More about Sunderland

John at a christening in TMH

John at a christening in TMH

It was very disconcerting to find how different our circumstances were now. From being acquainted with practically everyone, we now found ourselves meeting very few familiar faces when we walked around. We missed the community feel of Haltwhistle and for a while I felt quite isolated. John had to be out and about visiting the large number of people on his patch. I forgot to say that apart from the measles all of us seemed to have a permanent cold for months. We had cold winters in Haltwhistle, but Roker also had the gales from the sea and it was bitter. By the next winter we were acclimatised and back to our usual.

Our Super lived next door and his wife asked me to go to District meetings with her and the elderly widow of a Minister. I could only go if John was at home and it also gave him some ‘quality time’, as it’s called now, with the children. It gave me a day off from cooking and housework and shopping! I always brought Anabel and Elspeth a wee gift like a book or a ball, just something small to show I hadn’t forgotten them. John got a hug and kiss for letting me off my leash for a day! During our six years in Sunderland I had some lovely outings with the women’s guilds and others and enjoyed the bus runs to stately homes in various places. We had morning and afternoon coffees and lunch, saw everything in the venue and had a lovely day. Then a singalong on the journey home and a big welcome from our families. Great days!

I think it was mentioned earlier about the attic box room full of what looked like centuries of useless rubbish, no doubt kept there in case it came in handy some time. You wouldn’t believe the stuff there was. e.g. broken bedpans! Who in their right mind would want to keep them? We were never hoarders and I said I wanted it all out. Fortunately, someone in our main Church was in charge of the council department that dealt with rubbish and a van came and took it all. We noticed that the men separated the brass bedsteads (just like the one I slept in as a child, with brass knobs you could unscrew and hide things in). We didn’t know then that they were worth something and, when told, were quite happy for the bin men to benefit, we were so glad to see the back of it all. We cleaned the room thoroughly and shut the door.

Someone had mentioned to John that there was a retired Deaconess at Thomson Memorial Hall, our main church, and that she could be a bit awkward at times. The Church had been founded by two shipbuilders who employed a lot of men and were conscious of the poverty and drunkenness and so on. They were Mr Thomson and Mr Bloomer. So they founded the church and their workers were encouraged to attend. Mr Bloomer was the leading light but Bloomer Memorial Hall had connotations and had not been considered a good idea. So we were told anyway! There were pictures of the large auditorium filled to capacity at the Men’s and Women’s Bible Classes. There were advantages such as clothing for children in need, and boots for men and women were given to deserving cases. No doubt some joined the church for these benefits, but many turned their lives around and found faith. Some of our congregation were their descendants.

It was a typical church of the Victorian era, much too big and extensive. I don’t think we ever managed to see every part of it! One thing puzzled me at first. Under each tip-up seat there was a wire contraption which I later found was to accommodate men’s bowler hats. There were few bowlers seen in our time, but I suppose you could put a cloth cap under the seat! The daughter of one of the founders took charge of the Sunday School, which was purpose built with class rooms with suitable furniture for each age group. It was the first ‘Graded Sunday School’, and was still well attended in our time. Teachers were not allowed to teach if they didn’t attend the weekly training class. The auditorium was lovely with a wonderful organ. The organist, Mr Fell, was an elderly retired man who had lost an arm in a work accident years before. Using one arm and his feet his playing was magnificent. After the first year, when we joined in the Carol Singing around the area we always finished up at the Fells’ house for hot drinks and lovely home baked mince pies. Their granddaughter, Glenys Henderson, was in the Youth Club and with the singers too. The girls went with us, Elspeth in the buggy and Anabel on foot, both well wrapped up. Then if Anabel got weary she could have a go in the buggy and John carried Elspeth.

Of course, by Christmas 1964 Elspeth was a good walker and the buggy was given a good clean and packed away for future use, so I had hoped! I gave up hoping in 1966 when we moved again. We called Social Services and they were delighted to come and collect prams, cot, bedding and lots of little garments. That chapter was finished………………………………..


One thought on “More about Sunderland

  1. Lovely picture of John Chris.,I have a picture of Fred with the first baby he baptised,which is also a nice one.Like you we went Carol singing,not only round the members homes,but round the sreets as well..We also went on Easter Sunday morning.singing Easter Hymns,led by our Boys Brigade Band, Imagine my surprise,the first Easter we were at Fullwell Methodist Church..,when we came back there was a queue,filling all the 22 steps up to the church door,& pouring out onto the pavement,It was the first time I had to queue to get into church!!.. Freds Sunday afternoons were always taken up,with the Brotherhood,held in Sunderland South,It was reckoned to be the largest one in the country.Was John ever connected with this?Like you we werent hoarders,never ever had things in the loft..Which was good when it was time to move..Happy days on the whole,(because we had our moments)which for us went by, far too quickly….Love & prayers..Marion xx


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