I would go with Dad for foddering time. I was allowed to walk under the bellies of the 'Gentle Giants' and help feed them.
Dedicated to John Robinson my Good Friend
26th September 1925 – On this day I was born at no. 2 Newsteads Farm Cottages with my Grandparents there. My Mother nearly lost her life as there weren’t any blood transfusions in those days and most births took place at home. That was only part of the happenings that day; my Father, being a farm worker, was ploughing on the White Hills (now where Sainsbury’s and the new houses stand) when having seen a young man walking over the fields and then spending some time whittling at one of the trees. The young man then stepped out in front of my Father and his two shire horses; he slit his throat with an open razor. Horses not liking the smell of blood bolted home to their stables and by so doing raising the alarm. After the police enquires, it was revealed that he was a young man without a job and had walked from Gateshead that day and taken his life.
I remember my Grandfather and Grandmother (William and Margaret) very well. He was a hardworking man with a large family, starting work each morning at 4.30 am and going to bed each night at 7.00 – 8.00 pm. My Grandfather had moved as a young man with a young family from Primrose, Jarrow to the north of the River Tyne. His Father had owned his own farms, but liked drinking and high living so had soon run out of money and had to sell the farms to pay his debts. Grandfather first came to Newsteads Farm from a farm on the Links at Whitley Bay, none of the farm remains except the white farmhouse which is on the other side of the road.
When Newsteads was first built in 1901, it was owned by a farmer called Mr Nicholson. My Grandfather proceeded to plant the trees around the farm which still stand there today. Until a few years ago, when the new road was built, the trees which are along the side of the footpath, were in our front garden. There was a narrow garden in front of the stables which had trees and shrubs which is now a pavement.
Newsteads Farm was in two halves; at one side of the road was the big farmhouse, farm buildings, stack yard, stables, cow byres etc. On the other side of the road were two semi-detached farm cottages and one detached which had been built later than the others. The large yard at the back was partly ash and partly grass, each cottage had its own big vegetable garden at the rear which was well dug and manured each year, therefore producing the best of vegetables and fruit.
There was a narrow winding road passing the farm with a high hedge on each side leading to Earsdon and Wellfield. Between the farm and Wellfield was a path leading to Whitfields farm and onto Park Estate; it was called “The Jingling Gate”. Alas it has all gone now.
My Father and Uncle Jack worked together on the farm following in their father’s foot-steps, always doing things together. My Father was always known as “Chirpy” as he was always yodelling, and my Uncle would be whistling; anyone hearing them over the fields would always refer to them as “The Holmes’s Lads”.
When I was about one year old we left my Grandfather and went to live at East Farm, Earsdon. We shared a house with my father’s brother Jack, his wife Ena and daughter Doris. After a while, we came back to Newsteads Farm to No.1 The Cottages and next door, at No.2 was my Uncle and his family. By this time, my Grandfather had retired and gone to live at Backworth. So began a life of sadness and happiness.
My memories begin with Doris or “Dop” as I called her. Playing, fighting but always loving each other. Times were very hard, wages very small (my Father earned 29 shillings and 9 pence a week for a 7 day week, as animals had to be fed on Sundays as well) but food was always very wholesome and plentiful. Mother, being a good cook, could make a meal with very little.
In the third cottage lived the Nixon family: Mr Tom Nixon, daughters Mabel and Polly, and Granny Nixon, crippled with rheumatism and very frail. Doris and I grew up helping Granny Nixon across the road to the toilet. We didn’t have flush toilets, just the old closet and midden with the squares of newspaper hanging behind the door. The Nixons had an old collie dog called “Tyne” who was always scavenging in the middens. We were always scared to go to the toilet when he was about and, oh dear, did he smell. My Mother was always baking and making stottie cakes which she would put to cool on the outside window ledge and many a stottie went missing. Tyne had stolen it to hide in straw at the farm and be found much later covered in mould and very hard.
By this time, the farm had been sold to The Backworth Coal Company and Mr and Mrs Brewis and family came to manage the farms (6 in all). Mr Brewis was a robust, red-faced man, a very good boss and got on very well with most of the farm hands. Being part of the coal company, the farm workers all received a load of coal every month and 8 sacks of potatoes a year as part of the wages.
