Archive for September, 2009

Vi Godfrey Carr – From Portable Days

September 24, 2009 2 comments

From portable DaysVi Godfrey Carr began her theatrical career as a baby and it almost ended during the Second World War when she lay across an unexploded bomb, in the wreckage of a cinema.  In this fascinating memoir, she recalls life in the Portable and Fit Up theatres – travelling companies which, in the days before cinema and television, took entertainment to the rural areas.

Her mother, a Northumbrian girl with a beautiful voice, ran away to London and married George Austin Knox, member of an old theatrical family. In the 1890’s the Austins started their own Portable Theatre in Durham which they took, with great success, to mining communities all over the North east. As well as acting, troupers had to sing, dance, play instruments, change scenery and care for the horses which provided the transport.

Vi married another popular entertainer, Will Godfrey, and for many years they acted together. During the war, they were with ENSA, the organisation which provided entertainment for the troops, playing while bombs fell in Birmingham and Coventry. Finally, they returned to Ushaw Moor, Co. Durham. She has contributed too many television and radio programmes.

From a book “From portable Days” by Violet Godfrey Carr – A Personal Account of Life in the Theatre as told to Neil McNicholas.

Foreword by Roy Hudd

### Anyone remember the Portable Theatre, hard to imagine with the entertainment of now, this must have been such a thrill for the hard working miners of the time.

I managed to get a copy of this book,,, very interesting,, available on Amazon.

Paul Clough

Categories: Memories Tags:

Doctors Fees

September 24, 2009 2 comments

Wilf Bells article on Insurance agents in the village and Alf Rothwells reply got me thinking who our Insurance man was and I cannot remember. However I can remember the collector who used to call for our Medical Fees. This was before the founding of the National Health Service in 1948 when medical care became free to all. Prior to that medical care had to be paid for. The man that collected from my home was a Mr. Foster who lived in Hall Avenue. Our doctor was Dr. Dickison whose surgery was in a front room near the top of Arthur Street. He was a great man and always had a cigarette in his mouth, even in the surgery. He wore round 1930s style glasses, a pin striped suit, usually brown and always wore a Homburg style hat. My mother tells me that he visited our house at 29 Harvey Street, New Brancepeth the day I was to be baptised at St. Josephs church at Ushaw Moor. My mother was torn between the names Anthony and Terence and could not make up her mind which name to choose. Dr. Dickison suggested I was named Brian after his son and so I got my name from Dr. Dickisons suggestion.   I am off at a tangent again.   Another caller at our house was Mr. Wilson from Bearpark Colliery.  He was the collecting agent for Doggarts Store which was situated in the Market Place in Durham. I think it is now Boots the Chemists.

I can only remember Doggarts selling clothing but I stand to be corrected.  Mr Wilson was the Dad of Betty Wilson who became a teacher at St. Josephs at the same time as Joyce Quinn arrived at the School.  This must have been in the late forties.  I have gone off at a tangent fron Insurance agents in the village but I hope my memories jog a few more memories and they end up on the Web Site.    Mr Welsh or Dickie Welsh as he was better known was the Council Rent Collector and lived in Whitehouse Court next to Tom Gibb.  Does he jog anyones memory?

Brian Mc.

Peter Clarke

September 23, 2009 2 comments

There were two very quick replies to my article on coal lying in the street. It was good to see that Peter Clark and Wilf Bell enjoyed the article. I haven’t seen Peter for well over 50 years. That sounds morbid but time flies by so rapidly.

Another vivid memory regarding coal was the never ending run of clapped out lorries carrying coal from opencast sites further up the valley to the washery and coal dump which were situated on the right hand side of the road about 300 yards from Relly Bridge. These wagons were mostly ex War Department vehicles even down to the bull bars fixed on the front of the radiators of the flat fronted lorries. I think they were Bedfords. You can see them in footage from the Second World War. Back to the coal. These lorries would not be allowed on our roads today as most were grossly overloaded with coal piled up behind the boards which had been fitted on to the original body work to give the lorry a greater carrying capacity.

There were no road markings at that time at the crossroads outside the Flass. The drivers would slow the lorries right down as they neared the junction from the direction of Esh Winning, then with a grinding of gears and the lorries swaying with the camber of the road and the bank they would crawl across the junction and into Durham Road. The crossroads were covered in coal and coal dust as the loose coal which fell from the lorries was ground into dust by the traffic using the crossroads. There was always an inch or two of fine coal and dust in the gutters at the sides of the road.

