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A Bevin Boy

A Memory of Burnopfield

I was called up under the Bevin Scheme in April, 1944, and after a rather indifferent training at Annfield Plain Training Centre, was sent to the Hobson, as I was staying at the time in lodgings in Burnopfield with a Mrs. Crisp, husband Tommy and her two sons, Stan and Robert.
There were 2 other Bevin Boys occupying the house as well, so sleeping arrangements were cramped, to say the least!
I finished up staying with Maggie and Johny Hughes at 1, Palm Terrace,Tantobie, where there were also 2 other Scottish Bevin Boys, and we had a whale of a time there.
I enjoyed the pit work and finished up as an Onsetter at the main shaft, serving the Hutton and Brockwell seams, after an accident when Sammy Jackson was Onsetter and missing putting a dreg in a train of tubs, 30 made their way to the shaft, descending rather rapidly, and closing the pit shaft for several days.
Sammy was sent off to the emergency shaft, leaving me to cope with signalling for the Shaftmen whilst they were doing the repairs. Bob Mason, a kindly man was the Shaftman I remember best. After this episode, I was appointed Onsetter, something of which I am still very proud, and have the Certificate to prove it!
The pitmen were very good to me, and as their geography was hazy, as I came from the Isle of Wight, they called me "the bloody Cornishman".
I have many happy memories of my time there, and having been a printer's apprentice before call-up, helped run Alex McKinlay's printing business at Stanley, after Alex died suddenly, leaving his daughter Connie to run the business with two apprentices. As I worked permanent Night Shift (4.30-11.30 p.m.), I was able to have a good night's sleep, leaving me time to cycle to Stanley and spend several hours printing! I think I did this for about 3 years.
I remember well a rather rowdy Miners' outing run by "Marky" Robinson to Scarborough one Saturday, which on the return journey, stopping at several pubs after hours, arrived back at the Hobson in the early hours of Sunday morning, and I had to be on duty on at 5.30 a.m.!
For most of my time, 1944-1947, I played the organ at Tanfield parish church for the Revd. W. Swinney, for his Sunday afternoon Children's service, as we agreed that I would do this in return for unlimited opportunity to practise on what was then a fine 3-manual Harrison organ.
I wouldn't have missed my time in Durham and the Hobson for anything, and it stood me in good stead when later I was ordained, as I am reasonably un-shockable!

A memory shared by George Rayner , on Apr 22nd, 2010.

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