Mrs. Honor Weightman

Some of Mrs. Honor Weightman’s memories of a life in Burradon written down and kindly contributed by her daughter Lindsey.

Foreword

I wrote my journal for my children but if you are interested I'd love to share it with you and hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I have always had a genuine love of life and all that goes with it and I love people. I thank God daily for the wonderful people I've known who have influenced me. None more than the Auld Burradonians - the Salt-of-the-Earth!

 

Part One

19, Office Row Burradon

My first memory is of a willful spoilt child - less than three years old. I was born in my grandparents home - a colliery house - a large living room with a ladder staircase up to the sleeping area. One large room under a sloping roof, adults could only stand up straight in the centre of the room. The window was a skylight; the divisions were curtains hanging from the ceiling - not much privacy at all! Mam, Dad and I slept in a double bed at one end and two uncles shared the room. My eldest brother, Alf, slept downstairs with my grandparents in a large bed with hangings. You could say we were born into poverty but as 99 per cent of the villagers were in the same state we weren’t really aware of the condition.

The ‘en suite’ then was a pot under the bed - the lavatory or the "Netty" as it was called was outside across a dirt road. Three water taps were shared by the whole street. Each house had a rain barrel - the water was used as shampoo and conditioner along with the carbolic soap. There was some kind of lean-to that served as a washhouse with a 'set pot' and fire where the clothes could be boiled - Monday seemed to be washing day.

Everybody baked their own bread in a large round oven in the living room and the stottie loaves were put out to cool on the window ledges outside, to be eaten straight away - I can still remember the lovely mouth-watering smell.

There had to be a constant supply of hot water for the men (all on different shifts). Each house had a zinc bathtub hanging on the wall outside and brought in, in front of the fire, for the men to bathe. The fire never went out so there was always a good supply of ashes that used to be spread on the wet earth road each time it rained.

The filthy pit clothes had to be ‘dadded’ against the wall each day - just another little task for the women.

There was a long table in front of the small window which looked out onto a large well cultivated garden - I can still see the flowers which grew up outside the window - years later I found out they were Tiger lilies. We sat on wooden forms facing each other across the table and this is my first account of pain. I had been told never to stretch across the table but to ask for whatever I wanted. So being the self-willed child that I was, I stretched across the table, caught the large teapot with my sleeve and brought the scalding tea over my arm. Yelling and screaming I was bundled up and my Mam ran through the village to the Nurse's Cottage. The nurse dressed the arm and gave me a banana. It must have taught me a lesson because I don't remember any other calamity. I was left with a large scar and was proud to show it to anyone who was interested.

I was three years old when we moved into a house of our own - a council house with a difference; a private builder built 22 houses with bathrooms and indoor toilets thinking there would be a market for such superior accommodation. Nobody had any money to buy so eventually the council took them over and let them. My Mam said she thought she'd landed in Heaven and that life from then on would just be one long holiday.

A year on Tommy (my youngest brother) was born - my Dad came to get me out of bed, gave me a piggy back downstairs telling me there was a lovely surprise. I had whooping cough at the time so was just allowed a brief glimpse of this wonderful child. Tommy was 6lb and a full-term baby while I had been an eight-month baby and was only four and a half pounds. Alf was a seven-month baby and was only 3lbs. Alf and I had been very fretful weakly children, needing constant care. Tommy was a dream of a child, just smiled, fed and slept and was loved by all. He was an easy-going happy boy - which, as things turned out, was a blessing!

Hardship

My next memory is of the pit ambulance stopping outside our front gate - Mam, with Tommy in her arms, and me rushing to see what was wrong. Dad had been crushed by a runaway tub and was en route to the infirmary.

Dad had served four years in the trenches during the First World War. He had many wounds which had been neglected and had actually come home a very sick man even though he'd been given a 'Fit' discharge - no pension for him!

He was a joiner but unable to find work in that trade. He did manage to get a job as a Rollywayman at the Weetslade colliery. It must have been torture for him - he was 6 ft tall and had never been down a mine before. Instead of six shifts a week he worked seven and still didn't earn a living wage (at that time 30 shillings, £1.50p, was considered a living wage). The most he earned was 28 shillings, £1.40p. However my Mam was a wonderful manager and we always had a garden full of fresh veg and fruit - if you could grow it, we had it.

