School, an innocent start to a raucous school career. Growing up together in Blackhall Mill was full of fun, what Sam lacked in footballing talent he made up for in amateur explosives expertise. Going through school we had so many laughs…I think relentless is the word for his wind ups and sense of humour. I remember we would miss the school bus in purpose so that Andy would give us a lift in.
A bit older and I remember cramming loads of us into his little old Renault to go clubbing in town, whoever drew the short straw to go in the boot would be treated to a whirlwind tour of all the local road bumps with music blaring at full blast…

I remember when Sam and Liam went off travelling, and then when he went to South America with Holly, they were the first people I knew who had done that and all of a sudden the world seemed within reach.

As we got older, it was still always an adventure with Sam, once I remember when he came to visit me in Colombia, we went on a night out and we ended up being the only two gringos in a nightclub full of gangsters and having to make a sharp get away…

Above all I always remember him smiling, that knowing look, that glint in his eye. His commitment to his mates, keeping in touch, getting people together, was a lesson to us all and is something I will never forget.

I also remember seeing his energy with the kids in Casa Taller in Colombia when they brought a big group of them on a visit to Cali, and remember thinking how much the kids loved and respected him, the mixture of authority and fun which Sam had with them.

Spending time with Sam was always a reminder that life is to be lived and enjoyed…like others, I still can’t quite accept that he isn’t here.
But I know he lives on in the hearts of all of us who had the privilege of knowing him…pushing us on, laughing with us (and at us!) and reminding us to make the most of every moment. Happy birthday mate x

Anna Ling

I’m Sam’s (younger) cousin Anna, so his huge presence has been in my life since the start. We would meet in Fife over Christmas and/or Easter in our Grans tardis-esk house, called Sandlea. The time together would be full of huge meals, walks and a sliding scale of appropriate games- the least appropriate usually coming from Sam (ever played ‘Cards Against Humanity’ with your mum?).

My sister’s number one toy for years was Baby Bob. It was as basic a doll gets, with a bald plastic face, arms and legs, and a soft torso, but she loved him as only a child could. Baby Bob suffered greatly at Sams engenius hands, somehow always just scraping disaster. One day, he was flying between Sam and Joe, and accidentally flew right out the first story window onto the main road below. My sister was distraught- and Sam instantly changed from playful tormentor, to hero as he ran full pelt down the stairs to save Baby Bob from near disaster.

He was always up for a laugh, in-fact, he was usually at the centre of the laugh, but he would also be the first to step in when someone actually needed help. Family gatherings won’t be the same, but Sam’s light will always be with us and we will raise many drinks in his name. Happy Birthday Sam, thank you so much for everything you brought into the world x

Katie Byrne

My earliest memory of Sam is in the playground at Chopwell Junior School. A group of us were playing a game on the steps near the garden and Sam, the new boy, came up and said “can I play Katie?” I thought about it then told him “no” and rather than accept it he challenged my answer with a friendly but searching “why?”, to which I realised I had absolutely no reason and had a quick change of heart.

There are lots of funny memories of growing up through school at Hookergate – BB guns, giggling about cleg, nanny dodging, the McGuiver tree, and egg & flour incidents, to name a few. I became pretty close with Sam during Sixth form through our shared love of music and partying and he became my partner in crime as we discovered the joys of dance music and clubbing; they were special times! I remember when he took ownership of his beloved Renault 5 and all the freedom and joy it brought to us – if ever a car represented a snapshot of a person! He also had an unhealthy obsession with Dr Evil (from Austin Powers). I can still clearly hear his rendition of ‘I like chicken, I like liver, Meow mix, meow mix, please deliver’ and see the excited twinkle in his eye and the grin on his face every time he sang it (and there were a lot of times).

There was a summer when my parents were away for about 6 weeks and Sam took it upon himself to arrange some sort of gathering at my place pretty much every night full of brilliant friends, music and banter – fond memories of good times. He also took on the job of mowing the lawn during this period, and i can still picture him grinning his way up and down the grass as if the lawnmower was some sort of sports car. The day my parents got back I had to work and I had tried to put the house back together as best I could, but had failed to replace a broken lamp shade. Sam, being the interior design ikea king he was at the time, told me not to worry, he would get the exact same one while I was out and before they returned. From memory I think I arrived back just before my parents, and was impressed to see Sam had stuck to his word, although the first thing my mam said was, ‘what happened to the lamp shade?’…turns out it wasn’t the exact same one but never mind!

I missed him when he went off travelling but I was chuffed when he, along with the best part of all the home crew, moved down to where I was in Leeds after his return. Cue more outrageous, wild and happy times! In more recent years, i regret to say I didn’t see Sam that often, given our respective migrations to opposite ends of the planet; but I was so in awe of everything he got up to and it always seemed like no time had past whenever I did see him.

Whenever I think of any of the time I spent with Sam I find myself fondly grinning. I feel so grateful to have grown up with him and to have been a victim of his infectious, joyful energy and spirit. Happy Birthday mate, love you! X X X

Jennie Forrest

I’m Jennie, one of Sam’s cousins on the Ling side. My childhood happy memories involving Sam are countless and always filled with laughter and joy. Many of these were at the home of my grandparents in Fife where we would meet several times each year. Laterally Sam would do the cooking with increasingly elaborate curries. He had an amazing ability to stay up until the wee small hours discussing one of his many passions and then manage to get up early and go for a run (I only once made the mistake of trying to run with super speedy Sam!).

