Mixed feelings

Chairman’s manse

Life was full at Consett and our time there brought changes in our lives. However we seemed settled for a good few years to come. One day, John and Mark Earl were meeting at the Chairman’s Manse to discuss District business. (John was Synod Secretary.) Edna asked me to come along (which gave us the chance to do some shopping in Newcastle in the afternoon). She and I were sitting in the garden with our coffee when she asked me if I liked this Manse. I said it seemed very nice and she went on to say Mark thought John might be his successor as Chairman. Talk about a bombshell! My first reaction was horror. But it was another occasion when I couldn’t say ‘No’ to the idea. John had been in several District offices and was an excellent Synod Secretary. If people in the District thought he’d be a worthy successor to Mark Earl I should be pleased.

There were several candidates, at least one senior to John, and it was a slow process of committees etc. One day the phone rang and John came to tell me he had been nominated, so if Conference agreed he would become Chairman of Newcastle District in September 1980. I learned later that if he had not been chosen he would have been put on the list for Chairman of the Scotland District. When I had afternoon tea with Teddy Pearson I tried to work myself up to tell her but it was only as I was on the doorstep leaving I managed to voice it with tears streaming down my cheeks. She thought it was wonderful and John would be an excellent Chairman. All I could say was that we’d have to leave Consett! I was glad for John but had mixed feelings about it. However we had always ‘taken what we were given’ at each move. John was never voted against, he knew when it was time to leave and we trusted providence to put us in the right situation, which always seemed to fit is well.

John as Chairman

I got used to the idea with a lot of misgiving as to how I would cope. Edna had been very prominent in the District but I couldn’t live up to that! I carried on as always looking after the household and John, but also becoming his Secretary and Social Organiser. No easy task: we had many dinner parties and larger gatherings. We had every Minister and his partner to dinner except one who was a bachelor and was also anti-Chairmen! All the Presidents of Conference stayed with us, and some of the Vice-Presidents. Instead of being the ‘Minister’s wife’ I was the ‘Chairman’s wife’ and felt like a loose thread at first. However I became a member at West Avenue Methodist Church and was immediately invited to one of the regular coffee groups. We had a lovely farewell evening at Consett; Anabel and Elspeth were both there and my mixed feelings ran riot! But as always, we settled down and became accustomed to the new way of things. John threw himself into the job like a duck to water. My first ‘ordeal’ was having Rev Kenneth Greet and his wife stay with us the first year. He was Secretary of the Conference and was President in 1980/81. He was the top Officer in the Church and I was quite overcome at the thought of having him stay with us. John had a programme of services and visits for them and I was included to accompany Mary. How on earth would I get time to cook meals? I needn’t have worried, they turned out to be just normal friendly folk and we had a lovely few days with them which I expressed in one of my poems. We had another 12 or 13 Presidents to stay and none of them were haughty or condescending.

Wednesday morning

My goodness, what a time we had

Dusting and polishing and tidying away,

Full of trepidation,

Making preparation,

For the President of the Conference

And his wife to come and stay!

What a busy weekend it was,

Four, five or six engagements every day,

Wonderful occasions,

Full of inspiration,

When the President of Conference

And Mary came to stay!

After an early breakfast,

We drove them to the station and saw them on their way.

Now we’ve come back

A little bit flat,

Because Kenneth and Mary,

Our friends, have gone away!

~oOo~

Postscript

On the April 10th episode I had meant to say a word about two of the pictures. One echoed the previous picture of my Dad sitting beside the walled weedy ground at The Crescent where there had once been a greenhouse. By our second year we had laid some turf and planted marigolds, one of my favourite flowers, and other colourful flowers and shrub as we had done in front of the conservatory. It was a fine wee sheltered corner to sit and read or just sit! John is pictured there with Mandy in 1974. The other picture shows John and Mandy outside our Villa Real Road house some years later and the difference in Mandy is very obvious.

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