Up the Ladder

Adeline Hodges, (nee Corkhill).

These are the memoirs of a lady whose life covered the years 1899-1980.

She always told us that she was born in the era of the pony and trap but lived through the innovation of the aeroplane,- she experienced both types of transport.

These memoirs were written only for we four children, to show us our background. We hope you who read them find them interesting and like us will derive pleasure from her history.

She was an intelligent and elegant lady with a disciplined moral code which she instilled in her family. She was well loved and appreciated by all of us and together with my father Ben, brought magic to our childhood.

If more information is required or if you wish to use extracts, please contact us first via Brian Scollen through this website who was instrumental in persuading us to allow you this privilege of a glimpse into the past.

Joan Pace (nee Hodges)

Elder daughter of Adeline.

UP THE LADDER (Complete version) by Adeline Hodges

 ‘I Remember’

A fascinating snapshot of life in a Seaham mining community at the turn of the century.

 Reproduced here with kind permission of her daughter Joan Pace.

Adeline Hodges and her husband Benjamin

I was born on 20th May 1899 at 70 Swinebank Cottages, Dawdon. (Darden as we called it).
It was a small village of stone built cottages for miners working at Seaham Colliery called the ‘Nack’. The most widespread opinion as to the name ‘Nack’ was that the windmill which stood at the foot of a bank called the Mill Bank made a clicking noise of ‘nicky nack’ as the arms turned round and round and so the pit was known as the Nicky Nack, or just the Nack. This colliery was perhaps three miles from where we lived at Swinebank Cottages and the miners had to walk. One road was called the Pitman’s Walk, now known as Strangford Road. Men had to use this road from Dawdon to the pit. Then, the little village of Dawdon consisted of 83 cottages standing in four rows. Two rows with their backs separated by toilets (middens) and coalhouses standing in a back yard. Gardens were at the front and the two centre rows of gardens were known as Garden Walk, at the top of which stood the village school run by the Londonderry Family. This also served as a church and Sunday School. The teachers at the school were also expected to teach at the Sunday School. The Vicar of Seaham Harbour used to pay intermittent calls and the Vicar of St. Mary’s, whom we called Daddy Copley, paid more infrequent calls, but he was a grand old man and his visits were heralded as if they were royal.
The cottages at Dawdon were built of stone. I have heard my parents say that they were built for two families to each one. One family occupied the front and one the back, which is why there were remains of toilets at the bottom of the gardens. Then they were altered to house one family each, because miners with plenty of sons were given the houses with their jobs. The world often seems to turn topsy turvy. Then men were encouraged to have families, now they are discouraged and the know-alls are scheming how to punish the big families.

Each cottage had a sitting room, a small living room with a big pantry running along one side and a staircase with three bedrooms. I mention the staircase because they were the pride and joy of every housewife. You see, before the houses were divided they just had a ladder to climb up to the bedrooms. Hence the saying ‘up the ladder’ when it was bedtime. My father kept his ladder for many years. He carried it to the bottom of the street, stood it up by the big fence surrounding the football field, and had a free show. Well those with big families could not afford the ha’penny admission for every week.
You notice I always say the top or the bottom of the street. Well everything seemed simple in those days. When parents looked for children they looked at the top or at the bottom, ‘go to the top’ my father would say and watch out for the caller. It was the man who came with a crake and told the miners if it was working the next day. Weather or lack of boats used often to lay the mines off. My father was a stoneman down the pit and he would bid me listen to the caller to see if he said ‘all the pits idle the morn, shifters, wastemen and mechanics’, ‘and mechanics’ was the vital part for my father because if the caller stopped at wastemen my father would work, but if he added the dread words ‘and mechanics’ my father would loose a shift. I remember the first time I was sent to the top to listen for the caller. My father asked what he had said. I told him ‘all the pits idle the morn, shifters, wastemen and me nannies’, I never lived it down.

The four rows of cottages were surrounded by fields. At the bottom was the football field I have mentioned, called the ‘Stars Field’ after the name of the team which was mainly composed of Cottages men. Then the South Hetton railway running down to the Docks separated the Villa’s field where the Villa team consisting of Seaham Harbour men mostly working at the Bottleworks played. There was great rivalry between the teams. Don’t talk of rough play, I know, my eldest brother was goalkeeper for the ‘Star’ and he had all kinds of injuries, but it was accepted as part of the game. What rejoicing when the Star players won a silver medal. There couldn’t have been more rejoicing or more honour heaped on them if they had won the Victoria Cross.

There was a road at the bottom of the street and the football field which had only three sides fenced. The other side needed no fence because there was an embankment and at the top the North Eastern Railway ran. My father used to say that people let their pigs feed on this embankment and that was how it was called Swine Bank Cottages. Of course that would be before the railway was laid. Then on the south side of the cottages was the cow’s field owned by the farmer who owned Dawdon Farm. Our garden walls in the last row of cottages formed part of the fence for this field. It was beautiful meadowland and we spent most of the summer playing in it near the garden walls. Only the farmer himself would chase us. Periodically he would ride round his land on a beautiful horse. We scattered when he came towards us. We did no harm. Our pleasure was picking the flowers, and playing the lovely game of funerals. One child would lie on the grass full length with arms duly crossed on the chest and the other children would heap grass and flowers on top of him. We made wreaths and crosses of daisies, buttercups, dandelions, bluebells, cranesbill, ladies fingers, cowslips and many more. It was difficult to get anyone to tackle the dandelions for we firmly believed if we touched them we would wet the bed. That would set off an argument as to how many ‘skelps’ mothers dished out on bare bottoms for committing this awful crime. I was once the victim of a funeral. I was buried under a great mound of grass when all of my playmates scattered. Someone shouted ‘keep down and he won’t see you’. My goodness the horse went very close to my head, too close for comfort and I very nearly became a real dead one. It was the farmer. One hears of so many cases of poison these days and I wonder how we escaped. We ate the corns of the cranesbill dug out of the soil without washing, we ate sour docks, which were the leaves of the dock plant. We would make fiddles out of them first. That was pulling the centre of the leaves apart leaving the strings or veins like a fiddle. Then we ate them. They tasted like vinegar, we got turnips out of the big field on which Deneside is now built and had feasts off them. We plundered our gardens for mint, lettuce, rhubarb and carrots. We would play on summer days from dinner time until bed time without going home for any food. The taps were in the street so it was easy enough to put ones mouth under and get all the drinks one needed.

Miners were very proud of their gardens. They had the most beautiful flowerbeds in great profusion, the colours had to be seen to be believed. Every little hole and corner was decorated with boxes or barrels. Mother had barrels of chrysanthemums, bronze and white at either side of the front door with boxes of nasturtium growing up the wall under the window. But the good gardeners had Canterbury bells, phlox, marguerites and many more. They were ready for the big flower show held in Seaham Hall grounds on the first weekend in August. It was called ‘the big flower show’. Big marquees were erected in the grounds. There were all kinds of side shows, and refreshment tents. That was the day of the year, for people came from all the surrounding collieries and there was great fun. I look back with nostalgia on these great days although I always had to sly into the grounds. The first time I was allowed to go with my sister was when I was eleven years old. One had to pit ones wits against the gatekeepers, but we won at last. We had the magnificent sum of one halfpenny between us – but that did not mar our fun in the least. There were plenty of boys to chase us and plenty of other people with a lot of money to spend so we watched and shared in their fun. Then the gardeners had Paddy Finn’s Leek Show which followed a few weeks after the big show. Paddy was landlord of the Station Hotel and had a big marquee erected outside his hotel at the top of Marlborough Street. On Whit Monday morning was the big cycle parade. Cyclists from far and wide joined in. I do not know where they started from or where they went to, but I can remember taking my stand at the corner of Railway Street and North Terrace to see them all sweep around onto the North Road.

On Good Friday there was a big parade of all the Sunday Schools, excepting Catholics, scholars and adults marched along the main streets singing lively hymns. Nobody would miss this. Then on Easter Monday the Cottages folk en bloc would go ‘down the Dene’. It was a lovely little dell in those days and Easter Monday saw it crowded. Everybody skipped and danced, the boys chased the girls and stole their hat pins and everybody picnicked on the grass. Then there was the celebrated race with our eggs. We rolled them down the bank that leads into the Dene. The winner took the egg from the loser. Then there was the game of jarping. You held your egg closely in your hand while your opponent bashed it with his. The wide boys knew exactly how to win. These eggs were dyed and on Easter Sunday morning we would run to our friends houses with a can full of eggs, one for each child in the family and then they would return the compliment. We had Carling Sunday. These were greyish brown peas, which our mothers steeped on the Saturday and we all had packets of them to eat on the Sunday. We would pick the wild rose branches and stick a carling on each point. It was who could get the biggest one to hold the most carlings. Simple things, but then we were simple. Our fun never had to depend on money. We had a holiday on Pancake Day, and one on Royal Oak Day. The boys and girls would gather into gangs and roam up and down the four streets singing ‘Royal Oak Day on the 29th of May, if you don’t give us holiday we’ll all run away’.
But I think the greatest day for the children was the Sunday School treat. It was always held on the Friday the schools closed for the summer holidays. We, from the Cottages, joined with the mother church of St. John from Seaham Harbour. We marched in procession from the school along what is now Princess Road and so far through the Dene then into the Jubilee grounds, which have since been closed because of mining subsidence. These grounds were large and had swings and roundabouts and May poles. There was a large building with tables and forms right down the centre, where we had tea if it rained. If the weather was fine we sat on the grass and school teachers and parents supplied us with the tea, buns and sliced currant loaf from clothes baskets. The boys and the men would take the women and girls up on the swings, but I remember a big row when a new curate stopped the fun because he would not allow such infamous goings on as mixed swinging. He stopped a couple by hooking the swing with his walking stick and nearly caused a serious accident whilst tearing the lady’s blouse. She happened to be the wife of a policeman and there were ructions about it. He, the curate, didn’t last long after that. There were rebels you see in those days too, for they made their voices heard although they stood in awe of church authority.

There was a drill hall beside the Co-operative store at Seaham Harbour. Every year the volunteers staged a big parade – it was a grand sight. All of the officials at Seaham Colliery were the top notchers in the volunteer brigade, and they headed the parade in their grand uniforms and plumed hats, some on horseback, some on foot. There were brass bands and the whole population (en mass) of Seaham Harbour and the Cottages (it was seldom referred to as Dawdon) turned out to watch. At night a big ball was held in the drill hall. We stood around the outside to watch the people arrive for this great event. We goggled at their dresses of velvet, silk, satin and the jewellery worn by the women. The men were mostly in uniform, but some few were in tails. I remember peeping in and seeing a great cannon standing in the middle of the floor. I suppose it would be moved for the dancing. Yes, times were good and mildly exciting. We were poor, but we did not miss what we never had and we depended mostly on the weather for our enjoyment. What we had most of was fresh air. Families were large, houses were small, so we had to come in only at meal times. Even in the cold weather we spent most hours out of doors. We were warmly clothed, had good strong boots, had good plain food so we took no harm. When our fingers were cold we would stand up against the gable ends of houses and warm them on the wall. It was surprising the heat that penetrated from the large fires of the miners. They had free coal in an adequate supply so everybody was warm. Bricks or oven shelves were put in the beds to warm them. I can remember when we had only oil lamps. It was quite a ritual trimming the lamps each night before it turned dark. A man came round selling lamp oil. He had a trolley and he would shout ‘lamp oil, lamp oil’. It was a favourite pass-time of the children to stand round a corner, pop out and shout ‘what do you feed your donkey on’ and he would shout ‘lamp oil’.

We only had three little tuck shops at the Cottages. Old Janey had one in the first street. Danny had one in the second and MacDade’s had one in our street. Then a family had a little paper shop in their front room. They had a family of boys, one of whom fancied himself as a yodeller. You could hear Joe yodelling in the early and the late hours of every day. I remember their father used to bath them every Saturday afternoon in the poss tub in the back yard. We would see one little naked body after another running across the back lane into the house to be dried. They were as tough as nails or so we thought. However mother’s predictions came true for they were not a long living family. You see mother thought the best place after a bath was bed, and that one paid the price in after years for all this ‘foolhardiness’. It may have had no such effects.
Meals were not elaborate in our early days. All bread was baked at home. We had small round ovens, which were always hot. Mother used to bake 48 loaves at a time. She and her neighbour had an arrangement whereby one would bake one day and half was baked in the neighbours oven after she had made her midday dinner. Then when she wanted to bake Mother would stoke her oven and return the compliment. Then mother baked forty eight tea cakes each week. The boys liked them for their ‘bait’ down pit. A couple of tea cakes with jam in between was considered a good ‘bait’ down pit. Then she baked a large ginger cake in a big dripping tin and it was cut into squares. I can still see my father with a pint pot of cold water, a large chunk of ginger cake and his cracket, strolling across the back street. He would sit in the sun with his back to the backward wall and have his snack. He was also very fond of rhubarb pie and Victoria plums. We had a big bed of cherry rhubarb in our garden, so while it was in season we had plenty of rhubarb pies and puddings with white sauce over them and rhubarb jam. Gosh! I could never eat rhubarb jam again. There were stacks of seven pound jam jars stored on the top shelf of the big pantry. Some with a little apple mixed in and some with ginger. Mother worked exceedingly hard to make ends meet. She sometimes baked bread for sick neighbours, or washed a few shirts or towels to help a neighbour to ‘put over until she was well again’. She made all of our dresses and underclothes and night clothes. Everything she made was decorated with feather stitch. I remember she made my father and brothers some new flannel body shirts for the pit, and my father who was very witty said how nice they were but one thing was missing – the feather stitch. These shirts were put on when they finished their shift so that they absorbed the sweat and helped the miners to prevent them catching cold when they came to the cold atmosphere at bank. She also made ‘bait pokes’ and many a family bought them from mother. She also made ladies aprons, just very plain, made of white calico for best and blue and white checked ones for every day. She made a lot of chemises (shifts as they were called). Some were very decorative and lots of people having babies would buy them. All babies were breast fed in those days. Then there were things called abbot shirts which women wore when feeding babies. These prevented them from being too exposed. Pit men wore flappers. These were very simple and while covering the men allowed them plenty of air. They were worn like bathing trunks. When pitmen came from work these flappers were so wet and covered in pit dust one would have thought they had been dipped in a muddy pool. It was the job of the girls of the family to ease the lives of the miners by having hot water ready to fill the tin bath, and after the bath we had to wash out the flappers and socks and put them to dry. Then we took all the pit clothes outside and dashed them against the wall to remove the pit dust. One had to feel in the pockets and take out face cloths or bait pokes and often one found beetles in the pocket. My father and brothers would often say that they hung their clothes and bait pokes on pit props down pit and when they went for them they were covered in beetles. So a tinsmith set up a shop and began to make bait tins which were carried in their pockets. Then they had tin bottles made by the same man to carry their drinking water. Often we had to take these bottles to have new bottoms put in. They had a little ‘lug’ at one side of the neck through which a string was passed and it was hung on a button stitched to the shoulder of his coat. My father loved to scour the beach at the Blast Sands’ to collect corks washed up from the sea. Mother kept these in a special drawer after she had sterilised them, and everybody in the Cottages knew where to get a new cork for a pit bottle.

We also had to grease the pit boots. This kept the leather pliable. We would put tallow candles in a tin, put the tin in a warm place to melt the candles, then after removing all dirt with a scrubbing brush, we used a cloth to rub on the tallow. Men’s feet were often covered in blisters by the time they had walked three to four miles from the pit in ‘clarty’ socks and heavy boots. When the pit clothes were ‘dashed’ we put them in the right order, the coat spread out first, then the shirts then the socks then wrapped the sleeves of the jacket around the lot and put them into the cupboard under the stairs. When the time came around for another shift we lifted them out and spread them before the fire on the fender. Daughters had to work very hard in a family of pit workers. Woe betides you if you ever forgot to fill up the boiler at the side of the fireplace. The boiler was on the right and the oven on the left with a flue to feed each with hot air. The back of the fireplace had a shelf of two bricks wide. Coals were heaped on here to rake down with a big coal rake when needed. We had to take our turns at filling the coals’. How many mother? ‘Two on and two to stand’ was the answer. One full pail stood in readiness at either side of the back yard step. We had two steps up and a foot scraper at one side. This was sorely needed as streets were like ploughed fields in wet weather and at your peril to bring mud in on the good mats. People made their own mats in those days. Mother made one or two, as was needed, every Christmas time. As soon as the mat back was stitched into the frames we smelt Christmas. Mother would buy some red, green and gold felt at the store and cut it up into clippings. Some people measured these with a match box. Not Mother, she was as quick as lightening snipping the clippings and I bet you all would be the right length when she was finished. These coloured clippings were used to outline a pattern which my father had already designed. He was very good at drawing although he could neither read nor write. Mother was a good reader but oh the fun we had with her spelling! As she ran out of things for the pantry she would write the items with chalk on the back of the pantry door. We have spent hours trying to decipher them. She could, and always said the same thing ‘you talk about scholars, I can beat the lot of you’. Back to the mats. The rest of the mat was filled up with mixed clippings from old trousers or coats or such strong material so as to give good wear. Oh yes – and the border was always black. When the mat was finished and cut out of the frames it was my father’s job to make a big pan of toffee and this was shared amongst those who had had any share in the making. What a time to look forward to and to be the first to roll on the new mat. Great days. You will all notice that our pleasures had to be without cost. Mother many times had to go to bed as soon as my father had left for work, around 8:00 to 8:30, because she had no money for oil or the gas when it was installed.
Only twice can I remember my father and mother having a trip on a Saturday. Once they went on a train trip to Stockton. We children thought they had gone to the other side of the world. We had never been left on our own for so many hours, although my older sisters and brothers were quite capable. Father told us the train would pass along the line at the bottom of the street and we were all to wave farewell. We waited and waited but most of us were asleep before they came home, but we wakened up, came down stairs and they had brought a big bag of horehound candy. What jubilation. The other time they went to Sunderland. My mother brought a new hat for me. It was bright red and exactly like the helmets worn by Dad’s Army, only it had a big feather sticking out at one side. I hated it, however one of the girls in my Sunday school class chewed the feather almost entirely and finally when out one blustery evening the crown blew away and I was left with just the rim. Mother always bought our clothes when she saw bargains. Whether they fit or not was a different matter. I remember the sailor’s suit she bought for my brother John, to wear on the Sunday school trip. The legs reached down to his ankles, but it was Mother’s contention that that was the wise way to buy clothes then you grew into them. Poor bairn – he looked comical and matters were worsened because he had to wear his straw bertie with it. These were very popular but not with a sailor’s suit and to make matters worse everybody laughed and pointed. John had a violent temper and I often wonder that he did not take the offending trousers and rip them to pieces, instead of which he just walked with a red face and a very set mouth. It made him look worse. But we did not realise then as we do now in these affluent days, the struggle mother had to make ends meet. We were well fed and warmly clad thanks to her ingenuity. She could always manage a trip to the pantomime on a Saturday afternoon in the winter, a small present each from the three penny bazaar, with a new hanky and a new penny at Christmas time, a paste egg at Easter and carlings on Carling Sunday. No birthdays were celebrated, but then ‘there were too many’. Mother used to get very angry when one used this phrase in any connection with her family. She would say never say too many if you were talking of her family, because if God gave her a choice to sacrifice one she would not be able to decide. She was a good wise woman, but very strict, but then she had to be as there were twelve of us every day, including father, mother and Jack Blake. The latter was a cousin to us, nephew to my parents. His mother was my mother’s only sister and when she died, Jack, who was thirteen, joined our family. We always referred to him as Jack Blake. He was a good worker, and every fortnight on payday he would give each of the little ones of the family a penny. We looked forward to this as we never got any other money; men were paid every fortnight. One weekend was called pay weekend and other was called baff weekend. The pawnshops did a good trade every baff weekend. I remember one family, in our street, would have a glorious time on pay weekend. Friday was payday and all the family would be off to the theatre on the Friday night, into town on the Saturday and dead broke after that. Everything possible was pawned the next week. Mother was too proud to live this way. She schemed and pinched and made her money serve. Theatres and pictures were out of the question.
Boys and girls all played together. We played with balls and skipping ropes and hitchy dabbers and diablos (father called me the diablo queen) but he always predicted a broken nose. We played rings, choosing the boys we wanted to kiss and we played boy’s games as well. In winter the boy would put a candle in a jar hung with string. This was known as ‘the Maggie’. They would run away in the dark, shine their Maggie and we had to follow the light and try to catch them. As we ran we shouted the jingle: ‘Jack shine yer Maggie, or the dogs canna foller’. The girls played buttony. We had bags of buttons round our necks and we would play each other or in teams. We had to throw a button up against the wall and then your partner would follow suit. If you could span the distance between the two buttons you were the winner and took your partners button. Then we played hitch bays. Bays or squares were chalked on the ground, we had no pavements, and we hitched the dabber from square to square. Of course there were many rules and diversities in the game and one had to practise a good deal to be expert. We were not allowed to play any of these games on a Sunday, It was supposed to be against God’s rules, but I suspect it was because of our Sunday boots. But like all children we could find a way round. We played ‘Sunday bays’ which omitted the dabber, and ball games against the wall. The wall took the battering instead of our boots and that did not offend God. We could not play ring games like ‘Looby Loo’, ‘Old Roger is dead’, ‘Oh Mary what are you weeping for’ and Romans and British’ etc. because we could not sing songs on Sundays. I had to take the younger children out for a walk on Sunday morning while the dinner was being made. Of course we went to all the forbidden places. Many a lie we’ve told to cover up. Then we went to Sunday school which was held in the village school. I remember we were never allowed to miss, both mother and father were strict on this. But we never received a prize for good attendance. This went on for some years until Mother noticed that the prizes were given to the children who lived beside the teachers in the first and second rows. Some of my friends received a prize for good attendance in several successive years. So Mother took us away and sent us to the Free Church in Seaham Harbour. I loved it, and received a prize for my contribution at the Anniversary. It was a book called ‘A Basket of Flowers’. I loved the happy singing at Sunday School and it was such a bright lovely church in those days – alas it is no more. However, old ‘Daddy Copley’ was paying frequent visits to our house to bring us back to the fold, and after about a year and a half we were sent back to the dreary old school again. After this some of our family did get the odd prize. They stood on the best table which was covered with a plush cloth. The big family bible stood in the centre with grandmother’s photo on top, then the books at each corner with a photo of uncles and aunts on top. I remember some of the books quite well. My ‘Basket of Flowers’, ‘The last of the Mohicans’, ‘What Katy Did’, ‘The Log Cabin’, ‘Children of the New Forest’, ‘Bachelor’s Buttons’ and some I don’t remember at present. I loved them but Mother wasn’t keen on reading ‘trash’. All books were ‘trash’. She thought one’s time was better spent on mending, darning, knitting, etc. You see how times change and progress. I read a good deal when my children were young. Stories at bedtime, and rhymes and jingles were great pleasures for you when you were young and not the distorted versions my father used to repeat to amuse us. He would draw for us mostly amusing pictures and make up a story as he went on and we would be in stitches at him and remember he was no scholar. He bitterly regretted this all his life and was determined that we should not be like him. He told us many times that when he was only an infant he was brought to Seaham Colliery. His father was a miner and he went from pit to pit. He was taken to the local school and in order to find out which ‘class’ he was fitted for, the master asked him to read from a child’s book. Father recognised the picture and reeled off the nursery rhyme. The master looked very pleased but when asked to read the next page he did not recognise the picture and could not read a word. The master thought he had been taken for a ride and that he thought, should not escape punishment. He beat my father so severely that he ran from the building and no further punishment or persuasion could ever make him return.

Of course in those days children had to pay to go to school and no doubt my grandmother would be glad to be relieved of this debt. But how different these days, thank God or man for making it so. There was a life blighted from childhood for when he became an invalid in his latter years he would have been glad of a nice book to pass his weary hours in greater pleasure. Yes times have changed and the greater part for the better, but don’t believe that the old days were all bad. We were very poor, but we had a peace which you will never understand, that is why I still find great pleasure in my old age, watching the cows go back to pasture across our village green. It recalls my very young days when I sat on our garden wall and watched old Sally from Dawdon Farm call the cows, ‘kee-op, kee-op’, she would shout and all the cows would turn and follow her, I can see her still in her milk maid’s bonnet, skirt turned up at the front and pinned behind, with several frilled petticoats down to her heels and a coarse apron tied with string around the waist She had big boots and a very weather beaten face, having worked on the farms all her life. We knew her by no other name but Sally. We crossed the same field, went under the ‘Dardon Bridge’ to the farm for milk. We always took three cans ‘two pints of old and one of new please’. The old milk was very cheap and we had it on our porridge for breakfast. We used condensed in our tea. We never had coffee or cocoa. The latter we didn’t like and the former we had only heard of in the shops. The ‘hitchy dabbers’ I mentioned before were got from the ‘bottle house’. This was a factory making glassware. It was situated along Ropery Walk at Seaham Harbour, just before my time there had been a Ropery and a Blacking Factory, but these had ceased and the ‘Bottleworks’ employed many of the adult population of Seaham Harbour and the Cottages. Many of our friends worked there, but mother thought it a common place for girls. The ‘Blacking Factory’ I mentioned used to make, amongst other things, blacking for boots and horses harnesses. You put these black cakes in a tin, poured water over, then applied the paste to the boots or other articles to be polished. It needed a lot of elbow grease to make a shine. Jack Blake was an expert at making his boots shine. He took a great pride in his boots, so much so that no one had to touch them but himself. It was the girls’ job to take all the Sunday boots into the back yard on a Monday morning before school and clean them ready to put away until the next Sunday. Then when we got ‘off the floor’ that meant school or bed, in this case school. Mother would brush all the Sunday clothes, remove anything from the pockets and they were then folded and put away in the two bottom drawers of the tall boys (chest of drawers) until the next Sunday. Nothing but a funeral would disturb those clothes until the following Sunday. ‘Funerals’ – there was an occasion, alas not an uncommon one. Everybody in the Cottages would rally around the bereaved and on the day of the internment the body was brought from the house into the street and set upon chairs. The population would gather around and sing hymns and standing in the background would be the ‘waiters on’. These women would be dressed in their Sunday black with a white apron on. Mother was usually amongst them. Then the coffin would be carried to Dawdon Cemetery. Only the better off could afford a hearse. These huge black painted, glass fitted monstrosities were decorated with plumes at each corner. The bigger the plume the dearer the service. The mourners rode in cabs. If it were a child being buried, a box was hung on the back of the cab. It had sides of glass so that you could see the coffin. But I remember as a child seeing women carrying little white boxes under their arms. These were babies of a few hours or days old being taken by the midwives to the cemetery.
But even at death the miners could joke. They had a very keen sense of humour, and so many of their pals met with fatal accidents in those days that they must have developed this humour to protect themselves. The powers that be at the collieries showed no respect. It seemed to be considered as one of those things. I remember a man falling down the shaft into the sump. His wet dripping body was brought by comrades through the streets on a very roughly constructed hand cart. He had been a very short sighted man who wore very thick glasses and I, as a little girl, wept as I saw it go along. But I heard the men joking and actually laughing about it afterwards. Again I remember the story father told mother when one of our neighbours was killed. The official at the colliery chose a man to go down and break the news to the family. This was always a terrible job, so the chosen one tried all the way to think of a gentle or subtle way to break the news. This particular messenger knocked on the door and the housewife answered. He said “does widow Brown live here?”, she said “my name is Brown, but I’m not a widow”. He said, “well you soon will be when you see what is coming”. Yet they were only callous outwardly. Underneath they were a grand lot of men extremely kind to all children.
Men played several games in the little free time they had. I remember seeing them at marbles with a huge ring chalked at the bottom of the street. Street played street in competitions, and their knuckles would be red raw by the time the game was over. Remember we had no well laid roads or streets and no footpaths as we have today. They used to box, bare fists, and wrestle, all in fun but there were many black eyes and bloody noses, when they were finished. Another popular game was handball. The miners had a ‘ball alley’ at Seaham Colliery. This was a high very wide wall built on some waste ground near the bridge which led over the railway to the pit. It was smoothly cemented and was always kept in good trim. Men would smash a hard ball with their fists against this wall. They counted and followed various rules. They played in teams, and other collieries joined in matches just as they do with darts today. Then they had cards and domino matches. My father’s hobby was pigeons. Most men kept them. They had dockets at the bottom of their gardens, had pigeon races and really enjoyed their one day off at the weekend. Some men had whippets. You always knew a whippet man because he wore a red handkerchief tied tightly around his neck. These men were the gamblers, so my father wasn’t amongst them. Many men went fishing, especially those with male families. They owned their own cobbles, so fish was plentiful and cheap. They brought their catch and hung it on iron roped fences at the bottom of Church Street at Seaham Harbour. So if we wanted fish we went to the ‘rails’. There were four fish and chip shops in Seaham Harbour. These were only open at night, every night excepting Sunday. One proprietor was known as George Willie. It was near the Theatre Royal, the only place of entertainment in those days and at the interval, all would rush to George Willie’s. “Two ha’porths George Willie”, meant a fish and a ha’porth of chips. These were usually the families like the ones I mentioned before who lived up our street, no breeches with backsides in and no shoes to their feet, but the whole family excepting the father, would be at the theatre each week. We were only allowed to go to the pantomimes at Christmas time, but we were well clothed and well shod.

We looked forward with glee to pay Saturday. We had several families at the Cottages where the father took too much drink, and caused a terrible scene at the weekend. One man always opened the upstairs window and threw out pictures and crockery or anything that would go through the window. Another couple, for both drank too much, fought with flour. It is quite true. She would fetch a large bowl of flour from the pantry, put it on the table and they would throw handfuls at each other. Crazy! But great fun to watch. It was like a comic picture. Another one had a rifle. He was a poacher and he would scare the life out of the whole street. We children would see him rolling back home and we would scatter shouting ‘Jimmy Thomas’. The streets were emptied till Jimmy was safely indoors. I never knew him shoot the rifle but there was always the chance.
There were many hawkers in those days. We had only the little tuck shops at the Cottages, so hawkers were very welcome. There was the lamp oil man, the pikelet man with two clothes baskets on his head. These were filled with pikelets and covered with clean white cloths. When warmed and buttered these were lovely for tea. There was the yeast man. He came round once a week in a little trap. Mother could get the yeast on the baff week to pay for it on the pay week. There was the egg man, hen and duck eggs, brought in big baskets. No milkman, we carried our own from the farm. There was the ‘prop wife’ called one eyed Clara. What a character. Terrible to look at poor thing and this enhanced with her rags that she wore. She carried the props on her shoulders and called out “clothes props”. The boys and girls teased her unmercifully and she would reply with the foulest language, words that we had never heard but guessed they were swear words because it was Clara. She would go berserk, put down the props and chase them all, and really to see her with her arms and legs flaying the air was very laughable, but thank goodness she never caught anybody. Then there were fruit hawkers. Whatever was in season, someone would come round with a small horse and cart selling that fruit. There was the ragman. Oh their trumpets! They would give candy for rags, bones or jam jars. So any raucous noise was referred to as ‘the candy man’s trumpet’. Oh, I forgot to say the pikelet man rang a little hand bell. Then there was the potman. His visits were fairly rare, but I can still see him with about a dozen plates in his hand which he rattled. He held them like a man holds a stack of cards when he is displaying them. He also sold brown dishes and jars. Then there was the second-hand clothes woman with her big basket. They were clothes begged from the better off and sold cheaply to the poor. Not for mother. She said you never knew what diseases you might get from them. There was the vinegar man. It was surprising the trade he had, but then people in those days were very fond of vinegar and gardeners had onions, beetroots and pickling cabbages to pickle for the winter. In every pantry you would see big jars of pickles ready for the winter. We never had preserved fruit. Mother believed in fresh fruit when it was in season. Once a man came round selling eggs. They were extremely cheap. He said he had got them from a boat in the docks. Someone who had been served first happened to use them straight away and found out they were all bad. Word went round the grapevine in no time at all, and the poor man was pelted with the rest of his eggs before he could make his escape. Make no mistake, tempers ran very high if they thought they were being cheated.

Money was scarce so every halfpenny counted. I remember going shopping with mother and a thing would be marked 6 3/4d. Now the farthing was being phased out, so mother reckoned if you could not get your farthing change why mark things in farthings? So she decided she would have her money’s worth and asked for a farthings worth of pins in lieu of her farthing. She never purchased anything without a lot of palaver. She would ask for something made of cotton and she would pull this way and that and examine it thoroughly and reject it saying it was full of starch and when washed would be like a clout. If by buying two small items she could save a farthing she would buy two. I can still feel her nudging me with her elbow and saying “you have to watch shopkeepers, they are selling but I’m buying”. Every Monday following the pay Saturday she would go to the Co-op. She would say “if I only have a penny or tuppence to put in the savings bank, I know that I am not in debt, and always remember pennies grow into shillings”. She would also say “you can look anybody in the face if you have a pound or two behind you”. She didn’t economise on food, she bought all she could afford, but we often just had half a kipper each for tea, or even half an egg. I often think of her when I have a boiled egg. I can see Mother with one flick of a knife, slice an egg in equal halves and never waste a bit of yoke. What a mother to be proud of. Mind you, disobey her, or cross her in any way and out came the tawse. We called them ‘the tars’. This was a leather strap with tails cut half way up. One lash with the ‘tars’ and you submitted. Yet we had a lot of love. Father would sit by the hour asking guessing stories. Many of them were made up by himself. He would repeat nursery rhymes which had little semblance to the original but were much more entertaining. The same with fairy tales. His father was quite a good scholar although he was self taught. At the early age of eight he lost his parents, and his sister and he was left alone. They lived in the Isle of Man. His sister went to train as a nurse in London, she being the elder, and my grandfather came to Cumberland as a stowaway. He often used to tell us of the old cottage they left behind. One room downstairs with half of a ceiling built above. This half made an upstairs bedroom, which had a ladder. I saw one which I imagined must be very similar when I was in the Isle of Man. He never heard from his sister again, as he had landed in Whitehaven. He was looked after by a miner and his family and worked as a trap boy down pit. He was only eight years old. As he grew older he went to other pits, then married and had a family, finally settling in Seaham Colliery. He was a great one in the union movement and was deported to America, as he was blacklisted and could not get work throughout the country. He was brought back and became one of the best respected men at Seaham Colliery, but a strong trade unionist.

My father David, called after his father, was the second son. He married my mother who was an orphan. She had a sister (I am called after her) and a brother. Mother was the youngest. Her father was a sea going man. He had gained his tickets and had been promised his own ship on the next voyage, but was lost at sea, just off Hartlepool. This was a great tragedy for the family. My grandmother was terribly crippled with rheumatism and could do nothing. In those days when the head of the house was taken the whole family fell to pieces. Mother’s sister and brother had been well educated (for a poor class) but mother got not further education after reaching seven. At eight years old she was working at the farm, but she was always grateful for the kindness the farmer’s wife displayed towards her mother. It wasn’t the coppers she received but the butter, eggs, potatoes and a turnip each week, sufficient with care to last them. All those years afterwards mother still used to weep about the heartbreak her mother suffered over parting with her bits and pieces. They could receive no assistance as her mother refused to part with her sewing machine. All they had left was the table, three chairs and the beds. Although grandmother could no longer use the machine she was bent on keeping it for mother. Grandmother had been a tailoress, indeed, she made the riding habits for quality in her younger days, being employed in a shop for that purpose. Mother too was very handy with the machine. Employers seemed so heartless in those days. Yet mother always got comfort from the fact that she had been spared the fate of my father’s aunt.
She worked down the mine. She pulled the tubs like a beast. Yet she lived till she was eighty. She was a very small, thin but tough old lady. She always looked as if she had just got out of a tub of hot water. Her clothes too were plain but immaculate. She wore a little bonnet tied with ribbons under her chin, a big warm shawl and very bright black boots. I do not think she had ever ridden in any vehicle in her life, but walk, my goodness, she had her constitutional every day. Her house which consisted of one room and a pantry was as clean and neat as herself, and I remember she made ginger beer to get a few coppers, well she had to, her room cost one shilling and sixpence a week rent. Mother used to send her a quarter pound of tea every pay weekend. Her husband had left her with two small children. You see she was a Salvationist, a non smoker, non-swearer, non-drinker and non-gambler, just a good efficient housewife. She was very roughly spoken, but very honest. Matt her husband was none of these and so at last she gave him to understand that he must either conform or get out. He chose the latter and she worked very hard to bring up her two children respectfully. Years afterwards, she was paying a visit to her sister (my grandmother) when they heard someone singing in the street. Thinking it was a beggar, a very usual thing in those days, grandmother looked out of the window and asked Aunt Annie if it was Matt. Yes it was. She got up to the window and pelted him with all the tea things on the table. The astonished Matt made his getaway as quickly as possible and was never heard of again.

