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Burradon Memories Part 1: 19 Office Row

I was born in my grandparents' home. A colliery house, a large living room with a ladder staircase up to the sleeping area.

Photograph of Honor Weightman

Honor Weightman

Editor’s Note:
Some of Mrs. Honor Weightman’s memories of a life in Burradon written down and kindly contributed by her daughter Lindsey. These memories have been split into seven separate parts because they have so much rich material in them. If you’d like to read the whole story you’ll need to read Burradon Memories Parts 1 to 7. They cover many aspects of life in Burradon and offer a fascinating insight into village life.

I wrote my journal for my children but if you are interested I’d love to share it with you and hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I have always had a genuine love of life and all that goes with it and I love people. I thank God daily for the wonderful people I’ve known who have influenced me. None more than the Auld Burradonians – the Salt-of-the-Earth!

Part One: 19 Office Row, Burradon

My first memory is of a wilful spoilt child, less than three years old. I was born in my grandparents’ home. A colliery house, a large living room with a ladder staircase up to the sleeping area. One large room under a sloping roof, adults could only stand up straight in the centre of the room. The window was a skylight. The divisions were curtains hanging from the ceiling – not much privacy at all! Mam, Dad and I slept in a double bed at one end and two uncles shared the room. My eldest brother, Alf, slept downstairs with my grandparents in a large bed with hangings. You could say we were born into poverty but as 99 per cent of the villagers were in the same state we weren’t really aware of the condition.

The “en suite” then was a pot under the bed. The lavatory or the Netty as it was called, was outside across a dirt road. Three water taps were shared by the whole street. Each house had a rain barrel; the water was used as shampoo and conditioner along with the carbolic soap. There was some kind of lean-to that served as a washhouse with a “set pot” and fire where the clothes could be boiled. Monday seemed to be washing day. Everybody baked their own bread in a large round oven in the living room and the stottie loaves were put out to cool on the window ledges outside, to be eaten straight away. I can still remember the lovely mouth-watering smell.

There had to be a constant supply of hot water for the men (all on different shifts). Each house had a zinc bathtub hanging on the wall outside and brought in, in front of the fire, for the men to bathe. The fire never went out so there was always a good supply of ashes that used to be spread on the wet earth road each time it rained. The filthy pit clothes had to be “dadded” against the wall each day. Just another little task for the women.

There was a long table in front of the small window which looked out onto a large, well cultivated garden. I can still see the flowers which grew up outside the window, years later I found out they were Tiger Lilies. We sat on wooden forms facing each other across the table and this is my first account of pain. I had been told never to stretch across the table but to ask for whatever I wanted. So, being the self-willed child that I was, I stretched across the table, caught the large teapot with my sleeve and brought the scalding tea over my arm. Yelling and screaming I was bundled up and my Mam ran through the village to the Nurse’s cottage. The nurse dressed the arm and gave me a banana. It must have taught me a lesson because I don’t remember any other calamity. I was left with a large scar and was proud to show it to anyone who was interested.

I was three years old when we moved into a house of our own, a council house with a difference. A private builder built 22 houses with bathrooms and indoor toilets thinking there would be a market for such superior accommodation. Nobody had any money to buy so eventually the council took them over and let them. My Mam said she thought she’d landed in heaven and that life from then on would just be one long holiday.

A year on Tommy (my youngest brother) was born. My Dad came to get me out of bed, gave me a piggy back downstairs telling me there was a lovely surprise. I had whooping cough at the time so was just allowed a brief glimpse of this wonderful child. Tommy was 6lb and a full-term baby while I had been an eight-month baby and was only four and a half pounds. Alf was a seven-month baby and was only 3lbs. Alf and I had been very fretful, weakly children needing constant care. Tommy was a dream of a child, just smiled, fed and slept and was loved by all. He was an easy-going happy boy which, as things turned out, was a blessing!

I’ll try to put into words exactly what I believe and hope it will be to someone’s benefit. Everyone should leave at least one thought behind. I believe and advise; “Always look for the best possible interpretation of people’s behaviour. Usually the faults we see in others are our own faults”. The people I admire most are seldom great in worldly goods, but are certainly great in heart.

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