Archive for August, 2008

Mark Hudson – Year in a Mining Village

August 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Now and again we have the opportunity to do something a bit different on the memories site and this is one such occasion. I admire the work of author Mark Hudson and hold the opinion that his work can be compared favourably with that of Laurie Lee – of ‘Cider with Rosie’ fame. The subjects for treatment are different but Mark Hudson’s powers of expression are brilliant. I have explained once before on site that Mr Hudson has a connection with Ushaw Moor and that gives me all the more satisfaction when introducing a brief example of his fine work – his description of the Miners’ Gala – as follows:

Every year, on the second Saturday in July, the greater part of the population of that part of the world – up to a million people – would crowd up to the walls of the great cathedral, cramming the aisles so that it was impossible to move, for the service of the Durham Miners’ Gala – the so called Big Meeting. The bands of the three collieries at which most men had been killed during the course of the year would play as they marched into the cathedral – the booming of the bass drum, pounding with a funereal slowness, heard first in the distance, becoming louder and louder, then as it entered the cathedral, the droning and the grinding of the bass, swelling and filling the cavernous interior. Then the banners, draped in black, were carried up the aisle and placed on the high alter.

Up to the 1960s, Durham Big Meeting was bigger than Christmas. On that day, the most hardened capitalist could breath the atmosphere of socialism, could become giddy, drinking it from the very air. Early, early in the morning, the people of the city could hear a faint wheezing and a sighing carried on the still air of a high summer’s morning – the sound of the bands marching towards Durham – not plaintiff and heartfelt, as they played into the cathedral, but booming and crashing, triumphant and majestic along the country lanes. Then, all of a sudden, they were descending along their different routes into the centre of the city, and the air would be filled with the delirious cacophony of two hundred bands, each playing a different tune. The shops would all be boarded –up against the crushing and the pressing of the hundreds and thousands of onlookers crowded along the route. Down they marched towards the racecourse where the speeches would be held, past the County Hotel where the speakers – the most eminent socialist politicians of the day – and the union leaders, stood watching from the balcony, everyone smiling and waving in the great, reverberating bowl of sound. And over their heads swayed the great banners of the lodges, with their messages of hope: ‘Unity is strength’, ‘All men are brethren’, ‘The Future is in your hands!’ – the lodge officials marched solemnly before the banners, behind them the work – hardened faces of the miners in their cloth caps and blue serge suits, evincing a flinty – eyed pride on their annual day of glory.

Copyright Mark Hudson 1994

This extract was reproduced with the kind permission of Mark Hudson, from his book – Coming Back Brockens A Year in a Mining Village. The book was first published in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape of Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London.

Submitted by Wilf Bell

The Cochrane Family

August 15, 2008 7 comments
It was Alexander Brodie Cochrane that obtained the right to mine for coal at Sleetburn although it was Lord Boyne of Brancepeth Castle who held the Royalties. Cochrane had his somewhat grand home, Eshwood Hall, built not far from what he hoped would be a very profitable colliery. He was part of an influential and financially successful family; they owned iron works at Ormesby and were socially ambitious. Actually it can be said that they were more or less ‘up and arrived’ rather than ‘up and coming’.

Sleetburn’s excellent coking coal supplied the Cochrane’s iron works at Ormesby. By the eve of the First World War the colliery had become a large complex, with brickworks and a plant to crush a valuable mineral called brytes.

The Cochrane approach to managing his workers and villagers had clearly been the product of some considerable thought. I imagine that he was mindful of the fact that a trawl through the Durham County newspapers of the time indicated a significant amount of lawlessness and violence in local mining communities – which to a large extent was fed by alcohol and despair. For some miners the alcohol temporarily brushed aside the big physical demands of coal mining. The despair may well have been caused, to some extent, by the sight of too many mangled or impaired bodies, the experience of periodical unemployment and the demand for deference. Perhaps such a social climate encouraged Cochrane to build Sleetburn as two separate villages, one for pitmen called the ‘lowside’ and another for colliery officials and craftsmen. Fields separated the two classes of workers and in effect social control and sanctions prevailed. If one of his officials or craftsmen stepped out of line they risked being moved to the lowside – or even worse – sacked and blackballed.

Read more…

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St. Josephs Infants 1951

August 15, 2008 1 comment

This is a picture of the infants at St Joseph’s taken in 1951. My mother, Isabel Gallagher is fourth from right in the middle row but can only name a few others.

Judith Vincent

The 3rd Marquis of Londonderry

August 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Most of you will be aware of him. Perhaps you looked up at his monument [a big man on a big horse] as a child during the Durham Miners’ Gala – with a sense of awe and a little fright. I did. Perhaps you still look at the monument as you go by during your shopping in Durham City.

Of course the monument is in the Market Place, Durham City. It was commissioned by his wife, Lady Londonderry and unveiled on 02/12/1861. The monument almost didn’t end up in the Market Place. Seaham Harbour, Sunderland and Palace Green, Durham were alternatives that had received consideration. Certainly some businessmen were unhappy with its position. They felt that it prevented free passage to the markets and they were worried about a potential loss to business.

So what do we know about him? Some of you may well know quite a bit but for those who do not he was born in Dublin in 1788 and educated at Eton [hardly comparable to Ushaw Moor Secondary Modern in terms of prestige}. He showed great courage under fire when serving the Duke of Wellington. That surely demands respect. He married an Irish woman – Francis Ann Vane- Tempest; she was an heiress to large properties in both Durham and Ireland. As we know, people of that social position tended to consolidate their position by means of marriage.

Londonderry subsequently bought property in Durham including a Seaham Estate and several pits. What did the people of Durham think of him? He was regarded by many as being a ruthless colliery owner. I imagine that he might have put Chaytor [Ushaw Moor] and Cochrane [Sleetburn – I love to use that old name for New Brancepeth] in the shade for the reputation of being ruthless. He opposed trade unions and was regarded as someone who adopted a hostile position – if he did not his way in the world of pits. It is safe to assess that his reputation in Durham is mixed, shall we say, during a moment of generosity.

We have to be careful in assessing such people as events of the long gone past can be distorted by the passing of so much time. Some more research is needed!

Wilf Bell

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August 15, 2008 4 comments

Hi welcome to Ushaw Moor Memories BLOG, on WordPress.

At the moment the original Memories BLOG is still in use at > —

I have had formatting problems at and have set this up at WordPress with the idea of moving here permanently in the future.

Paul 🙂

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