Grandmother was a little stout woman with the pinkest parting down the centre of her snow white hair. She was what we would call a canny little soul, mild and gentle and greatly loved by grandfather. He was boisterous and drank a lot, talked a lot but left the house and family in control of grandmother entirely. When I was very small they lived in the old mill I told you of at the beginning of this tale. It had ceased to work and was converted into a dwelling house called the Round House. It was extremely quaint but neither hygienic nor satisfactory. Next to it were some little old cottages called the Mill Cottages. They have long since disappeared. Next to the Round House was a big field, one had to climb a stile to get to it, and I remember the big dog grandmother had leaping over this stile. In their latter years they lived a little distance from this mill in the Miners Homes. Grandfather paid frequent visits to the Mill Inn, where he was well known and well treated. His legs were failing him and when he left the pit at night he would stand and shout “Janey, Janey” at the top of his voice and Janey would come and take him home. He had to promise he would not cross the road without her. He died when he was 83 and grandmother soon followed him at 81. Their family did not reach anything like these ages. My father was only 53. He never touched spirits in his life, yet my grandfather has been known to drink several bottles in a week. He used to say it preserved him and that was the last thing he asked for before he died. Grandmother’s house was very clean but very poor as was normal in those days. I remember Grandfathers big arm chair with the spittoon beside it. He was not allowed to spit into the fire place. She had a square table, a dresser and some odd chairs. I also remember a stool made out of a butchers block. It was very, very heavy, but it stood solid on four legs and could not be tippled. Grandmother seemed so opposite to Grandfather. She neither smoked nor drank, nor swore. She had little to say, whereas Grandfather never stopped talking. After rambling on he would look at her for some comment and all she ever said was “aye so Betty was saying”, or “aots man” yet she could rule him and he loved her.
As I said before Father had his pigeons. Uncle Bob (he was father’s brother in law) lived up the street and he was a great pal. He had a very loud voice, which was always heard above all others, and when he laughed it could be heard all over the Cottages. He laughed all the hours that he was awake mostly at himself, which my father used to say, showed the quality of the man. I remember when Uncle Bob built his first pigeon ducat. He built it in the attic room of his house, and then found he could not get it through the door. He had everybody in the Cottages up looking at this beautiful ducat he had made before he would take it to pieces again. It caused peels of laughter, the loudest from Bob himself.
Talk of smoking. Even the old women smoked pipes. Ganny Race would sit at her back door enjoying her pipe. I can picture her so vividly. She was a tiny little woman with a very wrinkled face. She always called bananas ‘fananas’. Her husband was just as tiny. He had an accident at the pit which caused brain damage. He became like a little child, I remember he used to run out of the house as soon as her back was turned. One day I and some other children were playing at the bottom when we saw the old man running towards us. He was just in his shirt, no pyjamas in those days, so we ran for Ganny. Of course, before she caught him he was half way across the cows’ field. We were highly amused when we saw her bringing him back. She was holding up his shirt tail and slapping his bottom as he ran, just like you would treat a naughty child. “Run away wad ye, I’ll larn ye”, she was saying. I am saying old Ganny Race, but you know she would not be sixty, because she did not die until nearly twenty years later. But people looked and dressed old when they were comparatively young. Grandma bonnets and capes, with long trailing skirts made them look very old. Mother never wore those, they were going out of fashion.
Mother had to go down into Seaham Harbour every Saturday night to do her shopping. Shops were open then until near midnight. She would see all the work done and the young ones bathed and in bed before she went out. Two older ones were left in charge. As my oldest sister went into service I was left with my sister older than me to keep charge. My sister was always up to some tricks. Once she varnished all the furniture. My mother was really mad when she returned and we couldn’t sit on a chair or touch the furniture for days. There was no quick drying in those days. Another time she had a fancy to make welsh rarebit, but as the frying pan would smell of cheese and give the game away she fried it on the dust pan. The greasy mark left behind gave the show away. Another time she would make some pancakes. But instead of a few tablespoons of flour, she used a very big dish full, mixed it with water and poured a good pan full out. It would not set so we had to get rid of the lot. Where and how, that was the point, so we each took a cup and threw a cup full into every midden in the street, thereby spreading the load. It was years afterwards when we told mother. For once we fooled her.
Then my father began to stay with us instead of going out. He would make a pan of toffee and would tell us not to tell mother or he would get into trouble for wasting the stuff. This was just a joke because he knew what would happen. When mother returned we would stare at her until she asked what was wrong and childlike we would say “father hasn’t been making toffee”. Sometimes when the little ones were off to bed, he would make a big pan of hot pot. He knew my brother and Jack Blake would be hungry when they returned. Mother had already made some flat yeasty cakes ready for tea. This was always our Saturday tea with a big jar of strawberry jam. A treat from the rhubarb. Many a chunk has Mother given to the beggars. There were many of these in those days both men and women and especially cripples. Some would sing some would play mouth organs and some would dance. Especially popular were the Scots in full regalia with bagpipes and swords. They would do the sword dance and many of the women in our street would join in a highland fling. They would give these men the very last of their coppers. I remember one beggar who came regularly and was often served by mother. She must have been very short this day but had not the heart to face the man. So she told me to say “she is not in today”. He said, “well I’ll not be back tomorrow”. Out popped mother and told him “never” would be soon enough and he could save himself the bother of ever calling again. That was the last we saw of him. There were several men who lived in the caves on the ‘Blast Sands’. One was known as Loppy Dick. He hung in absolute rags and never washed, but he didn’t beg and no matter how he was teased he never spoke a word. He lived there for many years but was never in any trouble for he molested no one.

We had our weirdoes even in those days. We were severely warned against them and would scatter quickly when we saw them. They molested little girls and the funny thing was they belonged to very good families.
I remember the women who came round at Christmas time with a dolly in a box, supposed to be the Christ child. It was always on the Christmas Eve, after mother had hung up the mistletoe. These were the rims of apple barrels, two inside of each other and decorated with coloured tissue paper. Mother was a good hand at these. Then we bought little toys, sometimes candy ones, to hang on the mistletoe. I remember spending all my money at one go on a wax angel. It was so beautiful with its little gilt wings I couldn’t leave it in the bag. I was taking it out to have another peep when I let it fall. I remember I said “aoh-ah” and that lived with me for many years. The poor angel never reached the mistletoe. I can still picture father teasing us on a New Year’s Eve telling us to go to the bottom and we would see a man with as many noses as there were days in the year. After looking at all the men we saw we would come back and tell him they had all only one nose. My mother had to explain, because he just went on teasing. We all had to sit very still when he was using his cut throat razor, getting ready for going out “where are you going Da?” we would say, “to get my ears pinned back” “Are you going to the doctors then?” “Aye my doctor”, he would say meaning the pub but we didn’t guess. When he came back we would examine his ears very closely, but could see no sign of any shifting but he would insist we were blind. The next time he would say he was going to have his lugs put back again and there was the same performance. He used to get 2/- or 2/6 every fortnight for pocket money, and every Sunday following the pay day he would send us to old Janey’s shop to buy some sweets. This cost him 2d. He would share the sweets amongst us. We had to choose small sweets so that they would go round. This always happened after we had been to church on the Sunday evening. We couldn’t wait for the service to finish. In the later years, as we got to thirteen or fourteen we were allowed out for a while after evening service. Everybody made for the terrace at Seaham Harbour. Boys and girls would follow each other, exchanging chat, from the Railway Street corner to the old infirmary and back again. The Terrace was brightly lit with sweet shops and it was a great attraction. I bet every couple in that generation met and courted on the Terrace. Very few young people ventured beyond the old infirmary, it was a dark stony frightening road beyond. Yet in daylight we loved to roam down Lover’s Lane, now Denehouse Road but when we got to the sea we turned back again. On summer nights Saturday and Sunday it was a great delight to go into Adam and Eve’s gardens. These were beautifully kept gardens, where bunches of flowers, fruit and drinks were served. You went down Chapel Road as far as the police station and opposite was an opening. You walked down a bank, across a foot bridge over a stream and into the gardens. There were stone effigies of Adam and Eve set in the flower beds.
Talking of the police station reminds me of our village bobby. He lived in the first house of the Cottages. The mistress of the school, a Scots lady lived in the same street. The policeman was a big, strong fellow, magnificent in his uniform. He was a friendly, fatherly figure, but mind you everybody had the greatest respect for him. Boys used to get up to tricks but anything beyond the limit and they got a severe clout across the face with his gloves. They seldom repeated the offence. Everybody went to him with their troubles and he always lent a willing ear. He had a big family himself and understood young people. He joined in all activities so there was always order. I remember only once Jack Blake had had too much to drink. He had the horrors as they were called. Bring the police. Now, he would whip him into custody but not our village man. He sat on Jack, douched him with cold water, undressed him, put him to bed and stayed until he was sound asleep.
Our doctor lived in Seaham Harbour. He was six feet three, a very fine looking Irishman. He had great respect for mother. He thought she was the best and most efficient housewife he had come across and told her so. When the last of her nine children were born, he asked her what she was going to call it. She said she had run out of names, so he suggested calling it Gerald after himself. This mother did and he gave the baby a threepenny bit. He sometimes rode on a horse to pay his visits.

I seem to be hopping about like a cat on a griddle. I am back again to New Year’s Day. This was Mother’s Day. Father would say “let ma alone today, look after yourselves because it’s her day off”. You see the neighbours had parties in each others houses. Mother’s was always on New Year’s Eve. There was singing, dancing, joking, eating and drinking. Mother always boiled a ham, a big piece of beef, a pig’s head which was pressed in a dish with a plate on top and on top of that the flat iron. She did a big dish of spare rib and rabbits made into a pie. With the stock she made a furnace pot full of broth. It would take my father a whole day to chop the vegetables. We had plenty to eat for a full week, so that the celebrations could go on. You see life was still good even on ginger wine. She was due to this week of celebrations because she had papered and painted and scoured and washed and made mats all in preparation, and all with the greatest enthusiasm and anticipation. She was a great dancer. I can still see her twinkling toes whenever she heard music. Father never danced but he would sit in a corner and enjoy watching.
Of course we had ‘broken up’ at school. We had had ‘the scramble’. This was a ritual always held on the last day of school. The Marchioness of Londonderry supplied an orange for each child. Then she supplied a big sack of mixed nuts. The centre of the big room was cleared and the nuts were thrown onto the floor and we all had to scramble to get at them. The thickest skin held the longest out. Needless to say the boys did better than the girls but it was all hard fun. Sometimes Lady Londonderry would visit the schools when in residence at Seaham Hall. We were taught special songs, mostly patriotic to sing to her. She was a singer herself with a deep contralto voice. I remember she sang for us once, ‘Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep’. I can still see this well made woman, weighed down with a big hat trimmed with huge ostrich feathers. I thought my mother looked far nicer in her new hat with the bird’s wing in the front, which she bought to go to Stockton, and she had a much smarter figure. In fact she was more commendable in all ways to our minds, but don’t tell the Marchioness.

The big day in the year for the men was ‘Cavel Day’. This was a draw at the pit to see where the putters and hewers worked for the next so many months. Some places were good and some were very bad. On Cavel Day all one could hear was “what’s thee cavel Dave”? “Oh in the watta”, was the reply. This meant he worked in a seam full of water, which brought their skins out in great big boils. It was the dread of every man to ‘get in the watta’. Some families were very lucky and got good cavels, others always seemed to be dogged with bad luck, so there was either great despondency or great joy. These men worked in teams, called ‘marras’. “Wee’s the marras?, one would ask another, when the man told his enquirer “bugger my” you knew the poor fellows marras weren’t up to much. The putter filled the coals into tubs. The coal hewer hewed the coals and the putter filled them into the tubs and hung a token on each one as it was filled. There were ‘token slingers’ at work sometimes. This was a man who changed the tokens on another man’s tub. They were hard to catch, but when they were, they were either heavily fined or dismissed. His life wasn’t worth living if he was caught for he was never forgiven by his workmates. These hard working men had Saturday and Sunday off, but maintenance men had no respite and men like my father only had a Saturday. Mind you they could be sent for at anytime of the day or night for an extra shift, which was always reckoned a ‘god send’. Sometimes father would work a double shift. A boy would call for extra bait to be sent down to him. I remember my oldest sister writing on the bait poke Father’s name, The Maudlin, Staple Top. The ‘Mauldin’ was the name of the seam. Then there was the ‘the Main’ and many others. My father’s ‘marra’ lived at Seaham Harbour but they always met at the crossing to travel along pitman’s walk over a footbridge onto Seaham Colliery Road, then up the Black Road to the ball alley, across the railway bridge and into the pit yard. It was a long way on foot especially in the winter, and it was very, very lonely and dark. I remember I once walked up the Black Road in daylight as I was going to visit my grandmother, then on my way back I had to call at the overman’s office and collect my father’s pay note. This was every other Thursday just after tea. As I went up the Black Road, two pitmen were walking in front of me. I kept well behind and when they came to the high wall around the pig field they stopped. So did I and they shouted “away hinney we’ll not hurt ye”, but I off back home without the note. This was a terrible thing to do, as you had to have a very good excuse for not collecting the note at the proper time or place, otherwise it was returned to Londonderry Offices where all the knobs worked and they could treat you with great disdain. When I explained to father he said the men would be hiding their pipes near the wall, with their matches so that when they left the pit at the end of their shift, they could have a smoke on their way home. This proved correct as the two men recognised me and explained to father. You see when mother was a little girl, a playmate was murdered on Feather Bed Rock and we got so many warnings all men were suspect, so I was forgiven. I do not know how or where the note was collected.
I forgot to mention the game of quoits which was very popular. A big spike was driven into the ground and the mean threw heavy rings called quoits to land on the spike. All these games have many rules which must have made them very entertaining as they were very popular. Collieries played collieries for prizes.
Every morning very early say two three or four o’clock a man called a caller used to come round to call up men for the first shift. He would knock on the door with a knobby stick, and shout ‘caller’. He would continue to knock until you answered so it was best to jump straightaway or all the house, or even the street, would be wakened. I remember one caller was very deaf and would go on knocking until someone opened the door. My brothers thought it would be good fun to frighten him. They waited until they heard his footsteps at the yard gate and then they hammered on the inside of the door. He was mad and they could hear him cursing all the way down the street. The man who came to warn about the working of the colliery was called ‘the crake man’. He rattled this crake up and down the street before telling that the pits would be idle.
I have told about funerals, now I shall tell about christenings. These were big events, almost as big as the weddings. Even the fathers would not miss or the uncles. The woman who carried the baby to church would give away its ‘cheese and bread’. This was the name given to the little parcel presented to the first girls she met if it was a baby boy being christened, or the first boy she met if it was a girl being christened. The parcel had small cakes, a piece of the christening cake and some money in it. Weddings were big occasions too. It wasn’t common for the bride to be in white. Any gay colour would do. Everybody wore buttonholes and most people walked to the church, but the bridal party went in a cab drawn by two horses gaily decorated with ribbons. All the children of the Cottages would gather and as the bridal cab began to move we shouted “hoy a ha’penny out”. The men would throw out coppers and we would scramble for them. The men would all go off to the pubs after the meal and then return late to end in a punch up. The newly married couple usually set up house in one upstairs room of their parent’s home. In Seaham Harbour there were many houses with little cottages built in the back yards. These little two bedroom cottages were greatly prized but one had to know the landlord to be able to acquire one. Key money as it was called was often exchanged as bribes in those days as houses were in short supply. They were between 1/6 and 2/6 a week rent. My cousin set up in one of these cottages and it was very comfortable. My Aunt Annie whom I mentioned earlier had one room downstairs at the corner of Adelaide Row and above her in one room was an ex-schoolmistress. Aunt Annie was very religious and thought God has blessed her in choosing such an aristocratic lady to be her near neighbour. All the ‘elite’ of Seaham lived in Marlborough Street. Seaham Harbour Station stood at the top. There was a ramp to walk up to the Station and as children we used to love to run up and down this on a Sunday morning. To get to it we had to walk down to Seaham Harbour and go up Marlborough Street. There was an alternative, but we had to cross the South Hetton Line and walk along the Black Road which brought you out at the cabin crossing. But this Black Road was very narrow and hemmed in on one side by the railway embankment and on the other by alley-ways leading to the allotments. One man who had one of these allotments was a bad character so we were forbidden to go along the Black Road without escort. So we used Marlborough Street but we were often chased away. These houses had small front yards and footpaths. The occupants all boasted maids who scrubbed the steps and paths so we were not allowed to walk on them. We had to walk on the road and even so were often made to turn back. Class distinction was very rife. We went down the docks to play on a Sunday morning, because we knew there would be no one around. We were forbidden to go there, but children have always been the same. Then we went back home to our Sunday dinner. After dinner, Sunday School and mother would have an afternoon nap on top of the bed. This was a great treat for her.
As I have told you before we all had earth closets. There was a big wooden seat which stretched from wall to wall narrow ways. This had to be scrubbed after washing day, because one could not throw out good hot soapy water. Then it was scrubbed again at the weekend on a Saturday morning. It was a rotten job and we used to wrap a scarf around our nose and mouth. Poor Paddy the midden man had to shovel them out and lead his load away to the tip. Some people used to scrub their chairs and tables. We scrubbed, baking boards, rolling pins, potato mashers, brushes and broom handles and anything made of wood and used in the house. Then we cleaned knives, forks and spoons with bath brick every Saturday morning. An older member of the family would do the brasses. These consisted of fender, tidy betty, brass kettles and stands, candlesticks etc. The hearth was whitened with whiting, and the fireplace blackleaded. This would all take up to dinner time. Then the floors would be scrubbed downstairs and mats replaced which took up to teatime, when the men would return from their football matches. The females of the house relaxed after tea until it was time to bath the little ones and put them to bed. Monotonous? Well we were so glad of a relaxing hour or two that we enjoyed it. Anyway it was our way of life and grumbling got you nowhere. There were no places of amusement as in these days, but we enjoyed an early evening with “The Band of Hope” or at church concerts. Sometimes we had a ‘magic lantern’ show. These were generally shown to help missionary work. These all took place in the long winter evenings, in summer you could find your own recreation in the fields or streets.

Religion in those days was a scary thing. We believed that for every lie we told we would pay for it in the hereafter by having a hot poker pushed down our throats. ‘Don’t eat while you sit on the netty, or you were feeding the devil’ was a firm belief. The netty was the name for the earth closets. It was so widely used we thought nothing of it; in fact people had the name in whitewash on their back yard doors, because any hawker or beggar could use it without question. God was never presented as a kindly fatherly figure but more of a spy watching, unseen, any little misdemeanours one committed, yet overlooking the good. One expected him behind any door ready to pounce and slap you down to size. Death was the ultimate, when God decided to send you to heaven or hell, where you burned in a fierce furnace forever for any sin committed. Imagine any sensitive child lying in sheer terror at nights recalling all his little sins of the passing days. We feared our parents, the priests, the policemen and the ‘class’ of our society. I often think now that we only enjoyed God’s free gifts like, fresh air, wind, rain, snow, the green grass and most of all for me, the birds and flowers. Seeing a swallow now brings surges of happiness that I have forgotten for so long. My father was a bird lover. After a hard long night shift in the mine he would come home, have his bath, get his breakfast, crumble some bread to put on the yard fence posts for the birds and take an early stroll across the fields onto the Blast Sands. He would come home have his dinner and go to bed until it was time to go to work again.
Everybody bathed in either the poss tub or big tin bath. If the poss tub was used it was rolled to the back door after use and tipped over the step. The water cleaned the yard and gutters with the aid of a broom. If a tin bath was used two people had to carry it to the door to tip it for the same process. We had to rub the backs of the miners with a coarse towel. These towels were made from coarse sugar bags. Every family had one or more coarse towels hanging from a nail on the pantry door. You used them to dry any part of your body excepting your face. As I said before we rubbed men’s backs with them, as it was a general thought that washing weakened a miner’s back. You can imagine what it was like for all the members of a big family to get a weekly dip. The tin bath hung on a nail in the back yard when not in use.
We had our own special dialect, which was a mixture of Scottish, Irish, Wels and English, like the population of the Cottages at that time. We never said ‘go’ but ‘gan’, ‘tak’ instead of ‘take’, thrippeny bit, ‘hume’ instead of ‘home’, ‘lugs’ instead of ‘ears’, ‘brick’ instead of ‘break’, ‘breed instead of ‘bread’. Oh dear, it was like a foreign language. For example – ‘had away doon the bottom an see if ye can fin the bairns’, ‘if I etter tell ye again the can luck oot for it”. The boys in class at school felt positively soft when they had to read from a book. In fact some of them could not understand the language, swear words were used always by many children, but they had to be clean swearing. It was not allowed in our home, but we knew all the words.
School was a terrible place. It was the rule of the rod, and parents had no redress. It was supposed to be good for us. The lessons were very monotonous. Reading, writing and arithmetic. Writing in the winter was really terrible, because a blot from your pen brought severe punishment. We had a little geography and history when we reached the senior class, but geography was just a repetition of all the rivers, mountains and promontories around the coast of England. We learned songs, mostly patriotic, but these lessons were only occasional. When you reached the top standard the boys got drawing and the girls sewing. A garment like a nightdress would be produced by each pupil and that was all. We learned all we ever knew in sewing and knitting from mother. One could sit an examination at 12 or 13 years to leave school. It mostly depended on the state of the labour market whether one succeeded. Boys went to the mines girls went to the Bottleworks or into service. A servant girl was lucky to receive three shillings a week for doing all the work including washing, cooking and minding the children while the mistress went out at night. They would have Saturday night free, one week and Sunday night the next, always depending on the whims of the mistress, but as mother said if they were in service they ‘were one less to feed out of our own pantry’.

Life was very hard for our parents but, of course, like all children we did not realise this. But one good thing was we were free from all fears of war, which when we came to experience war later on brought home to us our peaceful security in our very young days.
Washing days were the greatest dread in those days. I remember our clothes were made of strong heavy stuff, like worsteds or woollens, for endurance as they had to be handed down. These were hard to wash and harder still to dry. People had very big mangles in those days, but no spin dryers, or biological washing powders. No, the dirt had to be removed by hard scrubbing with hard blue mottled soap. This was bought in long bars and stacked for weeks to harden so that ‘they would go a long way”. Mother bought blue mottled for household purposes and ‘pale’ soap for personal purposes. All was hardened in a cupboard for weeks until you could scarcely cut it up. Clothes were possed with a poss stick made of hard wood. The part that possed was like a tree trunk cut like clothes pegs are cut. Then there was a handle convenient in length for the handler, with a thick wooden peg at the top to hold when possing. Plonk, plonk, plonk went the posser, plonk, plonk, plonk if you double possed. Mother had two possers because everything was double possed. But the drying was a different matter. If the weather was fine and windy all was well. The clothes were hung in the gardens and across the back street. But in bad weather they hung in the small kitchens for nearly a week, and tempers were frayed to breaking point, trying to dodge damp clothes. If the weather was good tempers were good and there was singing and much banter between neighbours. I laugh now when I think of the clothes flying in the back street. Women’s wide voluptuous shifts and bloomers of every deep colour you can imagine, swelled out with the wind like barrage balloons. Men’s long Johns and wide big shirts of flannel, all blowing in the wind. The remarks passed were jolly and in clean good fun. There was widespread happiness on those lucky days. But big rolleys covered in, bringing goods from the co-op would be sure to come on washing day. Some of the drivers, who always came from Seaham Harbour, would be anything but helpful. There was widespread antipathy towards the Cottages people to start with, so they would drive through the clothes, knocking out the props and snapping the lines. Clothes would be dragged through the streets and dirtied. The women decided they had had enough. They knew the drivers and decided to wait. It only needed one rumpus, and no driver did it again. They knocked at the door and asked if they could be through, sometimes clothes had to be taken down, sometimes they could be propped higher, but peace was restored. There were Catholics and Protestants all living together, and sometimes there was trouble but no more so than between Catholic and catholic or Protestant and Protestant. Gunpowder Plot was a great night. There were plenty of crackers and London lights and a big bonfire. It was a welcome way to get rid of a year’s rubbish for parents, and a jolly night for all of us. But our joy was marred the year a tiny tot was burned to death in its pushchair. Its older brother or sister had left it too close to the bonfire. I witnessed it and I have always been fearful of bonfires since. But the old order changeth. When I was nine years old a railway line was built along the bottom of our street connecting the South Hetton line to a site near Dawdon Farm. It was the foundation of the ‘new pit’ as it was called at Dawdon. Trucks began to fly backwards and forwards an on this line and one of my playmates was killed, crushed between two wagons. He was a rough boisterous happy boy. As he came rushing out of school that fateful lunchtime I remember the teacher shouting after him. “Tom Wharton, you know what’s in store for you when you come back”. But he never came back. Then houses began to spring up, houses for the new miners, occupied first by the sinkers and freezers working on the new pit shaft. Our little peaceful village was no more. Streets and streets of houses, newly built, began to be occupied by miners from outlying collieries, and we began to be despised. Although these people had left worse colliery houses than our beloved cottages they felt superior in their new houses, and we were gradually pushed out. A new school was built and new teachers bought in. A new church was built and a new vicar installed. A new surgery was built and a new doctor appointed. What a change. We did not want to stay anymore. Whereas we had hated the idea of leaving the Cottages to go to Seaham Colliery, we now queued to go. Once over everybody longed to be given a house at the Cottages, now nobody was keen, only as a last resort. Mind you I had never heard of Durham Big Meeting until Dawdon Colliery came into being. I suppose it was too costly for our fathers to go to Durham so it passed us by. But not now, this new breed made a great thing of their big meeting. It was talked of for a good few weeks before and then on the day before the women folk were kept busy baking. I remember seeing meat pies and bilberry pies galore outside cooling, all in readiness for the big day. The banners and band were on the march to Seaton Station at six o’clock that morning. What a turn out and what a return in the evening. We had never in all our lives seen as many drunken men. But we were to see a lot of them in the future. I suppose it was a way of life then and, of course, times have changed again.
At first I didn’t like the school although I loved the new teachers. I didn’t like the church, but all this was because it was a new way of life. At first the church called ‘St Hilda’s (HILD’S??) and St Helen’s’ was referred to as the brick factory. The inside was all bare brick, no doubt the best of bricks, but the pillars were square and all brick. We had been used to round, plastered pillars nicely painted, but this was new, and it took some of us a long time to accept it. All our lovely fields disappeared and new roads opened up to what had been to us inaccessible places, we felt old, small and despised. The Cottages had died and we mourned its loss and many of us forsook it and went to live at Seaham Colliery. I myself felt my childhood had been ruthlessly destroyed. I think we look back with nostalgia on many things which are better to look back on than to endure. Our parents were very strict and ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ was strictly followed. I know if mother said we were to be punished we were punished. I remember the time near Christmas when a concert was to be given by the Sunday Schools in the Candlish Memorial Hall. This was a big building, a community centre, we would call it now, situated near the Bottleworks. I had been presented to the community in memory of one of the Candlish family who owned the Bottleworks. Now a girl who lived in our street, who fancied herself as a theatrical, and whom we regarded as a stuck up clown (which she may not have been) was one of the artists. She was going to sing and dance. Our motive for going to the concert was quite ignoble, for we had no idea of the girl’s ability. To us it was a great joke. We had looked forward for weeks to the great event but when the Saturday dawned the rain simply pelted down and we couldn’t go out of doors. A Saturday of all days to rain like that when there was so much work to be done in the house. So mother said we could play in the upstairs bedrooms, but not in the best room. Well there was a crowd of little feet galloping around and the noise got on mother’s nerves and at last she said ‘any more and no concert’. You would think this would have curbed us but somehow it didn’t, and we thought she would be so glad to be rid of us for the whole afternoon that she would relent. Not mother, all our apologies and tears could not move her, so we did not go to the concert. Our friends afterwards sang high praises for our girl and we had missed it. You can imagine what we thought and said on the sly about our punishment, but no doubt we deserved it. I wouldn’t care there was only a collection and we could pass the plate without any shame, we were so used to it.
Shanks’ pony was our way of travel. I can remember my first ride in a train; I would be eight or nine. Mother took us to Roker in the summer holidays. ‘Never again’ she said and no wonder. We had bottles of water, bread and jam and teacakes, which we thought a sumptuous meal. But the seaside air made us so hungry it had gone as soon as we hit on the beach. Mother couldn’t afford to supplement this and we were all crying out for something to eat before we had been there half of the allotted time. It was a long trail from Roker to the Sunderland Station and another nearly as long from Seaham Harbour Station to the Cottages. That was the end of our trips. Mother said and quite truthfully that we had more fun playing in our own fields with much less bother. Then I remember having a ride in a trap. A man living at Seaham Colliery had ponies and traps which were used for public travel. Two used to stand at Seaham Harbour beside the store. It was called the Castlereigh Stand. It took you up Seaham Colliery Road to Model Street. That was its terminus. My grandmother lived in the house attached to the Miners Hall. So we left the trap and walked up the Black Road. I thought I was somebody great because I had ridden a trap. We always walked. The doctor rode a bicycle, a contraption with very high handlebars and two big wheels. Before that he had a horse. But when we went to Seaham Colliery the doctor had a motor bike. You should have seen the excitement when this noisy thing roared through the streets and in those days the doctor seemed to be always on the roads. His surgery was open every day and all hours. But I remember when the new surgery was built at Dawdon and I had to go to register a call. I rang the bell, a new innovation, and I heard a voice saying “yes, what is it?” I could not tell where the voice was coming from. A maid came to the door at last and she must have been mad at me and I bet she thought me the nitwit of the year and pointed to a speaking tube just above the bell. I was so frightened and confused I forgot my message. This was when we still lived at Dawdon. I am skipping around aren’t I? But it is just as I remember. The same man with the traps had traps standing at the foot of the bank that led into Dawdon Dene from Dawdon end and these carried passengers through the Dene to the foot of the bank leading out at Dalton-Le-Dale. There were no lights along this road and there was no other means of transport. I remember years after, a young man was killed on his motorbike at the Dawdon end of the Dene. He ran into the shafts of one of the traps standing there. This Dene was very popular on a Sunday night in summer time when families went out walking. Aunt Annie, whom I have mentioned before, used to walk right through and back again once every week, winter and summer. She was a funny old girl very determined and very brave. She and my grandmother used to chuckle over the stories they could tell of Uncle Matt. Evidently this gentleman made a habit of grumbling about his dinner, no matter what was set before him. He always said the same thing “what muck is this then”. Annie would say it was no muck and many a man would be glad of it etc. etc. whereupon he would fling it away. One day she went to grandmother’s very distressed and told her he had flung away his dinner again and said he would rather have dog muck as eat that rubbish. Now grandmother never had any trouble like this. She said “well Annie, you can easily satisfy him there”. It set the notion in Annie’s head and she soon was thoroughly enjoying the thought of seeing his face the next day when she put grandmother’s suggestion into action. Sure as life “what’s this muck then?” She removed the cover and said “something you’ve been asking for for a long time Matt, and I hope you enjoy it”. He never grumbled again, but he never mended his manners either and at last decided to disappear altogether. She used to say it was the best thing that ever happened to her. What a woman, scarcely five feet high with a face so thin and weather beaten that her eyes, nose and ears swamped her head, but she was afraid of no-one. Isn’t it funny the things you associate with people when you are young. I remember one day when I walked across to the back yard, and as I put my hand out to lift the sneck I thought my goodness that looks like my uncle’s face. And do you know to this day when I look at an old fashioned sneck I am reminded of him, I think it was the way he wore his cap tilted over his brow. Many of the men who lived at the Cottages were very small in stature. It seems to me, as I look back and remember that this present age is much taller than they were then, although my father was nearly six feet and very straight. People always thought he was a member of the volunteers.
Living in a family of boys is a great experience. You had to be tough to stand up to them because they were very rough. Mind you we were never allowed to fight with fists. Mother always said she was quite capable of chastising all without any help, and so she was. As is the case today boys didn’t like best clothes. Sunday was a penance. Indeed they never liked decent trousers or gansies (jersies now). I remember my brothers deliberately making holes in the knees and seats of trousers to have a patch so that they could be one of the lads. Their boots had to be filled with hob nails, with steel toe and heel caps. The heavier they were the better they liked them. A case ball to them was as good as a gold mine. They used to go to the butchers shops on a Tuesday night which was killing night and get the beasts bladders which they would blow up for footballs. Cricket was not popular to my knowledge although we had a cricket field and a team. People tried to make a little bit on the side to help out in those days. Some would make toffee, some would make ginger beer, others would boil and sell crabs and winkles, many sold fish from their cobbles. I know a man who would fill your boots with protectors. These were three pronged nails and even girls shoes or boots were covered in these. In the later years of my father’s life when he became a complete invalid mother used to do all our cobbling. She could rip off a sole and resole the shoe as good as any man. She even stitched with the waxed thread any splits. She could turn her hand to anything. She was solely occupied with her home and family and a visit to the local theatre when there was a good drama called ‘The Fatal Wedding’. There was great fun over this because two very subnormal people we knew got married at that time and wit was flying high. The theatre did well that week and the actors and actresses must have wondered at their popularity.
Lovers Lane’ now called Dene House Road was the popular place to walk on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but when darkness crept in the couples went onto the terrace. Lovers Lane was a country lane with fields on either side and many couples met there and later married. At the sea end was a deep hollow where the Dalton-le-Dale stream ran down to the sea. This hollow was called Bessy’s Hole. We were told it was the haunt of witches and were warned never to go there. But we did and although we never saw any witches we were still convinced that they lived there, but perhaps were engaged on some terrible deeds somewhere else. It was a frightening way of life really. All sorts of weird tales were told of things that would happen to you if you told lies, red hot pokers would be pushed down your throat when you died. If you sinned in any little way you would be cast into everlasting flames. If you passed the cemetery gates in the evening you would see ghosts with flaming swords sitting by the closed gates. If you walked round a tomb stone three times then put your ear to the ground the corpse would speak to you. If you bit your tongue it was a sign you had told a lie and punishment would catch up on you. If you looked into the face of a cross eyed person you were going to die. Think of the effect of all this on simple childish minds. Yet I cannot recall one delinquent.
It was a code of honour strictly adhered to, to show respect for old people. The roads were very bad in the winter, indeed they weren’t good at any time, and everybody would help old people to get from A to B, or run messages or fill pails of water or coals. We thought nothing of it but that it was the done thing. And you must remember women were old at 60. Children were old at 8 or 9 years. We all had jobs to do in the home even before this age but girls of 9 or 10 would stand on a cracket (stool) and poss the clothes. We had huge mangles that would wring blankets and quilts. They had a big iron wheel to turn and one girl would put the clothes in the mangle while the other turned. Most of the clothes were pressed by mangling as ironing was a long job. We used flat irons, which as their name implies, were flat pieces of dressed iron triangular in shape with a handle. The fire had to be very red and a stand was hung on the front bars with flat irons resting right up to the fire. To test the heat you turned the iron up and spit on it. If the spit slid down and off the iron without leaving a mark the iron was ready. It was such a slow job that ironing was kept to a minimum. No dress shirts, excepting very special occasions, mufflers instead of collars, no pyjamas, table cloths only on Sundays, everyday cloths were made of oil cloth which were rubbed clean with dish cloth. Boys wore white rubber collars for school. They were uncomfortable things as they rubbed against the neck and caused sore red patches. They were fastened at the neck with a stud. It was a grievous calamity if you lost your stud just as you were getting ready for school, as excuses were never tolerated. As soon as we came home from school, the girls took off their white pinafores, folded and put them away for the next day. The boys took off their collars and all changed shoes. School ones were cleaned ready for the next day and then we could go out to play. The master walked up the front and down the back of the lines of boys assembled in the playground and inspected back and front of feet and looked at their collars. The mistress inspected the girls in the same manner, looking at shoes and pinafores.
A big boy was set outside the playground to watch for the appearance in the distance of the head master or mistress. He would run into the school yard and before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ lines were formed and teachers stood at the ready. Woe betide anybody, scholars or teachers, if they as much as blinked when the head walked into the school yard and up those lines.