The doctor, Dr Roberts, said it would take weeks before my Dad would be fit for work. All I remember was he had five broken ribs and was all strapped up. Now in those good old days if you didn't work you didn't eat. My Mam's supply of milk dried up and there was no milk for the baby - he cried and cried - he was hungry! Alf was sent to see Mr Tyson - who managed the Grey Horse and was the Guardian's representative for the village. He told him there wasn't milk for the baby and his Dad wasn't able to go to work. He was given a voucher for five shillings, 25p, to be spent in the Co-op. Alf remembers to this day how ashamed he was to ask for charity.

My Dad began coughing and spitting blood and it was discovered he had T.B. He was sent to Woolley Sanatorium for treatment. Alf and I were allowed to visit on one occasion - I remember it well! Mam soldiered on and we just prayed Dad would come home soon. When he eventually came home - there was no cure - he told my Mam he had six months to live and 'Big Ears' overheard him. What a burden for a child to carry.

The next memory made me old before my time. There was a seat across the road from our house where men would meet to talk. I was hiding under the seat when the doctor, Dr Barton, stopped and began talking to the three men on the seat - Mr Burke, Mr Nicholson and my Dad. In the course of the conversation my Dad said "Doctor have you known any one in my condition recover?" The reply - "Hartley" (no Christian names for workmen in those days) "it's only your bloody stubborn will that keeps you going”. He lived seven years.

Grandad Hartley retired and had to vacate the colliery house immediately. He was offered a one-bedroom cottage in Dudley, so the two uncles had to come and live with us - Uncle Tom and Uncle Bob. I can still see them coming in carrying all their worldly possessions in brown carrier bags. Neither of them were working - they received dole money which hardly kept body and soul together and this was just another headache for my Mam. As usual she managed with never a word of complaint.

Uncle Bob got six hens and was allowed to keep them on a small plot of land at the end of the street. Gradually he built up a regular supply of eggs for the family. Uncle Tom (some time in the Thirties) got a job in Weetslade Colliery and was able to pay board - another great help! Dad used to gather mushrooms, blackberries and wild raspberries and we lived very well.

Then in March 1935 Dad worsened and was confined to bed. The doctor came and decided my Mam couldn't look after him, even though she insisted she could. She wasn't seven-stone weight and my Dad was a big man and unable to do anything for himself. An ambulance came and took him to Preston Hospital to a part known as the 'workhouse'. It was a cold miserable place where people just faded away. It was my Mam's nightmare for the rest of her life! Two months before she died she turned to me and said "Poor Jack. He starved to death". For myself, I didn't get over my Dad's death until my Mam died 38 years later.

This all sounds so miserable, but it wasn't really. My childhood seemed to be full of kindness. I could take a slice of bread along to Mrs McCardle and she would thicken it with blackcurrent jam. I shopped for six of the neighbours and always got a slice of jam and bread. Yes! You've guessed - jam and bread was my favourite food.

Mrs Guthrie used to take us to see a pantomime every Christmas. We used to sit in the 'gods' in the Palace Theatre (Percy Street Newcastle) and it was great!

There was the free trip every race Wednesday (the men who worked contributed to this); it always seemed to go to South Shields and it always seemed to rain - but what a wondrous day it was. After a sleepless night too excited to sleep, we'd all walk down to Killingworth station - those who couldn't go waving us off. We'd wait and wait on the platform for the train to arrive. I can still hear one of the men in charge yelling "Don't go near the edge or you'll get draan in" - it never happened, so I never quite understood what he meant. Once on board we each got a bag of cakes and we'd sing all the way.

One year - can't imagine how it happened - I had a silver sixpence in a matchbox and kept opening it to show people. How important I felt! When, horror of horrors, it fell out and rolled on to the line just as the train arrived. My world was at an end and the tears flowed like water. Mr Gallon came to give us our goodies and said, "What's the matter hinny". Someone told him, "She's lost her sixpence". He put his hand into his waistcoat pocket and gave me sixpence. That man was my hero!

All grown up and many years later I told Jenny (his daughter) about the day her Dad had saved my reason. She replied, "It was you! He got the telling-off of his life from my Mam. That was our spending money for the day." Can you imagine such a gesture from a rough Pitman, with a large family of his own? I'm sure people were born kind in those days. In fact I say we had a village full of saints and angels.

