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Good Friday Marching with the Cubs and Boys Brigade

How proud I felt, and I knew my mother was there somewhere.


I’m Gilbert Hugman, I’m 74, I was born in Tynemouth at my granny’s house, but I was brought up in North Shields in West Chirton.   It was during my time at Collingwood School that someone told me that the new church on Verne Road opposite the Nautilus had Scouts as well as Cubs so quite a few of us decided we wanted to go along and join the Cubs.  We went into this place, and I can even remember the smell of it, the varnish on the parquet floor, it was that new. It couldn’t have been many weeks we’d actually been going when it was coming up to Easter time.

I had my uniform then and the Akela, the woman in charge of the Cubs, had asked as many people as possible to come, some mams turned up as well.  The previous evening my mam would have ironed everything.  We had new sandals and socks, shorts obviously and I had a new shirt on and my Scout tie and my woggle and that type of thing and we were all told to report to the church.  So, it would be my mam and me and then I met all my friends.  It must have been mid-morning sometime because I know there was a huge amount of excitement at the church.

Cubs on Good Friday Marching

Cubs on Good Friday Marching

There was kids running all over the place it must have been about 50 or 60 kids creating mayhem you know.  Then a decision was made that we were going to go and we actually would have walked to North Shields.  We would have gone down Verne Road until we met Lansdowne Terrace and I’m almost sure we picked another church’s kids up at Hawkeys Lane and as you got nearer Shields instead of it being 20s and 30s it was like 100s would be descending on the square.  I think on that occasion we finished up in Howard Street. We didn’t quite get into the square there was that many people around.

I can remember standing around and wondering what we were supposed to be doing and people coming up and telling us to be quiet because we were jumping up and down enjoying ourselves.  I know we knew it was Good Friday and that was important, but it was like something else when you were a kid.  There was always a Salvation Army band and I remember the Boys Brigade bands. After the service we started to make our way around the square and that would have been probably about lunch time and the different groups of children from different churches all with their banners and everything, would disperse to their churches.  What they did with us was they took us to the big church opposite the top of Stevenson Street (The Memorial Church). I remember getting a scone and a cup of tea and I didn’t want tea I wanted orange juice, and then we were told to make our own way home.

It must have been a couple of years later and I joined the Boys Brigade ‘cos they had pill-box hats. They had a fantastic band and I joined the band and I was given a bugle, not that I could ever play it! I polished it up, it was a lovely thing, and on this particular occasion, going down to North Shields, the band which must have been 40 to 50 kids assembled under the railway bridge in Percy Main.

Boys Brigade on Good Friday March

Boys Brigade on Good Friday March

The standard bit of music they would start with would be what we call BB the big bass (drum) at the front, boom-boom, boom-boom and then the kettle drums (snaredrums) would come in and then you raised your bugle dada dada dada. There would be an order to march off and I remember walking right the way down through Percy Main along past St John’s church along into North Shields.  How proud I felt, and I knew my mother was there somewhere.

We’re not talking about 10s or 20s of people we’re talking about 100s and 100s and 100s of folk.  Of the occasions I remember going down there it was always a fine day it never seemed to rain you know.

Once the service was over, the Salvation Army band would head off the parade and it was almost like a traffic jam.  There were millions of people walking and walking, but we stayed still for a while and then we moved off.  The only thing I can really remember is walking past the clergy and they had like a stage and a lectern there, and then carrying on and walking up towards Christ Church and then doubling back along to the church opposite Stevenson Street.

The times that I didn’t take part, my mam and my brother and I would almost certainly walk down.  Good Friday there was no buses, so you had to walk and we’d probably meet with my uncle, my granny and stood in front of the houses that overlook the square.  It was an event, something that you went to. All your mates went to it.  On the march you would be standing behind the banner, it was a very joyous experience. I know it was religious but as far as we were concerned it was a good day out and it made your mam and dad dead proud you know and that was it.

The preparation the night before, my mam would have had the iron out. We just used the kitchen table with a towel on it and the iron would have been a flat-iron. But all my gear would have been absolutely pristine and I would have had a good wash as well before I left the house that morning. You felt very much part of the community when you went there and I was proud to be from Shields.

Gilbert Hugman was interviewed as part of the Good Friday Marching project.

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