Our cottage was quite small; 1 bedroom, living room, scullery and a large pantry. No fancy furniture in those days, just lino on the floors and clippy and hooky mats made during the long winter evenings. I slept on a bed settee in the living room, very cosy in the winter. All our water had to be carried in zinc buckets across the road from the horse trough as this was the only tap.
We had oil lamps which had to be trimmed every day. The paraffin oil was bought every Friday night from a small shop in Monkseaton, now McBrides newsagents. They sold everything from sand stone for the step to liquorice sticks. Mother would do her shopping at the same time and buy savoury ducks and saveloys from the pork shop, now Tool Hire.
On the wall outside hung the bath, and once a week the water from the barrel in the yard would be heated on the big black leaded stove and everyone had a bath.
Washing day lasted all day. The wash house was next door to the toilet and coal house. Every Monday morning the fire would be lit under the big boiler, out came the wooden poss tub and posser. Everything was scrubbed, boiled, rinsed and mangled. The whites were also blued and starched. After all that, if the water wasn’t too dirty, in went the children and had a good scrub also. The ironing was done with flat irons heated on the coal fire.
Cleanliness was the order of the day on Fridays when bare boards were scrubbed and lino polished. Then, in the evening out would come the mat frames and work would begin on a new clippy or proggy mat.
Newsteads Farm was arable with just a few sheep, 2 milking cows and fat bullocks which won prizes at Newcastle market. Sometimes I would go with Dad at 7 o’clock in the evening to the farm for foddering time for the “Gentle Giants”(shire horses) This I loved as I was allowed to walk under their bellies and help to feed and water them. Mother used to say that a good sniff of the stables did your bad cold the world of good. Father was the one who trained the horses known as breaking them in. He spent hours in what was called the “little field”, later used for council greenhouses and now homes, putting them through their paces, very strict but never cruel.
The stables were a fascinating place for me; a big wood fire would be burning in the tack or harness room fireplace, there would be the smell of leather and brass polish. Horse brasses would be everywhere, and I would help to clean them; nothing looked nicer than the horses dressed up with ribbons in their plaited mane and tail and sparkling brasses on May Day.
I remember one Christmas when Doris and I each received from Santa Claus a doll’s pram made with a basket and iron wheels. It was a very frosty Christmas morning and iron wheels on hard ground can make a terrible noise. We wheeled them round and round the yard all day long only stopping for Christmas dinner. Presents in those days where very few, an orange and an apple and a few crayons but I happened to have some very kind aunties and older cousins, so I often got some good hand-me downs. Many’s the time Doris and I would sit on her doorstep (well sand-stoned) and scrape out the Nestle’s milk tins. My aunty Ena always made seed teacakes and would give me a piece, I hated it so off I would take it home to Mam as I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
In the big stack yard there would be 12 round corn stacks beautifully made and thatched by my Father and Uncle (well known in the district for being the best). One day when I was 4 years old a large beer wagon (steam powered) passed the farm, a spark blew from the chimney over into the stack yard and so started a terrible fire. All the stacks were burned, and the barn, being tarred, went up in flames very quickly. Father and all the other men helped the firemen to fight the flames. Mother and Aunty Ena carried buckets of water to help, got all their clothes soaked then just had to put them through the mangle and put them back on again. I stood on our front gate and watched all this thinking it was such fun not realising how serious it really was.
There were open fields where now stands Marina Drive, Melville Gardens and Thorntree Drive. I remember Father leading the horses into these fields with wet sacks over their heads. Pigs were screaming, hens were singed, and eggs were hard boiled. They fought so hard to save the buildings as there was a huge tank of fuel oil for the farm machines inside. After some hours our windows began to crack, we were choking with the smoke and Mother and I were sent off to my Aunty Eddies at Park Estate to get away from it all. It was weeks before Mother could get rid of the smoke smell and the soot, everything had to be washed in the cottage. A new barn was erected after that and it still stands there in the yard today.
