Timber yards, the prop yard and the river were the playgrounds of the children living there.
From the age of six, I lived in Low Row, Percy Main, a row of whitewashed cottages belonging to the Tyne Improvement Commission. Running some yards in front of the cottages were the railway tracks bringing coal from the pits. It was quite noisy, day and night, and I remember the wagons used to knock into each other as they were travelling down the line. We used to go out and collect the coal that had fallen off the wagons. Coal was essential for cooking and warmth.
Steam trains, coal wagons, timber yards, the prop yard and the river were the playgrounds of the children living there. I do not remember anyone coming to any harm. I remember the mail train coming down to the quay from Newcastle bringing passengers en-route to Norway and seeing the liners Venus, Black Prince and Leda. I always dreamed of going, and I did.
Memories of going to school come to mind. I would walk from Low Row to St Cuthbert’s in Cecil Street, there and back, twice a day. To do shopping we would go into the village of Percy Main. It was quite different from today, with shops on both sides of Burdon Street. Some of the shops that were there included: Percy Dagg (post office and chemist), Mr Stonehouse’s bakery, Duncan’s the grocer, Mr Stenhouse’s butchery, Miss High’s fruit shop, Mr Fleetwood’s newsagency, Mrs Clemenson’s hairdresser, Mr Hill’s fish and chip shop, the North Eastern Co-op and Johnson’s dairy.
There was also a cricket ground, two schools, one being St John’s Church School, within the church grounds. There was Emmerson the coal merchant, near the railway station and one public house, the Percy Arms. I remember going to the St John’s Ambulance hut to collect my gas mask as there was talk of war.
We left Low Row in 1938/9 and moved to the Ridges Estate, a new house with three bedrooms, indoor toilet, bathroom and kitchen – heaven at last! After leaving school I went to work in Percy Main for Duncan’s the grocer, then two and a half years later I went to war.