More than half-way

Sidecliff Road, Sunderland, c2008

Sidecliff Road, Sunderland, c. 2008

It was a bit of a bind to have to move mid-way. However, to look on the bright side the new house was only a short walk away in Sidecliff Road and we now had a car. The day the former owners left, the lady of the house came to our door and offered me a £1 note to pay to have the house cleaned. That sounds ludicrous in the light of today’s currency but then would have covered four hours or more’s work. I was embarrassed and, remembering how we had been doing extra in the house we were leaving, assumed they would do the same and politely refused. Wrong decision! Once we were able to get in the house we found it needed a lot of dusting and vacuuming.

The girls and Malinda at Sidecliff Rd

With Anabel’s friend Malinda at Sidecliff Road

Before the removal day we had most of our small stuff such as china, ornaments, bedding and other linen packed in boxes and taken along in the car and more or less put in the rooms where they would belong. Some of the furniture was too large for the new rooms, and I was sorry to leave it behind, but we had fewer and smaller bedrooms anyway. The curtains were fine, but my Auntie Annie had given me some lovely regency stripe curtains in a lovely shade of yellow and they were ideal for a change. She had bought them at a sale-room and we were delighted with them. She liked going round sale rooms at one time. She also had a lovely colourful garden, and most of it had started off from little cuttings she had surreptitiously taken from stately homes’ gardens and others she had visited. She was very enterprising! This move turned out to be really easy. I was sorry to leave the lilac and laburnum trees at the front of old house. I passed by and saw them quite often, but many years later when we revisited Roker both trees were gone. The front garden in the new house had roses round a small lawn and the back had a flower garden. John again had the dining room for his study and we soon settled down.

John had his hands full with the Dock Street / TMH amalgamation. Dock Street had been the Super’s church, but because it was so near TMH, and most of the people, lived nearby it was decided the two would become one in John’s charge. All seemed to be going smoothly when there was a hitch. The two churches each had a Women’s Meeting and neither of the Presidents was willing to stand down both having been in office for a lot of years. So they got together with Sister and decided they should keep the two meetings going separately! The committee in charge held a meeting and this idea was put forward. They were quite taken aback when John said he thought it was not a good idea. He said that a union is a gathering together of people getting to know one another and working together and keeping the two groups apart wasn’t in the spirit of union. He asked them to re-consider and decide which would keep office or nominate another person. There would be plenty candidates from both meetings it was thought. I was horrified to find I was the sole nominee, I suppose because I was considered to be neutral. When I thought about it, I concluded that whoever had taken office would be unpopular with the meeting she hadn’t belonged to but I could be unpopular with all of them. It was a bit like giving two dogs the same bone! However it all settled down and before long the two groups merged into one and we all became friends. It was the largest weekly women’s meeting I ever belonged to, and it was quite daunting looking at so many faces, but I got used to it. Sister was a wee bit aloof for a bit, but she came round eventually.

When Anabel was seven she joined the Brownie Pack at Roker Methodist Church along the road from us. I had been a Brownie and Patrol Leader of the Pixies so I knew the drill. Before long I was asked to be a helper along with Anabel’s friend’s Mum as Brown Owl had been left with no Tawny Owl to help her. Elspeth joined when she became seven and did the same things. On the Brownie night we all three set off together and had a fun evening! They practised for badges and learned stuff but always finished with games. That was usually noisy and exuberant and all went home tired, especially the helpers! It was interesting that in spite of the interval of about thirty years the Brownie meetings were little changed from when I was the wee Brownie. Unfortunately there were no Brownie or Guide Packs near us when we moved from Sunderland in 1968 so their Brownie/Guide ‘career’ was ended.

The time came when Chairmen of Districts started looking for new places for some of their Ministers and for replacements for those leaving. John was asked if he would go to the Newcastle Mission Circuit as Super which was a surprise as it was generally after 20 years you were promoted. It would be another different kind of appointment. The main Church which was in the Super’s charge was Westgate Hall in the West side of the City where social work was part of the Mission. That appealed greatly to John. We had a day out in Newcastle which we didn’t know all that well. John met with the stewards, and we toured round Westgate Hall which was huge. It was on a corner almost next to Newcastle United Football Ground (which must have been a point in its favour!) and was a beautiful stone building. We saw the house also, which was in Fenham on what had at one time been referred to as Millionaires Row but had changed a bit! It was in a good area with shops nearby and backed on to Nuns Moor, a large open grassy space. In earlier times the whole area had been moor belonging to the citizens of the Newcastle, I was told. When roads and houses were built on any part the Local Authority had to replace it somewhere else. In our time, a lot of people lost their allotments which were taken to replace some of the Moor that had been built on. One of the dog owners I walked with took us all over to where the allotments had been to gather armfuls of rhubarb which was still flourishing although no longer being looked after.

We enjoyed our day in Newcastle and set off home to ponder what we had seen because, of course, theoretically I had a say in the matter. In reality I just followed where John led because if he had the urge to take the appointment it was obviously the right place for us. And so it was, our next Circuit and home were arranged. Much too early, but since then the system has changed for the better. As before we put it to the back of our minds and concentrated on the present.

It may seem that I didn’t do much apart from looking after John and the children. But In fact I was involved in many events, often being ‘up front’ or in the kitchen. I was very pleased when I was asked to become a Class Leader. All the folk on my list were elderly people and at least every three months I visited them at the same time delivering the Church magazine and their ‘Class Ticket’. These visits took a lot of time and very often cups of tea were on the go. Some had few visitors and loved to talk and I enjoyed hearing about their lives. It was something I really valued doing. Class Leaders then would tell the minister if anyone was unwell or had some difficulty they had trouble coping with. In John Wesley’s day, classes met in one of their homes but that went by the way many years ago and now cards and magazines are often handed over in Church. The pace of life has changed and people are not so housebound at such early ages as in the past. There are now Lay Workers part of whose pastoral work can be visiting the elderly, the housebound and the sick.

In April 1966 it was TMH’s sixtieth Anniversary as I noticed on a copy of the Church Monthly Magazine of April 1966 which I recently found in a file. It was also Elspeth’s sixth anniversary but she didn’t get a mention in the Magazine! However Anabel, who was eight, did and that was the reason I had kept it. Her Sunday School class had been asked to write something about Easter and her poem was printed in the For Further Thought column.


Jesus sadly nailed to the Cross.

Some are weeping at their great loss.

Some are laughing at those who weep,

Weeping just to look at His feet.

But, Hallelujah, we’re not sad,

For Jesus rose to make us glad.

I was also reminded that on Palm Sunday the cantata Olivet to Calvary would be performed by the Choir with three soloists including Glenys Henderson whose Gran was supplier of mince pies to the Carollers. Glenys was gifted with a lovely voice. This was an annual event with different cantata and soloists each year, and was always crowded out. There were many such events and lots of musical talent in the Church.

Time rolled on and before we knew where we were it was 1968 and time to get in touch with a removal company then, after Easter, start a major spring clean. John did the wall dusting round all the ceilings and so on, and I got on with polishing furniture and washing curtains and packing those that were our own and hanging the original ones up. When we finally packed we always kept the vacuum back and literally walked down the Hall vacuuming as we left the house having already done all the carpets once the rooms were emptied! Sounds daft but we were determined always to leave our houses ready for the new tenant to unpack in as our first one had been for us. Harry and Emily’s car enabled us to do it at Haltwhistle and we had our own car from then on. As always we were sad to leave, not just ‘The Church’, but the people who had drawn us into their fellowship and are still fondly remembered.


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