My mother ran all the way, chasing me with a knotted towel until we got to the school gates.
My mother said I was born in the Duke of Wellington pub, East Howdon, where she lived and worked for her uncle, Jim Anderson. My mother, Martha Rochester Whinham Thompson, was born in Widdrington and brought up on Lord Rochester’s estate at Glanton. My father was Henry Golightly Thompson, a shipyard riveter, who played the piano in the pubs at night.
We lived at 29, then 31, then 36, then 35 Norman Terrace, Willington Quay and also, for a few weeks, at the Foster’s family house at 17 Barrasford Street, East Howdon. I spent most of my childhood at Willington Quay. My first memory was when I was about two, standing on a horse hair sofa, where I had been sleeping in what they called the kitchen. The room was flooded and the Postman plodged through the water and took me to safety. We lived upstairs in a house that had been tenanted by the Anderson family. There was a name scratched on the tiles in front of the attic window, Stephen Anderson. His family moved to East Howdon and I eventually met him, when he became a foyboatman on the River Tyne and he tied up one of the ships I was on.
I can still see clearly, my first day at Addison Potter Infants school. For some reason I must not have wanted to go, as my mother ran all the way, chasing me with a knotted towel and kept hitting me until we got to the school gates at Clavering Street. That’s where I met one of the nicest ladies I have ever known, Miss Forster, my teacher in my first class who taught me a lot. She was a really wonderful person and I just have to shut my eyes to see her.
At 12 o’clock, most of the kids would go home for their dinners, coming back at 1.00pm. I just played in the school yard, as there was no dinner in my house until 5 o clock. A kind teacher, Miss Humphries, used to open the staffroom window, shout my name and give me a sandwich. I also got free school milk.