Chapter 5


Leaving Junior School.


I left the junior school in 1952 and spent the school holidays dreading the thought of going to the Senior Boys School even thou many of my friends went there.

The year spent at the Local Senior School was quite eventful and I was taught by Ned. Ward, He used to bully the boys and dished out the stick like it was going out of fashion, his favourite phrase was “You Blithering Idiot” I still remember being taught the rain cycle and the life cycle of the amoeba. I represented the school at football and went to school camp at Landieu Farm against the River Wear near Frosterley in the  Wear Valley the owner of the farm was a Mr Snowdon, I can remember carrying water from a spring in a field about a quarter of a mile from the site and a day out exploring and walking to Burnhope Reservoir. I wasn’t to know at this time that in 40 years time I would be involved in Buying the Landieu site from the same Mr Snowdon and during discussions with him was staggered to find that he was still owed money.[ the fees for use of the site by Wheatley Hill School in one particular year] one or two teachers must have kept the money. For themselves

That year I also brought a young Jackdaw home from the Quarries and kept it as a pet for a short while before it took off back to the wild [last seen heading south towards the Quarries].I joined the scouts for a short while but couldn’t afford the uniform so I dropped out. There was an Army cadet unit in the village next to the Scout hut which our Frank joined. The cadets were given uniforms and taught basic soldiering. I suppose the threat of war was never far away and future recruitment was foremost in the minds of the Military.


As the family grew up and got jobs, ours became a very busy household, mother seemed to spend most of her time making meals at all hours of the day and the only relaxation she could get was in the evenings when she would get busy on her home made clippie mats the timber floors throughout the house were covered with linoleum and a huge assortment of home made mats were placed around the rooms. She listened to the wire- less and loved The Orson Wells program The Black Museum. Visits from aunt Alice were always great as she had a wonderful sense of humour, she used to call me her little dreamer because I was always being asked to  tell her about my dreams I think I made most of them up so as not to disappoint her. I spent a lot of evenings helping to make the clippie mats and recall in my late teens making proggers for both my mother and Violets mother. We still have a set of mat frames stored in the garage.


Meals at home were always eaten at the table, lots of Broth, Stews, Boiled Puddings, Home baked bread and scones, Yorkshire puddings and plenty of potatoes and cabbage, in other word all belly filling meals. we never ever had home made chips, any chips we did have were bought at a local fish and chip shop I didn’t qualify for a fish until I was about 13 years old, it was a proud day when I got a fish and six. [a fish and six pennyworth of chips] a chip pan was only introduced into the home in 1953 by my brother Winston who had taken a liking to chips, he was working at the pit and making decent money, he made mother very happy and proud when he bought her a 19 inch Sobel television set which he paid for on a weekly basis, it arrived 2 days before the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, Nearly half the street came in to watch it. “The Worthington’s had finally made it” Pioneers in Luxury goods.


Winston had started smoking when he was16 years old, we were playing snooker on a 6x3 table in the back kitchen and he lit a cigarette up, mother played holy hell, she warned of the dangers, bad for your chest she would say you’ll never learn. Father smoked and used to place his cigarettes and matches on the top of the mantle piece, mother used to buy him 60 cigs a week which were part of the weekly order placed with the co-op. The brand name he preferred was Players Capstan. Other popular brand names I can remember seeing were Woodbines, Senior Service, Turf, and Robin & Dunhill’s. I ran fathers Saturday bet on the horses to Billy Carr a bookies runner who stood at the bottom corner of Jack Lawson terrace, Jonty Richardson stood at the top corner of the same street .there were quite a lot of bookies runners around the village, keeping an eye open for the police who used to catch them to issue fines. This was the way betting was carried out before licensed betting shops were introduced. I started to receive pocket money 2/6d a week.


Sundays were visiting days sometimes we were visited by Uncles and Aunts, My sisters brought their boyfriends to tea on Sundays, Frank and I were always warned to be on good behaviour. We weren’t allowed to sit at the table because of our behaviour, we used to sit tittering and laughing in the background, but all in all we had great times and we always got on very well with them. Sunday tea was usually jelly, fruit and custard, sandwiches and a selection of cakes presented on a cake stand in the middle of the table. There was a pecking order for cake selection, older brother George happened to be around he would say “Hands off China” if you ever tried to jump the Queue.  



Washing of clothes was normally done on a Monday; any day seems to be acceptable now.

Mother used to boil the clothes in the cess pot in the back kitchen transferring hot coals on a shovel from the sitting room fire to fire up the boiler. The boiled clothes were then put into the poss tub and possed in hot water softened with soap flakes, taken out and rinsed and put through the roller mangle and then hung out to dry. My Father had a couple of starched collars which were carefully prepared.


I have never been to have a look down into the workings of a coal mine and can’t say that I ever wanted to. My father always said our John’s not going down there and it’ll be a good day when they fill the shaft in and the farmer gets his field back. The closest I’ve been was to the pit head baths where I once had to take a clean bath towel to my father. Seeing him coming towards me covered in coal dust and hardly recognisable brought a lump to my throat. When my father became about 50 years old he went into permanent 10 o’clock shift leaving the house at about 8oclock at night and being joined at the front gate by his old Marra Jimmy White to walk the mile or so down to the pit. They both looked so old; pit work had certainly taken its toll on those two.