The big farmhouse had many rooms and seemed extra big compared to my small home. There was a very large kitchen with wooden stairs leading through a trap door to the maids’ quarters. Off the kitchen was the dairy-come-pantry. Downstairs was a big dining room, lounge and the playroom. This was a wondrous room to me, all kinds of games, toys, rocking horse, pool table, books and many more toys. I was allowed to play in there with Betty and Vera (nieces of the Brewis family) On the first floor there were numerous bedrooms (all beautifully furnished), a very large bathroom, which was a dream of a room to me as we just had our tin bath in front of the fire. The next floor was 2 large attic rooms with everything from feather mattresses, pillows and chairs, in fact everything for 3 girls to play with on a rainy day.
Vera and Betty would come and stay at the big farmhouse for their summer holidays, we became friends and many happy hours have been spent up in the attics eating peas, apples and pears from the farm garden and suffering stomach ache the next day.
There would be great excitement when threshing day arrived. This was when all the corn stacks in the yard (mostly wheat and oats) would be threshed and dried for the breweries. The stacks would be full of mice and if there was a nest of young we would put them in a shoe box to keep warm. If I could catch an adult mouse I would tie a string to its tail and walk it over the road to our house. Mother would be on the top of the table yelling for me get that thing out of here; of course I always let it go in the end, much to the disgust of the adults as they were supposed to be killed. I did not mind the mice but was scared of rats and spiders and still am.
My Father had a sheepdog called “Skye”; she stayed on the farm and lived in a stall in the byre, it was very warm and cosy for her. She had made a strange friend of a brown hen and would not eat her food unless her friend was sharing it with her.
During the long winter days when the stock were fed, the job of tidying up would begin and Skye would be in the thick of it. One day they were ratting in one of the loose boxes when she cornered a big rat, gave it a nip but didn’t kill it. It turned and bit the dog on the nose and would not leave go, she was taken to the vet with the rat still clinging to her nose. She was back at work again the next day doing her job. Father would tie one of her front legs up (hobbling) to stop her from working too hard with the sheep. I thought this was very cruel but Dad said she would run herself to death if he didn’t.
At the age of five I started school at Bygate Infants in Monkseaton. I hated it being very shy. I remember holding on to the iron gates and screaming. These gates are still there, and I think of this every time I pass them today.
Cousin Doris and her parents moved when she was 6 and we had new neighbours next door: Mr and Mrs Dodds and their 3 adult sons and so I had lost my playmate. I was then a lonely child but had parents who took the time to play schools and games with me. It was quite a walk from the farm to school so mother took me on her bicycle until I got older then I took a short cut over the fields (where now stands Brantwood and Eastfield Avenue etc.) coming out at Brewis & Watsons pork shop in Monkseaton (now Tool Hire) There were no buses to school or school dinners in those days and had to be walked 4 times a day.
Mr and Mrs Dodds and family did not stay long at Newsteads Farm but long enough to teach me to ride my fairy cycle and fall into a bed of nettles. So into my grandfather’s old cottage moved Bobby and Emily Nixon, the son of Tom Nixon in the next cottage. They had a son Thomas and a daughter May and so we settled down to a nice quiet life with our new neighbours.
I would help Edith and Nancy Brewis feeding hens and ducks (I love little ducklings), small calves, kittens and puppies; the rest of the farm didn’t interest me very much. I did like hay-making and would rush home from school to go with mother to the hay-fields with Dad’s tea. Dad loved home-made griddle scones and rock buns; his tea was made in an enamel can kept hot with a woollen sock pulled over it. I would take a sauce bottle full of milk and cakes and have my tea in the field as well, then Dad would let me ride home on the back of “Bet” his favourite old horse. My little legs stretched out over her back.
At the age of 7 I was presented with a baby sister on January l4th 1931 a lovely blond blue eyed little girl. At last someone to play with but at 3½ years of age she was scalded with boiling water. Mother trying to be very careful by ladling the water from a large pan on our big stove into her enamel bucket, the handle slipped and spilled over my little sister. She died in the Fleming Memorial Hospital during Race Week. I remember coming home from school to be told this awful news. My Mother blamed herself for this and Father’s hair fell out. Life changed a lot for me at 11½ years of age. Mother and Father became very possessive of me and would hardly let me out of their sight. Every Sunday I was made to accompany my Mother to Earsdon church yard while she put flowers on the grave. I never had a Christmas tree again and Christmas was always a very sad time.
