Alan’s Memory of The Mother I Loved

As a young woman my mother was asked if she would be prepared to take an appointment as a Nanny to the local Spanish Consul in North Shields.

The earliest recollections of being with my mother were in the early 1930’s. In those days, where I lived, the Electric Tramcars ran down Tynemouth Road which was at the junction of North King Street. I lived there in a downstairs flat with my mother and father. This particular day I was about five years old and about to go for the very first time on the tramcar with my mother. She was to visit my grandma who lived in an ancient cottage just off the main street, which is Front Street, Tynemouth. The front door led through a dingy passage to the back of the house where a tiny backyard was located. Coming back over, there was a door that led to the main room of the cottage. This family room was the centre of everything in the cottage – dining room, sitting room and kitchen, it all happened in this place. I well remember the large coal fire roaring in the corner of the room.

My mother’s early childhood was stricken with tragedy, because her father died suddenly when she was a few years old. This left the family in desperate poverty. What was Grandma to do? Undoubtedly she would have to go to the local parish and ask for help, whether this was forthcoming or not I am not quite sure, the family would become destitute. However, Grandma’s grandma managed to find a local man to marry my grandma, so this in a way saved the family from being broken up. Now my mother had a stepfather, her real father was a Plymouth born young man who had become a Coastguard and was commissioned to take over the station at Lindisfarne Island with his wife, my grandmother. While on Lindisfarne my grandmother became pregnant with a child who was to be my mother, as a boy my mother told me she was born on Holy Island.

I recall my mother saying she took me to a Newcastle Town Moor during the 1930’s Exhibition to see a captured dead whale on display and I remember she told me it stunk to high heaven.

She explained as a young girl she could play the piano by ear and would regale her sister and stepsisters with popular tunes of the times. Probably all of her siblings would sing along with her, as she always loved to sing. I myself, even to this day, think nothing of singing a tune I know and love. Very often in the kitchen my mother would start singing all sorts of songs and I suppose I picked up on that.

As a young woman my mother was asked if she would be prepared to take an appointment as a Nanny to the local Spanish Consul in North Shields, which she did to the satisfaction of the Senorita. So delighted with my mother as Nanny, the Senorita insisted my mother go to Spain when the Consul and his family returned there. After asking permission of her mother she quickly found a large trunk and put all her belongings in and off she went as Nanny to the Spanish children. After a spell in Spain Mother was asked if she would come to Italy with the family. Of course she was delighted and off she went to see all the sights, particularly Milan and the beautiful Milan Cathedral. This lasted until the time came for the Consul to move to a new assignment in Chile, this Mother found would not be a very good country in which to live, as females of Chile would not be shown respect as in other countries. So that was the end of her sojourn of foreign countries as a Spanish Consul’s Nanny.

Quite often Mother would go out of her way to take us (my brother Thomas and I) to venues that she thought we would enjoy. One of those places was a showcase extravaganza which at that time encouraged visitors to see the Whitley Bay Illuminations. This of course took place in the evening when it was dark and always in the autumn, just when most holidaymakers were winding up their summer holidays. This naturally encouraged yet even more people to spend money in Whitley Bay. Without my mother our trip to see the illuminations would never have happened. You can imagine as children it was a spectacular event to see thousands of coloured lights showing figures of fun, it really was.

Many times in the summer Mother would take us to the Long Sands in Tynemouth and share a picnic with her safely ensconced on the green grass above the great stretch of sand. From here she could see every move we made and from our point of view we could easily find her. When the time came and we were feeling a little hungry she would ask me to make my way with a teapot to the wooden hut and ask the vendor to fill up my teapot. With the pot filled I would rush back to find Mother had all our sandwiches ready for the picnic. This is one of my treasured memories.

If for some reason I came home from the Cinema, where I worked as a trainee in the Projection Room, just sometimes I felt everything too much and miserable and started complaining, “teacakes again!” Mother would come around me and put an arm over my shoulder and kiss me on the cheek, this was her way of getting around me with such affection and I was completely won over knowing I had a loving mother.

When about eight or nine I decided to join the boy scouts, as I was under age to be a scout I became a cub. Not long after the whole troop was given the chance to go camping for a week somewhere in the Tyne Valley, we then would be on our school holidays. With my parents’ permission I was off on the back of a Builder’s lorry with the rest of the pack. We set off for our destination, which turned out to be a small village called Wylam. I enjoyed myself out in the wilds of an ideal location, quiet yet all the more exciting. I loved every minute of my stay there and got to know many of my school friends, so much so we were often in each other’s company long after our camping holiday. During my stay there we were told our parents were invited to visit us one afternoon and it was to be a surprise. Come that afternoon I was told to make my way to Wylam Railway station, where I would find my parents. I was overwhelmed and quickly showed them where I had been living in a Bell tent, with my fellow cubs. Before I took them back to the station, my dad took a photograph of my friend and I. That snap I have to this day, and still remember his name, Ronald Cherry. When it came to saying our goodbyes, I just broke down and cried, I wanted to come home with my mother.

When the time came for me to join the Army, it was my mother who saw to it that I was safely on the train and kissed me a loving goodbye. All the time I was in the Army I wrote to her every week without fail, she was my sole confidant in everything I did while away from home. You can understand this made an unbreakable bond between us. I looked forward to receiving her letters so much. She filled my empty space.

While evacuated in Morpeth Rectory with my brother and sister, there came a time when I explained to Mother it was impossible living here and that I was very unhappy not being able to walk freely in the village. Apparently the householder said it was too dangerous for us to go out, because of the very busy road that was adjacent to the house which was the A1. Consequently my mother said she would take me home and my brother and sister would be moved on to other surrogate parents until Mother thought it was time to bring them back too. I was the closest of my siblings to my mother, I loved her. As I grew older and found a wife and had a family of my own, I still found time to visit her nearly every week, so never lost touch with her. So ends my brief review of my treasured memories covering: The Mother I Loved.

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