Part Three – ‘The Lights’

I came across an old photograph, taken in 1937, and boy what memories it conjured up for me. As if it were yesterday I could remember everyone on the picture - I could even hear them laughing and joking - such a happy occasion! To have a picture taken in a studio just showed how affluent we were. I don't remember paying anything towards it!

Mrs. Guthrie came to ask if I could accompany Betty on a trip the next day to Blackpool - a place I'd heard about where they had something called ‘the lights’. It was free because two passengers, who had paid their fare, had to drop out and couldn't claim the money back. Well, at the mere thought of going to a place called Blackpool - it might even be in another country - the blood pounded in my head. When my Mam said “Oh that would be nice. How kind of you to think of Honor”, I was dizzy with excitement and couldn't sleep for thinking about ‘the lights’. Whatever could they be?

Betty and I had to go and stay with Mrs. Guthrie’s sister, who lived in Westmoor - the trip was from Westmoor club. We stayed the night with ‘wor’ Lena (who I thought was beautiful) and her two brothers Pete and Les. Lena baked and packed a large basket with all kinds of very tasty food, enough to feed an army

Eight o'clock in the morning we boarded the bus - me yawning my head off. “Eh”, somebody said, “She's tired. Oh well she’ll sleep on the bus”. However we sang and Mr. Patton played his tin whistle all the way. People even danced in the aisle. There were crates of beer for the men, who certainly did justice to them and later we had to keep stopping - guess why! Yes! There were certainly some pennies spent that day. The journey took so long we twice picnicked - I thought we must be in another country now. How important I felt and what tales I would tell my family when I got home. To help you understand I must mention here it took at least six hours to journey to Blackpool

Well, to cut it short, we arrived, went immediately to have a picture taken, then sat down in the sunshine. I must have fallen asleep and someone put me back in the bus and laid me on the back seat. I didn't wake until the passengers were getting back on the bus to go home. Imagine, I'd missed ‘the lights’ and could only listen to the wonders seen by the rest of the company before they drifted off to sleep. They slept the whole way home. They snored and I wept - ‘cos I had wanted to be able to tell the poor souls who couldn't go to Blackpool all about ‘the lights’.

Part Four - Village Memories and characters

I shopped for Mrs. Hume and her daughters, Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Allen - they kept me in clothes. I got all Lizzie Ellen Hunter's cast-offs - she was 10 years older than me but my Mam would alter everything to fit (and for someone who couldn't sew it must have taken some doing). Mrs. Hume gave me a woollen hat, gloves and scarf every Christmas. I may not have been the best-dressed girl but I was certainly always tidy.

After school I would go down to the farm and bring the milk back for my Mam and four of the neighbours. It was carried in cans and, as I wasn't allowed to take anything for going, I'd stop halfway home, put the cans down on the ground and take a drink out of each one (rough justice!); not knowing the farmer's wife used to watch me and she always put an extra drop in each can to allow for the drink. ‘She’, Mrs. Gill, told me years later when I went to work on the farm (when I was in Land Army).

My Dad made a lean-to camp at the top of the garden, so my friends and I had somewhere special to play. A wondrous place for someone with such a fertile imagination, I travelled the world in that little camp.

Men and women gave their time to all kinds of ventures, anything that was helpful for the 'common good'. Helpers weren't paid in those days; they realised we are here to serve not to be served. Yes! the Kingdom of God seemed much closer then than now and believe me it was wonderful.

There was the church and church hall used for all kinds of activities - whist drives, scout and cub movements, sing-songs and parties - two chapels catering for Bible study and visiting speakers etc. The Spiritualists had the use of the miners hut and the Salvation Army used the British Legion hut for their brand of worship. As kids we could visit them all and were fed plenty of spiritual nourishment. We were made aware of the "poor children", so were raised above our own poverty and made to see how truly blessed we were - just thankful to be alive.

There was a picture hall for those lucky enough to have the entrance fee. There was the Welfare Ground with six swings and a mountain glide, a football pitch, a tennis court and the bowling green - always something to watch. The store Hall was open for concerts and dances, if you couldn't afford the entrance fee you could sit on the stairs and listen.