As I got older I was allowed to ride the hay bogie up the yard. It was great fun. My school friends loved to visit me at the farm but all I wanted was to live in a street with numbers on the door like everyone else.
We often had an old tramp call at our door. Mother could not afford to give him money but he always got a slice of homemade bread and jam, and very grateful he was too. We had a gypsy lady called also, but while Mother looked for some old clothes for her, the little the girl stole Mother’s purse. She never let any strangers in the house after that.
I had many aunties and uncles and cousins and Mother’s sister Edna used to visit and, if it was a nice fine day, she would put our kitchen table in the front garden and we would have a tea party. One day, a family was passing and, thinking it was a tea-room asked Mother for tea. No problem. She made room at the table and gave them all tea and scones.
My Mother was always very frightened of thunder and lightning, and all mirrors, knives and forks and anything bright had to be covered up before we ran along the yard to Mabel’s. One day, during a terrible storm, Dad was ploughing just where Marina Drive is now, when he decided to take his horses back to the stables as they were very scared. He had just left the plough when it was struck by lightning and bent up like a paper clip; he would have been killed with his horses if he had stayed there. Another time a big ball of fire rolled into Mabel’s doorway with a very loud bang. Later we heard that the chimney at Dickie’s Home, now derelict, had been struck by lightning.
My father had served his time to be a motor mechanic and liked working on the farm better. So it was that he had the first tractor in our region and did most of the repairs himself; this made ploughing fields etc. much easier and not so hard on the feet. One of his favourite horses developed a poisoned leg; the vet, an old man and friend of Dads, recommended poulticing, so Dad sat up night and day nursing his horse. The horse was in a sling fastened up to the beams in the loose box to keep his feet off the floor. Dad got the horse better but ended up in hospital himself with a poisoned throat and nearly died. The doctor said he had got the germ from the horse. He cared a lot about animals and didn’t mind nursing and tending them back to health.
The field behind the farm buildings was known as the mushroom field. Many’s the time Father and I would collect baskets full of mushrooms and he would sell them to Mr Hoggard’s Market Garden which was a small cottage just below the West Monkseaton station bridge. This field was all ruined when the open cast coal took over.
Along the back of the farm buildings there was a number of small gravestones belonging to the farm dogs over the years, I wonder if they are still there? I doubt it.
West Monkseaton station opened and what a difference it made to us all. We watched it being built with great anticipation. The bridge was very much steeper than it is now with a very low wall and many’s the time when I was walking home from school I had to hold on to the wall until mother came to fetch me or the strong winds would have blown me over the top. There would be long steam trains in the summer bringing day-trippers to Whitley Bay from Newcastle. It was great fun to stand on the bridge and get lost in the smoke as the engine went under the bridge.
As the years went by, the estate was built, that is The Grange, Melvin Gardens (called after the builder’s son) Marina Drive and Thorntree Drive. They were built by Mr Richardson. He and his family came to live in the first house next to the farm and I became friends with the children and was known as “Lettuce” in their household. It was then that the Watsons moved into No.8 Marina Drive; their back garden fence joined our back garden fence. I became great friends with their daughter Joan, who was the same age as me. We made a gate in the fence so we could visit and are still friends today.
Mother always baked cakes and pies on a Friday in her big round black oven fed with lumps of wood. She made some wonderful cakes in that oven and Joan would call at my house on her way from school and always beg a fresh rock bun or stay for tea. We played endless games of Ludo during the winter nights or just read our Girl’s Crystal, a weekly book for girls. No television in those days, just radios and that wasn’t very good.
It was in 1938 when the Regal cinema opened, seats in the front were 6 old pennies and the best seats were 1 shilling and 6 pennies. My friend and I would visit the pictures as often as possible when we could afford to. Our favourite film stars were Clark Gable, Sonya Heiny, Robert Taylor and not forgetting the cartoons and Pathe News. My Mother and Father visited the pictures on a Saturday night followed by a drink at The Grange (this is now The Hunting Lodge). This was all they could afford but they enjoyed their night out.
