Roker and Seaburn

Our Manse in Roker was well situated. Within walking distance there was a good butcher, a grocery and a hairdresser, plus other useful small shops. However, not long after our arrival we had a visit from a Mr Stores, a Methodist and a shopkeeper. His grocery shop was on Fulwell Road on the way to the seafront. He was a jolly chap and said he usually served the Ministers and would I like him to call on Tuesdays for my order and he would deliver it on Fridays. I said I’d call at the shop once I found my bearings, then I went next door to consult the Super’s wife, Mrs Allison. She spoke well for him and also told me a wee story about him. The elderly widow of a former minister, who lived in Roker, had a similar call from Tom Stores when they first came to Roker. He said he was from Stores and would she like to get her groceries from them. Oh, yes, she replied, I’ve dealt with the Co-op Stores all my life! She did give Stores her orders though. We had to support our fellow Methodists. I got all my basic groceries from Stores but other stuff I got in the VG shop at the end of our road, next to the butcher.

The main road and a good bus service were five minutes’ walk away. Longer with small children of course! We could walk along to Seaburn which had superb fish and chip shops and the fun-fair with children’s roundabouts, as well as the scary things. When John was free we enjoyed going there on a fine evening in the period before the chaos in the hallway and the measles struck, or we would go down through the park to Roker Bay with spades and pails for some play. Having lived by the Clyde Estuary for years where the tide came up quietly, John and I were mesmerised the first time we saw Roker tide came in. The girls loved to watch it, especially if it was stormy and the huge waves surged over the pathways. It was even more exciting if they felt the spray! We spent time at the sea front as often as possible, the beaches of lovely sand seemed to go on for ever. But as we discovered, not so attractive when the gales started blowing and we were ‘measly’ or sniffling and snuffling around, hankies in hand! It was quite a ferocious winter and we didn’t have many ‘pleasure walks’ for ages.

The gallery shows us on Roker Beach, Whitsun 1964, with Annabel and Julie.

John worked hard and visited many homes every week, getting to know people in their own place. Once he had been to a house he felt more connected to the family there and he never forgot a name. I wasn’t quite so fast at remembering names, but before long I got those I met in Roker and at Church services and meetings sorted out as regards their families and so on. There are always some people you never forget in each place you live. One was Florrie Johnston; she and her husband Alf, a bus driver, had two teenage sons, Alan and Malcolm, both lovely lads. Florrie told me one day that she loved the boys but had longed for a wee girl. Early in our second December there Florrie asked if I would let her take Anabel and Elspeth into the town before Christmas to see all the decorations and lights. By then the girls were fond of Florrie and I trusted her to look after them. They came back with little presents Florrie had got them – the only ones I remember were pencils with Santa Claus and a Snowman on the end. They were starry-eyed and tired out! All three had enjoyed the outing so much that it was repeated probably more than once.

There were a good number of TMH members living in Roker, although many were scattered all over Sunderland. Mrs Withell was an elderly lady who occasionally asked us for a cup of tea. The girls were always quite happy visiting and were quite sociable. I enjoyed meeting folk in their houses and getting acquainted. Mrs Withell had had a daughter who had died who she said had curly brown hair like mine. She would always bring out a dolls’ tea-set and Anabel and Elspeth were able to pour out their own juice sitting on a rug having a picnic. I was afraid they might break something for I was sure it had been her own little girl’s toy. She may have been thinking what might have been. Another attraction was her Bagatelle board which Anabel and Elspeth loved to play with. I enjoyed a try as well. It was exactly like the one I played with at the Toll!

John was out most afternoons and often evenings too: the congregation was large and there were many calls on his time apart from the routine visits. We didn’t get a car until three years after we came to Sunderland so it was on foot and in buses. The girls and I would go into the park for a walk sometimes with a flask of Rosehip Syrup and biscuits. There is a bridge in the Park where you are looking down on the path to the shore. Anabel and Elspeth loved to be on it running back and forward and looking over at how far down the path was. When they were tired we’d have our mini picnic. We were easy to please in these days! If Daddy was coming home for tea he knew where we’d be and would come and meet us. It was quite a lonely life for us for a while, having been used to the ‘knowing all and sundry’ of Haltwhistle, but we enjoyed our new home and surroundings.

John and Hazel. Elspeth is the girl on the right

John and Hazel. Elspeth is the girl on the right

Mrs Jameson lived with her son and daughter, who were older than John and me. The daughter, Hazel, was a lovely woman, cheerful and friendly. She went on a bus holiday and changed the course of her life! She met a man, John Vaughan, and it was love at first sight. He came to Sunderland to meet Hazel’s family and if ever there was a matching pair it was them. They obviously had a very strong attachment, and before long a marriage was arranged. John married them and Hazel asked Elspeth to be one of her two little flower girls. They went down to live at his home near Shaftesbury but every now and then they would appear at TMH with Mrs Jameson, happy as ever.

Mrs Goldsborough lived along nearer Seaburn and we often met her on our walks. She was the lady who told me about cider vinegar and suggested if we took some every day it would help to ward off chesty ailments and head colds. I got some at the Chemist but forget what the dose was, possibly several tablespoonfuls in some warm water. The girls didn’t like it but didn’t complain too much and John and I had it too. We had to encourage Anabel and Elspeth to take it at whatever sacrifice, although I didn’t think it was unpleasant. We took it for about a year or more and eventually gave up as we seemed to have thrown off the cold bugs. Talking about it with Anabel recently she said she and Elspeth both hated it! We never had a repeat of the first winter ailments, we were acclimatised. On that happy note I will close and continue with Roker next time…………………………………..


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