Consett weather

John and the Missioner

Before we arrived in Consett we had been warned by a number of people that we would be snowed in every winter. They were right – we did have snow probably every winter, and it was very cold and windy as well. The only year I remember being cut off was the year we had a Special Event and it was in mid/late March, Spring supposedly! The United Methodist Church in America (UMC) in the mid-1970s sent a number of Missioners to Britain: the details escape me now. John was asked to have one of them at Consett. He duly arrived a few days before and stayed with us. He was from Oregon so had had a long journey. We were surprised he had come without some warm clothes and it became a problem when, the day before the Mission began, Consett had the heaviest snowfall of our years there. The town was cut off completely for several days. Our back lane, where the garage was, was completely blocked with snow and it was perishing! No use trying to clear it as there was nowhere to put the snow without blocking other houses back gates. It all looked so lovely, with drifts all round.

John had a warm car coat which fitted the visitor pretty well, and a hat and scarf. I think it was Bessie along the road who provided Wellington boots with woollen socks, John’s being too big. He was kept warm anyway. We didn’t relish walking to the Church but Jimmy, who was a painter, got his large van on the road and came and picked us up. He was such a helpful chap. I haven’t a clue how many meetings and rallies and coffee parties there were, but we were proud of the Consett Methodists and others who turned out in spite of the weather and grateful to those who were able to provide transport once the ploughs had made a path in the roads. Everybody mucked in and what could have been a washout was a good week of meeting in friendly, cheerful groups and enjoying the fellowship and lots of tea and coffee. The Missioner’s accent was easier for the folk to understand than theirs was for him! He went off home knowing that his time with us had been appreciated and that we had enjoyed having him among us. The snow lingered on for a short time but the snow ploughs had cleared the roads well and there was no traffic problem. And still plenty snow for the children to enjoy! Spring came back and winter was a memory.

Anabel graduating from Sheffield

Anabel returned to Sheffield University in 1979 and got her MA in Librarianship. She lived in student accommodation that year and in a flat above was a young man called John Marsh. They first met on one of the occasions when he abseiled past her window! They became friends and the friendship blossomed into a life-long partnership – of which more later.

John and I got used to being the sole tenants. We looked forward to weekends with either or both the girls and to the summer vacations. I mentioned Anabel’s summer jobs in a previous post, and Elspeth worked in Fenwick’s in Newcastle. Consett is well situated – we could do day trips west towards the Lake District, north into Northumberland and east to the coast. Hexham, Newcastle and Durham were not too far away. After a few John years was told he could stay as long as he liked. We couldn’t disagree with that. We had a lovely Church, a good-sized congregation, lots of friends and a great wee town. The pink cloud rising from the steelworks and the pinkish pavements were a source of wonderment to our visitors. Mandy’s feet were often quite pink instead of white and had to be washed when we’d been walking on the pavements!

The Chairman of the Newcastle District then was Rev. Mark Wesley Earl and he made it known early in 1978 or 79 that he would be retiring in 1980. There is an interesting story about him. I’ve already mentioned that ministers were not allowed to marry until they were ordained. In 1937 after College, he chose to work Overseas and was sent to Tientsin in China, which is south of Peking (both names are different now). In 1939 a letter was sent to the Methodist Missionary Society in London requesting permission for Mark to marry and for arrangements to be made for Edna to travel to China. The letter also said Mark Earl had served in Northern China for three years and was doing ‘excellent work’. No reply was ever sent. In any event, Edna went to China and they married in May 1940. They were interned by the Japanese for some time and returned to the U.K. in 1946 with their wee girl. Fifty years later that letter reached the Missionary Society on Thursday 21st December 1989 and was reported in The Guardian (click on the image to enlarge and read). A Post Office official said mail travelling to U.K. across Europe was probably intercepted by the German Army. It was held in Stuttgart until seized and transported to the U.S. This letter was among a boxful which was returned to the German Federal Archives and they sent it to the British P.O. Mark and Edna were highly amused that it turned up just before the year when they would celebrate their Golden Wedding. It certainly caused a lot of interest in Methodist circles and the Earls had lots of letters as a result. They lived in Ulverston after retiring and he preached all around the area. In ‘Church News’ in a local paper, on one occasion there was quite a stir when they announced next Sunday the morning service would be conducted by Rev. Mark Wesley, Earl of Ulverston. What a difference a comma can make!


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