20 odd years ago I met up with Sam in Australia when he was on a trip there with Liam and my brother, Neil was living there. We had a brilliant time but even 2 decades ago I couldn’t keep up with his energy and zest for life!

In 2009, when I had returned from living overseas, Sam was on Erraid where he was working as a fisherman. As was his endless generosity and ability to include everyone, he invited me and a couple of friends to stay with him on the island. Every day he would be up at the crack of dawn to where he needed to start I’m the fishing boat and in the evening he would return to make fabulous and inventive meals. One evening we spent with the community up in the village. Their love for him was obvious but particularly the children who followed him around and hung off every word.

Even though Sam was in Colombia for 10 years it always felt like we saw him regulary since on his twice yearly trips home he would always make a massive effort to make sure he spent time with his family as well as his friends.

Sam was a massive part of our family and I feel honoured to have known him. He is remembered in the happiest possible way for the remarkable man he was x

Neil Pritchard (Sam’s cousin)

The Night of the Crazy Santas.
(Starring Sam, Liam Turnbull, with Neil as witness)
We had been out in Newcastle on a fairly typical Saturday night (it may have been a Friday, but that’s not important) and returned to Fife Terrace around 4am. I was feeling tired, so went for a wee lie down in the front room (my bedroom at the time). I feel asleep and was dreaming of crazy Santas chasing each other around, but then I woke up to realise that Sam and Liam had pulled the white stuffing from some soft toy and put it on their faces, creating makeshift beards. Liam was closing his eyes and putting his arms out like a zombie and chasing Sam all over the lounge / kitchen and Sam was screaming (Gerry must have been away that weekend, otherwise she would have woken up). It was hilarious, one of the funniest things I have ever seen, a shame it was only me that got to witness this chaos. It was like an alter ego for Liam which he seemed to revel in, and Sam was genuinely scared of him (but laughing at the same time), throwing chairs and stuff into his path to try to slow him down ! !

I brought this night up with Liam on Erraid at Hogmanay, but he claims to have no memory of it.

Liam Turnbull

Great to read all of these memories, some of which i was lucky enough to be part of, all of which are making me smile and remember such a good friend fondly. Sam was an absolutely unforgetteable character, with a relentless aptitude for fun, and he had a generous spirit, shown as Paddy said in the array and number of people who came to Blacky Mill to celebrate his life. What a cheeky smirk and titter! He always had time for friends. In retrospect I don’t think he enjoyed or partook in time alone, which is admirable.
I first met sam at the Hookergate open day and we bonded straight away over both having the same wicked trespass coat with loads of pockets, one of which was on the sleeve which later became a special reserve for both of us that we stashed an emergency quid in, which we could only use on Cornflake tart day!
We used to funfight at afterparties in Gerrys extension. Sometimes in proper states. It was basically last man standing. In trying to throw your opponent down you invariably ended up spinning around like two stag beetles in a tussle. And so the Waltz was born.I can still hear him grunting as he braced for impact like rugby players in a scrum. The game evolved naturally and before long there were special moves like the zombie, or ‘limpsies’ and shimmy. If you were knackered your only option was to catch your breath on the sofa while the reigning champ showboated and goaded you. Sam soon saw an end to that by introducing elements of another game called ‘Bobbys shop’, which basically involved him hitting you on the shins with a baseball bat while you tried to catch your breath. It was brutal. The only options were to Waltz or get your shins done in as he shouted ‘Get oot me shop’! There was definitely no poppers involved. I still have a proper gem of a video of me, him and Sammy Mac having a monumental three way waltz one night that I taped on the sly. Absolute treasure of a memory and video! Has all the special moves. At one point he throws me down and gets on top of me on the sofa, and farts on me and wafts it over. You can see his trademark cheeky gaze as he watches me waiting for me to realise.
Sam had an insatiable desire to have fun and enjoy himself, which i’m sure we all admire and treasure, and will continue to do so. He had zero tolerance for boredom which means that almost every memory of time with him is a story. I’m sure like you all i can’t imagine him without hearing him tittering or seeing his cheeky look. I feel lucky to have spent so much time with him, and to have called him my friend, even ef we did wind each other up at times (once working at Andy’s place he went too far and put fibre glass in my bottle of water the little shit). He is and will continue to be missed. Big up big man x x x

Liam Turnbull

Reading all of these stories and thinking of memories of Sam makes me feel both nostalgia and a desire to go back and go through school again!

Andy Charlton

Sam and myself moved to Blackhall Mill around the same time and I remember even at that early age for Sam to be welcoming, inclusive and making people feel part of a group. He would get me involved in the weekly Sunday eve game of football on the village green which looking back on it would at time resemble more of a WWF Royal Rumble than a game of football at times.

We also bonded over our love of computer games and would spend many nights at our respective houses shouting over each other’s shoulders as the other furiously clicked a mouse button! I remember one particularly hot summer where Sam and myself spent far too much time indoors in Sam’s Grandpa’s study playing on what I’m sure was his Grandpa’s work P.C and Gerry trying to coax us away with promises of trips away or sugary based foods!

