Archive for May, 2015

It’s Not All Carnage Since Form 4A’s Christmas Party In 1959

May 31, 2015 1 comment

By carnage I mean the sad deaths of Allan Dunn, John Hall, John Mole, Dennis Pinkney, Brian Wilkinson, Tom Patterson and Ruth Atkinson. The photo is on this site and shows bright eyed young things that were very much living and breathing and wondering about their futures. There is an obvious and personally worrying trend: the reaper seems to like working with a particular sex.

Almost a quarter of the class are known to have uprooted and moved away from County Durham: variously to Kent, Nottingham, Yorkshire [two of them], Australia, Surrey, and Europe.

At least two of the form, Arthur Snaith and this writer, decided to work for undergraduate level qualifications and succeeded. There are probably more than that because Lorna Bone and some others were more than capable of achieving it.

Ruth Atkinson taught hairdressing at Durham Technical College and Pat Bowery also gained experience of teaching [art and craft or similar].

A few of you will be aware that I have had a lot of back pain in recent months; in was so bad that I could not sleep much more than an hour or or two each night. The situation has improved and now I am a six hour man. A back injection is due soon so I feel the situation is under control. No more recordings of Law and Order at three in the morning with Call The Midwife for dessert.


Categories: Memories

Short Extract From A 1965 Northern Counties School Certificate Exam Paper

May 11, 2015 Leave a comment




Time Allowed – 2 Hours

Answer five questions selected from at least two sections.

You must not answer more than two questions marked with an asterisk.

Credit will be given for appropriate sketch-maps and diagrams.

The first five minutes are to be spent in reading through the question paper. Do not begin until told to do so.

SECTION A – 55BC to AD 1485

* A1. Write a short account on any four of the following: [a] Julius Caesar; [b] the Iceni; [c] a Roman Legion;
[d] St Augustine; [e] Venerable Bede; [f] a Viking Longboat.

A2. Either [a] Describe an Anglo-Saxon settlement and the way of life of its inhabitants.
Or [b] Describe the feudal system.

and so on……

I did not take History with this board but did take it at GCE ordinary level with London University. There are some differences, for example, the GCE gave you two and a half hours to answer five questions and the pass mark was 45% not the 40% demanded by the NCTEC. The GCE was of a higher standard but it must not be forgotten that 15 year old pupils took NCTEC, typically from secondary modern A forms. Interestingly a further Northern Counties exam, taken at 16, was regarded as equivalent to O level by the Civil Service.


Categories: Memories


May 11, 2015 Leave a comment

Robinson the pit manager at Ushaw Moor in the 1880s was well out of control. He was a multi- layered disaster as a manager. If you have not already done so may I suggest you look up the history of the long and bitter Ushaw Moor colliery mining dispute; you will find damage to property, double – dealing and pistol shooting on the menu and that is just for starters. Was he a yes man in thrall to the owner? Was he a tortured soul with an unfortunate way of relating to humanity? I am pleased that he is physically unable to manage the current Newcastle United football team [I do not think they will go down].

Close readers of this site are aware of J Stoker the old manager of the Ushaw Moor pit. The Durham Mining Museum records that a J Stoker was Ushaw Moor’s pit manager in 1950 and then went elsewhere. In 1960, a J Stoker was again the name of the manager at Ushaw Moor when the pit closed, so there is a good chance that it is the same man. My grandfather was an overman at the pit and felt that Stoker had insulted him [c1959]. I have mentioned this alleged incident before and explained that it centred on my grandfather’s surname. It seems that the manager was fond of calling him Hopee rather than Hope and my grandfather did not like it at all. He pointed out that his surname was Hope and asked  the manager to address him correctly. If this alleged incident is accurate I have to say the manager had not committed a crime, but his alleged comment

‘I am the manager and if I want to call you Hopee I will, and by the way I am here to close this pit’

is a bit crass and overbearing.

However, Stoker was not a Robinson! Perhaps the pressure to achieve good output and healthy stats got to these men and that was all there was to it. Certainly a pit manager had a lot on his plate and a lot of responsibility and an overman’s job was not a soft option!

I was offered a whisky by Mr McAllister, the manager of Lowca colliery, just before Christmas 1964 and enjoyed it. I always found him pleasant and worthy of respect.


Categories: Memories

The Boy Will Be Back In Town in The Autumn

May 11, 2015 4 comments

I have an engagement, probably in October, during which I will be presenting a cricket trophy to a Northumberland and Tyneside Senior League cricket team. I am sure to take time out to visit Ushaw Moor, New Brancepeth, Brandon and Durham City.

Perhaps it will give me the chance to visit old haunts and have a pint or two in convivial company!


Categories: Memories