After the service, every child got an orange…..
Can you tell me when you marched and what age group were you?
80s mainly, could be early 90s but mainly 80s.
I used to take the Brownies, the Brownie Pack was from Cullercoats Methodist Church, they were the 4th Brownie Pack. We used to get a bus from the Cullercoats Church and that had the Sunday School and all the uniform organisations in and we would arrive at the North Shields Square, We had places to go to and we used to stand there. There was dignitaries and (the) Mayor and MP standing in the Square before the service started and then we had the service. From then there was an order every year of how you marched with the Procession of Witness, the Salvation Army used to start the march off followed by Sunday School groups and then the Brownies, the Guides, Scouts and Cubs and the Boys Brigade.
When I was there, a group from Cullercoats Methodist Church had guitars and would be in the middle of the procession playing the guitars and singing, followed by another few groups of Sunday School children. In my time, they walked up towards the metro and along the main road, up Howard Street back to the Square.
It was very, very popular in the early days but in the 80s and 90s it wasn’t as well supported. We still had people standing watching but the crowds weren’t as much.
When we came back into the Square the children and the helpers went into the United Reform Church and the adults went either to the Baptist or the Salvation Army and we had our service there. After the service every child got an orange and then we would go back to our buses and the buses would take us home.
I remember going with my daughter. Annette was in your Brownies, but she was also in Sunday School. I don’t know whether I was officially with Sunday School or Brownies. I do remember the times when we were there, the Boys Brigade always seemed to be behind us. I remember that for two years running, then behind them there was a group of children from the Fishermen’s Mission, but I think they used to call themselves the Coast Congregation. They had a banner, that’s the only banner I remember but I think it’s just, my memory’s just a bit hazy.
Actually, you’re right, they all did have banners as they led in front and some of the old ones are really quite unique. I think they must have had Sunday Schools for a long time, so it was nice seeing all these banners and then the Brownies, Guides, Scouts so that made the procession a little bit special as well.
Was there a lot of support from parents coming along?
I think just with the children who are there but not as much as there were in the past. I believe in the past the crowds were round all the streets and would be singing hymns. It had changed quite a bit in the 80s.
One thing that sticks in my mind, I remember walking up from the square into Albion Road and along Albion Road towards Hawkeys Lane and there was a bread shop on the left-hand side, it’s not there now, I think it’s a house. It was open on Good Friday and the window was full of hot cross buns piled in the window and the ladies in the shop were watching us go past. I just have such a strong image of that and then turned into Hawkeys Lane and along.
The times we went we were lucky, it was nice weather, we didn’t get drenched.
Of course, being Brownies, we had our uniform on but some of the children had their new bonnets and dresses. I think a lot of people have a tradition at Easter to get new clothes.
When we went into the church we were always in the same position, always as we looked towards the altar, we were on the balcony on the right-hand side. I just remember we were always in the same place, and it seemed crowded, lots of children.
When you think about the children, some of them were quite little. (To) keep them going along the streets, “we’re nearly there, we’re nearly there, we’ve just got another corner to turn”.
We did very well actually.
When did it end?
Was it 2004? I know I certainly wasn’t in the Brownies then. What happened after that, Cullercoats Methodist decided to walk from Fisherman’s Mission at the bottom and have their little procession up to the Methodist Church. I used to go, but not as an organiser.
I can’t remember how long I did it but on a Good Friday the fish shop in Cullercoats was open to buy your fish so I must have been quite organised to go down there about 9, half past 9, to buy my fish, come back and then get Annette ready and myself and go off to the march.
The church services were geared to children, so they were really good. They seemed to put it over, still the seriousness was there but there was also jollity. We did manage to get some good preachers for the children.
It was quite an exciting atmosphere because you could hear the buzz from the people.
Hazel Shields and Jean Hillaby were interviewed as part of the Good Friday Marching project.