Like so many people on here, I have so many find memories of Sam: our time in Blackhall Mill; summers spent at Rowlands Gill park, times away at Erraid; summer festivals at Leeds and constant nights out. Thinking back on all of the things that I’ve done with Sam over the years makes me realise what a massive influence he was and still will be on my life and all the people that he’s known over the years.

Sam was always keen on helping people; getting himself out of his comfort zone; travelling to new places and making countless new friends along the way. I feel that I learnt so much from him and directly or indirectly he influenced my life so much.

Even during the last few years when we lived on opposite sides of the world when we’d see each other, it was like it always was. When I think back of Sam now, yes, I’m sad but also happy that I had the chance to know him and be part of his life. We all miss you mate!


Andy and Gerry were our friends before children and four were born between us with only months difference in the ages of Sam and Jennie and then Beth and Joe. My memories are many but everyone of them makes me smile . Sam and Joe were lively to say the least but I remember them coming to our house and played for ages with an old dolls house. Sam had his mischievous smile from when he was a baby and he used it well . To make friends, to fix arguments, to make people smile back and to make you wonder just what was going on in his head. Sam’s sense of humour was always present however many people were around . When outnumbered on Erraid by oldies drinking and being loud he still managed to use his humour to mock us all and make us laugh. Also on Erraid with young Ben ,who Sam and Joe took under their wing while climbing, building things, playing football , going out in the boat and building fires. Using their memories of time on Erraid to make memories for the next generation. Such generosity of spirit from Sam , Joe and their cousins was very special. After Andy died Sam came to Scotswood to see people he knew and made a link with one of the youth groups there. He brought his bike one time and when the bell rang and no one was anywhere near it he was happy to accept it was his dad telling him he was still around. More recently Sams Christmas holiday from work always coincided with our family Christmas party . He would arrive with Gerry straight from the airport and then insist at the end of the evening that he was not drunk but jet lagged. We loved him coming he lit up the room and talked and laughed freely . Upset children or uncomfortable children were never ignored he was always there before anyone else to make them feel happier . Lastly Sam was our friend , he and Kevin could talk about past days and events forever. Sam and Joe always liked to hear stories abouttheir dad from Kevin and Kevin loved telling them. Too many times and too many words need to be spoken and remembered. So no more words just love for Sam and his best life lived.


Far far far too many hilarious memories to try and just pick one, especially when some have already been told, but something I will always remember, was at one of the Christmas parties in Blackhall Mill in recent years, an unnamed guest was failing hard at charades, and me and Sam were just in total hysterics as they mumbled and screeched their way to a humiliating attempt that resulted in a loss for our team… it still gets brought up to this day at Xmas haha so simple but I’ll always think of that moment and laugh in the years to come, and be reminded of the reliably childish humour that we all shared with Sam! No matter where he’d been or what he’d seen, when we saw him after so long, he just wanted to be silly and laugh like we did as kids, with his family and friends.
His energy will be missed so much x

Rowena Whitehead

I’m Rowena, and first met Sam when he was a toddler and I walked into the front room rammed full of Lings on my first visit to Sam’s grandparents with Tom. .
Sam, we pretty well always met at large family gatherings at Christmasses and Easters and I remember your boisterous energy, your laugh, your laughter and that cheeky glint in your eye. Your love for Gerry, Andy and Joe shone through and you carried the torch for the wider family getting together whenever you returned to the UK, absolutely determined that it should happen…. and you made it clear to us how important it was for you. James and Max loved you to bits as you connected with them in your uniquely magical way, always playful and generous. Fabulous cook, dedicated and committed activist and world changer , you made the room light up wherever you were and your meticulously planned and created curries were the best I have ever eaten ….. I remember huge bags and yet more bags of ingredients being carted to the houses we would rent for family gatherings.
I remember family outings rolling eggs downhill every Easter for years in Letham Glen, and a lot of dubious tactics used by S Ling Gibson in his determination to win. I have played more games of Trivial Pursuits with you than with pretty well anyone else ever (you will always hold that record), and you made even that fun…..and thank for introducing me to Cards Against Humanity.
We’re still reeling from the loss of you and you’ve left a huge hole in the extended family group and obviously in every group that you were part of . It’s been wonderful to meet up with your friends as we have been celebrating you – you were obviously loved by so many people.
We will share Sam stories and drink a toast to you whenever we get together.