Oh! Then we come to the jewel in the crown "The Chute". It was a haven for all the lads in the village - snooker and various games (my grandfather laid the foundation stone of the Institute). There was a reading room. Mr. Robson, the newsagent, gave a daily supply of papers for the older men and believe me it was in constant use. Once a week it doubled up as a library and we were able to read books we'd never have been able to afford. It was heartbreaking when it closed down. I never pass the spot without remembering the lads waiting outside for it to open - they would whistle as we walked past. If we'd stopped and approached them, I think they would have run away.

Another meeting place was on 'the line'. It separated the village. One side was Burradon and the other side Camperdown. The men used to sit on their 'hunkers' and talk and joke. They had a word for everyone who passed by. There was a cabin and two disabled men worked the shift between them - they were men who had been lamed down the pit. They would come out of the Cabin waving a red flag to hold back any pedestrians or traffic, until the engine and trucks passed by. Men would hang on the side of the trucks and get a lift to and from work. It must have been dangerous but I only remember one fatality - a young lad, 14 years old, called Martin who was on his way home from work. He was killed outright.

My Mam and the other members of the Mother's Union would walk past on their way home from their monthly meeting and the men would call out "Lookout lads, here’s the wild wives of Burradon coming." It was laughs all around even though it happened every time they passed. I think it was this rough type of humour that helped make unbearable times bearable.

There was 'The Club' and four pubs in the village, but very little money to go drinking - I have often wondered how they all made a living. For men going out for a drink in the Twenties and Thirties it meant half pints and very few of them. So simple things had to be their pleasure.

In 1938 they (whoever ‘they’ were) built a Dance-Hall in the welfare grounds - it was elegant (we thought). The band was made up of local talent (Cocky Hayes, John Will Storey, Jimmie Wright - to name but three) and we all thought we'd hit the big-time. I remember, in 1939, the soldiers billeted in Gosforth Park were invited to come to a weekly dance (free!). I watched them walk through the village and thought "Eh, what will they think when they see inside” - I felt so proud to live in Burradon.

There were so many smells and tastes in the shops. Latimer's sold saveloys (yum-yum); Morrison's made pork sandwiches and pease pudding - I never could afford a pork sandwich but you could have a pork dip (no meat but all the flavour and smell}. Mrs. Ludkin made teacakes - I often did her errands and she would always give me a teacake to take home, scrumptious! Mrs. Greaves made pies and peas and ginger beer - these were all made in the kitchens. Imagine the lovely aromas!

Mr. Bolton would sell you a half penny 'lot' - sweets past their sell-by dates. Mr. Langley called his bargain a 'mixed bag'. Mrs. Patterson would give you a sweet and stale the stuff may have been but, boy, it lasted ages.

Janie Wilkinson taught people to sew - Grandma Weightman (my mother-in-law) was one of her pupils. People just passed on knowledge and were happy to do so. Mrs. Wandless would alter anything you wanted - most people wore hand me downs - and just charged a few coppers.

Men and boys kept pigeons - some of the lofts are still in use. Many kept pigs and poultry and I think every man was a gardener. They all spent their leisure time usefully employed, so very few boys got into trouble.

I must mention one or two names here - Athol Burke decided to go into the pig business (as a hobby). It was just about the time his sister Cathie was having her baby (Paul). Cathie and baby came home from hospital to stay with the family for a while. Now, the pig food had to be boiled and well cooked - where to prepare it? - Oh! In the boiler in the scullery - have you ever smelt pig-swill cooking? Wow! Dr Dagg called to see the baby, just as the boiler began to boil. You couldn't ignore the smell so Dr Dagg said (I expect to save Cathie any embarrassment) "Let's hope you never get the baby's food mixed up with the pig’s".

Tommy Hartley and Dick Weightman were two other hopefuls who decided to try and make some extra cash. The pigs arrived and were housed on an allotment nearby. Then the boiler started boiling and this evil aroma became part of life - it was putrid! Tommy got all the leftovers from the police canteen and would fill a sack, sling it over his shoulder and carry it home. Can you picture a policeman at night with a swag bag - it must have looked strange! Dick used to go round on his bike and collect people's leftovers and when a pig was killed Mattie Morpeth, the Co-op butcher, was the slaughterman. He cut up the pig and cooked the offal - sausages, white and black pudding, spare ribs etc - sounds lovely and it was but by the time every contributor got a share, they were in debt and their dreams of making a fortune never got off the ground.