School was very monotonous under the Londonderrys. Religious reading, writing, arithmetic, home time and homework. We only learned patriotic songs when some VIP was expected, but on a Friday afternoon after playtime, the boys would have drawing and the girls needlework. Even so this was dreary, for the boys would draw a jam jar and the girls would stitch a hem on a piece of calico about 5″ x 3″, the object being to get even stitches. But when we went to the Council School when Dawdon Colliery was built, we got library books to read every Friday afternoon. How I loved this and I still remember being very upset when I went up a class and could not finish my library book. It was called ‘A Rough Shaking’ and was the story of a young boy’s experience in an earthquake. I have never heard mention of it in any way since that time although I made many enquiries. I promised myself I would buy it when I grew rich.
I have been watching the ‘Horse of the Year Show’. There was a parade of beautiful Suffolk shires which reminded me of bygone days. The coal carts, midden carts and rolleys were drawn by big horses very similar. I remember the Clydesdales drawing the coal carts. They were great big powerful beasts. The clop clop of their hooves on the rocky streets was the only traffic noise we knew, other than the roar and whistle of the railway engines. We loved to give these horses dry crusts of bread. The coalman’s horse would not move from our door until he got his crust.
Down pit they had ponies, called Gallowers. The putters loved their Gallowers. My father had one which refused to start his shift until he got a black mint. Father was very kind to all birds and beasts. His ‘marrer’ down pit said he would never use a whip or stick like other men but would flick the animal with his cap, but my father would say life was bad enough for them, working so hard and never seeing the light of day without being cruelly treated, so when we went for our ration of sweets on a Sunday night, we brought black mints for his Gallower. Many cruel things were done to ponies down pit when men lost their tempers. Father loved birds as I have already said. He fed them every morning before he had his own breakfast and it was considered a sin in our home to throw the tiniest crust on the fire. The Cottages was a place of many birds, swifts, skylarks, house martins, swallows, amongst the many that were common to us. Amongst the trees in what is now called the Green Drive were many owls. We never saw them because being so lonely it was forbidden ground, but if we awakened through the night we could hear them hooting. A funny thought has struck me. I cannot recall many families with dogs. There was one in our street, a big retriever dog which used to tear down the street and across the football field to try to catch the train which passed every day at 1:10 pm. This train was so punctual we as children knew it was about time to go back to school. Punctuality was a great thing in those days and no excuse saved one from punishment. There was also the Bottleworks buzzer. This blew at one o’clock and was never known to be a minute out. Everybody set their clocks and watches by the Bottleworks buzzer. My father used to say that the sun and moon might go wrong but not the buzzer. Then there were the ships’ buzzers. We knew many of the ships by their buzzers and on foggy nights the fog horns were very familiar because we were very close to the docks as the crow flies. Yes the buzzers and the fog horns, the whistle of the trains, the clip clop of the horses and the bells or crakes used by hawkers, and the candy man’s trumpet were all the nuisance noises that disturbed our peace in those long ago days. And walk, my goodness how we walked. To the farm right over at the far end of Dawdon where the pit is now, and to Seaham Harbour at the butchers before we went to school on a morning but we were all in bed before my father set off for work just turned eight o’clock at night. Mother would be sitting in her nighty waiting for him to go, and would shoot the bolts, then his voice would call “goodnight and god bless” and mother would say the same to him, then all would be quiet until he returned early next morning. “Open the door to nobody when I have gone at night” he would repeat to her. I wish it was in the nature of things to turn back the clock and have a reunion just once in a while, then we could say all the things we neglected to say in their lifetime.

Little boys and girls were all dressed alike in those days. No boy wore trousers until he was nearly five years old. I remember taking my two little brothers and sister out one Sunday morning and the one five years old went missing. I was in a panic and weeping bitterly. A woman advised me to go to the police station where a policeman asked for a description. All I could tell him was that he was dressed in a velvet frock made out of mother’s old coat. When I got home the culprit was there. I expected a thrashing but my distress excused me.
I can picture mother sitting on her cracket with a knitting sheath in the waist of her skirt and her knitting needles clicking so quickly you couldn’t count the stitches. She was always re-footing stockings or socks. We all wore wool ones and the legs could be green with age but as long as they held together they were re-footed and worn again and again. All clothes were handed down from one to the other. Mother counted herself lucky that her family were so spaced that this was no problem. There was my oldest brother the first born, then four girls, followed by four boys, which was ideal for the handing down system. Nothing went out of fashion in those days. Household things were bought very cheaply or handed down from one generation to another. There was a pokey little shop in Seaham Harbour owned by Annie Redman. It was a dark, dingy, tiny little place, but it was amazing what was stored there. Couples setting up rooms could buy anything from a brass bedstead or big mangle, to a tiny little Kelly lamp for a bedroom. Pots, pans, dishes, brushes, flat irons, poss sticks, tubs you mention it Annie had it in her shop. She sold blacking, blacklead, bath brick, tallow candles, curtain rings and bamboo poles – everything and anything. Many a home has been set up for less than five pounds which in those days was counted a fortune.
The firesides of the house proud were works of art. First of all the old brick fireplaces were blackleaded and polished until they shone like mirrors. A lid with a brass handle covered the boiler. These lids along with pokers, coal rakes, dust pans and blazers were made at the colliery blacksmith’s shops, on the sly of course. Then we had an ash box made of metal under the big bars.

Bars and ash box were both blackleaded. Next came a tidy betty which stood in front of the ash box. This was made of steel and was polished until it looked like silver. It too had brass knots on the front and a row of brass spindles under the top rim. Then we had two brass stands with brass kettles on them standing in the fireside, with a big steel fender with brass spindles to match the tidy betty which surrounded the whitened fireside. At your peril to put your feet on that fender. We had a long seat which my father made at one side of the fireplace and if one sat in the corner and put down the round oven door it formed a table on which to have a meal. All places were utilised at meal times, but this was a much sought after seat especially in the winter so we had to take our turns. Life seemed to be made up of turns. Who would sit nearest the fire, who would get the crusts off the loaf, who would get the legs of the rabbit. Mother would try her hardest to be fair but in the end her word was law and sometimes we thought unkindly of her decision. Who filled the boiler, who filled the coals, who slept in the middle, the warmest place when three in a bed. Who went to the farm, or who went to the butchers. Who scrubbed the netty seat and who did the knives and forks, who washed and who dried the dishes. These little things were of great moment to us when growing and we fought like little tigers. Often we ended with a good hiding plus the job we hadn’t wanted. When the jobs were finished we were free to roam. Vandals didn’t exist in those days. Nobody would dare destroy property. They were colliery houses and nobody could afford to replenish so it wasn’t done. Little things happened of course. Boys played at knocky nine doors, or rattled bobbins down your windows. This sounded like the firing of a repeating pistol and would frighten the inmates nearby to death. They would raid your gardens for carrots. Another thing was often practised was when at night we wanted to go to the toilet we would take a candle in a jar and two of you would go together across the street and into the back yard. Boys playing about would see you and know where you were going. They would get some water from the tap in the street and quietly open the wooden hatch (used for emptying) and throw the cold water up onto your bottom. What a fright! Once when mother had been baking, she put two yeasty cakes, or oven bottom cakes some used to call them, out on the window sill to cool. It was a dark night and when she went for the cakes there was just a tiny bit of each left. Mother questioned us but we all denied any knowledge. She wasn’t convinced and said we should own up and we wouldn’t get wrong. Next day the pals of my eldest brother sent a message to say that they were the best yeasty cakes they had ever tasted. So the mystery was solved with no hard feelings.
As I have said before our language was quaint and far from King’s English, but we were never allowed to swear. Mother’s hair would have stood on end if we had used the word damn, never mind anything else. She would say “talk proper its just as easy as the other way, talk proper”.
All men and boys had nicknames. Stinker, Nobby, Gussier, Shorty, Lengthy, Footie, Loppy, Nitty, Potty, Tuck and many more. One family had a ‘tupenny a penny and a hapenny. Some had been handed down from family to family. There was a family of three boys, not very bright, who during the years of the depression searched the gutters for tab ends. They were nicknamed Stop, Point and Pick. The first one would stop, the second would point and the third would pick up the cigarette end. They always walked in single file. There were expressions used that one never hears today. Like ‘that’s wasky water’ when it tasted soft. We were used to the limestone water. Mother used to call us ‘gleyky when we were a bit daft. My father would chastise us by saying “I’ll mak the down slot off yer heed”. I couldn’t fathom this for years. A person who was a little subnormal was always ‘not reet. ‘Gie ye ways out an play’ was always the command when you were one too many on the floor. When people were wasteful mother would say ‘they spare at the tap and pour out at the bung’. I remember the time when my brother, when he was around five years old came to mother and said ‘gis a ha’penny ma’. Of course, she hadn’t one so she said ‘adaway and luck for one’ so he did. He was searching around when a neighbour a little worse for drink came along and asked him what he was looking for. Joe said ‘a ha’penny’. The man helped in the search and finding it fruitless put his hand in his pocket and gave Joe one. Whereupon he turned round and asked for ‘one for our Herb’. The man said ‘has he lost one an’ all?’ Joe replied “no man I was just lucking for one”. Of course this story went the rounds of the pit and father got to know that way. I remember some girls coming to me at the grammar school and saying, “so your brother is a hawker now”, I didn’t know what they meant but apparently Joe was going around the street with his little toy barrow hawking horse muck, penny a lump. In the family he was often referred to as the fat juicy turnip full of sweet yuss, because this was a sentence found in one of his writing books brought home when full. He had been writing an autobiography on ‘I am a turnip’. This kind of humour might not please nowadays but it caused great fun in the family. There were many little things like this which might seem unworthy of comment today, but fun in those days was directed towards oneself as well as all the family. As I grew older I had to help in the cooking. Mother never made fancy cakes but on a Sunday we had rock buns. My first attempts were not very successful they really lived up to their name. Of course a situation like this was not allowed to pass unnoticed. So one of my brothers came in on the Monday and said to my other two brothers “eh lads, Cornish Street is declaring war on Australia Street tonight around seven, so we’ll tak some of our Addie’s rock buns in stocking legs for our secret weapons”. He thought the other side would never stand a chance. Life was great fun amongst them all. They were always trying to scare the girls in the family. Once when mother went out and my sister and I were in alone we heard some heavy footsteps on the stairs. Ghost stories were all the rage and we were petrified, but it turned out to be the boys who had climbed through a bedroom window. As I have said the Old Cottages were surrounded by fields and boys could let off steam with football or cricket or I remember a game something like wrestling. Perhaps the lack of the space accounts for a lot of the vandalism now, although money was so scarce we would have been in serious trouble if we had spoiled property of any kind. If we could take the joy of those days with the real joy of today it would be Utopia. I often think back on my early days with longing for the quiet peace that reigned and I think of Winston Churchill’s words “the old world in its sunset was fair to see”. But then I have never been faced with the anxiety that poverty entails and perhaps mother and her generation would have different thoughts. One thing I do know, if she knew of our existing circumstances she would say “my goodness if I were in your position I would own streets of houses”. Owning her own house was her burning ambition but she never achieved it. But then she used to say “you cannot have both stock and money”. She certainly had the stock. What a straight women she was, never devious but called a spade a spade. Her firm conviction was ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be’. She would say that if your circumstances never improved it was no use to resort to borrowing. Neither did she like to lend or borrow household goods. I remember Mother’s big shiny tin baking mug. It had to be large because as I think I told you she baked forty eight loaves at one go. This baking tin was used for no other purpose. A neighbour came to borrow it and mother loaned it very reluctantly but she made the stipulation it was to be returned with the paste sticking to the sides. We protested saying why should we wash it after she had used it, but mother said it was the only way she could be sure that the neighbour hadn’t washed the pit flappers in it.
There was a neighbour whose husband had a wood stump. He had lost his leg from above the knee in an accident at the pit. He drank more than he should. One afternoon father was standing at the gate getting his fresh air, when old Mary came past. “I’ve fettled him the day Davy” she shouted to my father. “He’s anted till I come back” and she opened her shawl and showed Father the wooden leg. ‘Anted’ was a word used by pigeon fanciers when the birds had settled into their ducats, and would fly back ‘home’ from any distance. So poor Paddy was ‘anted’ until Mary returned with his wooden leg. This leg was just a thick wooden stick like a fat broom shank with a leather socket and straps at the top. When father was bedfast in his later years a miner friend used always to call with a flower from his garden, preferably a rose and father would have it as a buttonhole in his shirt. This man was ill too and now I know it was sclerosis but not known as such in those days. He died just before or just after my father. He went by the nickname of Blunt for obvious reasons.

I hope I do not give you reasons to despise our way of life, for we had a code far more to be desired than some today. We were taught that honesty was the best policy, even If we sometimes doubted it. We were taught respect for all our elders. Nobody would have cheeked a neighbour, and neither boy nor girl would refuse assistance of any kind to the old folk. We ran messages without any reward as far as money went, but often we would be given a slice of jam and bread. This was never despised.
Men were always drunk at weekends, when they would often be very generous. One just had to say “Hello Mr So and So” and he would give you a ha’penny. We were quick enough to exploit this even though forbidden. A lucky bag or a lucky potato was a great treat. Some were supposed to contain a threepenny bit (a tiny little silver coin) but I never knew anyone to be so lucky.
There – the cows are coming back to the farm yard again – no Sally and the lights have gone on in the village. That reminds me of the lamplighter when I was a little girl there were gas lamps then, one at the top of one street and the bottom of the other so we had four lamps for the Cottages. Old Tommy used to come with his long pole and light the lamps. This was a great step forward for we had only lamp oil before that. Old Tommy, who lived at Seaham Harbour, was everybody’s friend. We used to wait for him then follow him all around the Cottages until the lamps were lit.
I remember the ‘Maypole Shop’ in Seaham Harbour. We always went there for our margarine. You got double weight, that was if you bought one pound you got a pound free, so we went each week for three pounds of double weight. Now that had to last the stipulated time. When the margarine ran out you had to have jam, treacle, fat (every drop of fat was saved) or sugar on your bread. We did not mind, when the fresh margarine came it tasted all the nicer. We even got presents at intervals when buying the margarine. A balloon, a flapper, a windmill, and at Christmas a new penny. The new penny was given with every pound sold so, of course, Mother sent each one for a pound, so that each got a new penny. It was given to mother, but it appeared in our stocking on Christmas Eve. Of course, it was from Santa Claus. You had to have all your buttons on in those days and Mother had none missing. I have known eggs be 48 a shilling when Easter came round. You wouldn’t have had an Easter egg otherwise. There were no chocolate eggs for us in those days. Even the boiled eggs were rationed out. You could eat one on its own on Easter Monday but the rest had to constitute meals. Often we were given a ha’penny between two and thought ourselves extremely lucky. We were, because father would make us toffee. We would go for a penny worth of sugar and he would make a pan of toffee. This was a great treat, more so because he used to add things to the toffee for variation like condensed milk, nuts, raisins or anything he could find at hand.
As I have said previously all clothes were handed down. I remember little reefer coats which had been worn at certain ages by every member of our family. Mother was quite convinced that if you put them away in a drawer over the summer they would clean themselves and come out brand new in the winter. Not so with footwear. Each wore ones own, but even if they crippled you nothing could be done about it until your turn came round.
Every step was bath bricked. These were hard square blocks, cheap to buy. You washed your step thoroughly then while it was wet you rubbed on the bath brick. Then we had to wet the floor cloth and rub the bath brick evenly all over the step. Some people used to make fancy patterns with the bath brick and leave it like that. Pantry floors and water closet floors (or netties) were done the same. Two blocks of bath brick were rubbed together to make a powder and this was used to clean knives, forks, spoons, fire irons and the flat irons. Firesides were done with whiting which was 4d per bag like a pound bag of sugar.
Everybody hadn’t fancy fireplace’s like mother had. One girl with whom I played had no covering on the living room floor, just a very old mat at the fireside which was just kept swept. The ashes just fell into the space under the grate and half a wagon wheel served as a fender. This was very common in the poorer people’s houses, I say poorer but the father worked at the pit the same as mine and he had a cobble to go fishing and their family consisted of six whereas ours had twelve. So you see it’s the same as today some make the best of things while others couldn’t care less. As a child I loved to go to this house as there were no restrictions about the house. The boys could go upstairs through the window and slide down the roof, or chop and hammer and make sleighs or go carts in the house – nobody bothered. Such licence seemed enviable to us, but in after years we realised that mother’s ways was for the best and fitted you better for the life that was to follow.
Another family of girls we knew all worked at the Bottleworks. They had a nice clean home like our own. They took in a lot of weekly books like The Red Letter’. These had stories, in weekly instalments like The Life of Mary Ann Cotton’ or ‘Mary Martin and the Red Barn’. The girls used to talk about them and wait for the next issue with great anticipation. They would have passed them on to us but mother would never allow them in her house. A hard backed book ‘a proper’ book as mother called it was just tolerable but not this ‘trash’. We would be better employed knitting or sewing. Diversity was never considered. When I was nearly thirteen we moved up to Seaham Colliery, I hated it. The only thing I liked about the house was the back door which was in halves. One could open the top and let in the air, but shut the bottom half and keep out the cats. A daft thing to recommend a house. The people were a different breed altogether. Their language was rougher, many of their habits were totally alien to us and yet only three or four miles had separated us. By this time I was attending the Upper Standard Girls School in Princess Road. When we lived at the Cottages his road was just a rough unmade track to the cemetery. We only used it to go to the cemetery or to walk along pitman’s walk to go to Seaham Colliery. A wooden bridge was built over the railway which connected Pitman’s walk with Station Road. A similar wooden bridge connected the Low Colliery with the Black Road leading to the pit and yet another over the same railway at Seaham Harbour, now known as the subway. This railway ran from South Hetton to the Docks and was known as the South Hetton Line.
Another break and more recalling and I am back to the Cottages School. It is a strange thing but I cannot recall one story or poem learned in those early days. Patriotic songs I recall but not one poem or story and I have thought very earnestly about this. But I do remember being introduced to some beautiful poems in the council school. Perhaps they are not appreciated now but I loved them, The Slaves Dream, The Brook and The Revenge. These are some of them. I loved poetry and I loved stories. Greek fairy stories and Hans Andersen’s to start with, then our library books. In my first year at the Upper Standard School our head mistress encouraged us to read many of Mrs Henry Wood’s books. She, my head mistress, was a great temperance woman, so I suppose this was the reason. But her pet author was Shakespeare and we studied several of these. Julius Caesar, the Merchant of Venice, Coriolanus, King Lear and Macbeth. At sixteen I was sent as a pupil teacher to an infant school. The First World War was raging and many of our men teachers were among the fallen, I had the magnificent wage of sixteen shillings a month, from which I received one shilling a month pocket money. I went to church on a Sunday three times so my pocket money just lasted. Then after a year the situation was no better so I had to continue pupil teaching for another year. Because I had had a year’s training I was sent into a senior school and was paid twenty five shillings a month. I received 2/6 a month pocket money. I was going up in the world. Mind you my first class of fourteen year olds consisted of fifty seven boys; I can truthfully say it was one of the most satisfying years of my life. I put everything I could into my work and I loved the boys who were very respectful towards me. I have taught many of their grand children since then. Those war years, in both the first and second war were very difficult as we were very limited in materials. The tiniest stubs of pencils were used and many, many scrap books I have made for classes out of old paper blinds or wallpaper to eke out in our work. We did not worry about working in the evenings as long as we had Saturday night and Sunday free. I didn’t think of it as drudgery but was proud to be able to make do. Now what a change from those days. What marvellous opportunities for our young folk if they will only take them. Mind you they could teach me now. I realise how limited my education was but that is progress. I hope God thinks I have used my talents to the best of my ability. I did not go to college. I went on teaching by day and attended ‘The Tec’ at Sunderland in the evenings. I went there for two years and then was reckoned qualified to teach and received twenty five shillings a week £5 each month. Gradually this increased until after the war when the crash came and we were back to square one. This was after the First World War. On resuming during the Second World War I commenced on £10 a month.
But I have had a good and enjoyable life. I was very happily married. I have a family second to none and now I have my grandchildren, but above all I have memories.
And I still love the cows, I also have words. I have just heard an account by Hardiman Scott on the wireless, he was reading one of his poems ‘When the words have gone’ or ‘When the words are done’. You see my memory doesn’t carry me along for less than an hour, but the title was one of these. It reminded me of the fascination words have for all children. That is why they pick up some of the words not as nice as others. It’s because they are new to them. I remember when I was a little girl I used many words that my father and mother used in their natural ignorance. A gimlick was always used by father for a gimlet. Even when I was at the Upper Standard School I talked of a clad hammer, again my father’s expression. One of his friends told me it was clawed hammer. A ‘sar’ for a saw, and who is the comedian who talks of his ‘shart’ for his shirt. We talked like this and it was hard work to change and learn to spell these words. We’ve come a long way since those days but I do not think we have suffered much in the process. I remember I was quite old when I realised that a bee which we called a ‘reed arsty’ was not quite the thing. Our brothers said it and we did not question. Nobody raised their eyebrows because we were all as ignorant as each other. My father used to say no words were bad, but the thoughts or venom behind them made them bad. He talked of clean swearing and dirty swearing, but he was a kind and loving soul with never a bad thought about anyone. One never hears now of lice and lops, but in my childhood our mothers waged constant war against them. As very young girls my sisters and I had to ‘small tooth comb’ our hair every night as we came from school and mother inspected them every weekend to see if we had carried out the operation. I once sat in church and watched two lice have a royal time on a woman’s coat collar. I heard nothing of the sermon I was so fascinated by them. When I came home and told my father he said a poet had seen the same thing once and written: ‘you dirty donnet, sitting there with a louse upon it’. He said it was Burns but I cannot tell you the truth of this.
Hop again Cassidy, I’m back to the Cottages. Many families kept hens. Some kept pigs. Every scrap of food was kept and taken to these people. We got a couple of sweets for doing this and it was a great treat. When Christmas came and the pigs were killed everybody would receive a few slices of bacon, a bit of sausage and some black pudding. Each street had its own customers.
When Harvest Festival time came round everybody sent something to the church (the little school in our case). There was a great show and after the harvest was celebrated the produce was distributed to the Infirmary which stood at the corner of the Terrace, the fever hospital away back in the fields off Princess Road, and the very poor. Father was very proud to give the best of his leeks, potatoes, and parsnips each year. Mother would never miss this service.
Celebrating the New Year was a grand occasion. Parties would last a whole week. As children we would come downstairs on New Year’s morning and say to our parents: “A Happy New Year, the bottle a-stir, please will you give us a New Year’s gift”. We would get a piece of cake, a glass of ginger wine and a penny. What a treat we thought it.

You know we had no bedroom suites in those days. We had iron bedsteads all with comfortable feather beds, and big boxes with two strong iron handles, one on either side. The box had a lid. We called these ‘chests’. They were draped with pretty coloured cotton and on the top was a white honeycomb cover. On top stood a mirror. These chests held bed clothes or materials bought in the winter for summer wear and in the summer for winter wear. Mother was always ready. Every place was scrupulously clean although sparse. We had a little basket chair with an antimacassar on the back tied with ribbon to match the paper in every bedroom. There was a lot of basket work in those days, like tables, chairs and plant, pot stands. We had them in our home. I remember when mother got her first carpet. It was for the sitting room and was turkey red. We talked of nothing else but turkey red for months. From the living room door straight across the carpet to the front door was a long piece of white canvas patterned in turkey red along each side. This was ‘tracking’ to walk on to save the carpet. Then mother got a new green plush sitting room suite. A couch, two armchairs (one with arms and one without for father and mother) and four chairs. Buckingham Palace didn’t have a look in and neither did we, we weren’t allowed inside that room. The lace curtains were spread right across the floor beside the window and the basket work plant stand with a huge palm plant stood in pride of place right in the centre of the window space on top of the spread out curtains. Then to crown it all mother got a piano, but she never had money to spare to pay for lessons. But we had Cousin Dolly who played well and in after years, two of my brothers were good players. But just to have a piano was a status symbol and standing on a turkey red carpet, with a green plush suite sent us high up the social ladder. When the turkey red carpet had to be lifted in the spring for cleaning, mother and father and my oldest brother would carry it down the garden and throw it over the wall into the cows field. They would spread it face down on the grass and then we would all dance on it to beat the dust out. Then some hefty boys would help to run up and down the field trailing the carpet behind them. This was the method used for cleaning carpets for we had no hoovers. It was great fun, I’ve seen the boys be far our over the field trailing the carpet behind them shouting and laughing. Cleaning a room had great technique in those days. The room was stripped bare for everything was carried across the front street into the garden. Suites were beaten and brushed with a short handled carpet brush. Everything was washed that could be washed. The walls were rubbed down with coarse towels and the ceiling whitened. The best lace curtains had been sent to the laundry. It was great day. These same curtains would last until the next spring cleaning.
I have just had my breakfast. I have had a slice of brown bread dipped in bacon fat which has sent me soaring again. I remember the big seven pound stone jar where mother saved every scrap of bacon fat. Indeed one could buy a big parcel of fat bacon ends from any grocer for a few coppers. When mother saw these on display in any grocer’s shop she would buy them, then rend them down’ in the oven and fill up the jar. We loved it on our bread for breakfast after our porridge. More especially did we like it on our yeasty cake. But mind you it wasn’t often you got it other than breakfast time. There was jam or treacle for tea and once a jar of jam was opened it had to be used up. Remember they were seven pound jars. I still have two of these jars in my house. Mother gave them to me when I married forty-seven years ago. How lovely to sit and recall all these things. One seems to recall all the good, for if there was any bad it was safely hidden from us.
On the days when mother made big tins of hot pot in the oven, she would boil large suet puddings and we would have these with treacle on for dessert. Mother reckoned this was the greatest health giver one could have. If we had a boiled pudding like an onion pudding or meat pudding, we had rice for dessert plus meat puddings. They were boiling in a great big pan when we set off for school. Mother reckoned three hours for a meat pudding. We had to have our meals in relays, because there was never plenty of room for all to sit down altogether. Do you know I can even remember when father and mother ate from the one plate like Jack Sprat and his wife. What a long time ago it seems. I reckon it will be nearly seventy. Well another break until something else jogs my memory.
Perhaps you will find this boring but at least I have enjoyed myself. I remember the Spotty Dicks mothers used to make. These were suet puddings with currants and sultanas in and were eaten with white sauce. Mother used to say she would have to make a pail full of white sauce to satisfy us. It was the same with rabbits. Mother used to make rabbit and spare rib pies. There was always a row about who should have the leg that week. You got it last time. No I didn’t I got the ribs. You didn’t cos I always get the ribs and so it’s my turn. Mother would say “you forget it’s a rabbit and not a spider”. We all liked broth and what broth it was. I can still see mother with the long handled ladle dishing out the soup as thick with vegetables and barley as it was possible. On the first day we had the soup and dumplings on the next day she would boil some potatoes to eke out the broth that was left and cut up the shank and boiling meat which had made the broth.
There was more socialism practised in those days then there is now. Parents helped the young married couples by letting them have a room, which they furnished for them. Things were given by all relatives and nothing was too old. Parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins all helped out; when parents grew old their families looked after them. My mother had little to spare but she would send a yeasty cake and a tea cake each week for Grandmother (Ganny we called her) and for my father’s Aunt Annie of whom I have already spoken. Then every pay weekend she sent them each a quarter of tea. Her brother called on his way from work every Wednesday tea-time and got a good meal and a yeasty cake to take away with him plus a teacake. He was separated from his wife and lived alone in one room in Sunderland. Of course old people did not get the pensions that we get now. We do not need that kind of help now and we have better health now than they had at a much younger age. But then women were considered old as soon as they passed child bearing age and were treated as old people. Now at 73 I cannot think that I am old. I was amused the other night to hear the paper boy shout to his assistant “put one in the bottom door where that ad wife lives”. “Ad wife” and only 73! But seriously life is drawing to a close, but I cannot grumble, I shall still enjoy the remaining years, and still look back with nostalgia on all that have gone before.

I remember when I was about eight, at one of mother’s New Year’s parties, a man was there called Ben. He made a great fuss of me; you see I had beautiful fair hair. I could sit on it and he was fascinated with it. Childlike I thought he was great and said to myself ‘I’ll marry a man called Ben’. Wasn’t it strange that I did do just that and I have come to the conclusion that all Bens are great.
I only know of one new coat bought for 5/- at the dividend sale at the Co-op for my mother. This was the coat she wore on the famous trip to Stockton. She always wore a fur cape handed down from her mother, a relic of their better days. She used a fur muff to match. This muff served as a handbag as well. For ordinary wear she had a big grey shawl. Father had a navy blue suit. It was the only suit he ever had to my knowledge, brushed and put carefully away for better days only. So clothes did not present a major problem. Mother used to say our feet were her greatest worry. We wore high boots in the winter; sometimes they were buttoned up the side nearly to the knee. One could always find a shoe horn and button hook hanging at the side of the fireplace. Sometimes we had high boots which fastened up the front by criss crossing laces on studs. These were called rinking boots. Mother spent the maximum on footwear, because she said all ailments stem from cold neglected feet.
We had a long brass line hung above the fireplace on which towels were always drying. In a big family like ours it was a problem to keep towels dry for use. There were tea towels, coarse towels and face towels constantly in use. But one had to take great care in hanging them on the brassline as they were apt to slide off and into the fire. We never had our chimneys swept. They were always fired at night when no one’s clothes were hanging out to dry. Mother used to say if you used a blazer to blaze your fire first thing, you never needed a sweep. Every household had a blazer made in the blacksmith’s shop at the colliery. These were big sheets of metal made to fit into the fireplace. They were blackleaded and usually had a brass handle firmly attached. This and the lid of the boiler matched. These things were free if you could get round the blacksmiths. It was the same at the Bottleworks. Many beautiful things were blown at these works by the glass blowers but their main production was all kinds of glass bottles. I loved to look on the shelves of the little chemists shop at the top of Church Street. It was a pokey little place in my young days and was called the Beehive and was owned by old Mr Storey. There were fancy shaped bottles of all sizes and colours. We used to go regularly for 3d worth of paregoric and nitre for father’s bad chest. Mother used to have big dishes of black Spanish cut up into pieces steeping in syrupy water. We as little children used to try to pick out pieces of the Spanish but they were too slippery. We used to be dosed with orange and quinine wine to prevent colds and physiced with Epsom salts and lemon in the spring time. All these things were homemade. You must by now realise how busy our mothers were all through the years. The running out and emergencies.
Ah! I must tell you of the wreck of the butter boat. It was before my time but was a constant topic of conversation. Evidently one very stormy night a Danish boat was in trouble just off Seaham Harbour. It was beaten against the rocks and badly damaged. Barrels of butter were washed ashore and the inhabitants of Seaham Harbour swooped like locusts. Best butter for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. The people couldn’t get over it and all had a glorious time. The police, which were very few in number, couldn’t do anything about it. We never tired of hearing about it and our parents never tired of recalling it. All kinds used to be washed up on the Blast Sands. Father once came strolling home with a huge enamel kettle and I mean huge. There was nothing wrong with it, of course father kidded the neighbours it was to be used at a big party, but we used it as a watering can. We had to water the garden and it was common thing to ‘water the doors’ that meant the back street. Mother had a thing about ‘laying the dust’. Before sweeping the parlour carpet we sprinkled damp the leaves, saved for the purpose, on the carpet ‘to lay the dust’ then with a short carpet brush and a dustpan the carpet was swept. Everything was utilised or hoarded in those days, because things were passed on from generation to generation.
On winter nights we stitched multicoloured patches together and mother would criss cross them by machine onto old blankets to make quilts for the beds. They were very gay and very warm. It was a great treat to get a bundle of patches from friends who were dressmakers. As a very little girl I used to love to get a shoe box and make it into a doll’s bed with a clothes peg for a doll. I would use some of the patches to dress the doll and the bed. But we had always to take the needle to mother for her to put into the pin cushion so that she was sure it was not lost amongst the clippings of the mats.
My goodness how ignorant we were in those days. Our world consisted of English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish people, of whom many lived together. We thought the waters that washed our shores stretched away across the world where the black people lived and that we were far removed from these races. Of the continent we learned nothing so you can image what a narrow but safe little world we lived in. I remember black men coming into our port, and sometimes lived with white women, but they were always talked of as kind and gentle people. One woman mother knew married a black man and mother used to say he made a far better husband than many white men she knew. But then mother’s motto was ‘look for the good in people and your task will be easier and pleasanter than searching for the bad’. If we told tales, detrimental tales, about other children she would sat “sit down now and think hard, have you never done that same thing”. If we liked playmates but called their parents mother would say “don’t despise the tree if you like the fruit”. She was great with ‘sayings’ always found one to fit the occasion.
I spent my childhood teaching the walls in the backyard. One big bump in the very uneven walls was the big dunce in my class at school. I used to hammer him hard and father would say “God help the dunces in the class if she was the teacher”. When father was finished with his pigeons he cleaned and whitewashed the ducket and said I could have it for my school. He made me a blackboard and easel, a blackboard rubber and a cane (very important in those days) and pitmen always had chalk in their pockets to mark the tubs, so I was set. Mother would say “you never have far to search for her”. I would go round the streets and pick up all the hairpins that had been shaken off the mats and put up my hair. I would find safety pins and join them end to end to make a chain to lift up my skirts. These chains were worn by ladies to lift their long skirts out of the muddy streets. My long skirt was one of mother’s underskirts. Children have always liked to dress up. You see mats were lifted and shaken outside the back doors every day and all kinds of things dropped from then. If it was anything like a brooch it was returned to the people, we would never have considered keeping anything like this. We would have felt great shame in such a small community. Remember ‘honesty is the best policy’. ‘See a pin, pick it up, all the day, you’ll have good luck’. This was a rhyme we all knew. As children we firmly believed in it and so many pins dropped from the mats we were hard put to think of our good luck during the day. But childlike we kidded ourselves. Mesmerism – that was a thing much talked of at one part of my childhood and a young girl living in our street told us she was a medium. She had to stand up against a wall whilst another playmate moved his hands backwards and forwards before her eyes. When she swooned she was in a trance. We all ran but when she caught a victim he or she had to do as he was told. Mind you she had sense enough to order childish things – take your dress off and dance a jig, go and put your head under the tap, knock on no 24. But when she ordered me to go and ask mother for a penny she had gone too far. Neither I nor any of us would have dared to ask for such a thing for ourselves, but you see we were under her influence. She soon lost this influence where mother went after her and our family was expelled from the trances. What you will believe when you are young.
We had five brothers and then Jack Blake. You had to be tough to live amongst them. Then my oldest sister married and came home to have her first child. It was a boy. How my brothers loved him, so much so that after about two years old he would not go home. He would be away into the boys’ bed waiting for them to come home. Shrieks of laughter would come from the room, because he would be in the middle and the others would crowd him in. Then someone would shout turn and they all had to turn over. Someone was bound to fall out and this went on until they were all exhausted. They were noisy exhausting but happy days. Beds then had straw mattresses. Straw strung tightly together and covered in coarse hair, and about 4 to 6 ins in depth were the foundation. Mother had feather beds on top which were very warm and comfortable but this was the exception rather than the rule. Some people used to use mats to give warmth in the winter, or overcoats, these because they could not afford blankets. I have known families go to bed in the clothes they wore all day just to keep themselves warm, but in later years I could not understand this. The men all worked at the colliery and the differences in pay were very slight. We had one of the biggest families in the Cottages and only one of my brothers of working age, yet we lived so much better. There was only one explanation, mother’s ingenuity. Mind you there were others as well off, but most had smaller families.
There was a fine old man lived in the next street to us. He had a tall military bearing, snow white hair but a black face. We were told that he had been in the Nack explosion and his face had caught the blast. This had been the second explosion within a few years. Mining was a dangerous job in those days and when we went to bed we were taught to pray for them. We also had to pray for all the family. I remember this prayer that we all said:-

God bless me ma
God bless me da
God bless me ganny and granda, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers
God bless everybody in the wide world
God make me a good little girl
Forever and ever Amen
We would never dare go to sleep without saying this prayer. I remember one night we had all got smacked because we carried on in bed. Mother came up with the tawse and gave each one of us a lash. Come prayer time and as my sister and I started (God bless me ma) my sister said ‘the bad bitch’ and we went off into giggles which we couldn’t stop, so we got another lash each with the promise of double the next time. We had to cover our heads up with the bed clothes to smother the laughter which was now mingled with tears. But for the life of we couldn’t stop. We laughed over this for long enough. Now when it’s too late we understand that Mother’s nerves must have been stretched to breaking point often and often. Yet she was a very happy soul, singing and dancing at the least provocation, and I can still see her laughing over some little incidents. She would be so helpless that at one touch from one of the boys and she would roll over helpless. They got a great kick out of this.
Johnny Race my oldest brother’s pal was the best laugher I ever heard. He was like the laughing policeman. The whole Cottages would pop to their doors and say “Johnny’s off again” and all would join in although they didn’t know the joke. In contrast we had an elderly couple who never smiled. They had very little to say although my father used to tell the tale about him joining in a conversation once down pit. The men were talking about their wives and how they managed and this fellow outdid them all by saying his wife was so clever she could make a good pan of broth out of the dishcloth. Father said it was so unexpected the pit rang with their cheers. This same man never went out excepting into his garden, or across the road to the football field fence on a Saturday. Like father he had a free ticket.
Boys used to earn coppers by ‘putting the coals in’, ‘hoy your coals in Mrs for tuppence’, ‘what, tuppence?’, ‘allreet then a penny’. A penny for nearly a ton of coals, hoisted up and through a hatch at least four feet from the ground. You see all exploited somebody without knowing it. If two boys shared they still got the same between them. But coppers were of great value. A penny took you into the theatre or bought you a good fish and chip supper. Hoy meant throw and was the common word at that time.
Hoy the coals in.
Hoy a ha’penny out.

