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Childhood in North Shields

A cold water tap in the backyard had to serve about four or five families.

I was born in 1922 during the depression, in the small coastal town of North Shields, situated on the North East Coast of England.  Times were very hard, in common with our neighbours, we were all desperately poor.  Naturally I cannot remember the first two years of my life, but from then on I can remember quite a lot.

My parents were very young when they married and I was the first born.  My father was unemployed at the time, no money and nowhere to live; so my grandmother, who I called Nana, gave them shelter while they were looking for a place of their own.  They finally got two rooms in a tenement building in the same street as Nana.

When I was two years old, my mother gave birth to twin boys, John and Edward, then four years on, she was pregnant again and I got a sister, Elizabeth.  There were now six of us living in the same two rooms.  The small room could only hold a single bed.  When I look back to those days, I wonder how on earth my mother managed to cook, wash and iron for six people with no facilities.

Friday night was bath night.  The tin bath was brought up from the yard, where it hung on a nail.  It was placed in front of the fire and kettle after kettle of water was heated on the fire to fill the bath.  One at a time the children were washed, our hair as well, then we were put into clean nightwear, given a slice of bread and jam, then put to bed.  Of course my mother then had to empty the bath, scooping the water out with a bucket and trailing up and down the stairs to empty it.  Very hard work.

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