Collingwood went to sea aged 13 in 1861
2010 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Newcastle-born seaman Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood.
Admiral Collingwood was born in 1748 and is celebrated here in the North East for his career at sea, which spanned more than four decades.
He is perhaps best known for taking control of the British fleet during the Battle of Trafalgar, after Admiral Lord Nelson was killed.
There is a monument to him at Tynemouth and several streets bear his name.
festival of events runs until 24 October to celebrate his life.
Writer and historian, Max Adams, 48, is Collingwood's biographer.
He said that even Collingwood's contemporaries recognised him as being quite a unique man:
"If you think of an 18th-Century navy captain, Collingwood was quite different. He was incredibly humane, he was conscientious and a gifted seaman.
The Collingwood monument looks out over the River Tyne
"What is more, he was a compassionate and deeply humane officer who hated flogging and grieved when he lost a shipmate."
Max added that despite the harsh conditions at sea, Collingwood managed to keep his good qualities. He said:
"His values were decency and respect and he was quite caring.
"He loved the idea of helping the young; he was a brilliant teacher for the young boys who joined him at sea.
"As a human being he really is a shining example for young people."
Admiral Collingwood married the daughter of the Mayor of Newcastle, Sarah Blackett, in 1791. They had two daughters little Sal and Mary Patience.
He was rarely able to return home but his letters reveal the depth of affection he held for his wife and children, his home in Morpeth, and the country and people of Northumberland.
Collingwood is perhaps best known for taking over from Admiral Lord Nelson when he died during the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
Although the Franco-Spanish enemy had a far greater number of ships the British won the day because of their speed and flexibility and more effective gunnery.
It was a crucial battle, because Britain's control of the oceans underpinned its global power.
However, Max believes that Collingwood's shining moments actually came after 1805:
"Collingwood's greatest achievement was after the Battle of Trafalgar when he was captain in the Mediterranean," he said.
"Some historians are negative about his time there, but I think it was his most poignant moment.
"By the time that he died, at sea on March 7th 1810 on his way home from Menorca, he had ensured final British victory at sea against the French - not by winning battles, but by preventing them.
"He was an extraordinary man and his last years were very tragic. He died working for his country.
"He was remembered for his incredible personal qualities of kindness and decency."
Collingwood Street in Newcastle is one of the many memorials to Collingwood
Max will be giving a series of talks as part of the Collingwood 2010 festival and is also helping with an educational project to teach children more about the famous admiral.
He believes it is time for Collingwood to receive the appreciation he deserves from his region:
"We want to remind people what an interesting guy he was. He should be the symbol of the North East we are proud of. Everything he did was for others.
"The event is a complete one-off and if you're proud of your region, everyone from all the family should come along and join in the celebration."