As I have said before there was real socialism practised amongst us. You could not buy a loaf in the Cottages but you could borrow one. If the coals did not last the allotted time and some had more relatives or friends to help than others, someone would volunteer to help you out. No-one paid for domestic assistance while having a baby as there were plenty of neighbours willing to help out. A night out was an hour in your neighbours house having a chat. But work had to be done first and also all depended on the shifts of the workmen in the family. Mother would take an odd Monday afternoon to look for bargains at the Co-op or the highlight of her life was to go to Bloom’s Sale. This was held in a big marquee on the Bottle House field. This was an annual occasion and mother would not miss it. That was where she bought her seven piece green suite and her turkey red carpet. Another time she bought my father a gold watch and guard for his birthday. This was to be a secret until he returned from work on the morning of his birthday and although father did not mention it to her he already knew from the men ‘down pit’. Evidently another miner’s wife had bid for the watch but mother outbid her. Of course, spiteful people wondered where she had got the money from, but I can assure you all it was by dint of her own hard work and clever management.
On this same Bottle House field used to be ‘the shows’. Murphy’s Amusements used to come every few years. The place was brilliantly lit, and people from Murton, Easington, Horden, Hendon and many more surrounding districts used to congregate. These amusements would be there for about a month and it was a time of great jollity. Boys and men were running around with balloons, coconuts, feather brushes, monkeys on sticks, windmills etc. which they had won on the stalls. There were chip vans, hooplas, shuggy boats, horses and maypoles. A good time was had by all. But in the midst of all this our family had to be home in time for father to go to work. He would not have gone if any of us had been missing. Of course Sunday was respected by everybody. When I think back on the work and life of my parents I think their living was much more meaningful and noble than the lives of great men and women who have been landed to the skies but then as Shakespeare said:-
‘gnats are unnoted, whereso’er they fly, but eagles gazed upon with every eye’.
As I have told you washing days were terrible days with a family like ours, so father decided he would turn the big back yard into a washhouse. He put a roof on and built a set pot as it was called that meant a big boiler with a fire underneath. There was great joy when he finished and tried a fire, for it worked perfectly. He built a long table on which to scrub the clothes and mother was set. She declared washing day was a pleasure. He had found all the materials he needed at the Blast Sands or on the dump. Mother could even hang the clothes in there in wet weather to take the thick of the dampness out of them. They had good mangles in those days with large wooden rollers and they would wring clothes of any thickness. There was a very big wheel to turn which was hard work. Father used to whitewash the walls regularly to make it lighter and found he had to put in a skylight both for light and ventilation. Nothing deterred him if it was to assist mother. I can see him now crossing the back street with his pail of whitewash and his brush, and dressed in one of mother’s voluptuous nightgowns as protection. There was always much banter from the neighbours, but mother was the envy of them all until their husbands built them the same. Oh yes, life was still good, and love which we were taught meant service was the order of the day. I have always been surrounded with love first from my parents, then from my husband. God bless him and now from my family. Again I quote Shakespeare ‘my crown is in my heart, not on my head. Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen, my crown is called content’
Yes, my childhood was spent in a world of contentment for we longed for nothing we could not have. The small shops only sold what was within our means to buy and no-one could outclass another. Of course, some never tried to improve their status but even so they were content with a warm fireside and the food they could afford. I knew no-one in dire poverty living at the Cottages until the big strike came. Mother had foreseen this and had two huge bags of flour stored in readiness, because she said you would not starve if you had bread. But I remember these bags were stored in the front lobby and the mice got in. There we all were with sheets of clean papers spread out all over the place and with a knife we were searching amongst the flour for the mice dirt. Mother could not afford to waste it and so we fished amongst it. “The graded grains make the best flour”. I always laugh at this and think of the mice and our grading. We had heaps of fun and our full share of clean fresh air spring, summer, autumn and winter. I remember mother making her Christmas cakes, one for Christmas and one for the New Year. We all had a stir and a wish and we fought hand over fist to ‘rake the dish out’. As soon as the big dish came into sight someone would shout ‘rakies’ and the fun would start. Mother would say ‘I notice none of you shout clean the dish out’. So one of us would get the order. Then she would make her ginger wine. I often wish I had got her recipe. I know she put in four things, but it was a delicious syrupy mixture. Of course, we argued again as we all tasted it at its various stages, some wanted more ginger others didn’t but it was always settled by the boss. But mother’s Christmas pudding was just a ‘spotty dick’ because she could not afford fruit for cakes and puddings. But it was a Christmas pudding to us. It could not be anything else because it was boiled on Christmas Day, and it was decorated with holly.
I remember Mother and her staircase. She went to the Co-op on Monday and when she came home she had looked through the open door of a ‘quality’ house and seen the staircase. At the foot of the stairs was the banister with a large knob on it which Mother thought was elegant. She told father and soon afterwards he found the very thing washed up on the beach at Blast Sands. He brought it home and polished, smoothed, and polished again and again and finished up with a beautiful mahogany knob which he installed on the stairs. Mother was very proud of this I am sure she thought it could vie with any staircase in castle or palace. Little did the poor good and little did they get. Not Shakespeare this time but one of Maria’s quotations. Whenever she quoted, one of the gang would shout a poet’s name. One day one of them shouted ‘John Bull.
Another game we played was ‘rhymes’. One would say a line then another would make another to rhyme and so on. It was great fun. One of my brothers had on a pair of velvet trousers and he would always make up the best rhymes so these were called his poetry trousers. Life is great and lived to its fullest in a big family. We would have musical evenings. One of my brothers would play a tune, by ear, on the piano another on the organ, yet another would beat a rhythm on the brass fire irons and one on the music stand. This was a bamboo affair and on each of the four poles was a gilt trimmed disc which rattled when you touched them. It was surprising the music that came from all this. The girls sang, that was their contribution. Any of our friends would come in for an hour or so in the evening in these later years.
Life was good in spite of very hard times, but we had to make our own fun and we had the numbers and the capacity to do just that in our family. Mother used to emphasise the goodness of God in preserving her family from fatal illnesses or accidents.
We always welcomed a baby into our house. The joy was unbelievable when a new one came and time after time we were astonished at the size of its little hands and feet and revelled in the soft pink, blue and white nighties mother had ready for it –
Life is good and full of joy if you look for it
The sun, the sky, the flowers, the birds Raindrops falling or the whistling wind
Are gloriously free
But the smile of welcome on a loved one’s face
Or the little hands of your child

Emmanuel Reed

Emmanuel Reed 1866 – 1944


From Mike Shaw

Language used to describe black workers in the USA may offend some but as it was in everyday use at the time and is in no way meant to demean or denigrate I have left as is.  – Dave Angus


I was born at 44 Frances Street Seaham Harbour on November 24th 1866 and at the age of four I went into the infant’s department of St John’s National School and at the age of five I was transferred to the Boys School into a class taught by Mr Robert Robson, after about 6 months I was moved into the second class, afterwards these were known as Standards, later I was promoted to Standard III. My father worked at Messrs John Candlish Bottleworks where the workmen had a School of their own to which every man subscribed and they had a School Mistress for the girls and a Master for the boys. I did not make much progress there, afterwards it was abandoned and I went to St John’s National School at Swinebank Cottages and rose to standard III, Mr Robert Clark was then Headmaster.

 I was also in the Church Choir, Mr John G Phillips was Organist and Choirmaster, there was no restriction on the school leaving age and I used to be absent from School often, taking the place of boys who were sick and unable to work in the Bottleworks. Then at the age of ten I started work permanently but after I had worked a while the School leaving age was fixed, a boy could work half time until he was 13 then he could leave altogether if he had passed into the fourth Standard.


I had to go back to the School but owing to working half time I had not sufficient attendances in to qualify for examination. When I was 13 and wished to leave School, I was still in Standard III but Mr Clark gave me a note certifying that I had not sufficient attendances in to be examined to qualify for Standard IV. I had been working full time and going to School half time, I was enabled to do that by commencing work at midnight drawing annealed bottles out of the kilns, by pushing on they could all be got out by 7.30 or 8 A.M. so that I got to School in the morning and got to bed after dinner until it was time to start work again.

There was nothing very eventful in my boyhood, at the age of fourteen I was bound Apprentice to Robert Candlish + Son, the former head of the firm having passed away. When I was sixteen years of age a strike took place among the Bottlemakers throughout the North of England which included Seaham Harbour,  several factories in Sunderland, one each at Stockton, South Shields and Hartley Panns.


After it had lasted a few months all the furnaces were out and all we Apprentices were kept on just doing odd labouring jobs to hold us. The Manager Mr Archibald Hall told us if we could better ourselves we could leave but must come back when the men returned to work, I got work at Murton Colliery where my Father was already employed , I got just a little over double my Apprentice wages.

The strike lasted ten months then the men returned to work, in my opinion all that was gained by the long strike was a much needed change, for previous to the strike there was no actual time allowed for meals owing to the time it took to prepare the glass ready to make into bottles.

We started at one A.M. on the Monday and finished at one P.M. but it might be 2. 3. or 4 AM or later before the glass was ready for the next shift. I have started at 2 AM on the Monday and owing to the time it took to get the glass ready, sometimes eighteen hours, it was 4 PM on Saturday before we got the fifth shift in.

When we started we had so many dozen bottles to make before our shift (or journee) was completed, I started at 9 A.M. one Wednesday morning and it was 11 A.M. on the Thursday before we completed the shift 63 dozen quart bottles. To begin with, when we started work the glass was what was technically called not fine in respect that correctly named it was not refined, it was actually full of small white stones. It was no use to work it for the bottles would not stand any pressure, in fact they would crack to pieces before anything was put into them, so the furnace had to be opened out again and the fires driven to their fiercest for 8 hours.

The men went home, we boys were supposed to go home but instead we just played around doing all kinds of mischief. It was nearly 7 P.M. before we got another start to make bottles then the glass turned what was technically glass-knotty, that is it looked like sago-pudding, the fires had to be set away again at their fiercest, it was four hours before we got another start, we boys just played about the whole time. It was nearly 6 AM on Thursday morning before we got another start and there were so many faults of various kinds that it was 11 A.M. on Thursday before we had made 63 dozen bottles to claim our wages for a shift (or journee) (the French term for a days work). Altogether we were 26 hours completing that shift for which I received l/7d the highest paid man only received 6/-.


Well, before that ten months strike we had no set time for meals, but it was arranged when we re-started work when we would stop for meals, for instance if we started at 11 A.M. to work till 11 P.M. it would be arranged to stop for dinner at 1 PM, perhaps 5 P.M. for tea, then work on without supper until we got home. A messenger would be sent to tell wives & mothers the times we would stop for meals, well when we did stop it was not for 15 or 30 minutes but sit down and eat (gobble) as fast as you could. The quickest eater would often take less than 10 minutes then jump to his feet and everyone had to follow, but after the long strike it was settled to have one hour for meals, the shifts by that time having been reduced to eleven hours the hour was divided into two stops of 30 minutes or three of 20 minutes according to the time of starting.

There was nothing very eventful during my apprenticeship until 1887 when the first continuous (gas) tank in Seaham Harbour Bottleworks burst and the molten glass flowed out on to the floor and found its way down into the huge cave underneath. The heat from the molten glass set the wooden rafters on fire, I was at work at the time, it was in the early afternoon, there were no fire fighting appliances but the men on drill at the Naval Reserve battery close at hand rushed on the scene. Each got a bucket, but the fire was principally 30 feet up so that the buckets of water were practically useless. I remembered there was a fire brigade and I rushed off to the Police Station to give the alarm. I was just as I had been working, just trousers & shirt, no stockings or head covering and only a pair of bottlehouse slippers (usually sea boots cut down to the heel & about half of the uppers cut away), so clad or less than half clad, I ran almost a mile and when I got to the police station they said they had nothing to do with putting out fires.

I had to continue my run up to the Londonderry Engine Works where the Captain & I think all the crew of the fire brigade were working. The Captain and all the workmen could not tell what had happened when they saw me half clothed but the Captain, Mr John Boggon was the first man I saw & he instantly ceased his work and summoned his crew & were soon on the scene of the fire. The fire was extinguished but not before a great amount of damage was done to the tank of molten glass, 200 TONS approximately, of which at least 100 tons ran into the cave and formed a solid block in some places 15 ft thick.

The next three years were without great excitement except for days or nights of sociability in connection with the choir of the Presbyterian Church of which I had been a member from its commencement. I was also a member of Church from the ordination of the Rev John King of Aberdeen who came straight from the University at Aberdeen to be the first Minister of the Seaham Harbour Presbyterian church, he was a man of exceptional scholarship and was said to he the finest Hebrew Scholar in Scotland.

He took his M.A. degree before leaving the University, he also excelled in Greek, he was a great musician and for many years conducted the choir himself during which time it was a noted choir for miles around and rendered several Cantatas. With the assistance of Mr Coates from Trinity Presbyterian Church Sunderland he rendered the oratorio Christ and his Soldiers with full orchestral accompaniments, the principals were Mrs Lawrence, contralto of Newcastle, Miss Oakeshott, soprano of Newcastle, Mr Macdonald of Durham Cathedral, tenor, and Mr Fred Forster of Sunderland, bass. It was a huge success. For over seven years, Mr King was Minister of Seaham Harbour, then he received a call to Alloa, the Church was in a flourishing condition in every way and it was a great loss to Seaham when Mr King went away, just before he left, I got married to my betrothed Miss Jane Ann Clarke  who was a native of Sunderland.


We were married on July 2nd 1890 our first child a son was born April 12th 1891. We had two other children born in Seaham Harbour, a daughter Mary Elizabeth, and a son Ernest and we then went to Hendon to live. I went to work at Hendon Bottleworks and while I was working at Hendon we had another son born Arthur Augustus.

In 1897 I went to Scotland to work, I started Provost Wood’s factory in Portobello, afterwards I went to Alloa in Clackmannanshire, while I was there we had a son born to us William by name, afterwards I went to work at Messrs Paul’s Bottleworks in Camlachie where I worked for a good while until a friend of mine from Dublin came to visit us, he gave me glowing accounts of the prosperous state of the bottle trade in Dublin and the large amount of money earned there. I decided to try Dublin, I wrote to Mr Peter McLuskey, I have omitted that just before my friend from Dublin called upon me, my wife gave birth to another child stillborn.

When I went to Dublin to work at Ringsend Bottleworks my wife & family followed about 3 weeks later. I remained some time in Dublin and then moved 109 miles further south to Waterford, a very small factory employing only about 12 bottlemakers, 8 Boys, about 7 labourers and a blacksmith who was also a fitter.

After a while the Manager discharged me and when I asked him what I was discharged for he said he was very sorry but the business was not paying and he had to start as a bottlemaker himself, so as I was collector for the Union and the only Union Official in the factory I had to write and tell the Secretary (in Dublin) the circumstances. The Secretary was not satisfied and wrote to the Manager (who was a member of the Society) that he had called the committee together and they had decided that my notice was illegal and that I must be reinstated or no other workman would be allowed to take my place. A deputation came down from Dublin, they would not consult the Manager as he was still a Bottlemaker, they went straight to the Chairman of the Directors who (quite rightly in my opinion) refused to discuss what they said was the business of the Manager.

I in the meantime was told not to leave Waterford and the Society would pay my wages, in the meantime they would not allow anyone to work in my position which meant another two Men & two Boys being thrown out of work and a reduction of one quarter the production of the factory. Before the end of the week I was reinstated and the Manager was severely reprimanded but the Secretary told me to get out of it as quickly as possible for the Manager would find some excuse to get me out of it, so I looked about and got work at the Waterford Gas Works as a lamplighter.


At first I had to light the lamps with an oil torch on the end of a pole then after a while the incandescent mantles were introduced, I had a long round with 80 lamps, there were five of us employed by the Gas Co to light the City’s lamps. When the incandescent mantle was introduced the manager would not allow the torch to be used as it was apt to break the mantles. Nor would he allow any by-pass to be on the lamps as they waste a lot of gas burning in the daylight, so we each had to carry a ladder 12 feet long and use a match at least to every lamp. It was alright in fine day weather but on wet or windy weather it took 6 or 7 matches to light one lamp as everything was wet and even the sandpaper on the box got wet. We had to try all sorts of devices, luckily we had plenty of matches as we were supplied with 3 boxes of Puck matches per day and as 3 boxes did two nights comfortably we always had plenty in hand.

We were allowed 1/4 shift for lighting the lamps, 1/4 for putting them out and we had to work in the yard the other 1/2 shift unless the lamps needed cleaning or repainting, On one day we were engaged scraping & painting a telescope gas holder, using our lamplighting ladders, I had just finished as high up as I could reach with my 12 ft ladder and come down the ladder when the yard foreman said he wanted the plate next above where I had just been busy.

I told him I could not reach it from my ladder he told me to go to the store and get a box to stand my ladder on, I did and without any thought of safety placed the box level on the ground without thinking whether or not it was safe to ascend on it. The foreman who was standing by did not seem to see anything wrong, but I afterwards learned that the ladder had been too near the edge of the box. I went up with my scraper, wire brush, and pot of paint.

I do not remember anything more, but I was told afterwards when I recovered consciousness (6 days after) that I had placed the ladder too near the outer edge of the box, when I got near the top of the ladder the box overturned and I fell, struck on a fixed metal casting with my left temple fracturing the skull very badly. That was just after 1 P.M. on the Monday and was conveyed to hospital where I lay unconscious until Saturday at 3 PM.

I was in such a bad state that my wife had permission to come in at any time to see me as there was no hope of my recovery, in fact the Doctor said as far as he could see it was impossible for me to recover, but by the end of the second week I was able to get out of bed (unknown to the Doctor) and after a few days I asked the Doctor for my discharge. He pooh poohed the idea, for as far as he knew I had not been out of bed, and he said I could not walk and was surprised when I told him I had been along the corridor on two or three occasions.


He went and interviewed the nurse who verified my statement but still he would not consent, saying that it was only a few days ago that he had no hope of my recovery but after a few more days he very reluctantly consented to let me go home and attend every day as an outpatient, saying that I must not touch strong drink inside 6 months as it would go straight to my brain, I told him there was no chance of that for I was a life-long total abstainer and was not likely to start now on such small wages.

He said that just exactly explained what he and the other doctors and matron and nurses had been puzzled over, for when I was carried in there and for a whole week after there were 100 to 1 chances against me recovering and though they did everything in their power to save me they could not tell how I had pulled through. What I had just told him explained everything for if there had been any alcohol in the system I could never have pulled through.

When I was convalescent I could not understand why the blinds at the windows had two cords hanging from the bottom, or why the nurse when she came to take my temperature had two thermometers & also had two pencils to write it down. I mentioned it to the Matron & she informed the Dr who said that was a case for an Oculist, the Matron informed the Oculist who explained to me that the jolt when I fell & struck my head had caused muscles to open & let my left eye fall below the right one and that instead of the two eyes working in unison with each other each eye saw separately, he could not do anything to help me, and it would depend upon the muscles to raise the eye back into it’s proper position.

At the end of the fourth week I went to see the manager of the Gas Works about getting started on the following Monday but he would not let me start, he said I could not be fit for the Doctor had informed him that I would never work again. He made me take another week off though he was paying my full wages to my wife all the time, so I started after five weeks off and remained there a long time but I was eager to get away to sea as a fireman.

I tried hard to get a ship but Waterford was a very bad place for a stranger to get installed as a fireman unless he had previous experience as it was only a call port for passenger steamers and what cargo steamers came in it was not the end of their voyage. A number of Clyde Shipping Co steamers called there on their way to Plymouth and London then again on their return voyage to Glasgow,  I could not get a berth on any of them as it was neither the beginning nor the end of the voyage but an Engineer Chief of the S.S.Sheerness promised to do his best for me.

One Sunday morning when the Sheerness called on her way back to London I went on board as soon as she came alongside and saw the Chief who told me he was going to pay a man off when he got to Glasgow and if I would go round to Glasgow he would give me the berth. Next morning I extinguished my lamps and instead of going into the yard to work after breakfast I went into the Manager’s Office and asked him to let me away without working any notice, at first he would not consent for me to go but when I told him I was going to get double the wage I then had, he at once arranged to let me go.


I  went on a free passage to Glasgow by arrangement with the head Agent at Waterford but when we got into the open sea another man turned up, an experienced fireman and a friend of two others of the firemen on the Sheerness. When we got into the Clyde, before we got to Glasgow, the Chief told me he could not give me the berth as I was not an experienced fireman and two of the other firemen had threatened to leave if he engaged me instead of the man they had brought with them.

I pointed out to him that I had left a permanent job on his promise to give me the berth, but he said he could not do it so I was left stranded in Glasgow. I was out of work for four days then I got started in Stephen & Co’s shipyard (where they built most of the C.P.R. steamers) as a labourer, after working for a few weeks I returned to Waterford and got work to start labouring for Messrs McAlpine, son in law of Sir William Arrol who built the Forth Bridge.

A company had decided to make a new route to Killarney from a port in Wales to a port a little north of Waterford, to continue the route by sail to the north side of the river Suir then to erect a Bridge across the Suir to the south side and continue the railway from there to Killarney.

The railway on the south side was completed when I started but I started on the north side and remained there for some considerable time during which time several gangs of labourers were broken up and paid off but I was lucky enough to be there until there were only two Gangs employed, about 50 men.

Just then the bottle trade in Dublin got busy and there was a demand for men and I applied and got a job in the Hibernian bottle factory. About this time my wife gave birth to a daughter who was in such a bad way when she was born that she only lived about 7 days & was buried in Mount Jerome, the protestant cemetery away up by the Grand Canal.

Soon after this I wanted to live nearer my childhood home so I got work at Ayres Quay Bottleworks (Sunderland), then my next move was back to Seaham Harbour in 1910 as a labourer & spare bottlemaker.

After being there a while through an unfortunate incident, the yard foreman paid me off, I had done no wrong, for my work was finished till 1 o’clock. At 11.45 A.M. I went over to the office for my wages, any man taking spare work when any of the bottlemakers were off work had the privilege of leaving his work at 11.30 to go & collect his pay from the man he had been working for. As I went to the office a woman was standing with her husband’s dinner, she did not want to go along the yard and could not get anyone to take it along for her so I took it along for her. At 12 noon when I went to the lodge to sign out, my key was not on the board, when I called out, someone has taken the wrong key the foreman was standing near and he said, here is your key come back at one o clock & get your money, when I asked why he replied for being away from your work talking to a bottlemaker. That happened on the day preceeding Good Friday, on Easter Monday I was at Tyne Dock trying to get a ship.


I was not successful & next morning I went on to Blyth where I had some relatives. An Uncle used his influence with a friend of his who was Foreman painter in the shipyard and as they were very busy I got started next morning. The foreman asked me had I ever done any painting and I truthfully informed him that I had done a good deal of painting, so he gave me a pot of paint, the paint was about six inches deep so I went with the crowd under the ship’s bottom and commenced as I had been accustomed to do and as I had seen house painters do, but I got a rude awakening. The other men (all accustomed to the job) set themselves apart at equal distances and without saying anything to me left me a space. I set to work very carefully to do the job neatly so that the foreman at least would not find fault but I had not got 1/8th of my space done when the man on my right hand finished his space and wishing good-bye shifted to the other end and commenced on another space in a few more seconds the man on my left hand did likewise, in a few more seconds I was the only one left at that part of the ship.

The foreman who had been standing near, came up to me & said I did not need to take so much pains as there was any amount of paint & instead of taking pains to avoid brush marks all I had to do was to get the brush full of paint & float it on. Adding excuse me & I’ll show you what I mean, he dipped the brush right to the very bottom of the pot and applied the paint as a woman would commence to wash a floor (only it was more in the position of a ceiling). Now, he said that’s the way to paint a ship’s bottom, don’t spare the paint. When I had finished that space I moved along & found that the rest of the squad had finished their second space but there was a space left untouched for me. I was not discouraged but tackled my space without asking the why or wherefore & filled my brush & floated the paint on, and was finished with my fourth space alongside the others.

The foreman never said another word but smiled approvingly next time he came round and I remained painting & had painted dozens of ships when the yard turned slack. We were all paid off on the Friday night until some work came in, I was at lodgings & could not afford to be out of work so I went down to the Shipping Office to look for a ship and at last I got my chance, for the Captain of the Luque belonging to Messrs MacAndrew of Glasgow was looking for a trimmer.

Luque was engaged in the Spanish fruit trade & the orange season was just finished, she was loaded with coal for Malaga & was to sail early next morning so I went on board to see the Chief Engineer and knocked on the door of his berth, when he opened the door I could scarcely see him for a mosquito curtain but I soon heard him for he was a little rat faced bully & I had disturbed his after dinner nap.

I did not mention that the crew were all foreigners but the Officers were British, the reason being the Luque was in the Spanish & Portuguese trade and had signed on at Hamburg where men could be got at £1 per month less than the British rate of wages. The wages were per month. Firemen & Sailors £3.10, Trimmer & Ordinary Seamen £3 so I had signed on for £3 per month just for the sake of getting a ship & a discharge book at the end of the voyage.


The Officers were a mixed lot of Britishers, the Captain (a fine man) belonged to Grimsby, the Chief mate belonged to Liverpool, the Chief engineer (a perfect pig) belonged to Bath, the Second to Glasgow & the Third to Dublin. I wanted to see the Chief to get some idea about my work & what I would need to have with me in the way of utensils, when he opened the door he greeted me with, who the —- are you & what the —- —- do you mean by disturbing my rest. I apologised for disturbing him and informed him that the Captain had engaged me and would he please tell what I would require in the way of gear.

He answered, so you are the new fireman, do you know what you’re going among, I answered I understand I am going to mix with a lot of foreigners and he said, is that all you know about them, let me tell you you’re going among a lot of  b——- rogues & if you’ve got any money on you don’t you let them know, I said I could manage to look after myself.

That was the day King Edward VII died & we sailed early next morning but had to lie outside the harbour a few hours as the Second Engineer had not turned up, after a few hours he turned up drunken but when he was sober I found him to be a perfect Gentleman and got on well with him. We had beautiful weather & at night I realised the beauty of the hymn But to us He gives the keeping, of the lights along the shore.

The beautiful weather continued until we got half-way across the Bay of Biscay, then I discovered the truth of the worst I had heard about the Bay of Biscay but we ran into beautiful weather before we got to Gibraltar & having my sketching block & pencils with me, as soon as we came somewhat near the Rock I commenced to sketch it. The foreigners were greatly tickled at a fireman sketching anything but Captain Harrison came down off the bridge & was greatly interested in my sketch but told me I had started on it too soon for if I had waited until we got due west of it I would have been able to get a full view.

I completed the one I had started and then when we got abreast of it I at once saw the truth of what the Captain had said & commenced another, when we got through the Straits I was standing in the stokehold watching the firemen but the Second came through the alleyway & said if you want to learn to fire Reed for God sake don’t take notice of any of this lot for not one of them can fire. Three of them were there at the time to try & get to Malaga before the tide was done but they could not get enough steam and we had to wait until next day.

Malaga is a very beautiful place with beautiful specimens of ornamental gardening almost on to the quays. The first time I went ashore I took pains to notice how far I went to the left hand & was very careful not to go far from the main street and then come back as much through another street, then made my way back to the docks. When I thought I must be near the docks I came to the most beautiful ornamental gardening I had ever seen and I made sure I had lost myself and was in a beautiful Park so I turned round retraced my steps to try & find the docks and wandering about for a while I found myself at the same beautiful park again I turned about again & saw some of the most beautiful scenery it had ever been my lot to see.

All this time when I tried to make inquiries no one could understand me and I landed back at the same spot three times but the third time in front of one of the estaminets seated at a table were some of my shipmates, they could understand enough English to inform me that I was at the docks and that the Luque was just about 300 yards away but the scenery was so beautiful I could not think I was near the docks.

I found out where the English Church was by going to the British Consul’s office and next day being Sunday I went to the English Church and enjoyed a splendid service in English.


After discharging our cargo of coal we took on a part cargo of wine then we departed for Lisbon and took on a large quantity of virgin cork, then we left for San Juan near the mouth of the river Guadalquivir where we took on another part cargo of copper ore then we went further up the river to Seville where we took on board a quantity of Olives and Olive oil.

I had a good look round Seville as we were there 3 days, I was in the Gothic Cathedral & various other places of interest, then we sailed for London, the first night at sea I was roused from my slumber by a noise in the fo’cstle, when I looked over the side of my bunk there were both sailors and firemen having a feast of Olives & Olive oil. They had broached the cargo, also they had pails full of wine which they had obtained from the casks by boring small holes and taking a quantity from several casks. I was invited to join in the feast but declined, this went on until we got to the Straits of Dover then the carpenter who had made the holes in the casks put spales [plugs] in them and trimmed them off neatly so they would not be noticed. I gave 24 hours notice when we got to the straits intending to leave the ship in London and get a discharge with which I thought I would be able to get almost any steamer wanting hands.

SS Mount Temple,photographed 1907 , Sunk by the German surface raider SMS Moewe in 1916


I went to Dock Street Shipping Office with the Captain and second Engineer who was also leaving, I was paid off but before I was paid off the Captain in course of conversation observed it was a pity I could not get on with the Spaniards, when I told him I had nothing again the Spaniards, they had dealt with me alright, my grievance was with the Engineer whom I considered to be a perfect pig. The Captain wanted me to remain with him until we got to Hamburg as I would find it very difficult to get another ship in London with only a trimmer’s discharge.  I refused thinking even a trimmer’s discharge with a good character would get me a ship, but I failed time after time.

I was sent by the Shipping Federation to one of the C.P.R. steamers the Mount Temple there were 16 hands wanted for the stokehold but as soon as the Chief looked at my discharge book he handed it back saying no good. I tackled one Chief at Dock Street Shipping Office, he was Chief of the Discovery, at that time fitting out for the seal trade in Labrador, when I asked the Chief if he wanted firemen he answered yes, have you a discharge book, answering him yes I produced it but when he looked at it he viewed me from top to toe, then with a kindly look he answered, I’m real sorry lad but that is no use, I would have taken you directly if you had had a fireman’s discharge, so I failed again.

After two weeks I was at the end of my money having spent it travelling from dock to dock meeting disappointment at every turn, then I took the Newcastle passenger steamer to Newcastle and then travelled to North Shields, and put up at a Seamen’s boarding house. I was equally unsuccessful there for a few days but at last the Gentleman Capt Todd in charge of the Federation office told me one morning he had a Captain coming from Blyth who wanted a Sailor & a Fireman and he had put my name down for the Fireman’s berth.


When the Captain arrived he at first was not quite willing to sign a man on with nothing but a trimmer’s discharge, but the Superintendant strongly recommended him to take me, at last he felt my arms like a butcher at a cattle market, then he said, alright Captain Todd this man will suit me.  I was instructed to go by a train leaving about mid-day, there was also an Engineer’s steward from the same boarding house going to join the same ship S.S.Sheaffield of Newcastle so the boarding house master accompanied us to the Blyth Shipping Office to get his pay for our keep for 6 days.

I had just signed on and was picking up my half months advance when the Captain (Captain Clark) intervened & stopped me, saying he had forgot there was a Boarding House keeper for six days keep & he attempted to pick it up to give him when the Shipping Master intervened. He said Captain, never interfere with a mans advance or wages where I am, that money belongs to Mr Reed, he has just signed for it, and in future trust to a man’s honesty to pay his debts, it doesn’t matter to you whether he pays the Boarding Master or he doesn’t, you have nothing whatever to do with it so remember in future.

I may say here I am sure the Shipping Master was right, but I never sailed with a finer Gentleman than Captain Clark proved to be, he was part owner and shortly after I left the Sheaffield he was made Superintendant and never failed to stop & speak to me whenever we met. The Chief Engineer Mr Merrit  was also a very fine man.

I next joined the S.S.Rowen which belonged to Furness Withy, a steamer of about 4000 tons on which I met the best shipmate ever I sailed with, he was an Irishman O’Neill was his name, I always called him Teddy O’Neill. I left the Rowen and then got engaged by Mr Robert Curry and was firing at Seaham Colliery a while, I was also Engineman at Seaham Harbour Gas Works under Mr James White, manager, afterwards I joined a small steamer S.S.Ravenscraig owned by Mr Thomas Rose of Sunderland we went to Kirkwall & afterwards made several more trips to the Orkney Islands.

On one occasion after discharging coal at Kirkwall we went to a small place called Barra it was not really a port, we had to go through Scapa Flow where I saw the German Fleet which was sunk there at high water, you could only see the mastheads but at low tide they were plainly visible. We loaded barrels at Barra which we took to Fraserboro to be filled with herrings. There we got a cargo of salted herrings for Fecamp, afterwards I went back to Seaham Colliery.

Previous to this I was working at Seaham Colliery, in 1914 in March of that year a friend of mine (but much younger) got promoted to be Chief Engineer of Furness Withy’s S.S. Rossana of 7,000 tons, she was coming to Hebburn to Palmer’s Dry Dock and I called to see my friend Thomas Laidler Robson at his father’s home, (his own home was at Dovercourt) and ask him for a berth firing. He met me in the best room and when I made my request (this was his first voyage as Chief) he said well Mannie, this is my first trip as permanent chief, when I was Second Engineer, the Chief always left the engagement of the firemen to me and now when I am Chief I intend to leave the engagement of the firemen to my Second, but I will recommend you to him so you may consider yourself engaged.


It would be a few weeks before the Rossana was ready for sea so I asked him could he let me know when she was nearly ready so I could give notice to Mr Curry, he said he would if he could.

I heard nothing more for over two weeks until one day when I came home from work after 5 PM there were orders left for me to join the Rossana at Hebburn graving  dock next day. It was too late then to see Mr Curry, so next morning instead of going to work at 6 AM I waited until 9 AM to catch Mr Curry leaving his home for the Colliery.

I walked up to him and wished him good morning, he asked why I was not at work, I answered him I had come to ask of him a favour, I wanted to be away without working any notice. He replied that a lot of men came to him asking favours, but never did him a favour, I replied, Mr Curry I have worked for you a long time & have always done my work to the best of my ability and I thought that was the best favour I could do you, he replied you are quite right lad come to the office with me and I will give you the note for your money.

