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My Family

Newbiggin was the place I was brought up and spent many happy years on the sands and in the sea until I was 18. Life then took me to London to train to be a teacher. My parents had a house in Windsor Terrace where dad still lives today. A beautiful house overlooking Newbiggin and the North sea. Newbiggin was divided into the East end, by the colliery and the life boat house. Then the West end which was towards the bowling ground and tennis courts and the middle steps. I attended The West infants and then The West Juniors. I was Head girl at the West Junior school, where Mr Scott was the Headmaster. It was a brilliant school to attend, and had very good teachers, Miss Peggy Punton was a legend in her own right. We even recorded a song about life in Newbiggin. As Head girl I had to make the teacher's coffee, and this was served upstairs in the school staff room. I noticed on my last visit to Newbiggin, the school has been closed, so sad. Often we were allowed to go to the Needles Eye and spend morning lessons investigating the rock pools, how brilliant that was. From there it was education at Ashington Grammar school where many happy years were spent. Many famous people came from that area, including the Charlton brothers. My uncle Jack (Smith) was the local Postmaster for many years and a staunch supporter of the Lifeboat. Our family had many relatives who braved the sea to bring in the catch of fish which was often sold by the lifeboat house on a warm summer evening. My Dad worked in the mine as an engineer for many years at Lynemouth and Ashington. He was a local preacher in the Apostolic Church. He was an outsider as he came from Hull, and would always be known as Etta Smith's husband, so typical of Newbiggin and their view to outsiders. He and Mum spent many happy hours walking along the Promenade at Newbiggin. This is in memory for her, whose family, the Smiths and Dawsons have long established roots in Newbiggin. She worked in Jackie Smiths shop the local food store in Newbiggin, where everything was added up by hand and a Friday order taken to be delivered on a Saturday The shelters which were situated along the promenade would house the lovely green deckchairs and wind breakers which people hired, to spend many hours on a sandy beach. The Pilgrims (a Christian group from Edinburgh) arrived every summer and would hold services for children on the beach, which were fun no matter the weather. It was always sad to see them go. The Salvation Army would be on the Quay wall every Sunday doing a service and the band would play. If you got hungry you could always get an ice cream from Bertorellie's orange cart which went along the promenade selling ice cream. Life was free as a child in Newbiggin in the 1960 s and 70s. We played in the streets and Bulldog in the memorial park. Had chips on the beach which mum brought down. Swam off the big rock, built huge sandcastles. Collected shells, swam in the cold north sea. Tennis was played at the courts by the bowling green. The Pit heaps were a brilliant cycling ground and fun place for all. Shuggy Boats on the church point were brilliant, and when the circus came to town the tent was full. The Miners strike brought a very different story for us all. Schools were closed, food scarce. The beach became a saving ground where you could gather dross to have some sort of fire going. No other fuel could be found. Newbiggin is the place where, come what may, people survive. Strikes, loss at sea, the community will always pull together to survive. For my Mum and Dad, thank you for the rich childhood Newbiggin by the sea allowed me to have.

Written by Mary Heynes. To send Mary Heynes a private message, click here.

A memory of Newbiggin-By-The-Sea in Northumberland shared on Sunday, 15th July 2012.

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