Katherine Zeserson

Hi I”m Katherine, Geraldine’s friend, colleague and neighbour.
I first met Sam when he was six months old and I starting working with Geraldine at Them Wifies. We’d drive around Gateshead in a beat up old Bedford van with Sam in a carry cot in the back…when he objected (which was fairly frequent) I’d take him into the front with me and sing loudly, directly in his face – the wilder and closer the more he liked it. His favourite ‘soothing’ song was a raucously improvised 12 bar blues. As Sam got older, and was joined by my son Josh and then Sam’s brother Joe, we moved up in the van world to a Marina van, carpeted in the back in which the three toddlers would just kind of rattle around and play. Eventually they became founder members of the amazing creche that Nora Donovan ran to support the women’s drama and music activities that Geraldine and I facilitated, and I think maybe Sam’s passionate political views were kindled or at least stoked by the experience of riding along in the creche minibus in the centenary Gateshead/Newcastle May Day march, complete with women’s symbols on nappy banners flapping out the windows…
Sam and Joe and Geraldine came to Ireland with Josh and me when they were in the upper primary school years, and I can vividly remember Sam’s insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm about everything …and his delighting in telling my mum rather rude jokes….particularly one that Josh recalled the other day about …dogshit…
Many years later I had the deepest privilege of spending a few days in Bogota with the man that Sam became. He whisked me around the city from dinner at the vegetarian cafe run by ex-combatants to lunch with Paula and Matty in his plant-filled apartment to beer and snacks in a really very dodgy bar, and then via the most terrifying, vertiginous bus ride of my life up the hills to Casa Taller, where we spent a joyous day in the garden and singing with the children. I can still see him grinning and encouraging the children and dancing about, and then the deep seriousness of his voice as he walked me around the community and helped me to contextualise my experience.
The cheeky, quirky child became a beautifully loving, passionate man, so driven by justice and hope. So sad to lose you, and so grateful for your life. X


So Gerry asked me if I might tell this story, I have other memories of Sam, of great and passionate discussions on varied topics, of good cooking and eating, of big greeting-hugs, but this is one that does stick in the mind a little vividly.

Yesterday I wore a pair of blue trousers – unremarkable you might think – but actually remarkable on two accounts, one that they were blue again, and two that they bring back memories of an adventure I would not have tackled if it had not been for Sam.

I was in Colombia for a conference. It was shortly after the ‘peace’ process was finally ratified and the conference was shaped round participatory research and knowledge democracy. Sam had hoped to attend. I hoped he would too, but in the end there were weddings back in the UK where he needed to be and so he was not around. It was the casual understatement of his suggestion of how I might spend some of my days off in Colombia that left me unprepared for what was to come.

His suggestion was that given I had a week I had time to take a trip to Santa Marta and from there a walk through the jungle to the Lost City of Teyuna. I researched it, saw how far I would need to walk each day (perfectly manageable it seemed) and although the accommodation was described as basic (is that an under or an over-statement?) I thought I was used to that and didn’t really mind it. It was indeed basic even for me. As basic as it could be and still be called accommodation – no walls, no doors, no beds but very used mattresses lined up together on shelves (bed bugs included) no facilities that many would recognise as such (although toilets were available in outbuildings), lots of frogs, toads and chickens, often under the ‘bed’ – leechy things (always check your shoes before you put them on) but also humming birds and fire-flies all around with perfect views of fabulous sunsets given there were no walls – so yes it was basic but with consolations. Consolations were actually many. The jungle flowers, the views, the birds, the wildlife, learning about the culture of the region and finally the Lost City itself. We arrived there at 7 am one morning after a two-hour trek that took us through a raging river with water up to my armpits (was a scared – yes) and 1200 slippey stone steps to the entrance. But I loved it. Doing the trek with indigenous people (I went with the Wiwa tribes people) meant I was really prepared for the special atmosphere of the city, had been inculcated into their beliefs and ceremonies, and was fascinated by the peace, history and spirituality of Teyuna.

What did I not love. The red mud – and the mud – and the wet and the mud. The whole trek took place in red slippery oosey mud, often on steep paths perched on the edge of steep drops (one of our food carrying mules slipped off one day – it survived but we only had a cookey for our lunch that day) the heat and humidity (we were wet all the time, and I mean all the time) and the mosquitos. And…I was also at least 30 years older than most people on the trek. There was one other man my age, an American teacher – we teamed up for camaraderie – and because we were the slowest. One day he said, ‘Tina, we are in the top 99th centile for age here, in fact we are respectively number 99 and number 100’. But we made it. The coca tea helped. Many younger folk did not make it – perhaps they did not try the tea – my boots did not make it either, rotting away and disintegrating on the last day they had to be carefully disposed of. What an adventure. I did love it really. Thank you Sam.

When safely returned I asked Sam why he thought I would be OK – he said he thought I was a tough old bird. I suppose that was a complement from Sam. I remember him with huge affection – his zest for life and for social justice – his compulsion to give of your best – his quest to overcome and achieve and to include – and maybe his slightly skewed understanding of risk? Inspirational. Tx


I have so many memories of Sam throughout his amazing life. I remember spending a long weekend at Gerry and Andy’s (my brother) house in Gateshead . They had just bought the house and were slowly getting it into shape. I was rewiring it for them over a frantic and hectic weekend. Sam was only a few years old and I remember one afternoon looking across at the bench along the wall in the kitchen area and seeing him laid fast asleep on it, a blanket rolled up alongside him to stop him falling on to the floor, sleeping soundly and completely oblivious to the drilling, hammering and general chaos that was going on all around him. A useful skill I think he learnt young and stayed with him throughout his life.

He just loved to debate issues. We would argue, discuss, disagree, agree, laugh, change our views, re-argue endlessly. It could be about food, his strong beliefs of being vegan, politics (UK), geo-politics, world issues and anything in between. He had an opinion on everything and anything. What I came to experience was that he frequently had extensive knowledge of his subjects he would discuss and argue about, a real depth. He wasn’t just saying something without really knowing, he had read about it, spoken to people about it and could in a humorous way get his point across with passion and enthusiasm. He used to win the arguments by also adding that glint in his eye and the wide smile, a slum dunk finish.