My first memory of open cast mining was on the farm of Mr. Stephenson on the right hand side of the road between Ushaw Moor and Broompark. That would be 1946 or 1947. Correct me please if I have the dates wrong. Happy carefree days before starting work and then conscription into the Armed Forces. One of the firms hauling the coal was Hunters Bros. from Tantobie. Can anyone remember the names of the other firms hauling the coal.

Brian Mc.

Categories: Memories

Loads of Coal

September 22, 2009 6 comments

A sight which has long since disappeared from the streets of Ushaw Moor is that of loads of coal lying on the road waiting to be carried in and hoyed into the coal house. Men employed at the pit received a quantity of coal free for domestic use. My first memories of coal being tipped was when our family lived at 29 Harvey Street at New Brancepeth.

Across the back steet was a home made wooden coal house next to the gable end of the netty. On arriving at Ushaw Moor in January 1947 the coal house was situated next to the outhouse. If it rained when the coal was lying on the road waiting to be “put in” to the coal house it was very heavy to carry and the coal acted as a dam and the water built up behind the coal. New Brancepeth Colliery coal was delivered by lorry, Tot Sheivels was the driver.

I can remember that coals was from Ushaw Colliery at one time was delivered by horse and a two wheeled cart. The coalman lived in Durham Road. All heating at this time was coal fired. This was long before central heating and the (recent?) arrival of natural gas into the valley I cannot recall the weight of free coal alloted to each worker and I would also query my use of the word free as colliery owners were not renowned for their generosity to their workmen.

In the summer months the coal house was always full but in the winter months the coal house could be half empty. The coal was usally carried off the street and into the coalhouse in buckets. Wooden boards were placed across the front of the coalhouse so the coal could build up behind the boards and there was a gap at the bottom of the boards to push the shovel in to this gap and retrieve the coal and put it into a bucket. On winter evenings two buckets of coal were filled before darkness fell and were ready for use during the evening. Toast never tasted so good as when it was toasted on the toasting fork in front of the coal fire. I can still taste it. Coal was also supplied by coalmen to homes where no one was employed at the Colliery. Rowlands Bros. whose garage was situted at the top of Unthank Terrace at New Brancepeth was one and another coalman was Mr. Grady from Cornsay Colliery. Brian Mc.

A Date With Destiny 2010?

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

By all accounts  Durham Cathedral did Sir Bobby Robson well and that is great to hear. Now then what about a five a side charity ‘grudge’ match in honour of Sir Bobby – between the 1959  Ushaw Moor County  and Waterhouses Modern  teams? By their nature these things do not happen by themselves so I expect I will have to put some input into it. The venue? What about that great facility at the current Ushaw Moor school -which I believe Sir Bobby opened or at least visited.    

It could be fun with a significent tinge of rivalry – oh yes rivalry as you have never seen it. Alf and Brian might even turn up [or more] to witness another drubbing for Waterhouses, or more likely, a very close encounter. You can see that the edge is still there. John Weir against the spent sliding tackle specialist could be interesting.On the other hand does David Gerrard remain the better of the two keepers these days? 

There are so many questions that need to be answered, and so much raw rivalry  to extinquish – with a beer or two! Leave it to me.  


Categories: Memories

UFO Over Ushaw Moor?

September 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Google – UFO Ushaw Moor – and read the report for yourself!  Alternatively a more complicated way of finding it is to feed in and then put – Ushaw Moor – into the search box top left of the site itself.

I would not lose any sleep over it but there again I could go to sleep in a cold boring churchyard at night without too much of a problem.


Categories: Memories

An Alternative Magnificent Seven

September 16, 2009 1 comment



The three older children at the back – from left to right – Ethel Hope [married Arthur Hodgson] Ada Bainbridge [married Fred Hume] Lilian Hope [married Mathew Bell  and then later, after divorce – Don Albone]

Then the two ‘little uns – twins – Norman Hope and Doreen Hope.

Finally at the bottom Jennie and Vera Bainbridge.

The photograph must have been taken in  c1939. 

If you can recall any of the magnificent seven by all means share your memories on this site.

You can enlarge the photo by clicking the mouse on it.

Photograph courtesy of Valerie Bainbridge and the necessary ‘magic’ to scan and place it in front of you -provided by my son David.