There was May Rogerson’s sweetshop. Her husband had an allotment and worked very hard. He had a very old horse, which pulled a small cart. He would help you move house without it costing a fortune. The kids loved to follow the cart because the horse, christened ‘Trigger’ after Roy Roger’s horse on the films, would every so often just lie down for a rest. Popeye, as the kids used to call Mr. Rogerson (he had a glass eye) would plead with the animal to get up. It may have been slightly naughty but the laugher it raised and the fun the kids had in these situations didn’t really hurt anyone - Mr. Rogerson never took umbrage.

A lot of the old people in the village in the early part of the last century were illiterate, so needed a voice. Those lucky enough to have a bit of education behind them strove to speak up for their fellow men. I was once told pitmen were so ignorant they couldn't speak without cursing. I tried to explain why their vocabulary was so restricted, their only way of expressing themselves was by swearing - they must have experienced such frustration when confronted with questions. I used to have to write my grandma's shopping-list - she may not have been literate but she was certainly numerate – no-one could 'do' her out of a penny. My grandfather, on the other hand, was an avid reader. He seemed to have access to all kinds of books and shared his knowledge with us children.

This is a good time to introduce some of the other characters of the village. Dossie Shanks, who had the Post Office, was always available to help any one with forms of any kind and was always ready to advise - she was a treasure!

Mr. Murphy had the great gift of healing - even the doctors in the RVI were known to recommend him. He was a rough retired miner. His hands were gnarled but people he treated said they were heavenly. There used to be a long queue outside his house waiting every day and he would see each person. The people who could afford to pay did so, those who couldn't pay he treated free and was just as happy to do so.

Harry Anderson had work-horses and carts, a hearse and two sleek black horses - we called them 'the high steppers' - who pulled the hearse. He could be delivering coal in the morning and be dressed in top hat and tails conducting a funeral in the afternoon. Mourners followed behind the hearse and walked to Killingworth or Benton Church, to the graveyard. Lydia Anderson, daughter of Harry, kept the horse brasses polished and it always looked quite elegant and dignified.

Mr. Scott was the first policeman that I can remember, then Mr. Dodds came - we all had a great respect for the law and just a little bit of fear. Policemen in my young days were there to keep the peace and that they did. Anyone stepping out of line got a clout and a warning and prisons were for criminals only. You may not approve of the methods used, but believe me no one was afraid to be out alone - we were so secure!

Then there were men like Caleb Garbett, Edmund Cowans, Bill Reid and Bill Means - to mention but a few who spent their leisure time serving the public in so many ways - without any thought of gain.

My uncle Bob was so grateful, after many years of unemployment, to be given the job of road sweeper for Burradon. He worked tirelessly and kept the village in mint condition - he took such pride in his work. As did Mr. Berlinson, who kept the main roads spick-and-span.

Just let me say hello to the wonderful Barker family who lived in the ‘Halfway house’. Mr. and Mrs. Barker used to allow us to play in the stables - which were furnished - doll's-house style, they were amazing retreats where our imagination ran riot. Connie, Jean and Sylvia were the three youngest girls and I loved all three of them. Flo' the eldest sister who worked in Newcastle and only came home on her day off used to help us to arrange concerts and allowed us to use her make-up - she was great! When the pub closed after lunch-time we would hold a concert in one of the rooms and I believe the entrance fee was a pin. Many a tasty snack I had there. Mrs. Barker was just the 'kindest'!

Mrs. Ryder was a fountain of information about the old folk in her young days. She used to tell me about someone who, as a child, had to run all the way to Wallsend every Monday morning to pawn her father's suit and every Friday to redeem it so he could go out dressed at the weekend. When she left school Lizzie Turner used to walk to Seghill to sell yeast - now as yeast was only half an old penny per ounce I still can't understand how she could possibly have made any kind of wage - it must have cost more for shoe leather! Polly Donkin used to come from Cullercoats with a huge basket of herrings (13 for one old penny) to sell in Burradon. She was related to Mrs. Hume and always called there for her meal. I still remember her rosy cheeks and long black skirt and shawl. She wore boots and a sack for her apron and yelled "Culla, Harren!"

