Taking care of Finns for years

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In the old days he would issue passports - but it’s all changed now.

David Stone CBE has just stood down as honorary consul to Finland after almost 20 years representing the country in Sheffield, and looking after the 100 or so natives who live in the region.

The former Master Cutler, who ran United Engineering Steels, became the fourth in the post after he was installed in 1996. The position was established about 130 years ago on the basis of the steel trade between the countries.

Mr Stone said: “It’s been a privilege to represent Finland. The country is held in very high regard in my experience. Everywhere I go people want to hear about it.

“I think Finland punches well above its weight as a country with just 6m people. Not just trade, but in terms of culture, most British orchestras are conducted by Finns.

“One of the most important jobs was to look after local Finns and before 9/11 we even used to issue passports.

“We also organised the Finnish independence day get together on December 6.

“Most of the consulates were established in port towns and cities reflecting trade links with Finland. Sheffield was the exception, on the back of the steel trade.

“It was a two-way relationship, with them sending a lot of raw materials and Sheffield sending tool steels.”

Ambassador Huhtaniemi said Mr Stone had been an “optimal” consul for many years.

There are about 20 honorary consuls in the UK and three in dependencies - the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and Bermuda - which are in his jurisdiction, he added.

The UK is home to about 15,000 Finns, about 10,000 inside the M25. Some 2,000 are university students.