Going to Wellfield


My mother spent quite a lot of time buying my uniform to ensure that I was given the best possible start to the new school. I nearly had an embarrassing moment, the school badge which was stitched to the blazer jacket pocket was brand new , but it had been given to my mother by the mother of a former pupil in an act of kindness. This badge read Wellfield S.S. instead of Wellfield G.S. It had been changed from Secondary to Grammar School a few years earlier. My sister Alice spotted the difference and another badge was bought and stitched on.

Going to Wellfield Grammar School was a shock to the system for me and probably most children coming from the colliery villages, it was the bringing together of approximately 5 or 6 children from each of the villages, with a total in each year of about 70, instilling discipline and learning in an academic environment and being expected to do quite well. People would say “he went to Wellfield you know.”

The school had proud traditions and the motto was going the second mile. Each day all pupils gathered in the two school playgrounds, boys and girls were separated and were called to attention and inspected for cleanliness, the boys particularly for their footwear, Mr Metcalfe [Tech.] as he was known was like a Sergeant Major on parade, he marched us in single file into the school. Every morning school assembled in the main hall, all teachers and pupils attended without exception. Our attention was drawn to the plaque on the rear wall honouring those from the school who had given their lives in the 2nd world war.1952 was quite recent as far as the war was concerned

The Teachers wore their Black Graduation Robes and walked the Quadrangles to ensure pupils passed from class to class, orderly and well behaved. We were each placed into a colour banded house Wellfield [red], Dawson[yellow], Durham[green] and Wingate[blue] I was allotted to Dawson house. School sports days between the 4 houses was very competitive, each point fiercely contested

If I had put as much effort into my academic studies as I did in sport I would have done much better. My favourite teacher was Mr Joe.Goldsbrough he taught Mathematics in a very interesting, no nonsense methodical way. Mr J. Dobson was the woodwork master and he wouldn’t think twice about throwing a block of wood down the room at anyone he thought was larking about. Mr Dobson took great interest in the football teams. The football teams were second rated to the rugby teams and whilst we did have a choice, rugby was expected to be given priority.

I only managed to get 5 G.C.E.s Maths, English Language, Geography, History and Woodwork. {Should have done better]


I can remember our under13 rugby team being told to assemble in the gymnasium and being given a pep talk by the Sports Master, Mr. Bill Saunders about our first competitive game against Brinkburn Grammar School, West Hartlepool to be played away on a Saturday morning He pointed and shouted instructions at individuals and looked at me straight in the face and said “don’t let those Townies beat you Worthington you are to be the captain tomorrow “Yes sir I replied.” Harrison’s buses of Wingate used to supply the transport and different masters would accompany us on the Saturday morning away games.

Just as well we managed to play draw 3 points each.

Bill Saunders like all of the other teachers at Wellfield wouldn’t stand for any nonsense; we were kept in our place, he was prepared to belt you with his shoe and anyone caught misbehaving would be chastised, humiliated and given detention and given a number of lines to be written out. My school pals were a great bunch of lads I recall Tom Simpson a Wheatley Hill lad, a very good cricketer; he died 2007 in Canada where he had been living in recent years. George Corner from Bowburn a very good all rounder who became a school teacher, Albert Hayes from Shotton a good rugby player who went with me to serve an apprenticeship. Ralph Ramshaw from Trimdon Village a good all rounder who did very well at football, signing as part time professional at 16 years of age with Sunderland before leaving to go to Teacher Training College at Loughborough. Ralph and I were very good friends and kept in touch. After Loughborough he then joined the RAF and was made an officer taking outward bound courses. He was on some sort of manoeuvres in the Middle East when he was killed, news came through, his parachute didn’t open. He left a wife and children.

Edwin Carr a good all rounder and great friend of mine, John Burton a very good footballer who became Tony Blairs Agent to mention but a few.













School Football 1956




I represented Durham County in Rugby and Athletics and also represented East Durham Schools in Football, I and two of my team-mates were offered an England Rugby trial but our chances .of being successful were ruined because of the Headmaster of Wellfield School, who after making promises in front of the whole assembled school to personally take us in his car to the venue he didn’t even bother turning up on the morning of the trial. We waited nearly an hour before making a phone call to him to find out what was the matter. He’d forgotten about it and suggested we make our own way there. Off we went but didn’t arrive until half- time and got a good rollicking from the selectors. What a farce, I’ve never forgiven him for that. We reported the matter to Mr Harry Lamb our new sports Master who had succeeded Mr Saunders who had taken up an appointment with the County Education Authority.