George Douglas - lets spare a thought for George. I won't say ‘poor’ George because he was so rich in humanity, having all the gifts of the spirit. He was severely handicapped from birth. I used to wonder how his parents managed to dress and undress him. His whole body was twisted - even his speech was affected. But his brain was very active and his mind as clear as a bell. He would sit in his wheelchair and observe everything and everyone and always had something nice to say. Such wisdom!

The village lads loved him and included him in walks and conversations. I think everyone loved him. His courage was such it left people speechless.

He sat and watched the cottages being built in Dudley. The work force so admired him they asked if the cottages could bear his name - thus "George's View". He was delighted as we all were. When his parents could no longer care for him, he willingly went into a home where the staff took over the role of parents. He was well loved and appreciated everything they did for him. I'm sure he would die saying "Thanks be to God!"

There were many more characters and not one 'Title' among them. They still live in my heart and in my thoughts.

Part Five - Church Affairs

The Church of the Good Shepherd has been a haven for me, as it was for my Mam - so full of wonderful memories of people and clergy. So many I wouldn't know which one to share with you. So I'll settle for an occasion that gave me great pleasure and still does. When the Methodist chapel in the village closed, Frank Bartley, who was the priest in charge of the Good Shepherd, was offered the pews. He had them installed in the Church and the Methodist congregation came to help fill them. I felt elated at this first step towards 'UNITY'.

The window in the Church of the Good Shepherd is first to the glory of God, then in memory of Mr. Swann - he was churchwarden for 30 years. His wife was his trusted helper for the same length of time. They lived in a little cottage up at the Hillhead - no water or lighting and just a stone floor. I still remember my Mam saying to us kids "Let's go up and visit Mrs. Swann, she must be very lonely”. They were kind to all children, although they had none of their own - it was always a pleasure to visit. They had to collect their water from Wiggies' farm every morning and they read by lamplight. They were a real Christian couple who worshipped a 'living god'.

Mrs. Laverick was the first church cleaner I can remember. When she became too old to really do the job, my Mam helped her because she didn't want to retire. She died sitting at her mat frames and my Mam finished the mat she was making and then carried on making small mats to sell, to help boost church funds. There's still a little kneeler in the Church. Frank Bartley used to have to kneel on cold tiles up at the altar and Mrs. Allan asked my Mam to make a little mat for him to kneel on.

Gladys Henderson - a nurse by profession - was often referred to as the Florence Nightingale of Burradon. She was always 'on call', exhausting herself in the service of others. Brought up in the Methodist tradition it was painful for her when the chapel closed. However she always worked as her conscience persuaded her and had the ability to adapt to the Anglican way of worship. She shared her many gifts with us. She played the organ, led the singing and was always available on any occasion. She introduced us to Bible study and this helped to develop Christianity for many of us who worship in the Church of the Good Shepherd. Even I could sing standing next to Gladys - we opened the church for funerals and Les (the organist of the time) used to call us the Luton Girls' Choir.

Gladys and Charlie McLaren give their time during the war to teach first aid and certainly they both helped many people and eased the doctor's heavy load. I feel sure their epitaph could very well be "Well done thou good and faithful servants".

Mr. and Mrs. Ovens worked tirelessly - they tried all ways to make enough money to keep the Church open. Their daughter, Brenda Ovens, made the altar curtains and altar cloths and her husband Allan Greenwell made the woollen kneelers up at the altar, all at their own expense. Mr. and Mrs. Ovens made the Church their whole way of life, so it seemed fitting that Mr. Ovens died while praying, kneeling in the seat they always occupied.

When Mrs. ovens could no longer look after herself, she went into a home in Monkseaton and I used to visit her and recall shared memories. The story telling became very popular with the other residents - their faces used to light up when they saw me coming and they would rush to sit in a circle and wait for the story to begin. The favourite story was about Georgie, my Mam's budgerigar.

Part Six - Georgie – A Flight of Fancy?

When my Mam died I kept Georgie. He thought he was one of the family. When he wasn't flying around the room he was on my head being carried – his favourite saying was "Give me a kiss Georgie".

