Archive for June 14, 2011

Ushaw College

June 14, 2011 17 comments

It is with great sadness that I received  the news that Ushaw College is to close this month.  The College has been in its present situation since 1808 and as such it very much a part of the history of the local area.  The main buildings were built in the 19th century and amongst the architects that designed them were the father and son named Pugin.  They were of national renown and designed many churches and buildings in the Victorian era.  The farm attached to the College must be unique in the fact that the buildings were designed my one of the Pugins.

When I was a boy the College was very well used and boys from the age of eleven years old went to be educated and train for the priesthood in the Catholic Church.  There was a junior seminary behind the high stone wall situated near the College farm and the adult students were educated in the area of the College nearest Bearpark.  On a Wedneday afternoon large groups of the younger boys could be seen walking through the village in their red blazers and grey trousers.

Many of the staff working at the College were from the local villages and it provided employment for many people.   My late eldest brother Jim , God Bless him, worked at the College for 12 years as a joiner until his retirement.  I went up a few times to see him at his lunch break and he showed me around and at one time the College was a self sufficient unit.  It produced its own gas before the arrival of electricity.  It had its own bakery, kitchens, tailors, swimming baths, cemetery, infirmary and a large maintenance staff, stonemasons, bricklayers, painters, joiners, etc.  The domestic staff were girls from Ireland and the local area.

The College has its own unique sporting game named “Cat”  I do not know the rules but there was an inter College League and the game was played on a grassed area at the top of the Drive leading up from the Gate nearest Bearpark.  There were sports fields on the other side of the road opposite the above mentioned gate and more sports fields in front of the Junior Seminary.

The best farmer to work for picking potatoes was Mr. George Dixon who worked the College farm.  One shilling an hour, picked up in the morning and dropped off at the end of the working day.  A free sack of potatoes delivered to the house plus a couple of turnips a few days after we went back to school.  It was back breaking work but you just got on with it.  The ride on the trailer to and from the fields would be frowned on today because of health and safety rules but it was a great laugh.  I remember Mr. Dixon as a gentleman farmer with a ruddy complexion and wearing plus fours and tweeds and a hat.  I also spent many happy hours watching the pigs and piglets in the stys at the side of the road at the front of the farm on Sunday afternoons.   No omnibus editions of Corra or Eastenders or even the telly.

There is an article in the Journal today about the College library and what will happen to its priceless contents.  There are over 44,000 books and manuscripts held in the library, many of the books and manuscripts being hundreds of years old.  A treasure trove like this should not be allowed to leave the area.

Also there was a nine hole golf course situated on the east side of the College grounds (nearest Bearpark) which was used by the students and staff at the College.  We would search for hours for golf balls and were always given a tanner for each ball found.  ( 2 1/2P)

I remember in 1951 there was a huge celebration at the Colllege to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the birth of the Northumbrian Saint Aidan.  Over 100,00 people attended the celebration in the College grounds which was also attended by Cardinal Griffin who was the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales at that time.  I had never seen as many people before and after tea we sat on the wall at the top of the bank above Whitehouse Court counting  the buses carrying the people and they  were from all over the North East and the North West of England.

I can also remember the night of the Coronation of the Queen in June 1953 when they lit the largest bonfire I have ever seen in the field opposite the West gate of the College.  It was huge and hundreds of local people attended to enjoy the spectacle.

It is time for a nice large whisky.  So good night to everyone who might read my article.

Brian Mc

Categories: Memories

About One And A Half Pages

June 14, 2011 1 comment

That is all an entry to The Glittering Prize Competition amounts to. Apart from prestige; let’s not forget prestige. And entertaining us all.

I think the old Durham County Council school note books had blue covers and each page had thirty lines, so let us say, on average, ten words to a line  x about forty five lines = word count comfortably fulfilled.

In the past Brian M has already done his ‘duty’ several times over and if there are no entries to judge he may well end up being offered the Glitter on a well deserved honorary basis!

So what will contestants write about? Will it be about the clear and sparkling waters that betrayed the little Broadgate minnows? Or will it be about you smiling at vicar Welby as he passed you by, but not on the other side?

Will it be about you catching sight of the Ushaw Moor banner for the very first time? Or will it be an account of the dark forces of  school bullying? What about scoring from a penalty for the school team? Were you in the school netball team [hopefully that is one for the ladies] or was your strength, expertise and dishonesty invested in  conker competitions?

Moving on, were you excited about furnishing your first home or aghast at the insects under your carpet?

Maybe your wonderful grandparents or uncle/aunt/parents can inspire enough words.

In a  little more than two weeks in will be all over and in the meantime the excitement is building. Well it ought to be anyway.




Categories: Memories