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Memories of Pearey House – Carole’s Story

I look back on my forty odd years of working and volunteering at Pearey House with fondness.


I’ve been involved with Pearey House since 1970 when I went as an assistant to Mary McQueen who was then the home teacher for the blind. She was wonderful, charismatic person who gave over 40 years’ service to the society and it was a joy to work with her. The house then was open every day but the visually impaired came mainly on a Tuesday and Thursday. They were brought from their homes by minibus.

Image of a chair with woven cane work being repaired

Cane-work being repaired

Tuesday was the hand craft day. The women mainly would be in the lounge downstairs knitting cotton dishcloths which were in great demand and bathmats made from scrap nylon which was donated from the local factory. It came in a huge bundle which had to be untangled and wound into balls ready for the knitting. Upstairs in the handicraft room they did cane work to edge trays and basket work for stools and chairs and they also did some traditional cane work making baskets and reseating chairs for the public and some simple carpentry which the men really enjoyed.

All the hand work was displayed in the library and sold to the public. Thursday was the social day when they played cards, dominos and bingo using special braille dominoes. We also had sing songs when Jack Sheldon would come in to play the piano for us. Schools would come to do concerts and at Christmas came carol singing. We celebrated harvest festival when the readings were done by the visually impaired using the braille, moon or large print. At Easter they decorated bonnets and hats and paraded in them while everyone sang In Your Easter Bonnet. Everyone enjoyed it and joined in the spirit of it. We celebrated anyone’s birthday with a cake usually provided by Hunters the bakers in North Shields who were a great support to us, and a party if it was a special birthday.

Photo of a Pearey House Disco

A Pearey House Disco

Once a month we had an evening dance which some of the relatives came to which was good fun and we provided a supper for everyone. On these two days we had between 40 and 60 came to Pearey House. We also visited or hosted other blind societies such as Billingham when we had a meal and entertainment. At Christmas we provided a dinner for the visually impaired and their guides. Buses took them as near to their homes as possible, to the hotel and back. This took a lot of organising and the transport didn’t always go to plan but with the help from our volunteers we always managed to get everyone there and back.

We helped with the daily living skills and provided aides to help them with this and also did cooking with anyone who wished in the kitchen which was quite often chaotic. While I was there, the society was involved in registering all the new blind or partially sighted which included seeing them in their homes and providing any help they needed. We also did regular visits to everyone on the register, which I did on my bike. Remembering this was the old borough of Tynemouth which covered all of North Shields, Tynemouth, New York and Howdon so it was quite an area. Later on, we amalgamated with all the other areas in North Tyneside.

Photo of the Lord Mayor at the summer fair.

The Lord Mayor at the summer fair

Our other function was of course fundraising. We had two main events a year. Flag week when we collected round the doors and then rattled tins on a Saturday and the garden fete which was huge. We had stalls, fancy dress competitions, donkey rides and side shows. This was always opened by the Mayor of Tynemouth. It was always a huge attraction and very well attended and really it was a large part of the local community life. I was lucky that my family was very much involved as well and my parents even spent their Golden Wedding day helping at the garden fete. We also ran fundraising concerts, barbeques and dances.

As well as running Pearey House we saw to the people who lived in the flats,

Photo of two residents gardening at Pearey House

Gardening at Pearey House

checking in on them every day, collecting rents which was a lengthy process as they liked to chat and give us their news and grumbles. We did have a warden who lived in Pearey House and they covered night times and weekends. We had a rota for them to use the laundry, but this didn’t always go to plan. Some of the people who lived in the flats, and others who came to Pearey House liked to garden so at the back we had various plots for them and they also gave a hand to our gardener, Billy Dunn, who officially came, I think, twice a week, but actually did far more than that.

Thinking back to all the many folk who lived or came to Pearey House, they were a mixed bag with some real characters, but life was never dull. You never knew what each day would bring and what challenges you faced.

I would like to pay tribute to those who, over the years gave so much to Pearey House. First, Mary McQueen, Harold Thompson and his family, Brian Lincoln and his secretary Irene Dougall, Ernie Armitage, Fred Hodson and all the folk from the Council, who gave such a lot of time to the Society and, of course, to the many, many volunteers.

I look back on my forty odd years of working and volunteering at Pearey House with fondness, I have so many happy memories.

Carole was interviewed as part of the Pearey House 150th Anniversary Project.


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