Summers In Blackhall

A Memory of Blackhall Colliery

My Grandma - Bertha Lanaghan - lived in Third Street for over 50 years. She made hookey rugs as big as a room from old blankets, coats, etc whatever she could get, to sell for extra money. She dyed the wool three colours, navy, red & light blue and drew all her own designs on the sacking in ink before she started. They were beautiful and It was the only kind of carpet I knew until I was in my 20's because they never wore out. During WW2 I believe my sister and I spent some time there and she went to schoolalthough I was too young to remember. I remember the Hewitt familyand the Halls. From about 1945 when my Grandpa who worked in The Pit was killed by the train when coming home from Blackhall Rocks in the blackout we came up every summer in the school holidays. We lived in London where my mum had been sent to work at the age of 14. No one had any other kind of holidays in those days. My Uncle Bob also worked in the Pit. I only remember sunny days (as you do) and we spent each day out of doors along Top Bank and the beach. It was years before I knew that some beaches had yellow sand! We would pass the Colliery and cross the railway passing the wood yard where the pit props were cut. I loved the smell of that wood and it still comes back to me at times. along with the sound of the huge circular saws. We walked along to the cliff edge with the buckets that carried the slack to tip into the sea. It was all very innocent and I seem to think that sometimes we stayed out all day with just a jam sandwich and a bottle of home made ginger beer. I was terrified of the old wooden bridge across the Dean (Hesleden?) and my big sister would have to hold my hand tight and say 'don't look down' because you could see between the wooden boards. I have no idea where we were going when we crossed! We would have to keep off the 'back' streets on Mondays when the washing was strung out and sometimes my sister had to stay in to help turn the mangle. What a job it was for my Grandma who was very short, to carry the huge hot water bucket from the fireplace to the yard. The fireplace was blackleaded on a daily(?) basis and the front step every morning. Tuesday I think was ironing day. Another day was for baking. Once a week we would get fish and chips from Middle Street for our evening meal. I can remember the two bakers shops and I've never had a tea cake that was as good. If we kids were really well off - say we had collected pop bottles to take back at a penny each - we would take a bowl to Pieroni's ice cream parlour and they filled it for sixpence with that soft ice cream we now call Whippy, and buy a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock - run home and make ice cream sodas. Sheer heaven. One year I was sent to one of the two (?) shoe shops for shoes for me because they were cheaper than in London and I had to tell the lady I had to take them home for my Grandma to see and check before she would pay. Can you imagine doing that now? We made lanterns out of jam jars and left over bits of candle with a piece of string for a handle round the neck . WE went to the cinema when there was money - my mum called it The Bug Hutch - as you sometimes came out with a flea on your ankle! Occasionally we would go into Hartlepool on the bus and I don't remember anything but the smell of the home made boiled sweets in the covered market. Does anyone else remember pineapple rock? In recent years I have been surprised at how the wind blows all the time but I don't remember that from my childhood. Sadly, my mum's baby brother. my Uncle Bob died last December so my last link has gone, apart from some of his very dear, very good friends who helped me at the time and still do. He never missed a year visiting us in London all the time my mum was alive, coming down on his 25 year old motor bike as recently as 2006 at the age of nearly 80! My mum = also Bertha - was 93 when she died in 2004. On the whole everywhere looked better although in other ways it is just the same - things for sale have changed and of course the cinema has gone and the wheel monument in its place and so many take-aways. Doesn't anyone cook any more? I'd love to see inside one of the two up two down houses to see what they do with them now. WE were never allowed to use the parlour - the front room - even though there was a piano - except to go up to bed and when my Grandpa was laid out and neighbours came to pay their respects before the funeral. The Catholic Church was in a different place too so I suppose other things have moved that I don't remember. There was something with a corrugated roof painted a reddish colour but I can't remember if it was the Church or cinema. When it rained you couldn't hear a word! Happy times when there was work, and pride even though people didn't have many material goods.

A memory shared by Kathy Ames , on Oct 21st, 2008.

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