We always had open house at No.3. All Dad’s brothers and wives, and Mother’s sisters and husbands would always be popping in, especially when we had killed a pig and had hams hanging in the kitchen. Mother would make black puddings, sausages, cure the bacon and ham. Our local butcher, Mr Harker, would keep a leg of pork in his large fridge for us until Christmas. Father would receive a goose from a neighbouring farmer, Charlie Dunn, for doing odd jobs during the year and this was used for Christmas and New Year.
All the family would meet at our house on New Year’s Eve and we would have a party, no drink, perhaps a bottle of sherry or port and of course ginger wine but that was all. We would play silly games and really enjoy ourselves. Mother would bake for a week before the holidays. Everything was home made. Pressed tongues, boiled hams and pease pudding, home grown beetroot etc. I could go on and on (you have gathered I love food).
I was 14 years old in 1939. The news was bad. Chamberlain was doing his best, but war clouds were gathering. Bygate Senior School closed down while air raid shelters were built, so, as I was due to leave, I didn’t go back.
I remember that Sunday morning very well. Father’s brother, Ralph, was visiting us that morning and we listened to the radio together. When the Prime Minister gave us the news, we all had tears in our eyes. Before we could regain our thoughts, the air raid siren went, and we all thought we would be bombed but it was a false alarm.
Life at the farm continued on just as usual. I was now working in the sweet shop in Whitley Bay on the corner of York Road (where Maughan’s now stands). My wage was 7 shillings and 6 pence per week, I gave mother 5 shillings and the rest was my pocket money. I felt very well off.
Soldiers began to appear everywhere, not much older than myself. Blackouts had to be fixed to every window. Anderson air-raid shelters were built; we had ours under the hedge, covered in turf, with a small stove inside and a chimney poking out into the trees; many a hot Oxo or cup of tea was made on that stove. Mother kept a biscuit tin in the shelter with just everything you could imagine in it. We had bunk beds inside with mattresses filled with sweet smelling hay. This was very cosy when we had to spend a few hours or even all night there. Until one night when we had a visitor, a little mouse.
Mother, being very frightened during air raids and also very frightened of mice, was in a great quandary but the mouse won. She went into the Nixon’s shelter while Dad and I removed “The Monster”. Father would be fire-watching during the air raids with his tin hat on his arm not his head, as he said it gave him a headache. He would stand in our greenhouse which was a silly thing to do I suppose, but he said he could see what was going on. Next to our air raid shelter was my friend Joan’s and next to that was the Oxleys. Everytime we ran to the shelter, Joe Oxley would trip over the dustbin and make such a din more than the Big Bertha gun at Benton. It was a serious business, but we had some fun as well.
One night when everything was very quiet the German planes had gone but the all clear had not; two of the other chaps were having a look around the stack yard to make sure everything was okay, it was about the time we had a parachute scare. Mr Oxley and Mr Oxbury were the ones on duty at the time. They came dashing over to seek help as they had seen a parachutist creeping down the hedge. Pitch forks and broom shanks at the ready we all set off to capture this German. What a laugh, when we eventually found “him”; it turned out to be the old grey horse sheltering by the hedge.
Another night, Dad was on duty with Mr Oxbury, who played golf. He hadn’t had time to change his suit and so, when some incendiary bombs started falling, shouted for Dad to lie down first and he would lie on top of dad so as not to get his plus fours dirty. No damage was done to the farm or the suit. Another night we didn’t have time to get to the shelters, in fact the siren had not gone when a bomb dropped just outside our gate on the road. A bus just missed going into the crater. Our door burst open and squashed Mother behind it; she was in a panic by this time. We had hot tar from the road running down the door, soot all over the place and our poor little canary was like a little blackbird. He survived to sing another day.
By now I was working at Shiremoor Co-op, and on arriving home one lunch time, I found at least 20 – 30 soldiers in our yard. Mother, Mabel and Emily Nixon were making tea in the wash-house boiler and giving the lads ginger cake and scones. They had arrived to dig trenches round the farm. For a young girl of 16 years this was very exciting to be chatted up by all these nice young men.
This went on for some days until the officer came to see Mother and brought her some tea, sugar and various other things from the cook house. Things were rationed so everything came in very handy. Other times, mother would invite some young men she and Dad had met from the submarine base at Blyth for supper and expect Joan and I to entertain them. We would play cards etc. and a good night would be had by all. Many of those young men kept in touch with my parents, even after the war.