Anything was possible with Sam, he didn’t believe in limits. He made things happen, he got people involved and carried them with him. An inspiration to all.

Jack Ruane

I’m Jack and I was lucky enough to work with Sam and become good friends while living in Bogota together. I met Sam through the wider expat community in Bogota and got on well immediately. As luck would have it, Sam, a few other friends and I all got jobs together at the Universidad EAN, who were essentially launching a modern languages department and needed native Teachers. This meant a lot of the syllabuses, assessment, course materials etc had to be created by us, so we were granted quite a lot of autonomy. Incredulous that we had all landed such a sweet deal of a job together, Sam naturally took a lead role in enthusiastically planning course content and organising who would plan what.

One memory that will always make me smile is Sam pulling me to one side, struggling to contain his giggles, and told me that he had stitched up another teacher. Sam was suspicious this teacher was not planning and just showing powerpoints Sam had made blindly. So, Sam had taken the time to amend the powerpoint so that instead of getting the next point on the slide every time you click, the next word came out. It must have taken him AGES, and the teacher must have been at the board clicking away red-faced for a full 2 hour lesson.

For me this story reminds me of Sam because while he had a mischievous sense of humour, he also made everyone else around him better at their job by leading by example, setting the bar high and having infectious enthusiasm. To this day, when I prepare or teach a lesson I ask myself if I have done it with the same energy, care and love for my students as he used to.

Dawn Redhead

Sam was a lifelong supporter of The Lawnmowers Theatre Company, which supports people with learning disabilities in the north east of England to work towards justice and a better future. He was more than that to us though. He was a member of our extended family. No matter where he was in the world or how massive the scale of his work, he never forgot us and we always knew we were part of his thinking, plans, considerations and family. Personally, I am grateful to have watched him grow into a tireless and fearless campaigner for justice and a better life for people. He went in where angels feared to tread and his kind and happy manner coupled with his determination, huge intelligence and can-do attitude was a rare thing to witness. We’ll always be very broken hearted that he is not still with us but he’ll always be an inspiration to us all at Lawnmowers and we are privileged to have had those blessings.

Harry (Bogotá)

When I reflect on the past decade of my life, whether it be professional milestones, exciting trips away, memorable nights out, or simply a moment when I laughed a lot, Sam was never far away, and more often than not he was the protagonist. My earliest memory of Sam was at about 1am on a weekday night and scolding him for making too much noise in an early Bogotá apartment. At that point I had no idea who he was, all a saw was a giggling mischievous mono, who did not see why I was so serious about my impending visa run to Venezuela. That mischievous trait laced with what seemed like infinite waves of energy was integral to what I grew to love and respect about Sam, and all the good he did whether it was teaching, cooking or socialising, it was always tackled with same enthusiasm.

Once, with a group of friends we travelled to San Jose del Guaviare, for a bank holiday weekend. On the final day despite having already packed plenty into the trip, we rather naively attempted a six hour round trip to see the rock paintings of Cerro Azul. This would require the navigation of muddy unstable dirt tracks, while riding rickety motorbikes. The day was close to being a disaster, almost everybody had come off their bikes at least once (besides Sam), although he has been partially responsible for my own fall, after an attempt to spray me with mud backfired… hilariously (for the rest of the group). Fortunately, due to Sam’s exuberant perseverance and ingenuity we would make it back to the bus terminal and our scheduled bus to Bogotá on time. We were able to mitigate and adapt to the various obstacles we faced that day, whether it was picking up those who fell; striking up friendships with initially hesitant locals; using our own limited mechanical knowledge; or Sam volunteering to ride a motorcycle without a gear shift in first gear for 3 hours as time was running out and as darkness fell. Indebted to his selflessness and encouragement. we were able to make it back, albeit exhausted and slightly bruised. The following day, while I was waiting for the work day to hurry along, so I could rest, all I could hear from the adjacent classroom was the same dynamism and energy that Sam brought to any situation regardless of his weekend activities.

Jonathan Bean

When I think of Sam, whom I knew all his life, I inevitably recollect a tiny incident. We were working together to construct a timber building in his garden in Blackhall Mill. He’d taken the wheelbarrow down the rear pathway to get more materials from the street at the bottom, 100 yards away. I waited – on the roof. Time stretched. No Sam. No materials.

At last, after perhaps ten minutes, I clambered laboriously down from my perch and went in search. He was engaged in deep conversation with an ancient man leaning on a stick, regaling his young listener with stories of Blackhall Mill in his own youth.

The reason I keep that memory? Because it shows the compassion and curiosity – in my opinion the two most important attributes in life – that Sam possessed. Not many young people would have had the patience and interest to listen, or Sam’s respect for others.

I raise a malt to Sam’s memory. Here’s ‘cheers’ to a good man!


Holly Schofield

Like many others, I have so many happy memories of Sam that it is difficult of me to choose one. Some of the happiest ones actually just relate to the ordinary, everyday things we did when he was around – a chat here or there, a walk, a drink, a dance, a playfight that I never won, a cheeky firework. It was just a feeling of being around him that made me happy. His warmth and kindness, genuine interest in others, humour, playfulness, attention span and inability to sit still are things that continue to make me smile every day.