I was on board the Rossana before noon. We proceeded up the river to Dunstan Haugh, I was taken on pay to work on board from day to day until we signed on, which was not until 12 days after, then we got orders to sign on at mid-day, we signed on for 3 years to take coal to Porto Vecchia on the island of Corsica.

We were ordered to sail early next morning, so I had to hurry to get to Seaham Harbour and catch a train back, I succeeded and we sailed at 6 AM on April 1st, all fools day, I am not superstitious but I did not like the idea of sailing on All Fools day. We were not ready for sea at any rate for such a long voyage for the stores were not on board so we had to drop anchor as soon as we got outside and it was past mid-day before the stores were all on board.

While we were lying at anchor I found I had got among an awful crowd, they all (except three) were entire strangers to me, for the Second Engineer had never been up North before and he had to select six of his men at the Shipping Office and as the Discharge book is no guide to a man’s character he selected his men from their discharge books. He picked up no real good firemen as to ability but as to character nuff said.

While we were at anchor the Chief was going round examining everything which concerned him and the remarks passed by the men (whom the Second had picked up at Newcastle) foretold me that I was in a shocking crowd, four of them were pals & goalbirds at that, one was an Italian the other belonged to Gateshead and was the best man among them.

I forgot to mention that one of the men whom I knew had gone on the spree when he got his advance note & thereby missed the ship so another man had to be signed in his place and of course was a pal of the others who had stood by in case of there being someone short.


We had not got as far as Cape Finnestre when the fun started, the gang of pals commenced to complain about the food which I considered fair both as to quality and quantity but they found fault with it and demanded an interview with the Captain. They had found fault particularly with the hash which we had for breakfast that morning and took a plateful along to the Captain who called on the steward to bring a spoon, when he tasted it he asked the ringleader, what do you complain about, is there not enough of it for it tastes alright, and is the self and same as I had for my breakfast. He got a lot of impudence, but pulled the man up saying, remember I’m the Captain and demand civility, state your complaint but I will have civility.

The ringleader would not reason and demanded that we go on our Whack which means that we have the Board of Trade scale of rations, meat, vegetable, tea, butter, sugar, even to a good proportion of pepper, and everything required for making up a meal, the men have to prepare it for the oven and the cook has it cooked in time.

We had an excellent Cook & he was also a kindly man but he was much troubled with bad feet, he was very much perturbed at the complaint (groundless the Captain said) the men had made. So we proceeded on our course to Porto Vecchia which is a large natural harbour and we had to lay a good distance from the shore, the coal was discharged into barges and our only chance of getting ashore was to go by one of the barges.

I was ashore often, it was a beautiful place, about the second morning we were there someone went along to the galley to speak to the cook at about 7 A.M., he was not there but the man on watch said he was not far away as he had been speaking to him a few minutes previously. The Donkeyman (who was wanting to see him) went to his berth but he was not there, being a man that only travelled between his berth and the galley, the Donkeyman was surprised and was wondering where the Cook could have got to. He just happened to get his eye on something in the water, when he took a close scrutiny he found it was the body of the cook, face downwards, floating on the water, nobody had seen it happen. Instantly the donkeyman gave the alarm and being a crack swimmer he dived overboard and secured the body, a rope was thrown to him and he secured it round the body and it was hauled aboard.

A doctor was called on board but the body was lifeless and was conveyed ashore, it was a clear case of suicide, and he was buried there. One of the sailors was made cook and we, left one hand short were bound for Oran for bunkers but it did not take long. Then we proceeded to Huelva to load copper ore for Wilmington N.C. U.S.A., we had a lively time at Huelva, the gang went ashore and got drunk and came aboard about midnight uproarious and tried to rouse the Captain to fight him, another one wanted to fight the Steward, a very boastful fellow who had said he was one of Bombardier Wells’s sparring partners, no one would get out of their berth so they started to fight among themselves.

In the melee one of them fell off the fo’cstle head on to the deck 10 feet below, he lay there until daylight, then the Captain called a doctor aboard but there were no bones broken so the doctor only laughed at the man saying that he had got no more than he deserved.


I enjoyed myself ashore at Huelva, after loading about 7,000 tons of copper ore we set out for Wilmington. Two days out I was lying in my bunk just after dinner when one of the gaolbirds came into the fo’cstle and commenced to quarrel with the Italian, they got to blows and the Italian was getting the worst of it, the other fellow was gripping him round the waist and when they got near the Italian’s bunk he put his hand into it and took out his dagger, instantly the other fellow let him go, that ended the melee.

Three days later another of the gaolbirds came along just after dinner, again, a metal pan was standing on the table, he put his arms round the Italian saying I’ll take good care you don’t get your knife out to me and he pinned his arms to his side but he had left his forearms free and the Italian seized the saucepan off the table by the handle and swung his forearm battering the other fellows head severely, before the gaolbird had sense to let go his arms, then they got out on the deck and finished it but the Italian looked none the worse for his encounter.

After 13 days we arrived at Wilmington N.C., the Captain had said he would not give advances after the behaviour of the firemen at Huelva. Consequently when we arrived at Wilmington I did not ask for an advance and was very much surprised next day when Simeon Wallace a school chum of the Chief showed me some goods that he had purchased the night before, naturally I asked him where he had got the money to spend on them, he said he had got it from the Captain, I asked him how he had managed that and he informed me that he and I were exempted from what the Captain had said.

The Captain told him that he only meant the firemen who had misbehaved at Huelva but that he and I had behaved ourselves well and he was to tell me that I could also have an advance, so during the day I also interviewed the Captain and he said yes I could have some money, how much did I want. I asked for £2, he looked surprised and said yes I could have £2 but he would advise me not to draw so much as Wilmington was a very dear place to buy anything and I had better have less here and when we got to Savanna, I could get more and would find things a good 1 third cheaper there but I took the £2 and had a real good time.

On the Sunday I went to a Presbyterian Church. and learnt that there was a men’s bible class in the afternoon, I decided to go to it and took my seat beside a man, we entered into conversation before the class really commenced, we talked at intervals during the meeting but I had no idea to whom I was talking.

When the bible class closed for the afternoon I just said good afternoon and went my way but a gentleman overtook me and inquired how I liked the place, I said I liked it so well that I would stay there if I could get a job, he answered there were plenty of jobs to be got, had I not mentioned it to Mr Clark, I said I did not know Mr Clark, then I was informed that he was the gentleman with whom I had been conversing all the afternoon, and he was a large lumber (timber) merchant and employed a large number of workmen.


He wanted me to go with him to Mr Clark’s home but I would not go on a Sunday, the gentleman then asked me when my ship would be ready for sea, I said as far as I could tell not before Saturday. He arranged with me to come on Tuesday and he would arrange with Mr Clark for an interview. I saw both gentlemen on the Tuesday night, in a private interview with Mr Clark he offered me a situation at a good salary to take charge of all his machinery. It was a tempting offer but I could not take it as I had no experience of machinery to qualify me for an important position like that, (I omitted to state that in the meantime our ship had been moved 2 miles further up the river to the quay of a large patent manure company where we had to discharge the remaining 400 tons of copper ore) could he not give me some other job, he said he was sorry but he did not employ any white men except his foreman and he looked after the whole of the machinery, and if I could have done the machinery it would have been a great relief to him.

He asked me when my ship was leaving, when I told him not before Saturday he asked if I could meet him tomorrow night, in the meantime he would get in touch with Mr Carpenter the Superintendant of the Waccama Lumber who had succeeded Mr Clark when he left to commence on his own. When I saw Mr Clark on the next night he had fixed for me a job with the Lumber Co, I had to go to a place called Bolton, the headquarters of the Lumber Co, if I had asked him he would have given money to pay my fare (that is the American, you have only to ask and they will give you anything within reason) but I was still English and would hide my poverty, I had just 10 cents (5d) and I had 23 miles to go.

I agreed to go and see Mr Carpenter and went back to my ship, but before going on board I went into the office of the Manure Co and had a chat with the night watchman who was bitterly opposed to a man being tied to a job, for in the U.S.A., if a man wants to change his job he just goes to the office and says I’m quit and if the employer wishes to be rid of an employee he calls him up and you’re fired in both cases the wages due is handed over at once.

I told the watchman that I was going to desert my ship and asked him for advice about leaving my gear which consisted of two sea boxes and a box, I asked him would he buy a pair of new boots which had only been on my feet twice, he said he would have bought them directly but he had no money but 10 cents which he insisted on my taking. I asked him would he take charge of my gear but he refused saying that as soon as they discovered I had left the ship they would come straight to him for information as I must pass his office door to get away.

I went aboard and packed my belongings but found someone had stolen my 10 cents. After getting my gear packed I went ashore, the ship was light then and the deck was 15ft or more above the quay, I omitted to state that I had to wait until after midnight before I could get ashore for the Chief Engineer and others of the ship’s Officers were in the office enjoying a chat with the watchman. I could not get ashore until they were all turned in, just on the stroke of midnight the Officers left the office on the quay and after they had got into their quarters and their lights were extinguished I got the very men through whom I

was leaving the ship to lower my gear on to the quay.

After bidding them all good-bye I carried my gear into the office and asked the watchman if I might leave it with him, but he again refused to have anything to do with them telling me to go and hide them somewhere about the works then he could safely deny knowing about the transaction. I had taken my working clothes out of the bag to strap over my shoulder, the watchman made me a cup of tea, gave me a portion of his meal, then he wrote two letters for me to give to friends of his whom I had to pass on my way to Bolton. If I walked a mile before taking train my 10 cents would just bring me to where his first friend lived.


I took train from Ellars to St Helens where Mr Smith lived, when I got there I had great difficulty in finding him (I omitted to say I set off to walk at the first sign of daylight) when I found Mr Smith I handed him the letter addressed to him by Mr Dukes. I did not know what it said but I had expected to get my breakfast but on reading it he said I’m sorry friend but I cannot do anything for you, I replied I had not asked him to do anything, he replied but Mr Dukes has and I have had so many losses lately that I am very short of money. I replied I don’t know anything about what was in the letter, but pointing along the railway I said sharply is this the road to Bolton? he said yes. I said good morning and set off to walk.

When I had walked about two hours, passing two stations on the way, I came to a place called Farmers, I met a man on the railway who entered into conversation with me and I just talked a free and easy way told him I had deserted my ship. He said I was doing wrong to keep on the line for the next station I would come to was New Berlin and as soon as the Captain reported that I had deserted the Police would be on the lookout for me and there was sure to be one or more at New Berlin.

He advised me to leave the railroad and take the turnpike, I did so and after wandering for two hours I was very hungry, then I came to a store (shop) and decided to try and sell my boots, I had changed them by this time they were on my feet when I went into the store, I asked the man if I could sell him a pair of boots he asked was I an agent for boots I said no I wanted to sell a pair to get something to eat, he asked where are the boots, I said on my feet.

He asked what I was going to do if I parted with my boots I said I had a pair on my back which I would put on my feet, he replied that he did not deal in boots but would buy them rather than that I should be hungry. He gave me one and a half dollars (6/3d) for them, I bought some biscuits and asked my way to the railway, he directed me, after half an hour I arrived at a railway station, New Berlin, the very station I had been told to avoid.

After waiting about 45 minutes I got a train to Birdville where Mr Ellis lived for whom I had the second letter, I had understood from Mr Dukes that Mr Ellis’s house was on the right hand side of the road (of course there were no station building) the train stopped and I had to climb down on to the track. When the train passed on I crossed over to the right hand side of the railroad and found a roadway and walking along (it was after sunset and beginning to rain) I could not see any houses until I came to a broken down farm, not seeing any other buildings near I made up my mind to spend the night here but although I searched around there was not any part of it where I could shelter from the rain so I decided to walk on.

I would come to less harm walking in the rain than by lying down in it. After walking about half a mile I observed some houses on the left hand side of the railroad, I instantly thought Mr Dukes had directed wrong or I had misunderstood him and probably this was where Mr Ellis lived. There was one house lighted up with the door standing open so I walked up to it and rapped as hard as I could with my knuckles but could get no response, so I shouted halloa, then I went into the hall still shouting still no response so I retraced my steps to the railroad.

Looking back the way I had come I saw a man going along in the opposite direction to what I had come so having a very loud voice, although he was fully 300 yards away, I shouted my loudest and he turned round, I hurried up to him and after introducing myself made known my business, he said do you know Mr Ellis, I answered that I did not but had a letter from Mr Dukes of Wilmington for him, Oh I know Mr Dukes, and I am going past Mr Ellis’s farm and will take you there as I pass, so we went on our way.


By this time the rain had ceased but it was very dark, we chatted all the way, he was like all U.S.A. men, he could not understand men tying themselves to a job, presently we came upon a farmstead and instead of leaving me and passing on he went right in. When he got inside he said to a woman, have you got any supper you can give this man and she answered there’s enough and to spare across the yard in the supper room so I had a right good supper the first meal and drink of warm tea I had had since 4 A.M..

It was then 10 P.M., before going across the yard to the supper room I handed him the letter I had in my possession and when he read it he said, you’re alright stay here all night, I am going on to Bolton early tomorrow morning and will take you with me, it is just about two miles further on, I have to go every morning for our letters. We arrived there before 8 A.M. and Mr Carpenter had not arrived at his Office but I had not long to wait, he gave me a note to the foreman out at the camp and I went up on the log train. We travelled 17 miles through a thick forest, great massive trees with thick undergrowth.

I arrived at the camp, I had to wait several hours before I could see Mr Edwards as he was away out in the forest preparing a new place to start and cut trees but when I saw him and gave him the letter from the Super he read it and said, alright you go out with the log train tomorrow morning.

I was attached to a gang of labourers who cut down small trees and lay them to the required thickness and lay the rails across them securing them (the rails) so that a heavy locomotive and log train can pass over them without dislodging, then the surveyors come along and taking a centre for the skidder to stand, they take a direct line to where an extra stout tree has been marked then a huge pole about 35 or 40 feet high is set up near where the skidder will stand. It is just let into the ground sufficient to keep the bottom firm then it is supported by guy ropes at three points of the compass then an extra stout wire rope 300 yds long is secured to it and to the stout marked tree about 20 feet high on this wire rope is run on sheaves with grip for the big timber and chain slings for smaller timber another wire rope is attached to the sheave, in fact two, one to haul it out to where the timber is either cut or being cut, the other wire is to haul the timber in, then a smaller steam winch was used to load the logs on to a log train.

Composed of long flat bogies, the boiler which was of the upright type was on the same bogy as the winches was supplied with water from pools of rain water during the rainy season but when water was scarce in that way a large tank of fresh water was sent out to each of the different sections. There were 5 different sections working at the same time in different parts of the forest.

I had been a few weeks labouring and never got a chance to fire so I was rising with the crowd every morning at 5 A.M. there was a good hot meal ready and we were not at all hurried over it but as soon as everybody had got their breakfast in comfort we got up on to the log train. My work lay the farthest away from the camp, calling at each of the different sections on the way out & leaving the men for that section I omitted to say that we were given a substantial amount of food to serve our mid-day meal & when we came back at night there was a good hot dinner provided by a first rate English Cook (Newcastle). He & I got on well together & many a tasty bite he gave to me apart from the meals.

I was not at all satisfied at not getting a chance to fire though I knew there were changes taking place but not near where I was working so I mentioned it to my foreman, he replied, Oh it is too hot a job for you but don’t worry you’ll get the chance of more than you can stand before the summer is over.


It was then the end of June 1914, about two weeks after this about 10 A.M. I was busy cutting down small trees when I saw a messenger come from somewhere & speak to my foreman, who called me to him saying Reed you have to go & fire No 3 Skidder and the monkey rides at 1 o clock, I said what do you mean what has it got to do with me, he said you‘ll find out.

When I got along to No 3 Skidder I found that the fireman had been overcome with the heat (he was a native) it was a scorching hot day and no one had touched the fire from him collapsing so I got to work & mended the fire, the water was rather low so I got more water into the boiler and the work started, now the heat was terrific with the boiler fire in front of me and a scorching sun on my back. I soon found how to get the better of that, for I observed the water tank on wheels standing & that I could lay under it away from the sun & keep my eye on the steam gauge so I just got up & mended my fire as it needed it and pumped more water into the boiler as it was required then returning to my shelter.

About 12.30 P.M. my foreman came along he could not see me and said to the engineman Hallo where is he I told the —– the monkey would ride at 1 o clock, but he’s knocked out before, the engineman pointed to me lying under the water tank, he turned round (thinking I was exhausted) to chaff me but I just jumped on to my feet climbed up & mended the fire and then returned & lay down again to his very great surprise. The man did not come back to his firing & I was a permanent fireman from then on as I had to be there to have steam up when the men came out from the main camp.

I got a hut to myself, it was just the shell & the Co provided me with a stove & plenty of timber, I had all my bedclothes which I had brought off the ship so I soon made up a bed for myself & a seat alongside the bed and a bench outside to scrub my clothes on when I washed. There was not another white man near but on the other side of the railroad there were 10 niggers belonging to the same gang that I worked in.

This went on for a year, the Great War broke out just as I got out there to live and after a year the Co found it very difficult (almost impossible) to get their lumber exported so had to close down altogether, I was only paid once per month & could not get any money sent home to my Wife from where I was working.

I tried Bolton where the Lumber Co head office was but I could not send money to England from there, I would have to go down to Wilmington which meant a lot of expense and loss of work, because it was half an hour after midnight before my train arrived, I just stepped across the railroad to the Temperance Hotel & slept there, had a bath and breakfast then went to the Presbyterian Church.

I did not go to the one where I had gone at first, I went to one named 1st Presbyterian Church where Rev Mr Wilson had formerly been Minister, he was the Father of Woodrow Wilson who was at that time President of U.S.A., the President was only a schoolboy while his Father was in Wilmington. I was in conversation with one or two people who remembered Woodrow as a boy.

 I could not make arrangements about sending home as the Post Office did not open for business on the Sunday, so I had to remain until Monday morning, that meant losing Monday’s wages.

After this had gone on for a few months and by that time instead of going to the Temperance Hotel I went down to the quayside to spend the night with Mr Dukes’ son who was watchman at the Quay of the Seaboard Railway Co which was about 5 minutes walk from the Station, he had the foreman’s office to live in while on duty so I could get a good sleep there.


After this had gone on for some time when the papers came out on the Sunday (I forget date) on looking over it I noticed that President Wilson had appointed that day as a day of special prayer for the Nations at War. I looked over the list of Churches in the city and I was attracted, by the name of St James (Episcopal) Church, in Market Street, I did not know where Market Street was but I determined to find it. When I found it I knew the street well but not by name, I went in fully half an hour before it was time for the service to begin and I chose a seat near the back. After I had been seated about 15 minutes a Gentleman came from the Vestry & began to walk about the Church attending to the ventilation and temperature of the Church as there was only he & I inside the Church the other Gentleman being in the lobby.

About 10 minutes before time for the service to begin two Ladies came in to the seat where I was seated, they were Mother & Daughter the Daughter being the youngest of a family of 5 the Service almost word for word the same as the Episcopal Church Of England except that there are no prayers for Royalty but instead there are prayers for the President. I thoroughly enjoyed the Service as I knew all the hymns and the chants.

Shortly after the Service commenced the Gentleman whom I had observed came and sat at the end of the seat beside the elder Lady the younger one being beside me, they were both good singers there was an excellent Choir & a good Organist and a most excellent Preacher, so to use an apt phrase I was in clover and I thoroughly enjoyed the service, for I was surrounded by a goodly number of sopranos.

I may state here that a full choir is an unusual thing, for in most Churches (where money does not abound) they just have the Quartet Soprano, Contralto, Tenor, & Bass, these in almost every case are paid, they lead the Congregation in the singing and are usually paid 5 Dollars £1.0.10 in our money but in the choir at St James Church they had a choir of 30 with the paid quartet they were all good singers. At the end of the Service the Sacrament of the Lords Supper was observed but I did not stay and when I rose to leave the two Ladies made way for me to leave but the Gentleman left his seat and preceeded me to the door. There he pressed on me to stay but I stated my objection, I was not dressed to correspond with the Congregation but the Gentleman answered, we never look on the outside, but I noticed you did not miss one word of the Service which tells me you are or have been in the habit of attending Church & my Wife & Daughter would be delighted to have you take Communion with them.

He pleaded with me to stay but I told him I was a deserter from my Ship and could be imprisoned for so doing but he said we don’t at all agree with a man being tied to a job, he again appealed to me to take Communion but when I would not consent he said, well if ever I can do anything for you let me know & if ever you come this way my seat is at your service.

I came down twice more but was not satisfied that I could not get my money sent home without losing a day’s pay, one day Mr Carpenter came out to where I was working and while there he asked me how I was liking my job, I told him the only fault I had to it was the difficulty in sending money to my Wife, I did not appreciate the idea of losing work could he help me, he said he was sorry he could not help me but thought when I was in Wilmington I ought to see the British Consul, he ought to help me.


So at the end of the month I went to Wilmington, and attended St James’s Church, the Gentleman renewed his offer to do anything for me if I would let him know what I wanted but I did not know his name, had never asked it, & did not know what his position was. On the Monday morning I went to the British Consul’s office, (he was a very wealthy man (millionaire) a cotton exporter on a very large scale) but I was informed by the Sub Consul that I could not see the Consul but was speaking to the acting British Consul. He would attend to me if I would tell him my business, when I told him my name he replied there is nothing doing, when you deserted your ship (he knew all about it as soon as I gave my name) you forfeited all claim on the British Consul, but he said if you go along to the Murchison National Bank and ask for Mr Grainger you will find him a very nice Gentleman and he will probably fix you up.

So I could get nothing but good advice from the acting British Consul, I made my way to the Murchison Bank and asked for Mr Grainger, I found he was the Manager of the Bank and I was directed to the door of his private office, when I entered I got the surprise of my life, Mr Grainger was the very man who had repeatedly offered to help me if I would let him know I needed any help.

He told me at once I need not lose any more work by coming to Wilmington all I needed to do was to send my cheque at the end of the month to him and he would send what I asked him to send to my Wife and if at any time I thought my Wife was in need of money, if I just let him know he would send it on before the end of the month. He gave his full address and asked me to write every week & let him know how I was getting on, I corresponded with him for a few months & did not come to Wilmington. Then I was informed the Company would have to close down.

While at Macatoha (that was where the camp was) we had to go nearly a mile for our letters when we got to know that a mail was in. An old man 84 years of age had charge of the P.O. and there was not any method of dealing with the problem, there were over 100 men living at the camp and when we went to the P.O. someone asked is there a letter for Brown, the old man (the same applies to his Granddaughter aged 20) would pick up the whole of the letters and go through them one at a time until he came across the name Brown, or got through to the last one if he did not find the name Brown. Next any letter for REED he repeated the process & the same was gone through for every applicant for a letter, it was a very very slow business. When I was living out in the forest the Engineman used to bring my letters out to me, I lived a long time out there among the coloured men & never locked anything up and never lost anything until two white men came to live on my side of the railroad, then things began to disappear and I had to lock up.

I had plenty wild cats round about me & a most horrible noise they made during the night, I had also squirrels and bears though I never saw a bear but their footprints were there plainly when there was any snow. There were any amount of snakes several feet long & rattle snakes, I never saw one alive but the Niggers were killing them nearly every day at their work. Of course they were working where the trees were thick and the undergrowth as well whereas I was working where the trees had been cleared, I had a very pleasant time among the niggers & found some very kind hearts among them.

I wrote to the Bank Manager & told him the Lumber Co were closing down and asked him if he could recommend me to a job, he wrote back to say I had not to worry he would see that I was alright so when we closed down I just packed my traps & made for Wilmington & went to stay at the Seamen’s Mission.

I was well looked after as it was in charge of two Salvation Army Officers, Husband & Wife, he was a Greek she belonged to Newcastle so I was quite at home.


I did not get work except odd days for a week or two but there was a large Dredger in the river a few miles nearer the sea, Wilmington was 20 miles from the sea on the river Cape Fear, the Captain came ashore every night and if he wanted any hands engaged he took them down next morning in his launch. I met him on two or three occasions before I was lucky enough to get employed but at last he engaged me to meet him next morning, I was engaged as a fireman at 45 dollars (£9.15.) food & lodging on board.

 She was a pipe line Dredger and employed 42 hands, Captain (German), three Mates, four Engineers, two Cooks, a Blacksmith & 6 Firemen, the others were engaged as sailors but most of their work was on the pipe line. I was surprised when I got on board to find two Seamen who were on the Rossana with me but I did not know that they had deserted the Rossana until I met them on the Henry Bacon (dredger) I soon made myself at home among the cosmopolitan crew. There were two Brothers (white men American) one was a fireman the other worked on the launch, there were two launches one did nothing but attend to the anchors as the Dredger wished to move forward or from side to side.

I was told they had a Sister married to an escaped murderer who had shot a Sheriff who called at his house in connection with some debt. He had shot the Sheriff, was arrested tried & remanded then escaped from prison was chased by warders who were gaining on him going over some marshy land when he turned and shot the foremost warder & got away. There was a reward of 1000 Dollars (or £200) on his head but he had been at large for a year.

I forgot to say that anyone seeking a job could come down to the Henry Bacon by a passenger steamer which passed the Henry Bacon on her way from Wilmington to Southport right at the mouth of the river & back again at night. If anyone on the Wilmington wanted to get on board the Henry Bacon they just told the Captain & he blew his Siren when he got near & a small boat was sent off, if there was not a job the applicant could either go back on the Wilmington’s return or could stay & be fed on board, sometimes I have known men stay two or three days.

One Friday night I saw a man on board, I had not seen him come aboard but he was there & I did not like the look of him, I was on the 12 till 4 AM watch and at 4 AM Saturday I was finished until 8 A.M. on Monday. I hurried & got changed & caught the launch going up to town for the Captain, when I got on board the launch I was cast down to see this awful, despicable looking man on the launch going up to town. After we got away a bit there was great revelry in the cabin, & the Captain asked one to take charge of the wheel while he joined in the revelry, when the launch arrived at the quay I went ashore at once straight to the Seamen’s Mission and did not bother about the launch until I came out of Church on the Sunday night, just in time to catch the launch at 8 P.M. back to the Henry Bacon. When I got on board one of the men asked me what I thought of Walker, (that was the name of the escaped murderer) I asked what about Walker, he said well him you came up to town with him yesterday.


I was bewildered, he said did you not hear about him, I replied I had not heard anything about him, then I was told he had been arrested on Saturday morning. Wilmington is built in squares so on coming ashore Walker had gone into a restaurant and had been observed by one of his former workmates who informed the Police. Two plain clothes Policemen came down the street & went into the shop opposite, knowing where Walker would be and two Policemen in uniform took up the stand at the top end of the square.

When Walker came out of the restaurant he turned down the street following the dotted line, the plain clothes Policemen followed a distance behind, gradually closing the gap, the uniformed Policemen went round the top of the square following the straight line. Seeing Walker turn up the street they turned down, as Walker got nearer to them the plain clothes men got closer behind, when both pairs were almost up to Walker they made a grab, instantly Walker put his hand to his pocket but they surrounded him & pinioned his arms. When he was searched he had 6 loaded revolvers in his possession so I am glad I did not enter into any argument with him, he was remanded again & again but when I left in 1916 he was still under remand.

 I decided to return to England after a time and asked Mr Grainger to try & arrange with one of the Captains (whose ships were in for cotton) to get me a trip to England, he arranged with the Captain of a Norwegian steamer who said he would take me to Le Havre. I left the Henry Bacon to be ready then the Norwegian Captain said he was very sorry but he had made a mistake as his articles were for a crew of 26 and if he took me, and he was stopped by a German Warship he would be unable to give a satisfactory account as to why he had 27 on board and a belligerent being on board & his name not on the articles. He (the Captain) would be in a very serious position but if one of the 26 failed to report he would sign me on but all his men turned up & I was left. But not for long, a 7000 tons steamer named Constitution was at the time discharging further up the river and the crew had all been discharged, she was built at Hartlepool & was formerly owned by a Hartlepool firm but had been sold to a American firm. Now she was changing ownership again & was going round to New York to be handed over to a Japanese Firm of Shipowners and wanted a crew of runners to take her round to New York.

I went to see the Chief Engineer but he had all his firemen, (coloured men) but when I told him I wanted to get home and thought if I could get to New York* I would not have much difficulty in getting a Ship to England, he said he wanted an oiler but he could give me the berth I would have to see the Super, adding he is a townie of yours so I think you will be alright. He said the Super was staying at the Imperial Hotel but he would not advise me to go there to see him, it would be best to meet him on board next morning, so I presented myself in good order next morning and when he was in conversation with the Chief I made up to them.

* New York is a little over 500 miles north of Wilmington


The Chief introduced me & the Super asked me various questions which I answered satisfactorily, he turned to the Chief saying haven’t you only got two oilers what about this man being signed as oiler, the Chief replied “that’s just what I was thinking about”. So the Super asked me could I manage as oiler, I answered him yes, then he asked me where I was staying, I told him then he said, why not start in the morning and live on the ship and I’ll give you 23 Dollars (£4.l5.10) for the run to New York and you will get your food with the Engineers. I said but the other two oilers are getting 35 Dollars (£7.5.l0), he said who told you that, I said the men themselves, he said they are not getting their expenses paid back to Wilmington as you think, but I was willing to help you get home, you can please yourself whether you take it or not. But the day before we sailed, the Shipping Master came aboard to sign us on, I approached the other two oilers when they came on board, they said they were getting 35 Dollars, I told them what the Super had said, they said don’t take notice of him we will go in & sign on first you wait outside & we will tell you how the land lies. I did so, when they came out they said 35 Dollars and no questions asked so I went in and signed on for 35 Dollars, three days from signing on we were paid off at New York.

I had forgotten one very amusing incident in which I took part, I observed 50 yards away from my skidder a big tree had been left standing, I was not in the habit of asking questions about any other man’s business but I was curious about that tree and I asked one of the men near me, why it was left. One of them said there is a reason, go over and see if you can find it out, so without any hesitation I mended my fire so that I would have time to investigate and away I went to see if I could find out, I noticed the men I had just left were laughing among themselves as if someone had just told a funny story but the laugh was against them for I discovered there was a wasp’s nest in the lower trunk of the tree, there were thousands of them but I did not interfere with them & none of them attempted to sting me. Though I could not see my jacket, it was covered with wasps, I just walked among the group of men who had by this time ceased to laugh & their laughter had turned to fear for they were in dread of the wasps and ran away in terror but I just opened the door of my fire & swept the wasps off my jacket into the fire & did not get one sting in the process.

Well on arrival at New York we berthed at Brooklyn where the ship changed hands then there arose a dispute about who should pay the crew of runners, the U.S.A. firm were finished with the ship, and said that the new owners ought to pay the men who had brought the ship from Wilmington. I don’t rightly know how the dispute arose or who had to pay but we waited aboard for two hours while the money men were wrangling among themselves who should pay, (it was at least 800 Dollars (£l63)) but at last it was decided that we must be paid. Instead of being paid off on board we had to cross the river into New York proper to the office of one of the two Companies at a skyscraper of 20 stories, I got my 35 Dollars.

I had omitted to say that before leaving Wilmington Mr Grainger had made me a present of 25 Dollars in gold, there was not much gold to be got & it was a great thing to have two gold 10 Dollar pieces and a 5 Dollar. The niggers were all very eager to have the gold pieces, so I exchanged with them then I made my way to the Seamen’s Institute with my 60 Dollars & had an interview with Missioner. I told him everything & that I wanted a ship to get to England as quickly as possible, he told me there was a bank connected with the Institute & advised me not to carry so much money about with me so I banked 40 Dollars keeping 20 Dollars to have a good time and buy presents for my Wife & Family. He also told me the Shipping Office was on the ground floor of the Institute & advised me to wait until Monday when he would speak with the Shipping Master, it being then Saturday.


After tea I went to Madison Square Garden, to see Barnum & Bailey’s Circus, before going in there I had a look at some of the Skyscrapers, and had a look into Wall Street but there were no stockbrokers feverishly gambling in millions it was as quiet as an empty Church.

After seeing the circus I went back to the Seamen’s Institute & had a good nights rest, then I went to one of the big Episcopal Churches, & spent the remainder of the day among the big avenues where the very very wealthy people live. On the Monday I went to have a look at the Woolworth Building, 52 story high it was then the tallest in the world, there were 48 stories of it occupied for shops & offices but Woolworth’s did not occupy any of it themselves. There was a shop right on the very roof, I did not walk up the stairs to it for there was a lift, half a dollar to go to the top & see all round New York. It was a grand view, I saw the two giant German liners which were interned at New York when war broke out, then I spent a few dollars for presents to bring home.

On Tuesday the Shipping Master sent for me to his office, The Captain of the Raphael (one of Lamport & Holt’s) had called & instructed him to engage a Sailor and a Fireman for him & he would be along at midday to sign them on. I went to the Bank and made arrangements with the Manager to make my 40 Dollars £8.6.8 payable at Manchester where we were bound for as I did not wish it to go down with me if the ship was torpedoed.

When the time came I tried to prevail on the Shipping Master to allow me to go over to Brooklyn where the Raphael was lying and tell the Engineer in case some other man might go to the Engineer and get the job, he said don’t you worry the job is yours no matter who goes to the Engineer but I went back to him in the afternoon & he said if I was keen on going I couldn’t do any harm by going, but I couldn’t do any good he assured me but go if you want to.

I went & just as I expected a man who had been donkeyman on another of the same Co’s Steamers had been to see the Engineer who was very sorry but I could not get the job, he had promised the other just an hour before I came aboard. That discouraged me very much & slowly I made my way back to the Shipping Master, he laughed at my despondency but said it didn’t matter what the Chief said no one would get that fireman’s berth but me.

Tuesday midday I presented myself to the Shipping Master before the Captain arrived, when the Captain did arrive the other man was with me stood alongside, when the Shipping Master introduced me as the fireman he had engaged the Captain said but I can’t take him, another man has been engaged by the Engineer who is off another of our ships & though I am very sorry I must disappoint your man. The S.M. reminded him that he had asked for a Sailor & a Fireman, I engaged Mr Reed, neither for you nor your Engineer will I allow any other person to take the job, after a lot of argument the Captain had to sign me on & leave the other man out.


We sailed on April 16th 1916 with a cargo for the British Government, she was a 9,000 tons ship and we had a great number of Motor Vehicles in the hold, and a huge consignment of food so that we would be a valuable catch for the enemy. We avoided the usual course of ships and it took us over three weeks to get to Manchester, where we arrived too late in the day to get paid off and we were due £1 Channel money which the Captain duly paid. I went to the Shipping Office to make enquiries as to my letter & money from Wilmington and I was told there was nothing there for that name so I just took lodging for the night.

Next morning at 10.30 we met the Captain Thomas (a Welshman & a Gentleman) at the Shipping Office and were paid off, I had previously made enquiries about my letter but still it had not arrived, I spoke to Captain Thomas about it who asked me if I had any proof that I had banked any money at Wilmington to draw at Manchester. I shewed him my receipt, he replied you will not hear anything more about it, there is nothing there to work with, there is not even the name of the bank, he spoke to the Shipping Master who quite agreed with him, but I had every confidence in the Bank Manager & the Missioner at the Institute so I made arrangements for it to be sent on to the Custom House at Seaham Harbour. The day after arriving at Seaham Harbour I went to the Custom House to seek my letter, it had not arrived, upon asking for proof that I was due to any more the Chief Officer told me the very same that Captain Thomas had told me, still I kept a stout heart though a week after still no word arrived, so I wrote to my friend Mr Grainger the Bank Manager at Wilmington N.C..

After two weeks I got a reply to say that he had been in communication with Mr Brown the Bank Manager with whom I had left the money who informed him that the money had been sent on (as arranged) to the Shipping Office three times & returned marked, not known. He informed that if I had not already received it, I would in a day or two, sure enough the draft arrived for £8 .6.8. in the same envelope that had been returned from Manchester three times I lost 8d in cashing it as it was made payable on a London bank, and it cost the Seaham Harbour bank (Barclays) 8d and I got my money alright.

 I took a small steamer, 1500 tons, and went to Dunkirk, then to Lerwick in the Shetland’s several times, then to Cowes in the Isle of Wight then back to Dunkirk. From there I wrote to Mr Kennedy traffic inspector to South Hetton Coal Co at Murton (I had worked for him as a boy) asking him to speak to the Engineer and obtain for me a job as fireman.

