- Posted using BlogPress from my iPadmesy

Posted in Life in the North | Leave a comment

Uncle Tommy

Uncle Tommy was my mothers older brother. When I was about 8yrs old i thought he was great. I watched their furniture getting loaded into the van and off to London. Perhaps they got our house in Kidds yard when we moved to Catholic Row. I distinctly remember seeing the furniture van at the entrance to Kidds Yard. When we came home from school I can remember being hungry and waiting for the bread to be baked. Mam used to make a fadge it was about 2 inches thick so baked faster than the loaves. Once I got a slice of fadge with blackberry jam on, I would say i am going to walk to London i usually walked about a mile to a little pump house then returned home. Once i actually reached Hartford Bridge. When I was older I realised the different situation of my mam and her brother. Uncle tommy had 3 teenagers and his wife worked so they had 5 workers

Posted in Life in the North | Leave a comment

uncle jamesy

Uncle Jamesy is the only person I know who has had the birch. He must have been a bit of a rebel I heard he refused to go to the outside tap to fill the kettle so granda made him run back and forward with the kettle lid, Jamesy told me it cured him. The birch that is. he didn’t a repeat. I believe he did go to a catholic institution and learned crafts invible mending etc: Granny said it made a scholar out of Jamesy. To avoid working down the pit he moved to Hexham and worked as a cook at the hospital. He was on the TGW union and used to bring down to it’s HQ subscriptions etc:
We lived at his sister Norahs in Bow E.3. He had done upholstery and always put his hand down easy chairs and settees. He found a pair of scissors which he kept claiming findees keepers. He was at Dunkirk he told me there was a box of mills bombs he knew how to arm them but the officer didn’t and forbid him to arm them so he jumped on a motor bike and headed for Dunkirk.
He praised Muriel for the way she had fixed our room and told Norah to take a leaf out of Muriels book. I’ve visited his daughter Margaret she lives in Prudhoe. I liked Aunt Norah and was gratefull she let us stay with her for 18 months. 2 weeks after we moved back up North we were offered a new flat in Poplar. But i’m pleased we came North . In 1960 Muriels sister went to Australia on the £10 scheme. I thought we would follow but Muriel said i left Bedlington once I’m not leaving it again. Sesible lass.

Posted in Life in the North | Leave a comment

a set in

i was in Northumberland Arms with my dad. I’d be under five
and granda Riley came in. he asked for a set in but pop said “I’ll get you a drink here.” but granda wanted a set in. he wanted to go in the market club. Once in he would make deals and have a good drink. I can’t remember the outcome. Pop would prob give granda half a crown Granda was very popular. I once saw him in the Black Bull pub. People kept giving him pints and he was giving the barman 3p for empty bottles and funneling the beer to take home. he was a character, he was always anchor man for the greasy pole. A man in the market club named grandas team. they would climb on each others shoulder then the lightest guy would grab the money from the top of the pole. before they all collapsed in a heap. He was a great character.

Posted in Life in the North | 4 Comments


I’m a radio amateur call sign G3ZKG one day i made a cw contact with F5EB he lived in Luc sur mer which is on sword beach where we landed 200 soldiers on Dday. We arranged a sked and made contact each Monday on 40mtres local hams wanted to listen in but as Eugene didn’t know English our QSO’s were in French.

