Grandson of South Yorkshire mining hero returns to childhood home to help troubled youths

The grandson of a Doncaster mining hero is returning to the town where he grew up to help troubled youths through music.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 17th February 2017, 3:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:44 am
Ontrack founder Mick Allport with his daughter Sarah
Ontrack founder Mick Allport with his daughter Sarah

Ernest Allport was awarded the George Cross - the highest honour available to UK civilians for gallantry - for saving lives following the 1931 Bentley Colliery explosion, which killed 45 people.

More than 80 years later, Mick Allport has drawn on what he calls his grandfather's 'bulldog spirit' to found a charity harnessing music to transform lives.

Ernest Allport was awarded the George Cross for his heroics in the 1931 Bentley Colliery disaster

Ontrack Music Services provides tuition to young people in Doncaster and surrounding areas who have endured a tough upbringing and risk falling into a life of crime, including inmates at young offenders institutions.

As well as passing on his love of music, Mick says the lessons act as therapy by bolstering students' belief and proving if they can master this new skill anything is possible.

The charity has already helped scores of young people broaden their horizons, and Mick now plans to move back to Bentley from his home in the south so he can expand its good work and support many more budding musicians.

"I always struggled academically but I was lucky enough to have an inspirational music teacher and a mother and father who paid for music lessons," said the father-of-two, aged 53, who joined the Army aged 16 and later worked as a detective before becoming a music teacher.

Ernest Allport was awarded the George Cross for his heroics in the 1931 Bentley Colliery disaster

"When I was working for Thames Valley Police, with a lot of the criminals I came across I thought 'there but for the grace of God go I'.

"They weren't bad people but had made a wrong decision, normally involving drugs, which messed up the rest of their lives.

"I don't know where I would be had I not discovered music, and I wanted to give the same opportunity to people who have had a hard life or were struggling academically.

"Some of these people have been physically or mentally abused and let down by every adult they've known, so we have to show a little faith in them and give something back.

"When I was working at one young offenders institution I asked one of the guards why all the young people there wanted to watch were films about prison life.

"I was told they wanted to see what it would be like when they grew up, and I found it incredibly sad that was how they assumed their lives would work out.

"Bad things had happened to them before so they expected bad things to happen to them in future. It was a self-perpetuating cycle, which I felt I had to try to break."

Mick initially struggled to get the charity going and even risked losing his home at one point, but his persistence paid off and it is finally flourishing.

Having taught for many years at some of the country's poshest schools, he is now seeking to open up music to the less privileged by launching a free course in Doncaster which will be open to all.

He is determined to give something back to the area where he grew up and where Peter Hutchinson, his old music teacher at Adwick School, now Outwood Academy Adwick, sowed the seed of what would become a lifelong passion.

"I'm coming back to the area where I grew up because I want to bring music to children who think it is beyond their reach," he said.

"I'll never be able to match what my grandfather did for this community but it would be nice to give a little something back.

"Ernest was a very determined character who would never give up and I like to think I've got some of his bulldog spirit."