I made another trip to Dunkirk then when I arrived home there was a message from Mr Kennedy to inform me he had seen Mr Curry the Engineer and I had to go up and see him as there was a job for me. I worked there a considerable time then I went back to Seaham Colliery and fired at the low pit for a considerable time then I got transferred to the Brickworks.

After working for many years I retired at the age of 67 drawing my last pay on my 67th birthday, so ended my working days.


 I think I omitted to mention the incident of a Russian who joined the Lucient, he was a good fireman but unfortunately he was not half so good as he thought he was, and when he got drunk was in the habit of exhibiting a clasp knife with which he had killed two men in Buenos Aires. We had a 3rd engineer who was too fond of mixing with the Sailors & Firemen and playing cards for stakes, the Russian was very keen at the same game & was always throwing his weight about & boasting about his ability as a fireman.

The 3rd engineer on one occasion made a great mistake & told him that last trip the old man (myself) kept better steam than any of you, the Russian did not like it and though I was not to blame he took a very great dislike to me but hid it until he got ashore & came back drunk. When he came aboard I was in my bunk apparently asleep, when he came to my bunk, putting his nasty face near my ear he said, huh you English —- you keep better steam than me, me kill two men no trouble to kill another. When next I went on watch, I made preparations, and when I came off watch I had a 2lb hammer in my pocket and never went to sleep without it in my hand and never woke up without having it well gripped in my hand but he never interfered with me




1866 and 1871 Emmanuel and/or his family lived in Frances Street, Seaham


1881 Candlish Terrace

1891 Frances Street

1911 Gallery Row

Emmanuel died in Seaham in 1944

His wife Jane Ann died in 1937

If you have a photograph of Emmanuel, Jane Ann or any other member of the Reed family from the 1800s please email dave@east-durham.co.uk

Original article loaned by Mike Shaw

Pub Lists

Compiled by David Angus July 2008                                                                                           

www.east-durham.co.uk click here for Photographs of a lot of pubs featured in the list

Most of the dates pre 1938 given below are drawn from the Trade Directories shown here, as you can see not every  year  is represented so that, for example, if a date is given as 1855 the true date could be anywhere between 1852 and 1855. Additional information taken from  locally compiled census reports 1841-1891.


Pigot’s 1834William’s 1844White’s 1847Slater’s 1848

Hagar’s 1851

Slater’s 1855

Whellan’s 1856

Kelly’s 1858

Ward’s 1861-62

Slater’s 1864

Whellan’s 1865

Christie’s 1871-72

Kelly’s 1873

Kelly’s 1879


Ward’s 1889-90Kelly’s 1890Ward’s 1893-94Whellan’s 1894

Ward’s 1899-1900

Kelly’s 1902

Kelly’s 1910

Kelly’s 1914

Kelly’s 1921

Kelly’s 1925

Kelly’s 1929

Kelly’s 1934

Kelly’s 1938


                                Of the first 133 buildings completed in Seaham Harbour by 1831, 12 were pubs.


If you have photographs of any Seaham pub or club, however recent, that you would allow us to use, please get in touch. dave@east-durham.co.uk


ADAM & EVES, 1851, The Dene.

Before becoming a public house this building was called Garden House. I have seen this public house referred to as THE PEAR TREE.

Another reference states that Adam and Eve’s Gardens opened to the public in 1829 by Colin Fair and taken over by his son Ralph in 1838. Ralph had previously been landlord of the SHIP INN.

The licence was transferred from here to the RED STAR, Station Rd in the early 1930s.

BAY HORSE 1851, Blue House Farm Seaton,

Also known as The COCKFIGHTER and The BLUE HOUSE, last entry 1865, quite possibly very much older than 1851. The licence was transferred from here to the Seaton Lane Inn. The farm was later known as Manor House Farm and was demolished during building of the A19 c1971.

BLANDFORD HOTEL, 1893, (1850s) 13 Blandford Place.

Would seem to have been run as a beer house since the 1850s by a ship-owner, James Noble, when it was listed as 34 South Railway St. as it is at the junction of the two streets.  Just to confuse matters. Closed  late 1990s.

BOTTLEMAKER’S ARMS, 1873, (1856)10 Pilot Terrace.

Operating as an unnamed beer house in 1856, licensee Robert Simpson . Often referred to as the RED LIGHT. Pilot Tce was built before 1841. Probably closed c1935.

BRADDYLL ARMS, 1847, 68 Adolphus Street.

Also addressed as Adolphus Place and South Terrace over the years. Brewer. The licence was transferred from here to THE MALLARD in November 1964.

BRIDGE HOTEL, 1894, (1861), 33 North Railway St.

First appears as a beer retailer in 1861, a beer retailer and confectioner  in 1889, also known as BRIDGE VAULTS. In old directories North Railway St. is occasionally referred to as Bridge Street. It is quite possible that the LYNN ARMS was operating here in 1834 and continued as an unnamed beer-house until it became the Bridge Hotel. The DISCHARGED SOLDIERS AND SAILORS SOCIAL CLUB AND INSTITUTE was operating from 33 North Railway St from c 1915 and by 1925 it was William Nixon’s drugstore.

CANTERBURY ARMS, 1893/4, 16 North Railway St

Closed early 1960s when swallowed up by the expanding Snowdon and Bailes factory


Became the CARLTON in 1982, closed 1990s. Elsie Orton and her husband Joe left here in 1949 to run the Seaton Lane Inn.

CROW’S NEST, 2006?  East Shore Village.

DAWDON HOTEL, 1914, King Edward Road, Dawdon.

Demolished after fire 1990.

DEMPSEY’S BAR, 1997, 14 North Terrace.

A beer house in 1861, possibly earlier, run by Joshua Redshaw, by 1873 a drapery then variously a marine engineer, auctioneer and grocer until c 1934 when it became Frank Valente’s ice cream and confectionery business until opened as a restaurant then bar by the Goodings family.

DRAY CART INN, 1894, 10 Frances St. First listed as a beer retailer in 1871/2 then a Co-operative Store in 1879.

DUKE OF WELLINGTON, 1844,  8 South Railway St.

Variously known over the next few years as LORD WELLINGTON or WELLINGTON INN. Recent name change to DUKE OF SEAHAM. Known locally as THE DUKE.

DUN COW 1856, Seaton Village.

EDINBURGH CASTLE, 1894, (1865), 12 South Tce.

In 1865 a beer retailer, George Stranghair (Straugher?), previously a Co-operative Store?. Closed c 1970.

ENGINEER’S ARMS, 1864, 6 South Tce.

FORESTER’S ARMS, 1844, 10 North Railway St.

Closed and demolished in 1959 during Snowdon and Bailes expansion.

GEORGE, 1936, The Avenue, Deneside.

GOLDEN LION 1829/30  1 South Railway St.

The first habitable new building in Seaham Harbour. In 1861/2/4 listed as the GOLDEN ANCHOR. Brewer. The town’s first school opened in a room here in 1830.

HAT AND FEATHER, before 1902,

I have seen a note somewhere that this pub was at Seaton in which case it was possibly another name for the BAY HORSE, an early name for THE SEATON LANE INN or possibly a village farmhouse, the most likely contender would be West Farm which was adjacent to the “main road” which ran past the Times Inn, through the west end of Seaton Village, Burdon, Tunstall and on to Sunderland.. I have seen no other reference to this name, other than the 1902 “poem” which though reputed to mention all Seaham pubs only managed 29 of 49. If anyone has any other information I would be delighted to hear it.

HAVELOCK ARMS, 1865, 27 South Railway St.

First appears as a beer house, licensee Robert Simpson in 1864, no mention after 1865.

HIGHLAND ARMS, 1851, Back North Tce, Highlander by 1855, Matthew Adamson licensee, listed as licensee of the Oddfellow’s Arms Back North Tce in 1847.

KING’S ARMS, 1830,  9 North Tce,  Listed as the KING’S CROWN INN in 1861 and 1862. Traded until around 1970. Probably open by 1831. A stagecoach ran from here to Sunderland from the 1830s.


LONDONDERRY ARMS, 1830, 4 South Crescent.

The foundation stone of this building was laid on the same day as that of the dock in 1828. Brewer.  Re-named Sylvia’s c 1980s. Probably open by 1830. Name often shortened to THE DERRY. From the early 1830s, stagecoaches left here for Sunderland, their arrival and departure announced by a bugler. Closed c 2006. Now a Thai restaurant.

LONDONDERRY HOTEL, 1894 (1864), 1 Fenwick Tce/Row, opposite (west) of the Bottleworks.

A beer house since 1864, possibly earlier. Fenwick Row was built before 1856. Locally known as THE PARROT. Closed 1971.

LORD SEAHAM 1834 18 North Tce,

Brewer. Became the HARBOUR VIEW in the 1970s. Probably open by 1831. The first Roman Catholic services were held in an upstairs room here.

LYNN ARMS 1834 licensee George Bamborough.

Though no street numbers are given, the position of G Bamborough in the 1841 census would place him at the western end of North Railway St. There is every possibility that the Lynn Arms eventually became the Bridge Hotel/Vaults.

LORD BYRON, 1894, Back North Railway St.

Locally known as THE CUDDY, earlier the KICKING CUDDY.

MALLARD, 1964, Stockton Rd.

Licence transferred from the Braddyll which closed November 1964.

MARLBOROUGH,  1990s, Charles Street, Emily Street,  formerly SEAHAM HARBOUR CONSERVATIVE CLUB since 1902.

MARLBOROUGH HOUSE, 1894, (1873), 7 North Terrace.

A beer house in 1873, closed 1932. Previously various trades including perfumer, insurance agent and printer and stationer. Licence surrendered when licence transferred from Adam and Eve’s to Red Star, Station Rd.

MASON’S ARMS, 1834,  South Railway St.

First licensee Parkin Thornton, also mason and bricklayer. Probably open by 1831, by 1861 re-named the Northumberland Arms, later, c late 1980s became The Inn Between.


Appears in the first Seaham Trade Directory of 1834, possibly much older. In 1834 known as the WINDMILL, the MILL INN by 1856,     demolished and rebuilt on same foundations in 1892 possibly incorporating parts of the original building.

NEW SEAHAM INN, 1873,  Station Road.

Was locally known in the 1880s as WALLACE’S in the 1930’s as GIBSON’S and later LACEY’S. Re-named The Kestrel in the 1970s?

NOAH’S ARK, 1834,  1 North Railway St.

Brewer. Probably open by 1831.   Generally known as THE ARK. Closed c 2000.

NORTHUMBERLAND ARMS, 1844, Back North Terrace,

Owned by Robert Scott, no mention after this date. In 1858 Robert Scott is listed as a beer retailer in John Street.

NORTHUMBERLAND ARMS, 1861/2, 27 South Railway St.

From 1831 until 1861 called the MASON’S ARMS. Also owned by Robert Scott, in the 1980s became THE INN BETWEEN. Often referred to as the SCOTCH HOUSE when the Northumberland Arms.

ODDFELLOWS, 1847, Back North Tce,

Matthew Adamson licensee. (listed as licensee of the Highland Arms Back North Terrace in 1851). The Oddfellows (BNTce) is not mentioned after 1848, it may have ceased to exist or changed name to become THE HIGHLAND ARMS.

ODDFELLOWS ARMS, 1894, (1861) 52 Church St.

A beer house in 1861 licensee Mrs Jane Appleton. Name often shortened to THE ODDIES.

PEMBERTON ARMS, 1830s?  Cold Hesledon.

Originally called the BRADDYLL ARMS, then became the COLD HESLEDON INN

before adopting its present title. Locally known as the WHITE HOUSE.

RED STAR, 1934, Station Road.

Name often shortened to THE STAR. Re-named ISLAND SOCIAL CLUB in the 1980s?

ROSE & CROWN, 1855, 13 Church St.

Closed c1980.

ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE ARMS, 1894, 6 Back North Tce.

This address was at the southern end of Back North Terrace.

ROYAL OAK 1864, (1858) Pilot Tce.

Operating as unnamed beer house in 1858, licensee Wm Henzel a Seaham ship-builder. Demolished between 1933 and 1936.

SEAHAM HALL, Old Seaham.

Briefly a public house in the 1980s, a nursing home by 1988. Now a hotel since 2002.

SEATON COLLIERY INN, 1856 (Colliery Inn) Mill Bank.

Bombed during WW2 on 25th of November 1941, two people killed, rebuilt as the PHOENIX in the late 1950s.

SEATON LANE INN, 1873, Seaton Lane,

Previously a blacksmith shop and house since c1600, known as Bleak House. Locally known as the ROADSIDE. There is just a possibility that this pub was the elusive HAT AND FEATHER in it’s early days.

In an early 1980s CAMRA Good Beer Guide this pub was described as “an oasis in a northern desert”

SHAKESPEARE INN, 1894 (1864), 5 North Terrace.

A beer house from 1864, closed 1910. Previously a Hosier and a Marine Store Dealer, probably at the same time.

SHEPHERD’S ARMS, 1861, Back North Terrace.

Last mention 1864. As no street number was given, there is no way of knowing what became of this pub.

SHIP, 1851, 5 North Railway St.

SHIP INN by 1856, last mentioned in 1910.

SHIPWRIGHT’S ARMS, 1855, Back North Terrace. Last mention 1865.

STATION HOTEL, 1858, 39 Marlborough St.  Originally THE RAILWAY. Situated at the very top of Marlborough St, next to the Railway Station. Demolished 1971.

TIMES INN, 1841, Stockton Road, Dalton le Dale.

VANE ARMS, 1847, 74 Church St. Brewer.   Closed c1970 to become a bingo hall, now demolished.

VOLUNTEER ARMS, 1873, 43 Frances St.

Operating as unnamed beer house owned by George Gunn Walker in 1865. Often referred to as THE VOL. Now all that remains of Frances Street.

WHEATSHEAF, 1834, North Railway St.   Does not appear after 1848.

WINDMILL, 1834,   MILL INN by 1856, rebuilt on same foundations in 1892.

ZETLAND HOTEL, 1894, (1864), 3 North Railway St.    A beer house, licensee John Atkinson in 1864.




The fellows of the Royal Naval Reserve entered the Ship built of Royal Oak and sailed up to the Adam and Eve Gardens where they met with some Foresters who informed them that the Duke of Wellington leaving the Edinburgh Castle, had got into a Dray Cart. He was escorted by some noble Volunteers, all loyal to the Rose and Crown and headed by a Highlander playing on his pipes. They passed through Northumberland and on arriving at the Bridge they were met by Marlborough, Zetland and Braddyll who had just returned from Canterbury.

The assembled company here sat down to discuss various subjects, the merits of Shakespeare, the latest achievements of the Engineers and the industry of the Bottlemakers but were repeatedly interrupted by the chattering of the Parrot.

Then a party of Oddfellows suddenly entered the room and informed them that a Golden Lion had escaped from Noah’s Ark and was speeding by the Colliery to the Times Inn hotly pursued by Lord Seaham wearing a Hat and Feather and mounted on a Kicking Cuddy.



BRITISH LEGION CLUB, 1925 (1914-21) Tempest Place.

Originally  COMRADES OF THE GREAT WAR SOCIAL CLUB, same building same site, sometime between 1914 and 1921. Later British Legion Club, North Railway St.

CONSERVATIVE CLUB  (New Seaham), 26th October1895, 208 Station Rd.

CONSERVATIVE WORKING MEN’S CLUB,  March 16th 1894,  Charles St./Emily Street, Became THE MARLBOROUGH (Club) in the 1990s.

DAWDON CRICKET CLUB,  Bar in the clubhouse from 1965, Green Drive.   Cricket Club formed c 1907.

 DAWDON MINER’S INSTITUTE, 1910, Mount Stewart St. Dawdon.   (Dawdon Welfare) opened 3/12/1910

DAWDON WORKMEN’S CLUB, 1914, Princess Road.

Burned out in 1977. Closed c2005?

DEMOCRATIC CLUB AND INSTITUTE, 1938, (1925), 8 Vane Terrace.

Formerly the IRISH CLUB AND LITERARY INSTITUTE, 1925, Generally known as THE DEMI.

DENESIDE WORKMEN’S CLUB, 1930s, The Avenue, Deneside.


Formed sometime between 1914 and 1921 this club has the same address as THE BRIDGE HOTEL/VAULTS so would appear to have taken over at that time. Short-lived, William Nixon’s drugstore was trading from here by 1925.

LABOUR CLUB,       Malvern Crescent  Deneside.

 MASONIC CLUB, 1889/90, 3 North Road.


Generally known as the NACK CLUB. Now re-named the KNACK SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB.

RAFA CLUB  post WW2, Station Rd,

Later renamed SHOOTING STAR then OASIS.

RED STAR SOCIAL CLUB, 1980s, Stockton Road.


RAOB CLUB, known as THE BUFFS. Now operating as SAM’S.



RUGBY CLUB, 1990s, York House, York Road.


SAINT CUTHBERT’S SOCIAL CLUB, 1980s, Mill Road New Seaham.

Generally known as PAT AND MICK’S.


(site possibly now occupied by SNOOKER CLUB), later moved to York Road and  became SEAHAM HARBOUR WORKING MEN’S CLUB and was generally known as  YORK HOUSE, then became the RUGBY CLUB.

SEAHAM HARBOUR CONSERVATIVE CLUB, 1902, Charles Street/Emily St East,

later, in the 1990s THE MARLBOROUGH.

SEAHAM HARBOUR CRICKET CLUB, Bar in the clubhouse from 1967, New Drive.

Cricket club formed in 1868

SEAHAM HARBOUR GOLF CLUB, c1910, Shrewsbury St.


Known as YORK HOUSE.

SEAHAM OLD SCOUTS SOCIAL CLUB, Dow House, 1978, South Crescent.

Formerly The Seamen’s Mission

SEAHAM PARK CRICKET CLUB,   Bar in the clubhouse from 1965, Seaham Town Park.


Generally known as PARKSIDE CLUB.

SNOOKER CLUB (Lengs), 1980s? North Terrace.

Possibly built on the site of the former SEAHAM HARBOUR & DISTRICT SOCIAL CLUB.

PLAYBOY (Nightclub), 1960s, Church St,

Later renamed PANTHERS now an amusement arcade.

VANE TEMPEST CLUB,  1950?, New Drive.

WESTLEA SOCIAL CLUB, 1950s, 5 West Grove, Westlea Shopping Precinct.

Now trading as MITCHEL’S.


Many of Seaham’s pubs started life as a beer-house or beer retailer, apparently without a recognised name (or not one that has survived), in many cases it has been possible to tie together the beer house and pub through the address using trade and census records  though this is not always possible as early Seaham records gave only the street name at best.

Here I have tried to remove all doubtful businesses and hopefully there are no duplications (businesses often changed hands many times over the years).

This list can only be a rough guide, there were many more beer houses than are listed here, much more work needs to be done.

I give only the first entry for any particular address.

Froud’s Cottages Dalton le Dale, the licence was transferred from here to the TIMES INN in 1864.
1847    David Ferni John Street
1851    Thomas Akenhead Back North Tce
1855    John Burn Bainbridge 9 Church St. This was a butcher shop by 1873 currently MeatMart.
1858   Henry Herbert Railway St.  In 1855 this man was licensee of the Shipwright’s Arms in Back North Terrace.
1861   Matthew Adamson 18 North Railway St. no mention after 1890
1861   John Bell 18 North John St. no mention after this date.
1861   William Cook Todd’s Buildings
1861   John Cuthbertson Cuthbertson’s Buildings
1861   Robert Feery (Ferry) 16 South Railway St. by 1889 an undertaker, 1902 unnamed shop, no mention after 1910.
1861   Robert Jobson 10 Blandford Place, from 1893 a grocery shop, 1910 a confectioner, by 1925 a chemist and in the mid 30s painter and decorator J R Oliver, still run by the same family as a DIY shop
1861   Richard Merritt 8 Pilot Tce., no mention after 1862
1861   Margaret Nicholson (Mrs) Back North Terrace.
1861   Joshua Redshaw 14 North Tce. By 1873 a drapery shop.
1861   Robert Tindall (Tindale) 30 Church St. only listed in 1861 and 62.
1861   Robert Davison Frances St.
1864   John King 15 South Railway St. by 1890 a general dealer 1914 a plumber then no mention.
1861   John Nattrass 9 North Railway St., a watchmaker (Henry Metcalfe) by 1889 until 1914 then no mention.
1861   Stephen Richards Henry St.
1861  Wm Richardson Back North Tce.
1861   Florence Shewan 21 Church St., John Mileham’s fish and chip shop by 1899 until after 1938.
1861   Anthony Stark 7 Blandford Place. various other businesses from 1889.
1865   James Jones Church Street.
1865   Joshua Redshaw William Street.
1865   Parkin Thornton Frances St.
1865   George Gunn Walker 43 Frances Street. Innkeeper, this was not the Dray Cart which was at number 10.
1865   Mary Wood Frances Street.
1871   Miss J Lawrence 9 Adelaide Row, grocer and beer retailer, then in 1910 beer retailer only until by 1921 a fish and chip shop until after 1938
1871   William Hendry 32 Frances Street. a Co-op shop by 1873.
1871   D. Nicholson 22 Henry Street.
1871   G Oliver 34 Henry Street, by 1914 a bazaar.
1871   J Dobson 25 North John Street, ale merchant.
1871   R Lynn 10 South Railway St. Innkeeper.  Young’s the printers by the 1890s.
1871   David Dixon 28 South Railway St.
1871   Andrew Wilkie 33 South Railway St.by 1890 a dressmaker then confectioner etc until Septimus Hall opened his fried fish shop in 1938, still trading as a fish and chip shop today.
1861   James Noble 34 South Railway Street, became the BLANDFORD in 1893.
1873   Mary Ann Lewis (Mrs) Caroline St.
1879   Henry Smith Blandford Place.
1889   John Bell 18 North Railway St. possibly incorporated into the Canterbury Arms (16 N R St) 1893/4 licensee Margaret Bell
1889   Henry Deacon 28 Frances St, a confectioner by 1925.
1889   Isabella Hawkey (Mrs) Back Henry St.
1900   Isaac Simpson Howson 6 Back North Terrace, an unnamed shop by 1910.
1900   Wm Wood 32 Back North Terrace. no mention after this date.

Lists compiled by David Angus, July 2008.

Wreck of the lovely Nelly- 1861

On January 1st 1861, Cullercoats Lifeboat was asked to save life on a brig called “Lovely Nelly”. The description below was written a few years after the event by Richard Lewis. The illustration is a painting called “The Women”, painted in 1904 by John Charlton, and rather dramatically shows the women of Cullercoats pulling the lifeboat through a blizzard to launch it near the wreck.

On a New Year’s morning some years since, a severe tempest was experienced on our north-east coast, and soon after daybreak, the coastguard-men on the look-out at the Spanish Battery, Tynemouth, saw the brig “Lovely Nelly” of Seaham, deeply laden, with a flag of distress flying. She was struggling to get to the northward, but struggling in vain, and driving rapidly in upon the coast.

The coastguard-men followed her along the shore with the rocket-apparatus, and, as they went on, the people of the villages turned out to join them : so that, ere long, each headland had its anxious crowd of lookers-on. It was a very sad sight to see. Some of the vessel’s sails had been blown away, and she grew more unmanageable amid the heavy seas that broke around and over her.

At length, abandoning the desperate effort to get to the northward, her crew, as the last chance of life, ran her for Whitley Sands, five miles north of Shields. She was so deeply laden, that she struck on a ridge of sunken rocks and was still three-quarters of a mile from the shore. It was impossible to reach her with rockets. Only one hope remained – the Lifeboat!

As fast as they could run through the snow, driving wind and rain, Life-boat men and fishermen made off to Cullercoats for the Lifeboat belonging to the National Life-boat Institution. Six horses were fastened to her carriage and down they came at a gallop to the sands. She was speedily manned – by a gallant crew of Cullercoats men, who pulled out as for their own lives; not a moment too soon did they reach the ship, which was now broadside on to the sea, her crew in the rigging, and the waves breaking over her half mast-high.

Cleverly and deftly was the Life-boat laid alongside; the vessel was grappled, and the boat held to her by a strong rope. Instantly, the crew made towards their deliverers; but even as they left the rigging, one man was much cut in the face and the head, the mate had his shoulder dislocated, and three of them were swept into the sea. The Life-boat was handled with great skill; two of the crew were at once picked up, and as the third man went down to his death, a strong hand seized him, with a grasp of iron, by his hair, and dragged him up to life.

Did any remain on the ship? Yes: how overlooked, how so left to die, we know not – but the little cabin-boy remained. The boy’s cry for help grew very pitiful: for some time he dared not venture out of the weather rigging; at last he did so, and was seen in the lee shrouds: “he had got wounded in the head, and his face was covered with blood”.

One of the Lifeboat’s crew has since said to the Author that every face around him grew pale, and tears came from eyes little used to shed them – “They clenched their teeth, and with their own lives in their hands”, dashed in their boat to save him. The sea beat her back. They dashed in again, to be swept back once more.

Again and again they tried; the poor boy, meanwhile, crying terribly in great loneliness and despair. He was so young, and the coast was so near! But the vessel began to part, and the unstepped mast must fall, and would crush the Life-boat if she stayed one minute longer in her then position. Then, sacrificing one life to save many, a brave man gave the order, in a hoarse and broken voice, to “cut the rope”. In an instant she was swept away under the vessel’s stern – not a second too soon, for at once the mainmast fell, on the very spot she had just left, and the vessel immediately broke up. The boy – “his face covered with blood” – fell into the sea. Clenched in agony or clasped in prayer, his little hands were seen once – twice – lifted above the waves! The Life-boat again rushed towards him, but the tempest swept away his boyish cry before the roar and tumult of the winds: he did not rise again. The LifeBoat was pulled back to the land.

The crew of the lifeboat that day were Coxswain John Redford, Second Coxswain John Taylor, Bowman John Chisholm, William Dodds, William Harrison, Thomas Mills, Joseph Robinson, John Smith, George Smith, Robert Storey, Francis Storey, William Storey, William Stocks, Barty Taylor and Robert Taylor. In addition, some believe, the Chief Boatman of the local Coastguard was also aboard. He was called Lawrence Byrne.

The cabin-boy’s name was Thomas Thompson.

The Mystery behind the Wreck of the “Lovely Nelly”

The Boat
The brig “Lovely Nelly” was in her 57th year when she was wrecked. A collier brig was said to have a lifespan of about 60 years. Owned by a Seaham Harbour company since 1856, she had seen previous service with Wright & Co of Kings Lynn in Norfolk, during which time she was insured through Lloyds of London. This insurance policy did not continue under the new ownership, who presumably sought cover elsewhere.

The Owner
Her new 1856 owner, James W Watson, was born in Gateshead in about 1829. He was married to Mary, a year younger than himself, who was born in Burnopfield a small village a few miles southwest of Gateshead. In the census of April 1861, they are not shown as having any children. At the time of buying “Lovely Nelly”, Mr Watson and his wife were moving into a newly built house in Marlborough Street in Seaham. This was a middle class part of town and the residents were all well-to-do. In other words, it was a posh place to live.

The Prelude to the Fateful Voyage
“Lovely Nelly” was normally captained by Sunderland-born Wilkinson Bond, who was aged 36 at the time of her loss. His mate was Henry Stanbridge (aged 38). These men had charge of “Lovely Nelly” on her voyages immediately prior to her loss. She shuttled back and forth between Seaham and London from July until December of 1860 when she bypassed Seaham and berthed in Sunderland on the 4th of that month. She idled her time in Sunderland for several weeks and on the 14th of December, her captain and mate were discharged from the ship, while the remainder of the crew were retained on the ship’s books. Later in the same day, the mate (Stanbridge) was re-instated and promoted to Captain.

Why should there be such a commotion over appointments which seem to have worked perfectly well in the past? Were the captain and mate concerned over some aspect of the ship’s condition? Did the mate later recognise an opportunity for advancement which he could not afford to ignore? Stanbridge did not formally gain a mate’s certificate until 1864 (three years after the loss of “Lovely Nelly”), when one was issued to him at Seaham Harbour.

Fully laden with coal, the brig sailed from Sunderland on December 28th 1860, bound for London with Henry Stanbridge in control.

The Final Voyage

“Lovely Nelly” set out for London and was reported to have reached Flamborough Head when she had to turn back, apparently because of a heavy leak. This incident took place on the morning of Sunday, December 30th 1860.

(Was this issue of seaworthiness the background to the dispute between the owner and the captain earlier in the month?)

The weather worsened but Stanbridge, who must have had many years’ experience of the sea to be entrusted with the command of a ship, attempted the run to Sunderland – some 62 miles – rather than put into any of number of nearer ports. As time passed, the storm grew stronger and “Lovely Nelly” was swept past Sunderland, whither it seems that Stanbridge had sought to shelter while, perhaps, having repairs carried out.

This strategy failed and he and his ship were driven further north, missing the entrance to the Tyne. Watched from the shore on New Year’s Day, “Lovely Nelly” continued past Tynemouth and Cullercoats with alarmed observers calling for the emergency services of the day (the coastguardmen) to “do something”. These fellows followed the ship with their rocket equipment, ready to bring it into play should the opportunity arise. Eventually, the crew of the brig realised that they losing the battle against wind and sea and turned their craft towards Whitley Sands. While threequarters of a mile offshore and still heavily laden, the boat struck a reef – beyond the range of the rocket apparatus!

Nothing would do now but to send for the Cullercoats Lifeboat and its crew. This was speedily fetched and the gallant crew put out into the storm to attempt a rescue.

The rescued crew were:

  • Henry Stanbridge (captain) aged 38
  • George Kirby (mate) aged 40
  • Robert Bond (mariner) aged 37
  • John Adamson (mariner) aged 24
  • John Walton (mariner) aged 20
  • Henry Watson (mariner) aged 20,
  • while the only fatality was:-  Thomas Brown Thompson (apprentice) aged 12.

    The Aftermath
    The survivors were treated well by the shore party, dried out and warmed and, upon recovery, made their way home. Thomas Thompson’s body was soon recovered from the sea and returned to his family for burial in his home town of Seaham.

    The owner of “Lovely Nelly”, Mr Watson, you may remember, lived in a well-to-do part of town. On March 25th 1861, he re-located to The National School, Church Street in Seaham. This school had been set up in 1848 but by the early 1860s it was so neglected that it very rarely qualified for its annual Government grants. The headmaster, John Hetherington, was also a shipowner and was well noted for keeping both eyes on his profits from the sea. It would seem that Mr Watson had suddenly fallen on very hard times indeed, to have moved from his respectable and comfortable home to take up some form of lodgings. Had he been bankrupted by the loss of his ship? Presumably, she had not been insured and he had been forced to meet the demands of his creditors from his own pocket.

    Final Resting Place
    Tommy Thompson was buried on January 13th 1861 at St John’s Church in Seaham Harbour. A re-organisation of the churchyard in the 1950s led to the removal of the old headstones without a plan being made of their previous whereabouts. Thus, the final resting place of the real victim in this story will now never be known.

    “Lovely Nelly” still lies off Whitley Sands, opposite the Brier Dene, three quarters of a mile from the shore. There are several more wrecks to keep her company now. Maybe sports divers will one day identify her position more accurately and recover some relic or memento.

    This information has been made available to me by Mr Alan M Gregg of Chester-le-Street. He researched the ship, the crew and the owner, including paying for the use of a professional researcher in the London maritime archives.
    Pictures and text from Brian Slee

    Russian Cannon

    Article from
    Of Saturday, August 28th 1858


    cannon2Few, if any, of our seaport towns can boast such youth and vigour as the harbour of Seaham. Less than thirty years ago it had no existence. A bold rocky foreshore, with little inlets and sandy bays, indicated its site. No fishermen’s huts crowned the banks ; no boats lay basting on the beach. As far as progress was concerned, all was at a dead stand. Now and then a few women from the neighbouring town of Sunderland might be caught sight of among the rocks in search of bait; or a stray artist, sketch-book in hand, in quest of the picturesque. No sounds reached the ear other than the scream, of the gull or the constant chafing of the waves against the rocks.
    Happily, other eyes than those of the painter scanned the place, and other drawings than those for mere ornament were made. The energetic mind of Charles Stewart, then Marquis of Londonderry, conceived a nobler destiny for this rocky shore than pictures and shellfish. He saw here a suitable place for the shipment of his coals for the London market. Battling with every difficulty, blasting out of the rocky cliff a dock, carving out a harbour, protecting it by piers, and indicating its bearings by a lofty lighthouse ; laying down an iron road from his coal-mines; planting powerful steam-engines; erecting whole streets of workmen’s dwellings and suitable workshops: in fact, starting Seaham Harbour, properly equippel.
    As a natural consequence, ships crowd the dock and harbour; factories, houses, shops, schools, charitable institutions, churches, chapels, and public buildings, have sprung up, and visitors are now whirled to and fro on the railway from Sunderland. Thus has the great scheme of the late Marquis been crowned with complete success. Seaham has now 7000
    inhabitants; and it is no un¬common occurrence for seventy vessels to leave at one tide.
    cannon1Like a true-hearted English lady, Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry, after the death of the Marquis, carried on the work with increased vigour, trimmed up the place with taste and neatness, erected buildings with an eye to the beau¬tiful, and still watches over the health and prosperity of the place with genuine solicitude; and as, year by year, she pays her visits, she invariably leaves some souvenir of her love and attachment for the place.
    Seaham has recently been the scene of two interesting demonstra¬tions on the occasion of a visit by the Marchioness of Londonderry to her seat at Seaham Hall.
    On Monday, the 2nd instant, the children attending the various colliery schools founded and maintained by the Marchioness attended at Seaham Harbour, to receive from the hands of her Ladyship prizes for ability and good conduct. The ceremony took place in a large and handsome marquee erected for the occasion contiguous to the new school at Seaham Colliery. Upwards of 1300 scholars were present, who were conveyed to Seaham in colliery wagons’, and then marched to the rendezvous, each school with the master or mistress at its head. The children were addressed by her Ladyship and the Lord Bishop of Durham in a spirit of affectionate and earnest simplicity.
    The other demonstration which forms the subject of our en¬graving was the inauguration of a Russian gun. This event took place on Saturday, the 31st ult., in the presence of two thou¬sand of the principal inhabitants of Seaham and neighbourhood. The interesting trophy—a 38-pounder, weighing 66s cwt.—was erected on a stone pedestal and placed in the centre of ‘* The Green,” which has been laid out as a public promenade, and faces the sea.
    Near to the spot was erected a platform for the accommodation of Lady Londonderry and her visitors, who arrived shortly after one o’clock—the Earl and Countess Vane, Lord Ravensworth, Lord A. Vane Tempest, the Countess of Portarlington, and the Misses Longley arriving first in an omnibus-carriage drawn by four greys, and followed by a second carriage in which was Lady Londonderry and the Bishop of Durham.
    Having ascended the platform, Lady Lon¬donderry stepped to the front, and gave the signal for displaying the gun, which was covered by a large naval ensign. At this moment her Ladyship’s private band struck up ” God Save the Queen,” and a salute of twenty-one guns was fired by the coastguard men. This was followed by loud cheering, on the subsidence of which the assemblage was addressed by Earl Vane, Lord Ravensworth and Lord Adolphus Vane Tempest.
    An address was then presented to the Marchioness of Londonderry expressing the gratitude of the inhabitants of Seaham for the important benefits recently conferred by her Ladyship upon the place ; to which the Marchioness replied as follows:—”Gentle¬men,—I confess that the spontaneous and unexpected expression of your kind feeling towards me has caused me the deepest gratification. It is encouraging and cheering to find my humble efforts to improve this place have been appreciated; and it is most satisfactory to watch its increased prosperity and importance during my care and tenancy. While I thankfully acknowledge the progress and contemplate the rise with pride and pleasure, believe me I take no merit for any little share I may have had in this, for it is my happiness as well as my duty to direct my best energies to the wel¬fare of a place which I have watched from its commencement, thirty years ago, and received as a sacred legacy from its founder, to whose name it remains as a touching monument that all connected with him may well feel proud of.
    The ceremony this day is particularly satisfactory, for these guns have only been presented to towns of certain importance and population ; and the promise of a County Court from the Lord Chancellor, after four years’ patient and re¬peated petitioning, is another just advance in the scale and position Seaham town and harbour holds in this county. Gentlemen, I thank you sincerely for your affectionate address and good wishes, and in return can only reiterate my promise, that while God spares my life it will be devoted to the interests of this place, and the welfare of all in my employ.”