Posted in Life in the North | 4 Comments

foy boat

a foy boat i had never heard that name before until i got one. It is sculled from the rear with one oar and is used to carry the loop of a securing rope from the ship to the jetty. I had 3 children aged 7,9, and 11. A friend of mine said this boat was for sale. It’s owner wanted cash to spend on his 26 ft lifeboat. it came complete with an outboard motor. So i got the cash £26 and arranged to do the deed. I told my children we are going to a smugglers cabin. It was a winters night and total darkness till we came to the hut by the waterside. there was a chink of light showing. I tapped on the door and it opened, thee was an oil lamp and the place was full of tobacco smoke. I had seen the boat it was registered with local harbour commission and proudly displayed it’s no: BH80. I said i was satisfied and arranged a time to pick up the engine. Blake the owner wrote out a receipt we shook hands then hurried home to tell mother we were proud owners of BH80.
The river Blyth is tidal the salt water came right up to the old iron works. The foy boat being much lighter and less draught than the lifeboats could sail up under the hairpin bridge. my children enjoyed that and waving to people in the blyth and morpeth buses. I used an old push chair to wheel the ouboard from home to the river bank. In the summer several of the lifeboats were moored at cambois so avoiding waiting for the tide. However they returned in the winter. In the meawhile we could use their berths. I only have one daughter she was very proud when I painted Elaine on the bow.
A trip to the old iron works and back to the mooring could be done in an hour. WE did a few such trips getting to use the engine and the oars. Of courde the men who used the summer moorings at cambois let us know we would have to vacate their moorings come winter. I purchased a tide table. Ideally it was to catch high tide at 10amand go down to cambois on theout tide and return about 4pmwith the incoming tide. Of course weather permitting. Eventually the tide and weather was passed as suitable for the big trip. there was a yard deep cupboard in the bow, Elaine was in charge of the catering. WE manouvered with the oars into the channel. The outboared spluttered into life on the first pull. There were 2 pubs on the north side of the river the ridley and further downstream the 7 stars. We decided we’d head for the 7 starsElaine had a flask of tea and pop with biscuits and sandwiches. At the Bolkos ship breakers yard the river took a 60 degree turn so as we neared this she gave us each a cup of tea or pop and a sandwhich or biscuit. WE had left the fields behind now we had a chain ferry and shipping to avoid we kept on the north side of the river. There was no ship mooring at the seven stars so we tied up
there.we could see the lighthouse and the entrance to the south harbour and a building which was the Harbour Masters. I didn’t know much else as blyth from the river is entirely different from the town view.
after about 1/2 an hour congratulating ourselves on a good trip. Checking our ropes were secure as any passing boat caused u to go up and down with the swell. Elaine secured the cupboard door. We proceeded
to see what amenities the 7 stars offeredit was situated in a terrace of perhaps a dozen houses.
Well my crew deserved a treat. So I gave them the choice of whatever they wanted there was a good selection of sweets and chocolates. There was seats outside as there was a few sailors inside WE went and sat outside the Duncow pub was on the opposite bank I didn’t know one day my brother in law would be the landlord. This was 50 years ago, Blyth was a very busy coal portthe staithes had 2 tracks one on top of the other to load the coals aboard.my crew are now in their 60′s. WE were content content after a while we went exploring behind the pub we walked perhaps 100yards and climbed the break water to look over the north sea. You could see Newbiggin point. Then we returned to the 7 stars i got another drink and checked the mooring ropes as the tide stared to come in we hadt leave them slack to allow the boat rise with the tide. I checked my pocket to make sure i had the shearing pins as any obstruction on the propellor would shear the pin. Finally we all went to the toilets I had another pint and crisps all around. Then off we went i decided to go to the opposite side of the chain ferry because as the chain took the strain the chain pulled up taut. The ferry carried vehicles too. So you had to make syre the ferry was stationerry before crossing the chain. It was a relief getting round the bend and travelling up past Bates Staithes then the granary point and having fields on both sides.
Once i got to the waterside i’d let the children race home to tell mother that all had gone great I packed the flask etc in the push chair. I had to leave the ropes slack to allow for the tide.
kids would pull the boat ion then jump on the cupboard roof and int the boat so smetime i moored it mid stream. I might call into the Bank Top pub. The housing shortage after WW2 was acute and several young couples had caravans located beside the waterside. And of course there was the smugglers cabin. They had a workshop with a sawbench nearby and would saw up driftwood. The older ones kept their boats at the waterside throughout the year. Everyone worked shifts at the mine. If Iwasnight shift thats a 5pm start. I would come to the waterside with a bottle of guiness and fish and chips and moor the boat midstream and we’d sit there floating in the sunshine sheltered from the wind with our backs to the cupboard door Happy Days. This was my wife and me. Her sister jean had 3 children too the six children could have been like 3 sets of twins. We had several trips together. On one occassion we fancied going to the south harbour. But jeans oldest daughter refused to get into the boat. My oldest son and her son took an oar each and off they went. I took Janet in the van and drove to south harbour. But at the entrance to the south harbour is about 20 yards where the sea from the harbour mouth washes up to the harbour wall.
they should have pointed the bow into the waves but they were getting buffeted towards the wall.
I shouted to no avail then a boat left the harbour masters dock secured a rope to BH80 and toed it back up the river. The man asked “What idiot sent you out in a boat like this?” My wife replied “His father.”
2 men from the pub Golden Fleece started chatting to the 2 mothers but did off when they saw the 6 children. So we tied up the boat and all got in the van with outboard motor and went home. About this time everyone was getting TV’s. I delayed as long as i could thinking watching TV they’d neglect their schoolwork. They used to go to my parents to watch TV. I had a friend a TV engineer. My dad said to the children tell your father to get a TV. I used to give my friend Jimmy coals so he got me a TV. I could see my crew deserting me. Saturday TV or matinee at the local cinema. So to make the boat more interesting I rigged a mast and with a tent for a sail enticed them for a trip. All went well the outgoing tide and wind took us straight to cambois. I dropped the mast but we still went forward in no time at all we were nearly bouncing off the Bolko’s wall. There was destroyers waiting to be broken up. I grabbed a hawser an secured the bow the stern was possible 10ft off the wall the boat was getting thrown about, the outboard started but i couldn’r loosen the knot. So i stopped the motor loosed the knot and tied a slip knot. Then the engine didn’t fire after however after about the 10th pull it started and we motored around to the Ridley jetty. The kids had really got ashock and so had I. As one they declared they didn’t want to get back in the boat. Men seeing our predicament had been running to get petrol to bring their boats to our rescue. However after pop etc: I told them my plan. To go to the opposite staithe which gave shelter and motor across the rough water. MOving forward and drifting sideway at the same time. After a while they agreed to give it a trial. And it went like clockwork restoring their confidence in their old dad.
Opposite the Seven stars on the blyth side there was the Dun Cow it was my twin sisters husbands pub but we weren’t welcomed there. He wanted to keep his 2 daughters away from the river. So we stayed with the seven stars and there was no road traffic and plenty of room to exploreand of course the coak staithes were at this side lots of foriegn ships getting loaded with coal
. Of course if their 3 cousins joined them then it was more fun. So one day in the school holidays I took them all to the waterside and mounted the outboard motor. However Christine had a pain and i couldn’t console her. Only one thing for it the doctors. So I put the outboard in the van and we all visited the doctors I can’t remember the outcome but that was another trip cancelled.
I can rember the last time we were in the boat with Elaine. There was willow trees on the opposite bank we motored under them and rested they wanted to go home to see TV. They shook the branches and filled the boat with leaves. I said ok you can go home and away they ran. I was so annoyed I struck the gunwale with an oar and it broke in 2 where the hole was for placing it on a pin
I recognised that Elaines boating days were over. But ihad seen Newbiggin fishing cobles with a tarpaulin over the bow to make a shelter. So i thought I’ll try that and perhaps go camping with Alan and Kevin.
When I mentioned it to them they were very enthusiastic. I soon rigged withup the tarpaulin and attatched a flap to enclose it. It took a few trips down to the waterside and as i intended leaving the outboard overnight. I coaxed them to take turns to guard the boat.
Unfortunately some petrol got spilt in the boat and as it rained the morning we set off you could stay under the tarpaulin and be dry but suffer petrol fumes or else put your head out and get wet.
We had to wait till 10am for the tide to come up. We were accompanied to the harbour mouth by Adam Turnbull. He had a 26 foot lifeboat, when he turned back we were alone in the north sea. As we had left blyth rked the channelon an outgoing tide we couldn,t enter Seaton Sluice so carried on past Whitley and headed for cullercoats. I didn’t know at the time that 2 waste baskets on top of poles marked the channel entrance.
When we got in aman ran down and wanted to hire our boat. he was a yorkshire man on holiday. I told him we were on a
camping holiday. We soon had tea made and enjoyed our first meal aboard.