Categories: Memories

Sleetburn Lilleys’ Plus A Big LBW Decision

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Back in the early 1900s the Lilley family were living at 5  Bewley Terrace, which is very close to New Brancepeth Post Office. Basically the family were from Rainton but had lived in Sleetburn for some considerable years. There was John and his wife Ann, with their children John George  and Jane Anna. Also in the house were John’s parents i.e. John and Elizabeth together with his brother Thomas. There was also a servant – Catherine Jeffrey. Does anyone know anything further about this family?

In 1969 I was umpiring a single wicket competition and found that my half brother was bowling medium fast, from my end, to my best mate at the time – David Shield. I had already turned down one of Colin’s lbw appeals but then it happened: [1] pitching between wicket to wicket [2] no evidence of swing or movement in any of Colin’s bowling that day – including the key delivery [3] the delivery first pitched on David’s boot which was on the popping crease and right in front of the stumps. I was in a lose lose situation – being a half brother and best mate situation. Decision – out lbw. If you are a cricket lover what is your viewpoint? Was he out or not?  


Categories: Memories

Have You Grown Up?

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Some long lost friend recently asked me whether I had grown up. He last knew me as a seventeen year old. When you think about it he was, intentionally or otherwise, asking me whether I had ever analyzed my ongoing personal experiences and observations and engineered my behaviour in the light of my findings; put another way, he was asking me whether I had gone through life as thick as two short planks.

 There is no doubt that for much of my life  my energy was largely concentrated on my paid employment, rather than on developing a mature outlook and life balance. I must have been a helpful and resourceful work colleague, for much of the time, but at the cost of being a one trick pony and a misery to my family.

 Gradually, by means of help from mature friends, family support, and inspirational lecturers, I eventually got it. Got it? I began to feel that I understood a little of the nature of humanity, and the awareness that I was so lucky to be on the planet grew within me. Mind you I am aware of most of  my many remaining failings. Even now some things are far too black and white in my mind e.g. if you ask me about politics over a pint I might advise you never to trust a Tory. The fact is many Tories are good people; it’s just their leaders I find hard to trust. Have another pint. You might ask me about religion and I am likely to reply that I am perplexed that a few very bright  Oxford University graduates believe the utterly unbelievable or even much worse.

 Eventually I will get very drunk and express the view that too many people would do dishonest things if only they could be certain they would not be detected. After that it would be all down hill; I would very probably be sick at Tolworth railway station, just like I was in 1977.

 I was never a big drinker but hey the glass is half full not half empty. Fancy finishing it off for me?


Categories: Memories

Old Time Insurance Agents

September 7, 2009 1 comment

Insurance agents were a familiar sight in the villages for many decades before the 60s and for a long while afterwards. You could see them scurrying around the streets with their ‘insurance book’  which contained  their customers’ policy details and payment records. Many customers were reliable payers but if long term sickness or unemployment struck it usually meant one of three things: [1] a lapsed policy [2] a frozen policy or [3] a surrendered policy.  

There is no doubt that those insurance agents were doing a fine service, for example: they were enabling cars to be insured and property to be protected against fire and any number of other risks. They were also collecting small premiums without  customers having to arrange to make payment at the local office.

It was important that the agent called at a regular time  so that the customer was not left waiting for them when they were meant to be elsewhere. To be a good agent required a rapport with customers and a caring attitude. Having said that there were accusations of bad practice such as churning. Churning involved encouraging customers to surrender policies early and persuading them to take out new ones; it meant more commission for the agent and the customer would lose a terminal bonus on the original policy. The extent of this practice is not known. Some customers actually encouraged it in that they treated what was meant to be a five/ten/fifteen year [or even for life] contract as a short term savings plan – a bad deal financially although it must not be forgotten that [1] they were insured during the time of such premature policies and [2] they otherwise might not have saved at all.

Competition amongst agents was often intense and sometimes more than one agent could be found in a customer’s house at the same time! Not only did the insurance agent have to spend some part of the week collecting premiums in the day time he/she had also a need to go out and interview potential customers during the evening – whether by cold calling or pre arranged appointment. It was not a job for everyone and the turnover of agents was frequent.

I having nothing but respect for agents and on the whole they gave a good deal to their customers. There are many fewer agents to be seen in the streets these days owing to changing business practice. 


Categories: Memories