    This terminated the proceedings of the ” inauguration.” Three cheers were then given for Lady Londonderry, three for Earl and Countess Vane, one for their son, Lord Seaham, an interesting child, who bowed acknowledgment, and three for Lord Adolphus Vane.

    Seaham Colliery Dissaster

    A series newspaper articles published during the week of the
    Seaham Colliery Disaster of Wednesday 8th of September 1880.
    Newspaper not known.


    A disaster which seems to be of appalling magnitude occurred this morning at Seaham Colliery, Durham, the property of the Marquis of Londonderry. About 2 o’clock there was a loud report, followed by an upheaval of dust and smoke, mingled with shrieks, from the pit shaft. Those above ground could not fail to understand that some great disaster had occurred, but they were not prepared for a calamity of the extent which an examination, of the workings disclosed. The manager, Mr. Stratton, was at once communicated with, and relief parties were formed to descend the shaft.
    It was found that the cages were useless, and the explorers were let down by means of loops. It was known that some 200 men and boys had gone into the workings for the night shift at the usual time, the number having been increased beyond what bad been usual by the fact that numbers of the miners intended to work out the usual shift in order to enable them to attend a local flower show to be held today. Three times was an attempt made to reach the entombed men, and three times was failure the result. On a fourth attempt the exploring party got near enough to the main seam to discover that the men employed there were alive, and further discoveries revealed the welcome fact that they were unhurt. Unhappily, there were only some 17 men in this part of the workings, the greater number being in the more fatally-situated seams lower down.

    Efforts were now directed towards getting the lifting gear into working order, so that the men reached could be rescued. This proved a work of great difficulty, and it was long before any progress was made. The afternoon was well advanced before any success was achieved. By about 2 o’clock communication by means of a jack-rope and loops was established, and three men were brought to bank alive. In the course of an hour or two, three others were brought up, and when the latest intelligence to hand here left, efforts wore being made to reach the remaining 11 or 12 men in that seam. They are said to be unhurt. None of the men brought to bank seemed any the worse for their temporary confinement, although naturally alarmed and shaken. Refreshments had been sent down to them, and they waited patiently till their turn came to be taken up.

    One of the rescued stated that 40 men in the Harvey, or No. 2 seam, a seam below the main seam, were safe, but it is not stated how he arrived at that conclusion. It is presumed there may have been communication between the seams. It was supposed this afternoon that no fewer than 60 of the 200 men and boys believed to be below would be saved. When the men in the main seam heard the explosion they rushed to the entrance, but found it blocked. The news of the accident drew great crowds during the day to the scene of the disaster.

    The manager, Mr. Scrafton, states that the seams worked were the Hutton seam, at a depth of 280 fathoms, and the seam worked from No. 1, which is 256 fathoms. The upcast works three seams, the Hutton seam, the Maudlin, and the Main Coal. The only seam explored is the Main Coal, and ventilation in it when Mr. Stratton went down was perfectly good. He said, “The men there cannot be suffering any harm. Communication has not yet been opened with the other seams, and that will be the principal work that will have to be done.” As near as can be ascertained at the time of writing there would be 33 men in No. 2 pit, 35 in No. 1, 60 in the Maudlin, 19 in the Main Coal, and 17 in No. 3, Hutton seam – a total of 164. Of these, 19 in the main seam are safe and the men in No. 2 will probably be safe unless the pit is fired, I cannot speak as to the others. While down, voices and knockings were heard in No. 3.

    Messrs. Forman and Patterson, president and treasurer respectively of the Durham Miners’ Association, have been at the colliery during the day, and have arranged for two other representatives to accompany each exploring party. On behalf of the men Messrs. Patterson and Burt will go with the first shift, Messrs. Crosier and Forman with the second, and Mr. James Wilson and Mr. Banks with the third. Corporal Hudson, who won the Queen’s Prize at Shoeburyness, is among the men in the lowest seam, as to whom there is least hope. He was to receive his prizes today from the Marchioness of Londonderry. With him is a miner named Hutchinson, who was saved in a miraculous manner at an explosion on the 25th of October, 1871, in the same pit. The Marquis of Londonderry has been at the pit mouth during the day, and is deeply concerned as to the fate of his men.

    The colliery is a very large one, having two shafts and is among the deepest in the country. If the worst fears should be realised, the calamity will be far greater than all accidents that have occurred in this quarter since the terrible disaster at Hartley in 1862, by which upwards of 200 persons lost their lives. The cause of the accident is, of course, unknown. After a fortnight of extreme heat, the weather this morning became cold, with a tendency to frost.

    Those who have been seen dead are near the shaft. Some of the men are believed to be a mile away. It is supposed that the former were overcome by the after-damp. A woman named Featt dropped down dead on being told that her brother was among the victims. Women who may be widowed and children who may be fatherless are waiting drearily in the roadways leading to the colliery. In all 67 hands have been saved, though some of them are in a very exhausted state. The work of the explorers is very difficult, but they will continue it all night, and it is hoped that they will affect a clear way into the workings by morning. No signs of fire are perceptible, though there must be a large accumulation of gas in the pit.


    Early this morning a terrible explosion occurred at Seaham Colliery, belonging to the Marquis of Londonderry, and situated on a hill about a mile from the sea and within sight of Sunderland. There was to have been a flower show at Seaham Harbour to-day, and the prizes were to be given away by the Marquis of Londonderry. The pitmen of the colliery have large gardens attached to their well-built houses and are keen competitors for prizes. The explosion occurred at half-past 2 o’clock this morning, and was heard between two and three miles off.

    The Marquis of Londonderry was at one of his seats, within half a mile of the pit, Seaham Hall. He was soon on the spot, and has remained here all day. There was no want of assistance, as colliery managers and owners from all parts of the county flocked in. Mr. Bell the Government inspector for Durham, and his assistant, Mr. Atkinson, also appeared. The Seaham colliery was sunk about 40 years ago, and was worked about half that time with a single shaft for sending down the men and ventilating the pit. This system of working was abolished by the Mines Regulation Act of 1862, which made it compulsory to have two separate and distinct shafts, some distance apart, for ventilation and taking the men up and down the pit.

    The Seaham Colliery is now worked with the old arrangement of a shaft with a brattice separating it, but this is now entirely worked as a downcast shaft, where the men go down and come up, and this is called No. 1 and No. 2 shafts—really one shaft with a brattice up the centre. The upcast shaft is about 150 yards away, and there is the place whence all the foul air comes from the pit. There are five seams of coal being worked, the main seam 460 yards from the surface, where 17 men have been rescued; then the Maudlin seam, 490 yards, with 60 men and Nos. 1, 2, and 3 Hutton seams, with 55, 33, and 17 men respectively working, making a total of 162 down the pit at the time of the explosion.

    Those seams run on an average to between five and six feet and it should be said that the Hutton seams are broken up by a ‘fault’, and are worked in three sections about 20 yards below the main and Maudlin seams. There are two seams further down – the Harvey and Busty – at a depth from the top of the shaft of 500 and 600 yards. There are about 1,000 men employed at the colliery altogether, and they work three ‘shifts’ per day, of seven hours each so that the full complement of men in the pit at one time would not be less than 500. When the explosion occurred there were very few hewers in the pit, the men there being principally engaged in clearing the travelling ways and putting in timber to support the roofs and make it safe for the men to get the coal. The force of the explosion, at present supposed to have originated in the lowest seams, was such as to block up both the upcast and downcast shafts, and this led to the belief that every soul in the pit had perished. Ventilation was, however, soon restored, and the work of removing the debris in the shaft was begun.

    The efforts of the exploring party were soon rewarded by sounds from below and within four hours of the explosion, 19 men in the upper or main coal seam were found, all alive and well. They were got at by relays of men going down through the broken and shattered shaft by means of loops slung on chains, the regular cages and runners having been destroyed.
    Three men were brought up from this main seam at 1 o’clock, the other 16 having refreshments sent down to them and electing to stay rather than impede the party in their efforts to rescue the sufferers who had been heard knocking and shouting further down the shaft. The latter, it is hoped, will be reached in the course of a few hours, for at present the ventilation is not bad. There is a large volume of air proceeding down the downcast but whether it goes down to the four lower seams before reaching the upcast is not known. There, 165 men are still imprisoned. The knockings from down below, however, indicate that some men still survive, and it is to rescue these men that the 16 brave men in the main seam prefer to remain immured rather than stop for a few minutes the work of rescuing their less fortunate comrades. Four men were brought to bank later on, and at half-past 6 o’clock the news was brought up that several men had been found alive in the Hutton seam, No. 1 pit, where 55 men were known to have been working.

    At 1 o’clock the exploring party, which had up to this time been using only the No. 1 and No. 2 downcast shaft, also got to work in the upcast shaft, and this enabled them to proceed at a much greater rate. An hour later six men were brought up to bank, and there are 15 more waiting their turn to be sent to the surface. The furnace man at the bottom of this upcast shaft was found dead, and there are some others also fearfully burnt near the furnace. It is feared that 140 men and boys are killed.
    The Marquis of Londonderry has been most solicitous in behalf of the sufferers, and has been about the colliery all day. Sir George Elliot, who was formerly consulting engineer to the Marquis, has offered his services, and sent some of his own managers from adjoining collieries. The most eminent colliery managers and engineers in Durham have been in attendance during the day, among others, Mr. S. Coxon Usworth, Mr. Baker Forster, Mr. William Armstrong, Mr. Morton (Lord Durham’s agent), Mr. C. E. Bell, Mr. Morison (Newcastle), Mr. A. L Stevenson, Mr. Bailes (Murton Colliery), and Mr. Lishman (Hetton). These gentlemen gave their counsel to the resident officials of the colliery, Messrs. Edminson, Stratton, Corbett, and Turnbull, whose exertions have been unremitting during the whole day. Thousands of people continue to flock into the village from neighbouring collieries.

    The following is a narrative of one of the men, Ralph Marley, who was immured with 13 others in the main coal seam. He said:-
    There was a set of four of them working together, 1,200 yards from the shaft, driving and heading a work preparatory to the hewers getting the coal. Here they used powder for bringing the stone down. They always took the precaution to go 80 yards in different directions to see if gas was to be found, but so free is the colliery from gas that during the twelve months he had been working in the seam he had never seen gas. Lamps of the most approved pattern, the Belgian, Davy, and Stephenson, are used all over the pit, although no gas is ever seen, and the current in the main drivings is so strong that the men have to keep their eyes partly closed to keep out the dust caused by the rush of air.
    Marley said that about 20 minutes past 2 o’clock they felt a rush of wind, and he said to one of his mates, ” There’s something up,” and his mate thought there was a fall somewhere near the place, but on looking he found nothing. Marley, who had been in three colliery explosions before, told his mates that the pit had fired, and on their going towards the shaft, about a quarter of a mile from it, they found a deputy overman, named Wardle, lying insensible, with his face covered with blood, and here they met the afterdamp. Up to this time they had fresh air, but on proceeding along towards the shaft they saw the effects of the explosion. Doors had been blown down, and there was debris about the main ways.

    When they reached the shaft there were 19 of them, with eight or nine lamps among them, the rest having had theirs blown out at the time of the explosion. They were getting air into their seam, but the return air was so foul that it was like being in a very smoky room. They had water and tea with them, and they partook of this refreshment, but they had misgivings as to whether they were out of danger. They dreaded a second explosion, and they travelled about in different directions in couples to see whether there were any signs of fire, but not finding any, they sat down, now and again shouting up the shaft without, however, getting any response. About 5 o’clock they thought they heard voices from above and this cheered them, but it was not till 1 o’clock that they were assured of being rescued.
    Marley, who is an elderly man, was then slung in a loop, and with two others brought to the surface, and walked home, where he has been visited by many relatives. It is nine years since on explosion occurred at this colliery and at that time 28 people were lost.
    The Government Inspector telegraphs to the Home Office:-
    “I regret to have to report an explosion of gas at Seaham Colliery at 2 o’clock this morning. Two hundred men in the pit. Shafts blocked. Seventeen men saved in an upper seam. Sounds from men below. Plenty of assistance. Work progressing favourably. Hope to get down before night.”

    Thursday morning
    As was fully anticipated, all the miners in the main and Harvey seams – about sixty in number – were rescued by midnight. The damage done by the explosion in throwing the cages in the shaft out of gear, and thus entirely deranging the communication, while giving the strongest evidence of the force of the explosion, formed an insuperable obstacle to communication with the men below for a considerable time. It took full gangs of workmen the greater part of yesterday to get it into anything like order again. The men and boys who were working in the main and Harvey seams are saved and at their homes, some badly hurt, but none likely to succumb to their injuries. But all the poor fellows who were employed at the moment of the explosion in the Hutton and Maudlin seams, roughly stated at about 140 men and lads, are dead.
    The explosion undoubtedly occurred in the Hutton seam. The wreckage there is fearful indeed, according to the latest advices, it is believed that the bratticing and woodwork in that part of the mine are on fire. The horses and ponies employed in the mine, about 250, are dead. They have either been killed by the explosion or suffocated. The mine is a fiery one, and there is no doubt the explosion originated in a ‘blower’ of gas coming away from a crevice somewhere in the face of the workings in the Hutton seam. The Seaham Colliery has been long wrought, and, as is usual in mines which have been in use some time, there is sure to be a good deal of ‘goof’, or wrought-out workings. Gases generally lurk about in them. In the normal condition of the mine they are innocuous; but in an explosion like that of yesterday they would add to its force.

    The explorers have been able to get as far as the staples in the Maudlin No. 3 pit; but they there encountered a heavy fall of stones, and their progress was thus stopped. Great patience will have to be exercised in the exploration of the mine. All that human courage on the part of the viewers and miners, not only of the colliery, but of the entire north-east section of the country, could do, has been and will be done to fathom the extent of the disaster and to see whether a human being is alive. But they are contending with terrible and treacherous forces. It cannot he guessed when their heroic task will be accomplished, for the actual condition of the mine in all its parts has hardly been determined yet.
    As already reported, Seaham Colliery is situated a few miles to the southward of Sunderland, and is the property of the Marquis of Londonderry. It is one of the largest in the North of England, employing from 1,400 to 1,500 men and lads, with an output, when in full work, of something like 2,500 tons of coal. The product is mainly gas coal. There are two pits, one being called Seaham Colliery and the other Seaton Colliery. The latter bears also the local cognomen of ‘Nicky-Nack’. It is also called ‘the High pit’, Seaham Colliery being in like manner described as ‘the Low pit’.
    The shaft of the Low pit is divided by bratticing into two portions called No. 1 pit and No. 2 pit respectively; while Seaton Colliery is No. 3 pit. The Low pit is the downcast of the colliery, and the High pit the upcast. There is a communicating drift between these two portions of the colliery, so that in case of danger the miners may have more than one line of retreat. The shafts give access to four seams of coal – the main seam, the Maudlin, the Hutton, and the Harvey; this being the order in which they lie from the surface. It is the Hutton seam chiefly which is worked, and there is but little done in the Harvey, which is the lowest of the series.

    The explosion occurred shortly after 2 o’clock yesterday morning, and it must have been of an unusually violent character, for it was heard not only at Seaham Harbour, a mile and a half from the pit, but also at sea, in the offing. Perhaps from this circumstance, it is generally believed to have happened at or about that portion of the mine which lies immediately under the sea-shore. Those who were about at the time say there was a loud report from both pits simultaneously, followed by a dense volume of smoke, dust, and sparks. There was a sensible shaking of the ground in the neighbourhood of the pit, and sleepers in the village ware awakened.

    So soon as the state of the shafts could be examined it was found that the force of the explosion had so damaged or destroyed the cages and their fittings in the different shafts that access to the mine was completely blocked. In Nos. 1 and 2 of the Low pit the guides were broken away and the cages forced upward in such a manner as to cause a stoppage, while in the High pit a similar state of things prevailed, the wire ropes used to guide the cages being blown and twisted about to a very remarkable extent. The first thing to be done, therefore, was to clear away this wreckage as far as possible in the shafts, and thus make way for the descent of exploring parties. There were hundreds of volunteers on the spot, both from the ranks of working miners and from the colliery engineers connected with the different mines in the county.

    After several hours of anxious exertion one of the shafts was so far cleared that explorers were able to descend in loops of rope, and were able to communicate to those at the bank the intelligence that the 10 men in the main seam were at any rate safe. About 1 o’clock in the afternoon some of these were rescued, and three brought to the surface. The engineers then proceeded to rig up a cradle in order to bring up the others, and about 4 o’clock they had conveyed to them from below the gratifying news that the 40 men in the Harvey seam were also safe. Those were brought to bank before midnight at the High pit.
    Up to a late hour there had been no access to the other seams the Maudlin and the Hutton. Unhappily it was in these seams that most of the miners were at work. Every preparation had been made so that any of the men requiring medical aid might be attended to at once. Everyone engaged in the exploration of the mine or in working in any capacity about the pit, laboured most assiduously. The officials, among whom are Mr. Corbett, managing viewer to Lord Londonderry, Mr. Stratton, manager at the pit; Mr. Turnbull, viewer, Mr. Rowell, engineer, and others, were all at the scene of the accident, superintending arrangements and devising the best means possible to open out the pit and rescue the men. There were also mining engineers from all parts of the county, including Messrs. Hall, Ryhope; Parrington, Monkwearmouth; Armstrong, Wingate; Lishman, Hetton; Lishman, Bunker’s Hill; Bailes, sen. and jun., Murton; Armstrong, Pelaw-House; and others.

    What was wanted was a plan by which their services could be made available. The difficulty offered in Nos. 1 and 2 pits was the fixing of the cage by the breaking of the bratticing below the main seam. After investigation, however, it was found that a way could be found to the bottom of the shaft of Nos. 1 and 2 pits by means of a tunnel which connects the Nos. 1 and 2 or Low pit with the High pit. The exploring parties, who were sent down the former, having found their way into the latter by means of the tunnel, were lowered in ‘kibbles’ to a passage which led them again into the main seam at the lower pit shaft. By this circuitous route some of the 19 men in the main seam were raised to the surface
    It was with difficulty that the men could work at the High pit shaft owing to the dense clouds of smoke which constantly rose up from below. But it was necessary that this shaft should be cleared in order that communication with the seams below the main seam might be effected. This being the upcast shaft, the heat here is always so great that the cages and their fixings are all of metal When the explosion occurred its force warped the wire ropes which acted as guides to the cages when they were being raised and lowered. This caused a block in the shaft, and it was only by a great amount of patient labour that it was made perfectly clear. The course adopted was to pull up the eight guide-ropes of the cages, and as the latter would be of no use after the ropes were gone it was also decided that one of the cages should be removed from the shaft.

    For several hours the work of removing the guiding ropes proceeded. When the guides had been taken away, the removal of one of the cages out of the shaft was begun, and proved to be a work of difficulty. It was accomplished shortly after 4 o’clock. The High pit shaft was now clear from the top to the very bottom, giving free communication with all the seams. A ‘kibble’, or tub, was lowered by means of the ordinary cage rope down the pit, and on reaching each seam hung awhile in order that any men there might have an opportunity of getting into it.’

    The ‘kibble’ was lowered as far as it could go, and remained below a long time, the men at the top listening for signals.
    About 6 o’clock Mr Stratton, in charge of an exploring party, decided to descend the High shaft, in spite of the smoke which it was emitting. A few minutes after this had been decided upon, upwards of 100 miners, provided with lamps and every necessary for exploring parties, arrived to go down. Each party, which consisted of from eight to ten men, had two Queen fire-engines, to be used if necessary upon the fire that was believed to be raging in one of the seams.
    After having been down the shaft for fully half an hour with the exploring party, the kibble was sent to bank with William Laverick, an onsetter in the Harvey seam. This poor fellow had suffered terribly from the explosion. When he was brought to bank an involuntary expression of pity burst from the onlookers. His face and head were swollen to an enormous size; his eyes were not visible. The hair of his face and head had been scorched off. It was proposed that he should be carried to his home, but in a perfectly firm voice he said that if he were steadied just a little he could walk well enough. He was led away, and was afterwards attended to by Dr. Baty and Dr Crosby. The next to be drawn to bank were William Morris and Jacob Steel, both of whom displayed signs of exhaustion.

    The scene at the mouth of the shaft was now a curious one. Darkness had set in, and the shed over the pit was lighted with two or three gas lamps, which threw only a dim light around. Within the shed a way was left between the mouth of the pit and the engine-house adjoining, in order that instructions shouted to the engineman might be heard with distinctness by him. Holding a chain with one hand for a support, a young miner was lying on his side, with his head and shoulders hanging over the mouth of the pit, listening for signals from below.
    George Thompson, who was raised to bank from the main seam at 1o’clock, gave the following account of the occurrence:—
    “About half – past 2 o’clock I and about 18 others were working in the main seam when the explosion occurred. Several of the men in the seam heard the noise, but I and others did not hear it. We all, however, smelt gas. It quickly flashed upon our minds what had occurred, and for a time we were in a state of great excitement. We found after a while that we were safe if those at bank would only send down to us. We spent the time during which we had to wait for help in walking backwards and forwards along the seam.
    We were all uninjured except Robert Wardle, who when in the ‘stapple’ was much bruised by a piece of timber which was blown on to him, I could not tell for some time after the explosion what was being done in the seam, as I was in a state only of semi-consciousness owing to the gases.

    There was a plentiful supply of water, and there was some food among us. This, together with the light from several of the lamps which had not been blown out, rendered our situation less uncomfortable than it otherwise could have been. We heard the men in the Harvey seam shouting, but we could not make out what they were saying, and we shouted in return. I cannot express to you the joy we all felt when the exploring party brought us assurances of our safety and rescued us from our terrifying position.”

    Alexander Kent, shiftsman in the Harvey seam, gives the following account of what befell him and his companions:-
    “I was in the extreme end of the cross cuts in the Harvey seam, working in company with another man named Gatenby, taking down stone and timber. About bait time – 20 minutes or half-past 2 o’clock – we both came out of the place in which we were working into the main wagon-way. On doing so we noticed a thick dust, and, suspecting something serious had happened, we continued on towards the shaft. Nothing worse was observed at this part, but the further we proceeded the thicker the dust and smoke became. We still proceeded on past the engine plane, about 500 or 600 yards from where we were working. After we had passed the engine plane about 100 yards there was a smell of fire. As we got nearer to the shaft the smell got stronger, and the smoke thicker. Passing the old route way the smoke was lighter, but there was still a strong smell of burning and smoke.

    We came on to the Harvey shaft bottom, and here found about 30 other men who had made their way to the same part. A portion of us came up the steam drift from the Harvey seam to No. 1 pit bottom, and then proceeded from No. 1 to No. 4 pit bottom. Not getting any answer to calls which we made up the shaft, we returned down the steam drift to the engine-house, and remained there until 7 o’clock at night. We now got word that communication was open to bank, and that men were being sent up the shaft. We wandered about very much, seeking an opening to get out, but finding there was none we took refuge in the Harvey engine-house, where we remained some hours. We saw a great smoke issuing from the Maudlin seam, but no fire. On our way out we passed three dead bodies, but could not make out who they were.”
    Kent was formerly an inspector in the Sunderland Police Force, but left about 10 years ago.

    The exploring parties in search of the dead continue to encounter very serious obstacles in working their way towards the part of the mine where the bodies of the unfortunate men and boys are lying. The working parties have fallen in with bodies, and found them frightfully burnt and shrivelled. There is still great difficulty experienced in working the hauling gear, and trouble has been caused below today by a fire which has existed near the stables and engine-room of No. 3 shaft. The viewers and working parties are, however, doing their utmost to reach the scene of the disaster.

    It is now tolerably certain that about 130 miners have lost their lives. No fewer than 76 women have been widowed and 284 children made fatherless. Considering the terrible extent of the calamity it is wonderful how calmly and patiently the survivors bear the heavy affliction which has befallen them. The efforts of the exploring parties have been carried on with unabated vigour since yesterday morning, each party being relieved at intervals of four hours.
    Numbers of bodies nave been discovered, most of them terribly mutilated. They are principally in the Harvey and Maudlin seams, and it is probable that they cannot be brought to bank until a late hour; indeed, several will not be recovered before the end of the week. The first man taken out yesterday states that in making his escape he passed the body of Hall, a furnace-man, lying upon the ventilation fire, where he had evidently been hurled, shovel in hand, by the force of the explosion. He was horribly charred and disfigured. One boy’s head was burnt completely off. The number of horses and ponies below is estimated at more than 400, and all have been killed. It is believed by competent explorers that no one unaccounted for has survived.

    A considerable quantity of coal was on fire during the night, but by the use of extincteurs at hand, the flames were virtually subdued this afternoon. The fire was confined mainly to the bulk ends. Canvas ventilators are being plentifully used by the exploring parties, whose efforts are wonderfully successful, the fire being extinguished nearly as far as the stables. At first the obstruction in the shaft of No. 1 pit extended 20 fathoms up the shaft. Late this afternoon this had been reduced to about six feet, and to-night it is expected will be totally cleared. When this is accomplished communication can be opened with the bank.

    For some time the water supply was defective, the main seam stable pipes being broken by the force of the explosion. This has now been remedied by supplies from the surface. As was the case yesterday, the Rector has caused frequent services to be held in New Seaham Church, which has been opened throughout each day for private prayers. Hundreds from Sunderland and surrounding villages are visiting the scene of disaster, but admirable order prevails. Subjoined is a list of the killed:-

    Thomas Henson, five children; Robert Dixon; William Robinson, seven; Robert Bawling; Joseph Rawlings, two; Robert Potter, two; Thomas Seavin, three; Thomas Dodson; Thomas Gibson; John Bately; Anthony Scarf, four; Michael Anderson, two; Thomas Patterson, two; John Redshaw; Robert Defty, two; Anthony Smith, four; John Wilkinson; George Wilkinson; William Growns, three; John Growns, three; Thomas Greenwell; Thomas Hayes; T. Hayes, jun.; Benjamin Redshaw, two; Samuel Beiner, eight; John Roper, one; Walter Dawson, six; Robert Haswell; Luke Smith, two; Benjamin Ward, three; Richard Cole, five; George Brown, widower; James Brown, two; William Simpson, three; Frank Watson, one; George Dixon, five; Thomas Shields, three; Thomas Hutchinson, one; Henry Turnbull, one; Joseph Sherball, one; Joseph Sherball, six; Henry Aylesbury; Charles Dawson, four; Joseph Chapman, four; John Wiers, six; Thomas Alexander, eight; Michael Keeney; John Riley; Jacob Fletcher, six; Matthew Charleston, three; James Clarke; Thomas Keenless; Mark Harrison, one; John Denning; William Lamb, two; John Sutherland, 12; William Rosely, three; Edward Johnson, three; Henry Turnbull, six; James Best, six; William Strawbridge; Joseph Waller; Joseph Pinkney, ten; John-Vickers, five; Isaac Ditchleson, eight; Charles Smith, one; John Winter, six; William Morris, one; Robert George, five; Joseph Richardson; W. Wood, three; William Lonsdale and Joseph Burlick.
    James Healey, boy; John Whitfield, boy; Joseph Waller, boy; Nathan Brown; John Urwin, boy; John Knox, boy; David Knox, boy; Joseph Straughan; John Mason; Silas Scrofton; James Clark, jnr.; Roger Michael and William Henderson; Robert Graham; Edward Pinkett, boy; John M’Guinnes; George Burns, boy; John Cork; Lees Dickson; Thomas Lawson, boy; James Kent, boy; William Wilkinson; John Riley; Joseph Waller; William Hancock, boy; Alfred Turner, boy; William Taylor, boy; James Johnson; John Copeland; John Rainshaw ; Michael Henderson; John Richard Henderson; John Redshaw; Frank Growns; Thomas Johnson; Thomas Hayes; Edward Brown.

    So far as can be ascertained nearly 70 persons have been saved. Riley and Laverick, who are among the number, are injured, the latter being in a most critical state.
    Prompt measures have been taken for succouring the bereaved ones, and thanks to the institution of the Northumberland and Durham Miners’ Relief Association, a fund contributed to jointly by masters, and men, the assistance is already at hand The Association has 70,000 members, and an accumulated fund of £80,000; and although this sad affair will be a very heavy drain on its resources it is certain that there will be no appeal to the public.


    The number of those actually missing and lost was made up to 164 tonight, and 153 names have been given to the officials of the Miners’ Relief Fund by the relatives.
    The sympathy of the people in the neighbourhood is taking practical shape. On Saturday afternoon a preliminary meeting was held at the colliery offices, the Rev Mr. Scott, the Vicar Of Christ Church, who has shown such exemplary liberality throughout, presiding. It was resolved, “That in presence of the widespread calamity that had befallen the people of Seaham Colliery, it is desired that a subscription be set on foot for the relief of the widows and orphans and other relatives dependent upon those who had been lost.”
    The vicar said it was time that the relatives of the dead, as members of the Durham and Northumberland Miners Permanent Relief Society, should be relieved from its funds.

    Later in the day a public meeting was held at the Mechanics’ Institute, Seaham, the vicar of Seaham Harbour, Mr. Collin occupying the chair. Lord Castlereagh, the eldest son of the Marquis of Londonderry, took occasion to express his father’s sympathy with the poor people, and moved a resolution for the formation of a committee to succour those who had been bereft of their breadwinners. Major Eminson seconded this, and pointed out that those who had been provident enough to subscribe to the relief fund ought to share equally in the money raised by public subscription with those who had not enrolled themselves as members of the society. This was also enforced by Mr. Wright (the Marquis of Londonderry’s solicitor) and Mr. Howie (the chairman of the fund), who said that while their fund was equal to meet this emergency; it might cripple their resources in the future. A committee was then formed, including the Marquis of Londonderry, Lord Castlereagh, and the principal inhabitants of Seaham; and it was resolved to discuss at a future meeting whether the contribution should be handed over to the Miners’ Relief Fund for distribution.

    The general opinion expressed, however, was in favour of availing themselves of the miners’ organization. The Bishop of Durham has written to the Rev. Mr. Scott, offering his services in raising subscriptions; and Mr. Burt, MP, and Mr. Macdonald, M.P., have written letters expressive of sympathy from the mining associations that they represent. The Durham Miners’ Association have also sent their condolence, Mr. Pickard, who represents the Lancashire miners, and has been here for two or three days, wishes to state as the result of conversations that Mr. Forman and Mr. Paterson, officials of the Durham Miners’ Association, believe the arrangements for the safe working of the mine to be complete.
    Tomorrow Mr, Pickard intends to go down into the pit in order to be able to give evidence at the Coroner’s inquest on Wednesday. This opinion seems to be confirmed by the fact that not a single complaint has been heard as to the ventilation or of lax discipline.

     On Saturday afternoon the Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) paid a visit to the colliery, in redemption of a pledge given to a deputation of miners who had an interview with the right hon. gentleman at the Home Office with regard to the rules for the prevention of accidents in mines. Sir William then stated that he would consider the suggestions laid before him (the principal one of which was against the use of powder for blasting), together with the report of the Royal Commission on Accidents in Mines, and added that if the opportunity unfortunately presented itself he would personally attend the scene of any disaster in order to become better acquainted with the subject, with a view to further legislation.

    Sir William and Lady Harcourt had been staying with the Marchioness of Ripon, at Studley Royal, near Ripon, and the right hon. gentleman had frequent telegrams from Mr. Bell as to how the work is proceeding. Sir William drove from Sunderland, reaching the pit at half-past 1 o’clock, where he was met by Lord Castlereagh; Mr. Stratton, consulting engineer of the colliery; Mr, Bell, the Government inspector for Durham and Mr Willis, the Government inspector for Northumberland. Sir William first proceeded to the drawing office, where he inspected the plans of the workings, and then the party walked to the No. 3 upcast shaft, which is the only one at present by which access can be gained to the mine.

    Arriving at the pit mouth the Home Secretary had explained to him the measures that were adopted for the reception of the dead and Sir William had the melancholy satisfaction of seeing the last body brought up that will be sent to the surface for some days, owing to the remainder being so far away from the shaft and the gas being too powerful to admit of further explorations at present. The body proved to be that of Anthony Ramshaw. It was carefully wrapped up in brattice cloth, and the rough miners tenderly carried it on a stretcher, and placed it in a coffin, in which it was conveyed to the poor man’s home. The signal bell again rang, and the word having been given to ‘Bend up’, the kibble disclosed the blackened form of Mr. Stratton, the certificated manager of the mine, who has worked assiduously throughout. He was the first to enter the mine and convey the good news to the men in the upper seam that they were likely to be saved.

    Mr, Bell introduced Mr Stratton to the Home Secretary, who complimented the manager on his gallant conduct throughout this sad affair, and then interrogated him as to the state of matters below ground. In reply to the question as to how far the gas was supposed to have accumulated from the bottom of the shaft, Mr Stratton said that the nearest point at which the gas was to be found was 150 yards from the upcast shaft, and was situated in No. 3 Hutton seam, and the other portions of gas lying near the shaft were in No. 1 Hutton seam, about 400 or 500 yards from the upcast shaft. Mr. Stratton also explained that currents of air were circulated between the two shafts, and also between the points where the gas was known to exist, and this was an effectual protection. The quantity of air sent down was l00, 000 cubic feet per minute.

    Sir William observed that in the working of extensive coalfields it was desirable to have a number of shafts so as to afford better means of exit when such accidents occur. The Home Secretary asked for information as to the nature of the mine as contrasted with other mines in the neighbourhood; and Mr Bell assured Sir William, after long experience of mines in various parts of the kingdom, and particularly in Lancashire, where dangerous mines exist, that he considered the pits of Durham much more safe than those of any other districts that he knew of, and also that they were better managed, the Home Secretary then asked some questions about this particular mine, and Mr. Bell replied that he considered this one of the dangerous collieries in the County of Durham, on account of the large quantities of gas which it gave out. Sir William then took a look round the appliances at the top of the pit, and walked back again to the colliery offices, where he had half an hour’s conversation with Mr. Bell, Mr. Willis, and Messrs. Eminson, Corbett, and Stratton.

    Sir William expressed himself satisfied with what had been done, and wished to convey to the sufferers his heartfelt sympathy with them in their distress. Sir William then returned to Sunderland to take the 3.30 p.m. train for the south. The visit of Sir William is highly appreciated by all the miners in the district, and is looked upon as evidence of his desire to gain information to be used for their benefit in the future. One of the officials, who came to the bank when Sir William was present at the mouth of the pit, communicated the following to the representatives of the Press:-
    “No explorations are going on now. We have ceased to explore the cause of the explosion. We know the position of the pit exactly, and we find it unnecessary to go into any further danger. It would only be risking men’s lives. We are confining ourselves now to an examination of the points of danger. We know these dangerous points and we are keeping a constant watch on them, and reports in reference to them are being continually sent up

    The body of Anthony Ramshaw was found in No. 1 pit, about 500 yards from No. 1 shaft. All the other bodies are in the workings ‘in bye’, and it is impossible to get at them until the whole of the ventilation is restored to the state in which it was before the explosion. Most of the bodies now will be from a mile to two miles in. The ventilation has improved considerably since last night, and at this time the gas has been beaten back to its position at mid-day on Thursday. There is no danger to be apprehended as long as it continues the same. The measures adopted for restoring ventilation will not vary in any way from the present methods until the downcast is opened out to carry the men up and down, and that, at the lowest estimate, will be on Monday afternoon,”

    The latest information as to the state of the pit is that the ventilation is improving, and that by tomorrow morning the debris in the downcast shaft will have been cleared away and the ventilation restored in such a manner as to allow of the furnace being lighted to bring the ventilation to its normal state. Owing to the havoc caused by the force of the explosion in the downcast shaft, five men only can get to work, and they are suspended in a loop.
    It is anticipated that in a few days the exploration will be resumed, and then some information may be gained as to what is the probable cause of this disaster. One of the frequent causes is the use of powder; but in the seam where the explosion is supposed to have taken place powder is very seldom used, the coal being easy to work. On all hands it is allowed that no expense has been spared to get the newest appliances and to have the very best men in charge of the different sections of the workings.