Posted in Life in the North | Leave a comment

motoring 1.

My middle son Kevin wanted a scooter. His friend had one so as he was 16 yrs old Kevin wanted to join his friend. But our neighbours son had a motorbike and when he revved up and off, I imagined a crash. How to deter Kevin. I saw an adert for 3 wheel car for £28. At that time a 16yr old could drive a 3 wheeler provided it had no reverse. Reliants had a block fitted on the gearbox to prevent one using the rear gear.
However this car was different. A British made car and the engine went into reverse, impossible you may say. But it was true. The engine was a 197cc villiers a single piston job. driving the front wheel. it was made of aluminum and had a canvas roof. the ignition key inserted and turned gave 3 forward gears. but if pushed further in and turned gave you 3 reverse gears. It had 8 inch wheels really low set a 4 seater. i really liked it myself. I gave Kevin a few rides in it. And was pleased when he stopped seeing his scooter friend at 16 one can easily change directions in life. So I ws happy with my toy car. If it stalled it was much easier lifting it nearer the curb than pushing it. I was used to driving it solo. Once it stalled and i forgot my missus was in the passenger seat so when i lifted the rear end she thought the car was going to turn over.
To drive it you waggled the gear stick and when you got neutral a green light came on. Then you pulled a lever which operated the kick start. It developed clutch trouble so i carried the engine up stairs and wrapped all the electric parts in newspaper. Unfortunately my daughter lit the bedroom fire with the electric parts. So I replaced the engine and tried it out now you had to lift the bonnet rattle the gear control for neutral then give the kick start a kick. There was a slope from our house so a little free wheel and you could get it in gear. the cylinder head gasket went and i got 7 miles with a brownpaper and redlead replacement. I was at Bedlington and the engine was running but i wasn’t moving i looked in my mirror and i saw the chain lying in the roadway.
of course starting on the level you had to have someone push you off. I visited a friend and my eldest son pushed me off. My friend said are you not going with your dad. I had to drive round the block then my son jumped in as i slowed down. unfortunately when we moved house the bond went to the scrap yard. Which just leaves memories of a very happy episode in my life…

