Waggon Ways

Anyone living along the line could hitch a ride from Backworth down to Percy Main!

Editor’s Note – In July 2004, the Local Studies Section of North Shields Library published a photograph from their collection showing the Percy Arms in Percy Main and the waggon ways that converged there, part of a network that spread across North Tyneside when mining was at its peak.  On seeing this, one of our regular contributors sent in the following recollection:

The waggon way shown in the picture seemed to be always there when I was young, as my mother’s family came from Backworth and you could see the engines shunting up and down all the time.  My mother used to tell me that anyone living along the line could hitch a ride from Backworth down to Percy Main, allowing them to shop at the west end of North Shields.  I’m not sure where they actually sat but they had to take a newspaper to sit on to protect their best clothes.

“Middle Ingine” figured largely in our lives.  It was the birthplace of Tom Burt, the miner who became an MP.  There was also a family called Strachan living nearby whose sons did very well in later life.  We delivered meat to people in the cottages and I was allowed to drive the rackety old van on the quiet lane between New York and Middle Engine, though I was only about 13 at the time.  (I did it with great confidence, though I am too scared to drive on these roads nowadays).

Most of the cottages had enclosed front gardens, often keeping pigs as well as growing vegetables.  Everyone used the back doors for entry.  My father, the local butcher, had the job of collecting the pigs for slaughter, then he would deliver the cut-up carcasses back to the owners.  It was a difficult job getting a reluctant pig from the garden, through a narrow passage-way and into the van.  He did this by turning the pig around, grasping its ears, bringing its head down and stepping onto its snout, making it back down along the passage.  It was quite a simple strategy but very effective.

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