    Today crowds of people began to pour into the village by train and in all sorts of vehicles, and, in addition, many thousands of persons walked long distances, to see the sad spectacle presented of 30 funeral processions to the two nearest churchyards. It was estimated that there were not fewer than 30,000 people in the vicinity of Seaham Colliery Churchyard, where 25 internments took place; and there were also some thousands at the Seaham Harbour Churchyard, which is about a mile and a half from the colliery.

    It was a touching scene to see procession after procession arrive at the gates of the Colliery Churchyard, where the vicar, the Rev. Mr. Scott, met them, and addressing a few touching words of encouragement and consolation to those who ware weeping sadly for the lost ones, exhorted them to lead better lives in the presence of this great catastrophe and to give up the gambling habits to which so many of them were addicted.

    When the last procession had filed into the churchyard, the coffins were arranged alongside each other, and, the relatives having formed a circle, the rev. gentleman delivered an eloquent address. Fourteen bodies were than placed in a grave near the monument erected to 25 victims to a similar explosion nine years ago, and 11 were taken to other parts of the churchyard to be laid by the side of their dead relatives. During the whole time the Marquis of Londonderry, who is suffering badly from gout, sat in the churchyard, surrounded by members of his family.
    It was 6 o’clock before the last rites of the Church were performed, and then the large crowds quietly dispersed. The pitmen of the district, though they have a rough exterior, are undoubtedly a fine body of men, and their quiet demeanour showed that they were touched by the calamity which comes directly home to them. There was no rushing or crowding around the graves, and within a few minutes of the closing ceremony there were not a hundred people visible.

    Explorations in No. 3 pit are still suspended, but the official reports are that the freshness of the air in the pit is improving. The work at No. 2 shaft is proceeding steadily. A barrier has been erected, and warning has been given that no naked light is to be carried near the mouth of the pit. Another of the bodies which remained unidentified up to this morning has been recognized as that of Thomas Alexander, who leaves a widow and four children. The only means of recognition were the shoes which he was wearing. The remaining body has been identified as that of Joseph Chapman, living in Hall Street, who leaves a wife and four children.
    Yesterday, at the morning service in York Minster, Canon Fleming, in the course of his eloquent sermon, said:-
    “There is something in the human heart that always must admire courage wherever it is found. We all know as Englishmen that much of England’s greatness has been won for her by the courage of her sons. Last week we heard with pride of the resistless courage of our army in India, which achieved so decisive, a victory with comparatively so small a loss; nor must we omit from the roll of heroism those brave fellows who win for us so many of our material comforts by the constant risk of their own lives. The Seaham Colliery loss vividly proved that fact to us on Wednesday last.
    Many a battlefield numbers less dead than one of those explosions, and he must have lost his humanity who can read or hear such tidings without a pang, or who forgets the value which the Bible has stamped upon a single human life, I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir, Standing in the pulpit of our Minster, from which words ought to be able to go forth into England, and remembering that next year the first association in the world for the advancement of science will come back to York, its birthplace. I ask can anything more be done by science to make man more precious than the gold which he wins for others to spend. True, we have the safety lamp and other appliances science has given to us, but whether from their imperfectness or from the reckless fault of those who use them – judging by results – we are compelled to admit that the present means employed to preserve human life, whether in our mines or on our railways, are entirely inadequate.
    On the latter point our gracious Queen has lately spoken not a moment too soon, and in her own practical way has intimated that she expects deeds not words. Much has no doubt been done in the past but much more remains to be done. Christianity surely bids us all to take care of others as watchfully as we do of ourselves, and the science which is ever wringing some fresh secret out of nature for us should add to its triumphs another chapter. I ask you in this metropolis of the north, so far as lies in your power, not to allow this matter to slip, for I hold it to be one of the many functions of the pulpit to help to quicken the pulse of public opinion on any question that can affect the social as well as the spiritual happiness of our nation.”

    Seaham Colliery 1873



    From the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 1 February 1873. Transcription by Stafford M Linsley.


    Painting of High and Low Pits by William Wheldon in 1851. Looking west.

    Painting of High and Low Pits by William Wheldon in 1851. Looking west.

    With chaste delight yet swelling pride we take our tickets for Seaham. The train is long; it reaches no small part of the way. It is composed of all sorts and conditions of vehicles; from the stately polished wood of modern times to the comical green shays of our forefathers. But the crown of our conceit is in the fact that it is a private railway. It is such an appeal to the better feelings of our nature, moreover, to know that we are paying tribute to a great feudal lord for the privilege of riding a few miles instead of shelling out to an unwieldy impersonality like a railway company. We feel like half-fledged aristocrats as we proceed. And to confirm the feeling – to encourage and foster it, the sublime old engine – big enough to drag a fort to ruin and dust – moves with a solemn dignity like that which an elderly butler exhibits when he is bringing forth a sample of his yellow-seal bin for the delectation of his noble master. But at long last, here we are.


    Within rifle shot of the Town Terminus is the Seaham Colliery Station, and, judging from the Saturday traffic, we can understand how it is that the pit people hold up their heads in conscious and manifest rivalry with the towns-folk. The town and the colliery are very good friends; in every sense of the word, very near relations. The town, with its cleverly-constructed harbour, its chapels, its public institutions, shops, and warehouses, derives nearly all its importance and most of its prosperity from the vast coal trade, for which it furnishes a ready outlet seawards. It can, however, boast that it is by no means dependent on its immediate neighbour, inasmuch as Haswell and South Hetton contribute to its exports very largely. Still its minor business proceeds almost entirely from Nicky Nack and Seaton Pits. On the other hand, these pits, or rather the pit families, look to the town for the bulk of their provisions, much of their amusement, and, to some extent also, their religion.


    As our business lies with the colliery village, we pass by, somewhat reluctantly we confess, without attempting to describe the busy and thriving town which takes toll as it were, both ways, on the products of mining and on the sea-borne imports. If it has a fault, commercially considered; that fault lies in the unnecessary multiplication of shops; but this is a free country, and Englishmen will never surrender the right to lose their money and turn bankrupt as often as they please. Turning west, then, from Colliery Station, we soon perceive that we have not far to go in order to plunge – metaphorically of course – head-foremost into the pit. But, before taking the fatal leap, we look abroad and around.


    Winter though it is, we can discern the makings of a splendid rural panorama, backed and bordered by the ever beautiful and ever lively, ship-dotted sea. Conspicuous in the landscape is the lordly mass of buildings known as Seaham Hall – not quite so stately, perhaps, but apparently as large and as well situated for sea breezes and sea views as the Queen’s marine palace of Osborne. Just now the white sheen of the mansion gleams and glitters like marble through occasional vistas, and between the leafless bows of massive and crowded trees. In summer, nature veils and outvies the handiwork of man; and her veil of rich foliage is so beautiful that we are content to forget and to lose all traces of art and handicraft. Now, however, there is an air of substantial and elegant comfort in the great house which warms the beholder from the tips of his top-knot to the termination of his chilled and brittle toe-nails. The noble family of the Vanes have unfortunately too many pits and too much wealth to be compelled to live all their days in this splendid country home. Amongst them they have lots of houses, and so much money that they are under no compulsion to bide the bleakness of an English winter. And yet anyone not blasé with opulence and grandeur might easily imagine a worse fate than being obliged to live continuously at Seaham Hall. His lordship does put in an appearance oftener than he otherwise would, perhaps, because, like a true English nobleman, he takes a warm personal interest in the volunteer movement; and, to tell the truth, he has an admirably appointed and well-disciplined corps, of which he may well be proud. Grand houses not being on our visiting list, we declined several very pressing invitations to leave our cards at the Hall, or our foot-prints stained with the mud of a coal village in a thaw, on his lordship’s door mat. In like manner, as being out of the record of our commission, we abstained from all attempts to trace Lord Byron’s “footprints on the sands of time,” of which not a few might be recovered hereabouts and in the neighbourhood of Dalton-le-Dale, but of which the greater part have been obliterated by the broad, heavy, flat tramping foot of industry.


    As we approach the pits, on the left hand side of the turnpike; we come upon an excellent row of houses. It is known as the Model Row. The word “model” must be referred to the standard of by-gone years, for the name would now more fitly apply to the new houses connected with the Seaton pit, further south. Nevertheless, this row is far above the average of pit houses either in this colliery or in Durham collieries generally. They are comfortable, roomy, well built dwellings, a trifle low in the pitch of the rooms, perhaps, but cosy and snug, clean without and within, with a fine outlook to the front, and abundance of capital garden ground, which appears to be cleverly turned to profit; pigs coming in for what, in too many gardens, is regarded as sheer waste. The curled cabbage suggests roast mutton; while the leeks are enough to make a dyspeptic hungry, and a hungry man’s mouth water with vain anticipation and longing. Of course, many of these houses are reserved for the excellent of the earth – by whom we mean the masters’ men – but they are too numerous, we judge to be wholly occupied by these upper-crust miners.


    Of the other houses we will speak presently; for we must proceed up this road a considerable distance, in fact, till we come to a dene and hillside hamlet, which, though it overlooks the back skirts of the colliery, seems as though foot of soot had never soiled its virgin cleanness. As we move along north we reach one of the two schoolhouses belonging to the colliery. It is gloomy enough for a convent, and black enough for a mortuary; but the latter can hardly be helped in such a locality.· It is not so cheerful a place as a school aught to be, and especially as it is now a girls’ school – the lads going to the school at the other side the pits. Both these schools are used by the incumbent of the colliery church for Sunday instruction; and we have not to travel very far before we find ourselves attending “early celebration” at Church; but we should explain that it is a conjugal communion – the sacrament of marriage, in fact – that is having the early celebration. With dove-like meekness and patience the bride is sitting by the side of the man she is soon to own, and she is illuminating her purview of the married state by reverent gazing on the magnificent east window erected by filial piety to the memory of the late Marquis of Londonderry. Once she turned rather anxiously to see if we were the parson; but, alas, we were not even the clerk; so she concealed her vexation, and irradiated her passing cloud of disappointment by gazing at a still handsomer stained window at the west end, put there by conjugal affection and in memory of that same Tory Marquis. After gazing till half-blinded on these splendid memorials of departed worth and bequeathed wealth, our eye rested on an ugly and deservedly-faded inscription – illuminated, forsooth – of a kind that invariably rouses us to holy wrath. It is now for us a familiar object, and increasingly obnoxious. It set forth in solemn and sounding phrase, in ecclesiastical red and black lettering an astounding testimony to the prodigious and indispensable generosity of the Incorporated Society for the Building, Enlargement, and Restoration of Churches, in having granted £75 towards the erection of the south wing of this particular church. Now as the cost of this extension could hardly be less than tenfold the amount given by the Society, we fail to discover the special claim of the Society to such conspicuous honour, gratitude, and glory. It is to be hoped they pay for the painting of the tablet themselves; but that can hardly be the case, or else they would have been sure to mention a fact which, so far as we can see, must redound to their credit quite as much as the other fact.


    The church itself is now a really handsome pro or sub-cathedral. Previous to the erection of the second row of pillars and the new aisle, it must have presented a lob-sided, maimed appearance, but now it is strictly according to the ecclesiastical Cocker. The first portion of the edifice was erected by the late Marchioness in 1853. Adjoining is a spacious – a suggestively spacious – graveyard for a small village. As yet the tombs are few and far between. Near the eastern boundary we observed a long, rough mound, and on inquiring from some bright young putters playing pitch and toss not far off, we were informed that this mound was known as “the taty pit;” and certainly it does look rather more like the burial place of turnips and potatoes than that of Christian martyrs to the glory of modern science. Yet so it is. There, sleeping their last sleep, are nearly two dozen out of the six-and-twenty who lost their lives by the explosion of October, 1871. Nor are these bones to lie long under the shadow of seeming neglect. Subscriptions have been made and paid sufficient to defray the cost of a monument to commemorate the melancholy fact of their destruction; all the necessary preliminaries have been completed, but the quarrymen are too busy to supply the stone. Presently they will be able to attend to this order; let us hope they will even make a push out of respect to the memory of their fallen brothers, and then the place of rest will grow green and seemly.


    A few score yards to the west stands the vicarage; and here, her ladyship’s generous care for the clergy is very apparent. The house is big enough for an asylum; let us hope that her ladyship adequately endowed the living while she was about it, or else the erection of a great mansion, such as this, was like the gift – the troublesome and costly gift – of a white elephant in the well-known Indian apologue. The church squire, whose abode it is, stands well with his parishioners, and deserves to be blessed with a congregation big enough to crowd his beautiful temple; but, somehow, pitmen are wonderfully like other human beings, and don’t take as kindly to religion of any kind, still less to religion according to Act of Parliament, as zealous clergymen would wish. Nearly opposite to the Parsonage, on the cottage side of the turnpike and at the end of a 1ong row, is a place that ought to be a Primitive Methodist Chapel if looks go for anything, but which is, in point of fact, a reading-room. Here also there are evidences that pitmen are much of a muchness with the rest of mankind, and do not display quite as hot a zeal in pursuit of knowledge as they do for increased percentages. Gas (from Mr. Smith’s gashouse at the Harbour) and coals are supplied by the owners, as well as the house-room, and an occasional lift in the money line, though never to an extent that might be suspected of any tendency to pauperise a pit pony even.


    At right angles to the row of which the reading-room is a sort of caudal appendage, runs a row which is half and half, morally considered. It begins splendidly with a viewer’s house, and goes on fairly for about fifty yards or so, with grass or gardens paled off in front of it; but it degenerates – as the English race is supposed to do – the further south it gets, until the tag rag have a very taggy raggy outside, especially the back side, where the outbuildings are only ruins and nothing to boast of even as ruins; but the interiors are good. “A precious sight better than you’d think for,” is the warm encomium of one of the pitch-and-toss heroes, who has too much pluck or too good a conscience to skeedaddle with the rest when our corpulent shadow looms round the corner, like some pantomime policeman of gigantic proportions. This youth doubtless lives in that same row, and being possessed of strong domestic affections, has grown up in the belief that there’s no place like home. But he is out there; for we can bear witness that there are up and down Durham a great many places like his home, if his home be one of these low-browed cottages. Too many, we should say; for however reconciled habit may make a man to such a nest for his fledgelings, it is not exactly the sort of nest we like to see provided for our blackbirds.


    As already intimated there is quite a new town of Lord Durhamish houses springing up, and indeed largely sprung up, since Seaton Colliery passed to its present proprietorship. These are excellent dwellings; and indeed it is only fair to say that so also are the double houses of the Waggonway Row, and further that the men have neither the disposition to complain nor anything very particular out of which they could make a complaint were they so inclined. There is a liberal supply, by means of pants, of capital water, supplied from a special reservoir. Yes, by the way, there is one complaint, and a very comical one. But it is a complaint which, though a colliery village is the last place on earth you would expect to hear it, is now become the main grievance of such places, as it has long since become the curse of the whole country, and that is the coal famine. Part of the wages of these men is or was a liberal supply of the coal which they dig out of the ground with their own hands. Now they cannot get enough to keep their toes warm. When they do get a bushel or two it is three parts dirt; but they think themselves extremely lucky to get even that. Their younger children are obliged to travel far and wide on the dangerous waggon ways picking up coals, just for all the world as if they were not colliers’ bairns. This we venture to characterise as scandalous. Whoever else goes short of coal, the miners should have plenty and of the best. This is to “muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” and to muzzle it with a vengeance. What in the name of humanity are the big black-birds of the world dreaming about? There are pits up and down where for every two shillings drawn by the miner, the owner, who probably lives at Jericho among the palm trees of Oriental luxury, draws a clear sovereign, and he gets a couple of thousand of these shining medals every day five days a week. If Lord Lytton were still among us he might write another clever tale, and call it “What Next, and Next?” Or if Mr. Lowe be half as sharp as we give him credit for he will get enough income tax out of the coalowners of England this year and next to enable him to remit all taxes of customs, and give the poor collier a free breakfast table, if he can’t give him a scuttle of coals to boil his kettle with. Oh fellow-friends, and brethren of this dear county and commonwealth, let us see to it, rich and poor, that we never burn a coal if we can help it. Lie in bed, when you can’t run up and down to keep warm; and when you are tired of lying in bed, play at leap-frog with the bairns in your fireless back parlour.


    But this is wandering – though not very wide of the mark. We must cross the ravelment of tramways and make for the pits. The people talk of the Seaton pit as if it were somewhere in the Arctic regions – and in some sense it is [in] this cold weather – but if it is in a sort of Iceland, it is in itself a Hecla or a Geyser. It is an upcast and furnace shaft for both pits, or all three pits, we ought to say; since what outsiders would call one pit, is really two pits, or one divided by bratticing up to a certain point, and then going off by itself down to the Hutton or other seam. As will be remembered there was a terrible catastrophe down these pits a year and a quarter ago. The pit was built up, till the blazing roaring furnace of acres on acres of coal was starved to death for want of oxygen. Now, just about where this bad job occurred they have a stationary engine down below, in fact, there are three such. The seams, or at least three of them, happen to come to a point just a little way between the new pit and the old pits; hence the acquisition of the new pit has been very useful in other respects, besides enabling the proprietors to comply with the double shaft clauses of the Act. On the whole, it is a drudge of a pit; a hard-working, serious, solemn, earnest, go-ahead, money-making pit. Then close beside it is a huge pork-pie structure, almost as big as the Albert Memorial Hall in London; and when we propose to go in and hear the organ, we are coolly informed that it is too hot. In fact, it is a huge patent brick-kiln. Adjoining is the brick factory, in which a fat, strong, roundabout machine is everlastingly shaping, stamping, and turning out bricks of the right consistency and shape. Out they pop, two at a time, from an apparently smooth surface on the flat of what looks like a big grindstone, and when they pop up, pushed from beneath, an active little imp made of cast-iron pops out behind them, and pushes them on to a tape or endless band, along which they ride like happy couples going to church to be married, while an intelligent boy acts as best-man, and brushes the dust and excrescences from the loving couples on their way to the matrimonial furnace or kiln, where their ardent young loves are to be baked into good, useful domestic virtues. But we must bid farewell, without entering into further details. It is a grand colliery, and it would be vain to deny it.

    Dawdon Colliery

    Dawdon Colliery

    The decision to create a new pit at Dawdon was taken by the Marquess of Londonderry in the late 19th century, due to problems at his collieries in nearby Seaham. As Seaham Colliery’s workings pushed out to the south-east, it became increasing expensive to mine the reserves from the old pit’s shafts.

    It was therefore decided to sink new shafts in the rocky coastal area of Noses Point, close to the ancient settlement of Dawdon. Sinking work began in March 1900, but soon ran into problems. Water-bearing rocks proved difficult to excavate, which meant freezing techniques had to be used. The colliery finally opened for production in October 1907. Dawdon reached the peak of its employment in 1925, when 3862 men and boys helped to produce over one million tonnes of coal annually.

    The men of Dawdon Colliery were forced into several industrial disputes with those who wanted to maintain their profits, but escaped the major tragedies suffered by pits at Seaham and Easington. Many of Dawdon’s men did die within its depths, but usually from individual accidents.

    Dawdon was a major coal producer for the Londonderry family throughout their ownership, and was later a jewel in the crown for the National Coal Board too. Under nationalisation, the government claimed that the mines belonged to the miners. This proved to be a nonsense as later industrial disputes proved. However, as the mining industry went into decline in the 1980s, Dawdon suffered too. The colliery was eventually closed in July 1991.

    Home to a rich industrial past relating closely with its near neighbour Seaham, Dawdon was home to the Seaham Harbour Blast Furnace, in Dawdon Field Dene. The original Seaham Bottle Works was situated here in 1855. The blast furnaces closed in 1865 but were soon replaced by the Chemical Works.

    In 1920 the new colliery, Dawdon, employed 3,300 workers and produced over 1 million tons of coal per year outstripping its local competitors. The ironworks and colliery sites have recently been reclaimed and a modern industrial estate launching Dawdon into the 21st century.


    1900 March – started sinking of shafts.

    1907 October – completed sinking of shafts. 5 October – colliery opened.

    1910 Welfare Hall opened. Twenty streets of colliery houses built.

    1912 Church of St Hild and St Helen, known as “The Pitmen’s Cathedral” erected by the Londonderry family.

    1914 Low Main and Hutton seams being worked.

    1921 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

    1921 8 August – Triple Alliance of Miners, Railwaymen and Transport Workers started. 30 June – strike called off plunging Durham into a trade depression that left 20% of miners and over 100 collieries idle.

    1925 Employment peaks at 3862

    1926 May – General Strike started. November – Durham Miners returned to work having held out for 7 months.

    1927 12 Aged Miners’ cottages built in Dawdon.

    1929 2 March – Dawdon Miners locked out in dispute over piece work rates. 4 November – Dawdon Miners reluctantly return to work.

    1930 1000 Dawdon miners laid off. Seaham Colliery closed for 2 years to ensure production at Londonderry’s new Vane Tempest Colliery.

    1930’s Dawdon Welfare Park completed.

    1935 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

    1940 15 August – Dawdon bombed by Luftwaffe. 12 dead, 119 people homeless, 5 houses destroyed, Dawdon Church, Vicarage and 230 houses damaged.

    1947 Nationalisation of Coal Industry. 2556 miners employed at Dawdon. 647,555 tonnes of coal produced.

    1950 Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton and Main coal seams being worked.

    1950’s Steam winders replaced by electric Koepe winders.

    1960 2348 miners employed. Low Main, Maudlin, Hutton, Main Coal and High Main (Dawdon’s highest producing seam) seams being worked.

    1969 13 October – Dawdon on strike for 3 days in support of Yorkshire Miners demanding shorter shifts for surface workers.

    1972 High Main and Yard Seams being worked. 8 January – National Strike begins demanding substantial wage rise. 28 February – successful conclusion to National Strike.

    1974 9 February – 6-week strike began. Again for improved wages and conditions.

    1975 High Main and Yard seams being worked.

    1980 2106 miners employed. High Main, Yard and Main coal seams being worked.

    1984 14 March – All Durham collieries on strike against the threat of pit closures by the Thatcher Government and it’s planned and premeditated attack on the miners

    1985 3 March – National Strike over without agreement. Dawdon Miners returned to work behind their banner and promptly marched back out as a gesture of defiance. Only 133 men had returned to work early. High Main, Yard, Main Coal and “C” seams being worked. 2186 miners employed.

    1986 E90 Face lost to water.

    1988 1700 miners employed. One million tons of coal abandoned for safety reasons in the “G” seam.

    1990 1592 miners employed. High Main, Yard, Main Coal and “C” seams being worked.

    1991 27 July – Dawdon Colliery closed.

    Wildfowling 1876

    Article from a national sporting newspaper of 1876
    A couple of months ago I was interceding with a military acquaintance for leave for his son to accompany me on one of my trips, but my gallant friend was obdurate. “Not until he has passed his exam.,” he said decisively, these are serious times for him, and I should not like him to be disturbed, do you see? “I understand your argument,” I re-remarked, “but allow me to observe that Frank has been very hard at work of late, and that a little change would do him good. He will get silly at last. Not that an army exam, is a very hard thing to pass, but still, cramming one’s head with all’sorts of things makes a fellow rather dull in the end.” He admitted that there was some truth in what I was arguing, but was nervous as to the result, and so we came to a compromise, in which the result of the examination was largely concerned. ” If you get on well,” he said to Frank,”we will all go to my brother’s, and then you can have your trip on the sea,” Frank, accordingly, ” wired ” into his books more than ever, and passed with flying colours. In consequence thereof the other morning all three of us were in the train for the north, and a very dull journey we had of it, too. Frank’s uncle lives in the neighbourhood of Seaham, and the only way of getting there was by dismounting at a certain station, whose name now escapes me, and thence driving through Houghton-le Spring to Seaham.This part of the journey was no joke for the mare, as the roads were hard frozen and very slippery. However, the coachman had got her “roughed” at the blacksmith’s, and we got on tolerably well, reaching the house of our entertainer at about half-past 6 p.m. The country from the station to Seaham is not particularly pretty, and the district being a coaly one the dust settles a little everywhere, and a good deal ‘n the neighbourhood of the pits. After dinner we discussed our plans of action for the morrow. We agreed to make it a shooting day along the sea shore, there being, according to the keeper’s account, lots of curlews about, in the cliffs and over the rocks, at low tide. Meanwhile, whilst Frank and I undertook that part of the affair, his father would get a boat ready for us for the following day, so as to have some sea fishing also. At daybreak the keeper woke us up; the weather was fine and bitterly cold; all the better for the success of our undertaking. Filled, then, with enthusiasm, Frank and your humble servant drove with the keeper to the shore, where we no sooner arrived than we heard many curlews calling almost on all sides. Seaham was not quite awake yet; but already its gunners were out, or at least some of them, for whilst we were putting our best feet foremost to reach the sands, we heard several shots fired consecutively, and saw a bird or two being knocked over. The fact of the matter was simply this:—Owing to the frost the fields and meadows were all hard, and the only place where the birds could find something to feed on was in the cliffs, where little threads of water always run and keep the ground moist, and on the sea-shore proper, when the receding tide left the sands soft and easily investigated by the hungry birds. We saw thousands of larks in the course of the day, and the sea-fowl—at least shore birds—were also very numerous. The keeper, with his double duck gun, walked at the top of the cliffs, whilst we two divided the shore between us. Frank walked near the land, and I kept near the sea. Between us three and the keeper’s strong retrieving spaniel some birds were bound to come into the bag, and some did.

    The keeper opened the ball by firing both barrels towards the fields. Of coarse we could not see what he had been shooting at; but as he disappeared, and we heard him calling to the dog, “Fetch ’em, lad!” we conjectured rightly that be had brought some to grass. They turned out to be lapwings, and he had sbot three with his two barrels. I was looking at him and waiting until be was ready, when I heard the frou-frou of many wings, on my right side. I turned hastily, instinctively shouldering the gun as I did so, and let drive right and left into a flock of sandpipers. The keeper sent Sam, the dog, down, and he no sooner spied the wounded birds fluttering in the sea than he went at them, in spite of the breakers, and brought them up one after the other very sensibly. There were seven of them. I fastened their heads together with a bit of string, so as to make a lump of the lot, and gave them to the dog. He did not know what to do with them, and when his master whistled him he went, but without the birds. However, the keeper no sooner had him by his side than he sent him back with the order to “ Fetch ’em, lad,” and he came down at a gallop, took op the lot, and went up with them like a shot.

    There is nothing like patience and perseverance in such matters. A little further on the keeper signed to us to proceed steadily. I stopped, being in the open, but he and Frank kept going. Suddenly they came upon their birds, three curlews feeding on the side of the cliff at a pool The keeper fired and did not hit. Frank fired and missed with his first barrel, but his second told on an old curlew with a beak the length of my gun barrel, more or less. The said long nosed bird, though winged, had kept the use of his long stilts, and he began a rare run, both of us backing him in a breath against the dog to reach a pool first, which he did; but his exertions had told on him, and Sam nabbed him and brought him back very proudly, whilst the curlew at the very top of his voice was shouting ten thousand murders! This being the first curlew Frank had ever killed, we agreed that the proper thing for us to do under the circumstances was to celebrate the event with the usual baptism. Sawyer (the keeper) came down with the flask, and I wished Frank many happy returns of the event in a bumper of sherry. “But,” said he, “I read somewhere that killing seven curlews is all a man can do in a life time. Have you ever shot a lot of them in one single day?” “Yes I shot fourteen once in two hours, in a couple of meadows on the South Coast, during the hard winter of 1870. The frost was so hard that only one brook was running, and they would stick to it in spite of my firing.

    They rose, of course, at every report, but after sitting down for a while inland they would come again to the brook, when I would stalk them again. I could have shot more, but being alone. and loaded already with my fourteen birds, I gave it up.” Thus conversing we were making way, and when we reached the belt of rocks, the tide being on the ebb and half spent, we agreed that hiding in the rocks would not be a bad plan, and at once chose holes facing the cliffs, on the top of which Sawyer squatted, and agreed to sign to us when anything should turn up. I got a very nice rock, standing about 5ft 6in from the sand on both sides of me. On the top I disposed two or three bundles of grass, through which I could keep a look-out, and having made myself comfortable, and ascertained by a glance that no birds were as yet near I called out to Frank. “Yes,” he said. “Are you all right?” All right,” be replied. And now began the watching. Soon after we had ensconced ourselves a flock of grey plovers flew our way, but they settled on sea weeds some hundred yards from our guns.

    Thereupon Frank left his biding place and came towards me, taking advantage of the rocks in the way, so as not to let the birds see him. u Let us drive at them.” he said in a whisper. “No, no,” 1 said, “They will attract more birds if we let them alone.” And the words were scarcely out of my mouth when Sawyer telegraphed to us from his “exalted” position. I peeped through the grass and bobbed down again at once. “There are two curlews now,” I said to Frank. “Where?” said he, with sparkling eyes. “Near the plovers.” “Let me look: so there are!” Then he looked again, and declared that the whole let were stalking about, but coming our way. Just then, however, some one fired a shot towards Seaham and the birds got up. The plovers went out to sea and the curlews passed between us and the cliff. We fired our four barrels, and the keeper his two, but we only got one bird. Now, after all this firing, it was likely enough that a little time would elapse before any more birds would come near us so I volunteered to go over the rocks and see if I could see any shots there. When I reached the extreme edge 1 saw several birds on the sea, but quite beyond reach. There were two or three companies about, and I made a note of it for the morrow.

    When I came back we sat on stones, and began our lunch, but we were kept continually on the qui vive by passing birds. Our sandwiches gone, and the bottle of sherry emptied, we stepped forward once more. Sawyer climbed back to the top, as before, and in so doing he flushed a snipe from the soft mossy ground, and being unable to steady himself, he let it go. We did not expect it either, so that when the man called out in a stentorian voice ” Mark snipe!” we did not fire at it until it was nearly a hundred yards from us. Of course, we did not get it. Sawyer no, sooner reached his post than he sent the spaniel to beat the intervening softs, but we did not see any more snipe, although plenty of other birds were flushed. We turned back at about 2 p.m., and arrived at Seaham at 4. thoroughly “done for the day.” On reaching home we heard what preparations had been made for our next day trip on the sea. A hamper of provisions was ready in the hall, and the boat would be waiting for us at 8 a.m. “What about bait?” I inquired. This it appeared, had been overlooked altogether. We then sent into the town to get some mackerel, fresh, if possible, and the man coming back, after a good search, with bait a dozen,
    we were content. The boat placed at our service was a large, roomy, open sailing boat, no decked boat being avail able ; and the two men who were to take us out knew the coast thoroughly wall. After dinner we commenced pre paring lines, guns, and cartridges. Sawyer came to help us in this, and he took the opportunity of mentioning that he should not be able to accompany us on the morrow, as his ” stummick” would not let him. Next morning the weather was much milder than it had been on the previous day.
    We started somewhat late, and got on board with traps and baggage, and went away amid the cheers of half a dozen urchins who had been watching the work of embarkation. Frank had brought his double gun and his uncle’s single duck gun. I had my double 10-bore. Presently Frank stood up to load his uncle’s six-foot ducking iron, but owing to the boat’s motion, and to the breeze, and his uncomfortable position, half the powder was dropped in, and the other half out of the
    barrel. That is the worst of long muzzle-loaders, you can’t get at them. And if it had been raining I doubt very mach whether we could have loaded the instrument at all. How beit, I helped my young friend by holding him tight by the waist, and be resumed the loading process. Then ramming it was another queer job. When the ramrod was placed at the    muzzle, the whole lot almost reached the top of our mast
    We managed at last to feed the gaping muzzle, and looked out greedily for something on which to try it. “I see a bird,” said Frank, pointing in his enthusiasm to a log bobbing about with the tide. “That is not a bird,” I said. “Bet you it is,” he replied, and he was going to fire the “six-foot”gun into it, when the men asseverated that it was a log, just in time to save a load of powder and shot and the nuisance of reloading. Thus discomfited, Frank made up his mind to find something else, and I was as anxious as he. Men are, after all, but great children, and the four of us were as anxious to see what the big gun would do as the artillery officers at Woolwich are when the 81-ton infant is going to be fired.

    At last, we saw three widgeons on our starboard a quarter of a mile off. “You come over here, sir,” said one of the
    men to Frank, making room for him forward, “and if yon put the barrel over the gun’ale you will be able to fire quite comfortably.” ” Don’t fire until they rise,” I told him, but be did not act to the letter of my advice, for when we were at least a hundred yards from the birds the man began to whisper all sorts of nonsense to him. “You are within range now, mister; get ready. Fire away, sir, fire away or they will go! Of course the man was well meaning, but no gun could have floored swimming birds under such circumstances except by a flake. When they rise even spent shots may break their wings, or hit them in the head and settle them. At an unheard of range Frank fired, and had the mortification of seeing the three birds going off apparently perfectly unscathed. I blew the man up, and told him to give no more advice until asked for it, and then remonstrated with Frank. We were then opposite the first ledge of cliffs, and several divers turned up. We would have fired at them had we not perceived ducks some way off flying. We watched them until they settled, and then went in chase. The first lot we came to consisted of fifteen birds. We drew op to them capitally, and Frank waited very patiently, but just when they rose I think the boat lurched, and the verdict in consequence was only one—a splendid mallard. He bad had a shot through his head and one  had broken his wing, whilst we were reloading the long gun, another company turned up. Frank wanted me to try for them, this time, but as I knew that, in his heart of hearts, be would feel much obliged to me if I would let him fire, I professed that I did not care much, and would be glad to see him do it. So he went forward again, and this time did the affair beautifully getting three birds, two dead ones and a cripple. After that we saw nothing near us, so we went to a nice place, and anchored for some fishing. It was just 12 o’clock when we began.
    The men told us we bad been lucky, so far as concerned our birds. “The artillerymen,” they said, “fire cannon occasionally, for practice, from Seaham into the sea, at a barrel, or something of that sort, and of coarse, when they do so, there is but little chance for shooters. I was surprised that there appeared to be nobody fond of sea fishing about Seaham. Ours was the only small boat on the sea, although there were plenty of sailing vessels and steamers moving up and down along the coast, Frank is very fond of sea-fishing. Last year we had a little bit of it together at Kingstown, and be was then very proficient in the art, but now he has become quite an artist, ” I have got two on,” he began, and brought up a whiting (the everlasting whiting are everywhere, seemingly) and a conger eel some yard long. “That is not a bad one, is it?” he added, on perceiving the latter, which came on the bottom hook. ” No, tain’t a bad one, sir,” said one of the men.” but you will get better ones here. It is a good place for them.” I had one about half the size of Frank’s, and he was jokingly affecting that all large fish would patronise him and ignore me, when with my next throw I caught a monster weighing fully 61b. This reversed the tables at once; but presently Frank got one almost exactly the size of mine. They seemed to be very fond of mackerel in that spot, and it was lucky, for that was the only bait we had been enabled to procure. In the midst of our fun one of the men called our attention very quietly to four birds that were dancing about on the waves close behind as, some 200 yards away. “They are ducks,” I said.” let us get our anchor up and go in chase,” I then explained to the men what we were to do. The wind would drift us right on to the birds, so they had only to get up our moorings, and then we would squat in the boat and trust to chance. When we had been drifting some five minutes I took off my hat end peeped over. The birds had seen the boat drifting on them, and not liking it they had swum away, and were now fully 200 yards on our port side, and were paddling away from us. I got up and signed to the men to put up the mast and sails. They did so, and we sailed towards the birds, and eventually fired at them when they rose at an awful range, and hit one, but he kept on flying for 200 yards, and then settled on the sea, whilst the others disappeared. We went for the cripple, but be got up again, and kept us half an hour at that game. At last a lucky shot turned him on his back, and we got him. We were then at least three miles from the shore, and in ten or twelve fathoms of water. We took up our lines, and for two hours stuck by them devotedly. We caught a variety of fish, codlings, whiting, coalfish, a brill, two skates, and a lot of small fry not worth mentioning. The weather kept very mild and inclined to a thaw, but when tbe afternoon was somewhat advanced we began to feel chilly, in spite of our rugs and overcoats. At 4 o’clock we cried “Enough!” and up went the mast, up went the sail, and we returned merrily to the harbour.