With today being his birthday, I’ve been thinking about past celebrations a lot. Among my favourites are his 21st and my 20th which we celebrated in South America. We were in Peru for his 21st and we chartered a small plane to fly over the Nazca Lines, which was unforgettable. The pilot was called Willy which made us giggle more than it should have as adults. He was no older than Sam, and no more responsible either because he caved in to Sam’s relentless pleading and let him take control of the plane mid-flight, which was truly terrifying. Being in a car with Sam driving it was bad, but a plane was something else.

For my birthday, Sam surprised me with a trip to see humpback whales off the coast of Ecuador which was amazing, and I will be grateful to him for that day for the rest of my life. On my actual birthday we were in Bogota, Colombia and in the morning, he got up early and went all over the city to find some baked beans to be able to wake me up with a UK style (ish) cooked breakfast. He bought me a bracelet that he’d had made in Ecuador, a bottle of alcohol that was so strong that it smelled like paint stripper and a Colombian football team t-shirt that he’d had ‘personalised’ for me by having something inappropriate printed in Spanish on the back where your surname should go.

Typically Sam, endless kindness always served with a healthy dose of mischief.

Happy birthday brother.

Sabrina Repa

I was Sam’s girlfriend at university and for a while afterwards. We stayed good friends over the years that followed, meeting up whenever possible and having annual catch ups by phone if we couldn’t – especially around birthdays and Christmas. Some of my favourite memories and things about Sam are:

Travelling together over the years in Spain, Poland, Rome, Kosovo, Albania, Crete, Macedonia, Croatia and of course numerous trips to Erraid.

In Spain we did the Caminito del Rey walk without any protective gear/ropes (stupidly!). We’d camped out the night before but our tent didn’t have poles so we made some out of sticks which worked for about 5 minutes.

In Poland we booked and stayed in a sanatorium by accident for a few days. Sam swam in the Baltic for the first time which he loved.

In Rome Sam took so many incredible photos in the city – especially at night time. You can see these on his Facebook page. He made biscotti very well!

In Kosovo we drank homemade rakiya with a Serb man who was living on his own in his bombed out home from years before which he had refused to leave. We were shown so much kindness by everyone we met and ended up teaching an impromptu English class in a small village, after having met a family on our walk the day before and having tea with them in their home. This trip took place shortly after Kosovo gained its independence.

In Albania, we had a very scenic train ride along the coast in a dilapidated train – it had huge gaping holes in the ground which added to the excitement!

We took a boat from Albania to Crete – we spent the whole ride sat close to the water and had the most delicious Greek food as soon as we got there.

In Macedonia we rented a motorbike and rode around – Lake Ohrid was a highlight. We went swimming and Sam chased me with a dead water snake on stick.

In Croatia, Sam ditched me in a national park because I was walking too slowly! His long strides and crazy endurance vs. my 5’2 person’s legs meant he powered on ahead and we were apart for a good hours – I was so annoyed but couldn’t stay mad at him for long, as was usually the case with that charming man!

In Erraid, we ran out in low tide to pick mussels from the rocks for a meal and Sam made the most gorgeous Thai curry. Another time we got caught out when the tide came. We took off our trousers for better movement in the water, and waded through in the dark and then ran into the croft with Andy waiting for us with the door open, us giggling, scraped and trouserless.

At university, I lived with Sam and a bunch of others in a huge student house. Sam got up to so much mischief, especially with Ben. I remember the house shaking as they were firing fireworks at each other in the basement, hiding behind random bits like an old broken bath tub. Sam would hide in my room and jump out and scare me more times than I could count. There were also the BB gun fights where even yelling “ceasefire, civilian approaching” when trying to get to the toilet couldn’t stop you from getting shot at. (And yes, Sam excelled in Peace Studies!) In class, we were in the front row and Sam had drawn faces on his toes in his flip flops and got caught wiggling them at me by the lecturer. Sam would often work through the night on an assignment – I think it was because he was a night owl but also because he had fewer distractions then. And lord would Sam get distracted! Random.

I miss Sam’s crazy infectious laugh, his pranks, his book-giving and creative gifts, his huge smile, his sense of duty, his energy, his wild animal noises, his compassion, his inclusiveness, his politics and his beliefs, his free spirit, his kindness, his intense play fighting, his creativity and artistic ability, his amazing taste in music, his directness, his humour and his wonderful heart. Sam (aka Precious), I hope you are having the biggest baddest heavenly fiesta today and every day – we love and miss you.

Becca Ling

Growing up with Sam as a big cousin involved lots of mischief (of course, mostly on his part), endless fun and so much energy. My earliest memories of Sam relate to ‘Baby Bob’, a ratty plastic doll who I cherished. My aim was always to keep baby Bob away from Sam but despite this he was often strung up, catapulted or ‘missing’ when we were together. Play fighting was also a losing battle which often led to being squashed with cushions and sat on while Sam would sing “farted on your face”. For a short time I could get my own back and would wake Sam and Joe up earlier than they would like but unfortunately for me this didn’t last long with Sam becoming an early riser… who in more recent years would often be back from a run and ready for the new day before the rest of us were up, no matter how late the night before.