There were German prisoners billeted at Delaval Hall and each farm was allocated so many to work on the farm; some of them Father would feel very sorry for, but others greeted you with “Heil Hitler” when spoken to. Well it is unprintable what Dad said about them. One, in particular, made Mother and I a pair of slippers from string and rope and Mother would give him a scone or two. She always said that they were somebody’s sons.
The war dragged on; the farm was lucky and none of the stacks were harmed by fire bombs, but after one air-raid, when a stick of bombs had dropped over Monkseaton, one of the sticks was never found until dad was ploughing in the field alongside the railway when his plough hit something. He stopped to investigate and found the fins of a bomb. He didn’t wait about I can tell you. It took the bomb disposal men 2-3 days to dig it out, as it was sandy soil and kept sinking further and further down.
We didn’t go short of very much during the war. We had plenty of milk and kept the cream and made butter in our little chum. We had a pig to kill and plenty of vegetables and eggs from our hens. Beef was very short as this was rationed to 1 shilling and 2 pence worth each week. Father, being a heavy worker, received 1 lb of cheese per week when everyone received 2 oz.
During all this time, Doris and I still went out together with my friend Joan. We are still good friends today. Now at 70+ Doris and I are widowed, and Joan never married. Doris lives one block from me.
Life at the farm went on as always. Mr and Mrs Brewis retired and moved away, and Mr and Mrs Young came to live in the farmhouse. Mabel still worked in the house and did the milking. The Youngs had two young children and the workmen took to Mr Young and enjoyed him being the boss. The mines and farms were now owned by the National Coal Board.
By 1941 we were all getting fed up with the shortages, but we still had our Christmas and New Year parties. On New Year’s Eve 1943, we were having our usual party and everyone was meeting up at “The Grange” (now The Hunting Lodge). It was snowing very heavily, and by the time we set off for the farm, it was blowing a gale. The ladies always seemed to leave before the men to get the kettle on and the sandwiches made. We had a few drinks and perhaps a few too many. Father, Uncle Jack and the rest of the men arrived home with a live swan they had rescued. It had injured itself in the telephone wires. Uncle Bob was holding its body and Dad was holding its neck and head. It had pecked his nose and blood was dropping from his chin. One chap opened our big oven door and was going to put it in. Mother came to the rescue and it was put into our wash house until the morning. We kept it fed and watered until it healed and was fit to fly again. Then we took it down to the pond and in a couple of days it flew off none the worse for wear.
I had many boyfriends during this time and always took them home for supper; there was always a cup of tea and sandwiches etc. for everyone.
At 18 years old I was asked to be a pen friend to a cousin of a girl I worked with. He was in the Coldstream Guards. I said I would and so began a relationship which would lead to me falling in love for the first time. After writing to each other for 6 months, Laurence came on leave and wished to meet me. He came to the Co-op to meet me after work and when I saw him waiting outside in his dress uniform; I think it was love at first sight.
Mother was expecting me to take him home for tea and was enchanted with him, as was everyone who came into contact with him. He was 6ft 3in tall, not too good-looking but with a wonderful smile and very charming. We continued to correspond, and I visited his Mother and Stepfather, and after 12 months he was sent to Italy. The letters stopped after a while and one terrible morning his uncle came to tell me he had been killed in action. At 19 years old it was just the end. I could not believe this had happened to me. It took me many months to come to terms with this terrible thing that had happened to me. At the same time my cousin’s husband was also killed in Italy and so we tried to console each other. Home at the farm was all I wanted during this time; it was always a haven to me until I felt I could cope once again.
Life at Newsteads Farm and other farms was getting a little easier. Wages had risen, not too much but things were improving. Food was in great demand as the Germans were blockading our country. Every bit of land was tilled to produce as much as possible. Our garden and greenhouse were put to great use and father grew some wonderful vegetables grown organically as everything was in those days. Cornfields had poppies and cornflowers, and primroses and cowslips grew in the hedgerows. The stack yard was full with scabious.
The end of the war was in sight. Everyone had an air of excitement and street parties were being planned. Not to be out-done, we decided to have our party in the farm barn. The large barn was cleared of all machines etc., cobwebs were swept down, floors were brushed clean and we were ready for the big day.