Mr Lamb was livid with rage and stormed off towards the staff room.

My sporting activities as a youth took me to Manchester, Carlisle, Leicester and most of the towns in the north.


Wheatley Hill Workingmen’s Club used to hold an annual sports day and gave away very good prizes for the winners and those placed second and third. Events were organised for different age groups .My father entered me in all of the events for under 15,s which were 100yards,200yards, long jump, hop step and jump, high jump and throwing the cricket ball. I managed to win all of the events got the prizes and shared them with the family. My Father had to produce my birth certificate to verify my age.

I later found out that my Father had a good sized bet on me with one of the local bookies called Fat Wardie about the outcome of the sprint events, apparently Wardie had been taking 2 local lads away to some sprint meetings and he must have been fancying picking up what he thought was easy money. Unbeknown to me he had asked my father if he fancied a bet, as mentioned I won both sprints sporting my new spiked running shoes bought for me the week before at Willie Watsons Sports shop in Sunderland


Disaster struck me down in early December 1955 just a few months after winning all those prizes I had been fit and well and was playing Rugby for the School but suddenly fell ill with pneumonia and pleurisy and ended up in Brierton Hospital in an Isolation unit, I also had Tuberculosis .I was so ill, I had an out of Body experience believe that I would have departed this world if it wasn’t for a wonderful new drug, skill of the doctors and the dedication of the nurses. More than 6pints of fluid were pumped from outside my left lung and a course of the new wonder drug M and B. was taken.


6 weeks were spent in hospital including Christmas and New Year and a further 4 weeks at home. One week after coming out of Hospital I received a written message from the Headmaster Mr Carr telling me to go and see him he was concerned about the length of time I’d been absent from school, He must have thought I was pulling the wool. I still wasn’t very well and had lost a lot of weight but did as I was told and against my own mothers advice went to see him. I travelled to Wingate on the bus and knocked on his study door, he asked me who I was, I showed him his written message, he took one look at me and immediately sent me to see my form Teacher. My form Teacher took one look at me and said what on earth are you doing here and when I told him it was on Mr Carr’s request; he shook his head as if in disbelief and told me to go home immediately.

I made a satisfactory recovery over the next couple of weeks but still had to go back to the hospital as an out patient for a while after that.


            Early in1956 I bought a 410 shotgun and along with my mates who also had shotguns we would go up to the woods to shoot at crows, pigeons and rabbits, we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, our parents just seemed to accept it. I do now realise how wrong this was, but I also know that different values and codes of acceptance and responsibility lay beneath the surface of our lifestyles.


I returned to School and very quickly got back into routine but for obvious reasons didn’t participate in sport until getting the okay from Dr Wallace, one of our local G.P’s, my heart raced when he said that I could resume as normal.

 I started to train again and took part in the School Sports day in June and played Rugby again in the new season. My general health improved and I enjoyed my final season with the First Fifteen.


I started my final year at school in the 5th form in September1956 and hadn’t a clue what I was going to do when leaving the following year I made enquiries about the Police Force, an Apprenticeship with the N.C.B. and then someone casually mentioned why not try and get an Apprenticeship as a Draughtsman with Dorman Long & Co. of Middlesbrough, after all 4 other pupils from our School had gone there the year before.


In March the following year four of us decided to give it a go, and after making enquiries were invited on a given date to go to Dorman Longs offices. We made our own way on the bus to Middlesbrough, Royal Exchange Building, which housed the whole of the D.L. drawing office and engineering function; we arrived there at about 6 p.m. mid week and were met by a number of Officials. It was a daunting experience the ceiling in the main hall drawing office was 60 feet high. A Magnificent building it was built in1865 as a corn exchange. The main hall could house up to 100 draughtsmen and there were several small offices with toilet facilities just off the main hall, in the remainder of the building there were lots of offices which housed all of the other associated engineering functions.

We were told that we had to sit the Dorman Long entrance exam which was their own admission standard .They were requiring 20 apprentices and there were about 50 or 60 applicants. The exam was about 2 hours in duration and we were each told to sit at a bench next to a drawing board and started the exam. At 6.30 p.m.

We finished at 8.30p.m and left to return home on the 9oclock bus, we were told that we would .be informed. All four of us passed and were offered further interviews but this time we were to be accompanied by one of our parents. My father accompanied me and I was interviewed on my own and then my father was invited into the room and was told that I was being offered an Apprenticeship and if he agreed he was to sign the indentures, which he did. It was all very friendly but very formal. The interviews were carried out by the Chief Draughtsman with one of the Senior Engineers and a secretary who took all particulars