While staying with Sam in Bogota I really got a glimpse of his full and vibrant life in Colombia; I spent a day at Casa Taller, joined in one of his lessons at the University – his energy and passion were clearly infectious with the students, we had meals with friends, games of tejo, enjoyed drinks on his neighbours roof, cycling on a Sunday. It would have been easy to think that Sam was trying to show me the best of Bogota but in fact I was just joining him for one of his usual weeks, one that was often filled with good company and connections, purpose, new experiences and laughter, lots of laughter!

Our family gatherings have always been such an important time for all of us, Sam especially would always be arranging a get-together whenever he was back in the UK. Sam’s energy, conversation, playfulness and thoughtfulness will truly be missed during our family gatherings and through life. I’m raising a mug of green tea and holding Sam close as I read the memories and stories shared by others. Such a full and colourful life. Happy birthday.

Jean and Col

We knew Sam all his life but weren’t in everyday contact as he was growing up, would only see him on special occasions and at parties. But in 2009 we had a memorable trip to Erraid – Sam was there, with a girlfriend, and I think he had been there most of the summer. He had a few hens and was working with some local fishermen from Mull. Sam was totally and completely enthusiastic about the fishing and we remember particularly his excitement leading up to a planned adventure to catch salmon which involved late night net laying and the men all staying overnight on Erraid. Result of all their work? One undersized flat fish.
He was great company. His enthusiasm was infectious and we had such a lovely time – with Andy too.
Sam’s personality was magnetic. His joy endures in our hearts.

Katy Wakenshaw Brown

One of the nicest, kindest, most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing ?. x


Me gusta leer todo lo que han escrito acerca de nuestro querido Sam
No sabría decir algún recuerdo en específico, solo se que el siempre buscaba la manera de hacernos reír y recuerdo mucho verlo jugar con los niños y el se volvía en uno también y se ponía un poco fastidioso, también era muy trabajador y se le media a cualquier cosa me siento muy agradecida por haber conocido a Sam el fue y seguirá siendo un gran ejemplo de vida y siempre estarás presente en nuestra casa

Laura Jayne Burlison

I first met Sam on my 18th birthday – End of May 2007, on a night out in Newcastle at Digital (2 Many DJs!) after being friends with his brother Joe for a while. For years after this, he was a huge part of our friendship group and we all enjoyed so many good times – 190, nights out, parties, trips away, it’s hard to pick just one memory! I do always remember his love of taking photos, sometimes when we were in the worst of states, and I would argue with him not to take the photo, but he did anyway!

Although I didn’t see as much of Sam in recent years, Gerry and Joe always updated me as to what he was up to and I felt a huge sense of loss when we all heard of Sam’s passing. Sam was and will remain a huge part of so many people’s lives, in many different ways. The Sam Ling Gibson Trust is testament to that.

Sam always wore a huge smile, he was fun, energetic and a pleasure to be around. He will be remembered, and missed, by everyone who knew him, and through his trust, Gerry, Joe and everyone who knew Sam can not only cherish the memories they shared with him, but use the work he was so passionate about at Casa Taller to inspire future generations to continue that good work. You have left a legacy Sam. Happy Birthday, so sorry to loose you so soon but so privileged to have known you, lots of love, Laura x

Iain Conlon

Sam was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. He just had so much energy. Some of us in Bogotá used to wonder how he managed to find the time for it all.

When I was working with him at the university, he would make all he his own (vegan) food, go boxing, work at casa taller, cycle everywhere, play football, read, party harder than anyone else and his lessons were still by far the best. I’m not ashamed to say that I was in awe of him.

I’m struggling to write much more, as there is too much to write in this blog but I’m just gonna list a few stories/events that I think sum up my memory of him quite well

– I first met him at Lincoln outside my classroom and immediately it was like I’d met up with a mate of 20 years. Just so warm. I’m pretty sure we were having beers that Friday.

– Beers on a Friday after class at Lincoln

– I’d worked at Lincoln for maybe 4 or 5 months before he came, but he knew everyone there way better than I did by the end of his first month.

– So, so many nights out in Bogotá going all over the place to random clubs that were definitely nothing like the fancy zona rosa clubs (he’d never go there)

– after parties at Calle 44 when I lived with Jack and Harry. He was always still going till late with the best of them.

– One time, I hadn’t even gone out with Sam, but with some other friends. We were always hungover as hell for our obligatory Saturday morning class, but this time I was really rough. I think i’d slept like an hour. I rang Sam, as I was gonna be late ‘Sam, cover for me, man. I’m still pissed’
His reply ‘Aye, me too! I’ve just woken up and I’m running in’
God knows how we didn’t get sacked.

– Sam laughing his head off watching me teach (half drunk) on a different Saturday morning as my students teach me (incorrectly) the use of present perfect in English.

– Playing football only in straight lines forward and very, very direct (he had no other setting but MAX)

– Me and Harry entering his (quite poor) kite into a pro tournament in Villa de Leyva.

– Lots of guaro

– cook ups at his place with wine that essentially became massive parties.

