Up the Ladder part 2

Up The Ladder part 1

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  by Adeline Hodges

 ‘My Memories’

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.

My memories are varied, but the balance is more on the joys than the sorrows. I have had countless blessings showered upon me, and not least of these is a family of which I am inordinately proud. That is something Ben gave to me to have and to hold forever.


I shall begin with the rise of Dawdon. A new colliery had been sunk right near the coast. A great dirty railway was built right across the lovely fields where we always played. Rows of houses were built to house the men and their families who came to work there. A new school, surgery and church had all taken shape before our very eyes and before we knew it we were living in a much, much larger community.


These were a new breed of people. To us their ways were very strange. It was with great trepidation that we started our new school.
We soon began to realise how poor we were, for the new inhabitants seemed full and plenty. There were always fights with drunken men and slanging matches with the women. It awed yet amused us, and our parents thought we had really descended to the depths. But soon we had to leave. The years of traveling in bad weather had undermined my father’s health, so he asked for and was granted a transfer to Seaham Colliery. We were not as sorry as we would have been when it was just the Cottages. You see, the new colliery houses seemed like palaces compared to our little old cottages, and what had seemed like sheer comfort to us now seemed real slums. Our new home was bigger and much roomier and was the top door of a street of fifty-six houses; but children are strange creatures, the only thing about this house that pleased us was the stable styled back door, and the Elderberry tree growing high outside the front door. The boys could climb this tree and get into the upstairs bedroom.


We had only lived three years at Seaham Colliery when my father died. I loved him very dearly and this was a great blow to me. I remember when he was 51, I was 15 and his birthday was the day before mine, I bought him a quarter of chocolates for his birthday and I shall always remember the look on his face when I gave these to him as he said, “You shouldn’t have bothered hinny”. These few words spoken as only he could speak them were like a gentle caress.
We lived in the same street as the boy who was to become my great love. I did not know him very well for quite a few years. I was too busy with my studies to bother about boys, so I must leave him out of my scribbles for a little longer.


I remember Mother giving us a lecture on how to behave when we went to Seaham Colliery. We had been a quiet-spoken crowd at the Cottages. I often think now, as I look back and recall so many of our strange expressions; we were nearer the old Anglo-Saxon language than anybody. To talk like that now would be outlandish, but to us the dialect at Seaham Colliery seemed far worse. I can still hear Mother saying – “Mind when ye get to the Colliery nee thous and thines like them, and nee sittin’ outside on the paths; tark proper like ye’ve allus tarked.” Tark proper!!! We soon knew what she meant, for one couldn’t walk up or down the street for people sitting out on the paths in bunches, gossiping, or the boys tripping you up as you walked past. I knew I had always been a tall girl, but my goodness I never seemed to pass a boy but he shouted “lend ’s your lass to get the ball out of the spout,” or “Eeh, hinny is it cauld up there?” I was shocked and disgusted and branded them one and all an ignorant crowd. But my brothers soon settled down, and made many friends.


As I said before, my father died when I was 18. I had been appointed to the staff of new Seaham High Colliery Boys’ School, having served two years on the infant school staff. I was to take up my appointment on the 14th August but my father was buried that day, so I was granted leave of absence. There was nothing taken for granted in those days. I had to make formal application to the Headmaster to attend my father’s funeral and it was granted without sympathy and somewhat reluctantly, or so it seemed to me. My Mother was the caretaker of the schools, as my Father was bedridden nearly 3 years before he died. The Headmistress of the infants’ school where I did my training was a real snob and she didn’t like the idea of a caretaker’s daughter entering the profession. She made no secret of it and she made my life perfect hell.

No job was too menial for me – like scrubbing cupboard shelves, slates, clay boards, with insults thrown in for good measure. After the two years I was transferred to the boys’ school which was just next door. The Headmaster had a terrible reputation as a terror, and I was scared stiff of him, but I must admit he was not vindictive or spiteful like the Mistress. I was far from happy and begged Mother to let me leave and go into service, but as I was then the eldest left at home with five more children younger, she persuaded me to stick it a little longer. You see, I had twenty-five shillings a week, and Mother was depending on this. If I had gone into service I would have had less than five shillings a week. But I am glad I persevered because we got a new Headmaster and I grew to love my job.

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