Skip to main content

Volunteer Toni picks out some memories from the collection that fit the time of year: 

As we move into 2021, with hope after this difficult year, I looked through our memories for New Year. First I found a very clear memory of the tradition of first-footing in the 1920s:

“The New Year had to be welcomed in with a clean house and a shiny hearth.  The dead embers were carried out, the hearth whitewashed, and the fender polished with Mepo and emery paper.  Paper was then placed over the whole area to keep it spotless until 12 o’clock Midnight.  Coal and salt were placed outside ready for the first-foot to bring in, to ensure prosperity for the New Year.  The first-foot had to be tall and dark.  He usually got a whisky for the job.”

You can read the whole story here: Christmas and New Year in the 1920s

For some people Christmas and New Year mean long hours and hard work.  In one memory I read the contributor remembered 18 hour days in their butcher’s shop in New York. But in the following fragment from a larger memory of North Shields I also get a glimpse of glamour.  A hairdresser remembers:

“ . . . working late on a New Year’s Eve and then running to Northumberland Square to be there when they fired the gun to welcome the New Year in.”

It conjures in my imagination images of customers looking lovely and the hairdresser running to get to the square.  It’s like a scene in a book or a movie, leaving me wondering if there was someone she was going to meet?

You can read the whole story here: Living and Working in North Shields