Posted in Life in the North | Leave a comment

Sunday morning.

My wife and I were married the same year as the queen. BUt circumstances were very different. When we returned from our honeymoon in London we had nowhere to live. So i lived with my parents and she lived with her father. Her sister was still at home. My aunt offered us a room in east London. So we took her offer.
but we returned up North. After WW2 accommodation was hard to find in Calais people lived in Canadian city
huts which the Canadians had used. In Bedlington we had the hartford huts.
I used to jog 2 miles to the A pit for a Sunday morning shift. It was extra money we worked from 6am till noon
the coal shift started at 2am on Monday so it was essential to see that everything was in order. Our job was to do any repairs to run pumps to keep water levels ok etc: When you go into a district in the mine the main thing is ventilation. So you get no electricity to any machines etc: until you have switched the big fan on.we all arranged to rendezvous at 1130 in case there was any mishaps.
however all the electricity went off at 1030. So everyone made their way to the shaft. The A pit had an electric winder and a steam winder. Fortunately so we got to the surface ok.
apparently there had been an electrician in a manhole. His task was to saw through a dead cable, but poor man he had sawed through a live cable and was killed. Tragedy is always just around the corner….

Posted in Life in the North | 3 Comments


The Blyth news had a column 50 years ago. In 1962 they included a tragedy at Bedlington. It was about a man after making his shots of gunpowder waffing the crumbs into the fire and being burnt to death. and a baby died also. My aunt Agnes said it was 1902 when it happened not 1912.
My granny Riley had a lodger called Jack Lovell. He was the man involved. Fred Dibnah the Steeplejack historian said that the round oven doors were unique in the North East. the rest of the country had square or rectangle oven doors. My grandmother had twin girls they would be near the fire for warmth. The oven door when it was down acted like a hot plate. Jack would make his shots like sausages with newspaper then put them aside to take to pit. He ran out then ran back poor man if someone had smothered the flames. And the little baby girl. It was a real tragedy. My father would be about 6 years old at the time.
He said it all happened so quick there was nothing anyone could do. I can remember seeing the oven door at coach road and thinking how it was involved with the tragedy.

Posted in Life in the North | 2 Comments


It is many years since we first met our friend lol munley. My first impression of him was he seemed a pleasant sort of chap, but rather a boozy type. He had been drinking with my rather boozy husband joe, so naturally i thought he was like all the rest of the geordies, i knew that was joe’s cronies.

He came quite often after that and brought his guitar and used to stay until the early hours. I felt sorry for the poor neighbours, but they never complained. I never heard them anyway. I will skip over the next few years, as it would take forever to go into every detail.

As the years went by lol was left alone in his mothers house,he had lived with his parents, as he never married. He was never very strong, he suffered from asthama and he eventually lost his job as he ailed so much. You may think he wasted his life after seeming to be idle so long. A lot of people got that impression of him too, and quite a few thought of it. But it wasn’t so. He kept very busy. He was a very intelligent man and if he had been stronger could have made quite something of himself. However he just accepted his fate and remained very cheerful and used his many talents in other ways.

He wrote music and played quite a few instruments. He used to go entertaining to the old peoples cocerts. He went entertaining other old people at different places. He often wrote little stories and poems and he would give them to joe, we still have them and we will treasure them until the day we die.

As the years went by his health got gradually worse. We didn’t see so much of him when we moved a few miles away but still kept in touch. Joe used to visit him and we phoned regular. He was often away to hospital he suffered quite a lot but it didn’t deter him from getting on with his music etc: when joe needed advice he often foned him and always seemed to get satisfaction. We were very sad when we heard he had to have one of his legs amputated it was a great shock to us. We really thought it would finish him, but somehow he got throught it and still remained cheerful…

Posted in Life in the North | 5 Comments