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Ushaw Moor’s Totem Pole Has Died

I have just become aware of the very sad news that Norman ‘Soccer’ Gleghorn has passed away. I am reliably informed that the funeral service will be held at St. Lukes Church on 21st of August at 1.45pm, followed by the crematorium – then afterwards at Ushaw Moor Cricket Club.

It seems appropriate to delve into the archive and bring up my interview with him.

He was a gentleman and a rascal all wrapped up in one package. Not many people can claim that. 

 

 

Norman ‘Soccer’ Gleghorn – The Interview

July 20, 2010Edit1 comment

 

Norman greeted me cheerfully on my arrival at his neat and tidy flat. The twinkle in his blue eyes and his love of life remain undiminished despite his considerable years; it showed in his readiness to chat away about himself and life in general. He is not a self absorbed man rather he takes a keen interest in news and sport [by way of his radio and television] but not necessarily in that order!

Norman was born to George and Francis Gleghorn in Eshwood Street, New Brancepeth in 1926. He was one of ten children, but as he pointed out, such a large family was not so unusual at that time.

Norman attended New Brancepeth School and although he recalls that gardening was a prominent part of the school’s curriculum he was not interested in Mr Turnbull’s gardening lessons, or for that matter George Hill’s woodwork; his love was sport and more sport. He represented the school at football and cricket and enjoyed the experience so much.

Having left school at 14 he then spent the next 10 years working at New Brancepeth Coke Ovens as a mechanical fitter. It operated a three shift system; 6am to 2 pm – 2pm to 10pm and 10pm to 6am. During his time there the cokeworks never closed, not even on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, and Norman finds that fact remarkable to this day.

During our meeting Norman’s daughter Ingrid, and his grand-daughter Sarah, popped in and out. It was obvious that they  love and care for Norman in a very positive way.

Norman went on to say that the poor working conditions at the cokeworks persuaded him to find a healthier occupation and it arrived in the form of window cleaning. Norman is good with people and that, together with his need to keep fit for sport, made window cleaning such an attractive proposition. He spent many a year cleaning windows  and he became a familiar sight on his rounds.

I felt it was time to challenge Norman: did he clean upstairs windows? I asked because a well respected contributor to the site had suggested that Norman had no head for heights. Norman looked at me and declared that he did ups as well as downs! I duly accepted his solemn declaration with a chuckle from me and a smile from him.

We moved on to football. Norman informed me that he had been given a trial by Derby County in 1947, as had Ronnie Peart from Bearpark. Derby booked them into the local Railway hotel on a bed and breakfast basis. The trial itself was played behind closed doors to prevent the possibility of spies from rival clubs having a look at promising players and possibly nicking them. Before the game the trialists were introduced to Horatio ’Raich’ Carter and Peter Doherty, both of whom were two of the finest inside forwards to play in English football. I listened to this, having being a Derby follower since 1954, and felt envious to say the least! At one point during the day of the trial some Derby fans asked Soccer for his autograph and he still enjoys that memory!

As for the trial itself sadly it did not go well enough.  The full back was good and Norman was young and nervous: those factors caused Derby to reject him. How dare they!

At 10.39am, some fifteen minutes into our discussion, Norman offered me a whisky. I declined with  thanks but now regret the lost opportunity. He then pointed to a picture of himself taken with the England Test cricketer Paul Collingwood. He was rightly proud, as well he should be, because Collingwood is a test cricketer that fights hard for the English cause. He then showed me a photograph of himself taken with Cheryl Crowe. Have I got the name right? I get the Crowe’s and Coles mixed up. Soccer described her as being a  beautiful lady. He gets around….

On with his football career. He played for several teams and Ushaw Moor, Spennymoor United, Consett and York City Reserves spring to my mind.

‘The ball was hard in those days and the lace could hurt. The modern ball is like a swerving balloon’. It is hard to disagree with Norman. He reminisced about some local players: it was Billy Findlay [Finlay?} at inside right that had opened the scoring with a header in the 3-1 defeat suffered at the hands of the great Bishop Auckland team. Soccer felt that Ushaw Moor had played well but towards the end Bishop Auckland were playing effective keep ball.   Tommy Sharp was a very good full back and worked as a draughtsman at Mackays factory – at one point he ran a  pub in Durham. Soccer said that  Tommy could head a ball further than he could kick it. Tot Smith was an ex Blackpool player and played well in  local football [at one time he had a pub in Crook]. Alan Lockey was not a world beater but always put on a good show. George Jameson, at centre forward, lacked height but was pacey and effective. Norman recalled fellow winger Harry Richmond and I asked him an ‘innocent’ question: ‘was he as good as you Soccer?’ You can imagine the answer. Actually he laughed and was surprisingly polite, given the question!

Norman married Peggy Harper and then Nancy Whitfield. Although a  widower, with fond memories, he has been able to carry on in a positive vein – an example to us all.

Norman is number seven in the all time magnificent seven of Ushaw Moor [earlier article see archive] and deservedly so. I felt privileged to interview him and will never forget the experience.

WB

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Categories: Memories
  1. Denise
    August 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Rest in Peace, Soccer. Your name is one I’ve heard hundreds of times during my life.

  2. August 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Very sad news. I bet there will be a lot of people go to his funeral. RIP Soccer I will remember you as a footballer and a fellow money collector on Fridays. We used to have some good crack. Alf Rothwell

  3. frank clarke
    August 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    RIP Norman What a lovely man you were I cherished the times we chatted in your little corner in the doorway to Oversteads I had to remember what you said as mam would always ask And whats Soccer got to say I’ll miss the Sunday nights in the cricket club with your Home made pie But most of all Soccer I’ll miss you Thanks for the memories Frank Clarke

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