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Memories of the Sampson Family

I was seven years old on September 3rd 1939, the very day that Britain, and my mother, declared war on Adolf Hitler!

Photograph of Ronnie Sampson

Ronnie Sampson

I was born in number 19 Dockwray Square, which was one of the imposing Georgian Houses.  The house was the Caretaker’s House for J.W. Moore (Printers) North Shields Ltd, and my father John McLeod Sampson was the Caretaker.  My mother was the indefatigable Annie Sampson (nee Styles). My mother would be still going strong when all about her were exhausted. She was amazing.

My father died on November 4th 1938 shortly after moving into their house and shop at 237/239 Bridge Road, later to become Bridge Road South. I was born the youngest of 3 sons. My older brothers were Danny, the eldest, who served in the RAF during WW2, and then came John, who was a child prodigy musician, supremely talented and a natural-born musician. Hundreds of North Shields folks, myself included, danced, and did their courting, during the 50+ years of John’s musicianship.  As for me, it would have been my mother’s dream come true if I’d been born the daughter she’d longed for, but, here I am, the sole survivor of the three sons.

During my first 6 years, my parents had built a very good wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable business in and around North Shields.  My pre-school years were spent in our house and shop in Bird Street, just a few doors away from the ice cream parlour which was owned by Mr and Mrs Tomaselli. At one stage in the 1930s, my parents had seven shops of their own, and the two lorries were out until 3 pm, selling wholesale to other corner shops.  My mother’s day started at 4 am, as she insisted that my father had a breakfast before setting out for the St Andrew’s Greenmarket in Newcastle.  He was there at 5 am EVERY morning, being the early bird that he was.  This was so imprinted on me, that even now, 70 years later, my day still begins at 4 am.

I have to tell you. I was 7 years old on September 3rd 1939, the very day that Britain and my mother, Annie Sampson, declared war on Adolf Shickelgruber, also known as Adolf Hitler! My big birthday present on that fateful day was my first two-wheeler bike. I was happily learning how to fall off it without injuring myself when the very first air raid warning of WW2 sounded for us, and my mother dashed out, yanked me off my bike, and we went to shelter in the cupboard under the stairs. However, nothing whatsoever happened and maybe 40 minutes later the ‘ALL CLEAR’ signal was sounded. I still retain that vivid memory of seeing the back wheel of the bicycle gently spinning, as my mother dragged me indoors.

About 8 years ago, I happened to be in the Marine Park at South Shields. I had my wee Yorkshire terrier with me, and he noticed an elderly lady having a bit of a picnic by herself, on one of the park benches.  Ever the opportunist, Midgey went and stared at this lady, and persuaded her to give him a little taster.  I went and sat alongside this lady, while Midgey continued staring.

The lady explained she enjoyed an outing to this park in South Shields, even though she was a resident of North Shields.  I happened to remark that if she belonged to North Shields, she HAD to know me.  She said she “didn’t know me from Adam” and I insisted that she did know me. Eventually, she asked for more detail, and I said to her, “I’m Annie Sampson’s youngest son.”  She became immediately animated, and then said, “You must be Ronnie?” to which I replied, “Yes, I am.”

Then this dear lady said to me, “Me, and your Aunty Mona, sewed the rosebuds on your mother’s wedding dress, the night before she married your father.” That’s one of my best-ever memories.

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