One bitterly cold winter's day, I had hung the washing out, 'hoping' it would dry. It began to sleet and rain and, forgetting the bird was on my head, I rushed out to collect the clothes. The poor bird was blown off his perch and was carried away - I only caught a glimpse of his lovely blue plumage and he was gone. Dick got in from work (off Night Shift) and instead of going to bed he went out to search for Georgie - but no luck! He talked to Mr. Black who used to breed budgies and he said "Rest assured it will be dead. It couldn't survive in the severe cold". We just consoled ourselves by believing he would have died quickly. I stood the birdcage up in the garden (just in case).

Next day Mrs. Ovens called on some errand and I told her what had happened. She ran to the door and shouted to Mr. Ovens, "Bob hurry up. The blue budgie we saw up at the Church belongs here". Off he went, to return birdless - he said John Anderson had tried to catch it and it had again flown off. Vicar Frank Bartley, on hearing the 'tragic' news, came down to assure us that the bird's end would be swift - the Kestrel that nested up at the Church would kill it with one swoop.

Three days later Mr. Ovens came rushing in and said, "Hurry up. Georgie is sitting outside our window. Bring the cage". Our feet never touched the floor and sure enough the bird was there, so weak and thin he didn't even open his eyes. I just said, "Give me a kiss, Georgie" and he stepped straight onto my outstretched hand. I took him straight home, gave him a little warm water with a drop of brandy and covered his cage, having been told once again he was dying - but at least we had the satisfaction of knowing where he was.

To cut a very long story short, within a week the bird was hale and hearty and flying around saying "Give me a kiss Georgie". The only places my Mam ever visited were my house, the Church and Mrs. Ovens - the three places it had been seen. I used to make the ending so dramatic the listeners always ended up clapping.

Part Seven - The Picture Palace

Now finally let me introduce our Picture Palace. I remember standing in a queue waiting for the door to open - my heart all a flutter at what I would see inside (so it must have been my first visit). The front three rows of seats were one old penny and the rest two old pennies. As I only had one old penny, I had to be very alert. Once inside I sat behind Mrs. Gray and her son Jackie who were crunching on candy rock - I was wishing I had some! It was still silent pictures at this stage with Mr. Cherry at the piano thumping out the appropriate sounds - tinkle, tinkle for the lighter moments then Boom, Boom for the dramatic scenes. Not that any accompaniment was needed when Mrs. Gray was there. She would be yelling out to the actors telling them which direction to take and warning them of intended assassins: "Look oot hinny he's a'hint Ye!" or "Watch oot they're a'hint the rocks” (a'hint meaning behind). It must have been hilarious to any stranger visiting. When horses were galloping or cowboys chasing Indians the excitement in the hall was electric. My heart would thump and I'd be yelling as loud as any one - which would lead to a sleepless night. My poor Mam would be trying to calm me down with me begging her to put a knife in my coffin if I died - so I could cut my way out if I wasn't really dead.

If my memory serves me right it was a building with a tin roof. When it rained the noise was deafening. Then came the 'Big times' - the talkies arrived and the building became more posh with paint and plush seats. It was renamed ‘The LYRIC’.

Carr Robson was made manager and Mae (his wife) assisted. Mr. and Mrs. Wandless and Colin Hind made up the staff. Colin was the operator and it really depended on his mood whether things went smoothly. If the film snapped (which it often did), Colin would have to fix it. During that break, feet would stamp and boos would resound with Mr. Wandless running up and down yelling for quiet and patience. Then off it would go again. If Colin was in a hurry, it would race through and whistles would drown the voices of the actors; but it was all part of a great night out. I'll end with what even at 80 I still find funny - mind you they do say little things please little minds. I just wish I could do illustrations to show you how it was. My friend Cathie and I used to take her brother Athol and my cousin Bobbie to the Saturday matinee. We had to sit them on our knees and they got in free. I can't remember what was showing but it must have been very interesting. All of a sudden the lassie in front started yelling, I looked to see why. Athol had her by the pigtails and was dancing her up and down. Cathie was so engrossed she didn't even notice. I said, "Cathy, look at him". She leant forward and said to the girl (still being bounced up and down by her hair) "Don't take any notice pet!"

Afterword

I’ll try to put into words exactly what I believe and hope it will be to someone’s benefit. Everyone should leave at least one thought behind.

I believe and advise, “Always look for the best possible interpretation of people’s behavior. Usually the faults we see in others are our own faults”

The people I admire most are seldom great in worldly goods, but are certainly great in heart.


Posted in

Memories

on Sep 03, 2017

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