What a party that was. Everyone was lending a hand, including the people who lived in Marina Drive, Melvin Gardens and The Grange. Every household was baking, making sandwiches and collecting as much beer and soft drinks as we could. Mother was making ginger beer and everyone was in party spirit. We had a fiddler and accordionist for the dancing, we sat on bales of hay placed around the barn. I think we slept in the next morning but it was something to remember for V E Day.
The war was receding now, and people were getting on with their lives. I was still working at the Co-op; all the men were getting demobbed and returning to their jobs. Food was still on ration, also clothes but we had to make do and mend. We didn’t go short of very much in the way of food. The New Year parties continued, and life seemed to settle down into a kind of routine again.
Doris and I still went out together at weekends and she stayed at Newsteads one weekend and I stayed at The Rising Sun farm where she lived the next weekend.
Just about this time (1950) Dad lost the sight in one eye. He was hedging, a job kept for slack times on the farm, when the hedge knife caught on some wire in the hedge and a thorn went through his eye. He was quite some time in hospital, but they could not save the sight in that eye, so he spent the rest of his life with just one eye. Mother was ill at the same time and it was a bit rough for a while.
The open-cast coal mining began at Newsteads and what a mess that made of the beautiful green fields and our view over to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Blasting started, craters appeared, dust everywhere and, to make matters worse, we had a very hot summer and could not open the windows. We were eating dirt with our meals, it was terrible, just like the bombing again.
Mr and Mrs Young and family were very nice people and joined in anything that was going on. Mr Young would always get Dad and Bobby Nixon to build a huge bonfire for Guy Fawkes night in the little field. Everyone came from the streets and Wellfield with their fireworks, and we had a wonderful time including the adults.
About this time the Nixons moved to our old house at East Farm Earsdon. Our cottages were renovated and bathrooms built on the back. Mother and Father were modern now, indoor toilet with proper toilet rolls in the posh new bathroom. What a difference without the old black-leaded fireplace. Dougie and Peggy Pringle moved in next door, a very nice couple with a young family. Dougie is still there today but poor Peggy died with cancer. People would go to visit to cheer her up and would leave wondering who did the cheering up. She was such a jolly person.
It’s still 1950 and I’d met Albert, who was to become my husband. I had been engaged to someone else but that didn’t work out, but Albert was a different kettle of fish. He was so like my first love in temperament, manners and good humour but not in looks that it didn’t take us that long to get to know each other. He worked for Kemsley newspapers (now the Evening Chronicle etc.) in the Whitley Bay office and helped his friend Benny Gibson in his taxi business when he had some spare time. He would pick my aunty up from the farm and take her home and that’s how we first met. I won’t go into detail of our courting days, but we got married in 1953 at St Albans Church, Earsdon on March 21st. Again, Mother did the catering, with hams, tongues pies etc. which were brought to the reception held at the Sea Cadets Hall in Monkseaton. I was 27 and Albert was 30.
And so my life at Newsteads Farm ended but Mother and Father stayed until 1959. Dad had an accident, he was chopping down one of the big trees that Grandad had planted when it fell and injured his leg very badly. I’m afraid he didn’t make a good recovery and died in Preston Hospital at the age of 59. I had a small daughter Judith (born 1956) who missed her grandad very much. Mother had to move as No. 3 was a tied cottage and then moved to Duke’s Cottages, Backworth Village. And so, after many years, the name Holmes was no more at Newsteads Farm.
The three cottages are now privately owned and the big farmhouse has been divided into two flats. There are still some farm buildings and the old red barn is owned by the council. There has been talk of them being pulled down but it hasn’t happened yet. New houses now reach up to the farm and no land remains.
Alas, the farm is being torn apart and the big red barn has gone. The stack yard is full of new houses instead of well-made haystacks. The cottages where I was born have now been extended and modernised, and very nice they look. Duggie Pringle is still there. I pass Newsteads Farm quite often and feel very sad seeing the byres and stables vanishing. Will they leave the big house standing? I really don’t think so, what a lot of things have happened in my lifetime at the farm. I am pleased to see they have named the new houses in the stack yard Newsteads. Soon there will be nothing left of my dear Newsteads, but time marches on.