– Getting to finally visit him at the croft. Such a great group of guys (I wouldnt expect anything less of Sam)

– Him giving me tips on vegetarianism/veganism. He was probably the biggest influence on me becoming vegan.

– lots of really interesting chats about politics/peace in Colombia/UK. Always a pleasure.

– We’d often sneak off to make a cup of tea before heading for a night out, no matter how drunk we were. ‘Can’t beat a cup of tea before a night out’

– Amazing lesson sharing with him while at EAN. All of us getting our lefty agenda in there!

– Going up to Casa Taller and making something random like a fence. Just so far away from what I was used to and he would just dive straight in.

– He would always say that playing with the kids was as important as doing the work. He was right of course.

That’s all I can think of for now.

I feel honoured to have called him my friend. I miss him so much.

Thanks for the memories, mate. We’ll keep up the good fight for you.

Chris Allan

When I think of Sam I think of energy and passion. Whenever I saw his face in a room it became my immediate priority to be in his space and know how he was doing. You don’t meet many people like that in life, people whose presence change the environment around them and make it more joyful. Reflecting back on times shared with Sam, I see now that I wanted to learn from him too , and that really I admired him. That, and we always had a bloody good time.


A small fond memory my mam and I have of Sam. Wednesday evening pub quiz, The Fox and Hounds, Coalburns. No prizes for winning. Only Kudos.

We win this almost impossible quiz, I was elated, it was probably my first and only time winning. Sam on the other hand was dissapointed, he felt short changed, aggrieved that there was no prizes to be had.

He made his dissapointment known to the other teams, the quizzmaster, and bar owners. Sam then proceeded as my mam described “to work the room” He was sweet talking everyone in the bar, chatting laughing and having fun. Sam is, and probably will be the only person ever to get a wee dram for winning the quiz. He got his prize.

Sam could have done this anywhere in the world

I miss Sam dearly, I feel privelaged for the time i spent with him.

Bethany J Peacock

I met Sam over a Sage Gateshead lunch break in early 2009 where we discovered we were both headed for West Coast Scotland. Sam was off to work as a fisherman in Erraid and I to a pub in Ardfern, Argyll. We didn’t meet up in Scotland but incidentally both landed back in Newcastle at roughly the same time. My friendship network had dwindled since uni but Sam changed all that, he would blast around the Sage halls chatting, making friends and arranging parties (and after parties). Within months I had a great circle of friends, friends that formed the foundations of my friendship circle today. On the Sage’s fifth birthday celebrations I danced in a show on the concourse and Sam took some fantastic snaps including a fav one of me in a swan outfit. By January 2010 Sam had embarked on his English teaching course in preparation for Columbia later that year. He talked to me about his travels in South America which in turn prompted me to think, for the first time, about travelling somewhere similar myself. I called my twin sister who’d been working for sometime in Mexico and asked if I could come and live with her for six months. Within weeks I’d booked a flight and my sister had found us an apartment of our own. On the morning of my departure, standing outside the National Express, with just minutes to go ,Sam unexpectedly came whizzing towards me on a bike, hopped off, gave me a massive snog and wished me good luck. While in Mexico I read the book he’d given me, ‘Mountains beyond Mountains’ by Paul Farmer – which became my all time favourite. Over the years Sam and I kept in touch, meeting up and going to parties and festivals during times he spent in the North East. Sam altered the direction of my life for the better and I am so grateful for the time we spent together. Sam’s infectious enthusiasm, the warm and engaging way he drew people in and his non confrontational way of debating was so refreshing to watch. Often, I found myself wondering how one goes about acquiring all these well honed social skills. Having come from a very reserved, closed family, it blew my mind and had a lasting impact on my outlook of people and ways to engage with them. I think about him frequently and miss him dearly


Happy belated Birthday Bro
Overestimating my ability to write and underestimating how difficult this would be I have chosen the easy option of writing about a single moment with my brother. I have more to say which I will do soon but it keeps getting too personal and self-indulgent to post and encapsulating Sam in words would take several volumes. So for now I will just write about one of the many occasions we made each other laugh. It was in a moment we would never expect to laugh, but a time we needed it the most.
Like we did for some of Sam’s ashes we scattered our dads (Andy) ashes from a hill at the observatory on the Isle of Erraid on what would be considered a calm day for the Erraid (but would be a gale anywhere else). People were taking handfuls of ashes, having a moment and releasing them into the wind. As me and Sam released the first handful of ashes into the wind, we were locked in contemplation and mourning, this was only to be broken by a little cough and a splutter from Kevin (a close friend of Andy and us), the ashes me and Sam had just released were being blown straight into his face! Immediately me and Sam looked at each other with a smile and with no hesitation went in for a big handful of Andy’s ashes, releasing them straight into Kevin’s face. Kevin quickly noticed we were doing this intentionally and also cracked up saying something like ‘you little shits’ as a smile stretched across his face. To this day I still don’t know if anyone else noticed us giggling while scattering our dad’s ashes or if they noticed us throwing ashes into Kevin’s face.
Unknown to me and Sam at the time, I recently found out that Andy had laughed with many people about his ashes blowing back in their faces after being scattered from that spot.
Nothing was off the table when it came to making each other laugh and we would be there for each other for that or anything.

The Sam Ling Gibson Trust is a UK Charity No 1191726