Whitley Bay 1957 1965 - a Memory of Whitley Bay.
I lived in South Wellfield just outside Whitley Bay in the years listed above. Despite being something of a mongrel in terms of heritage I always look upon the town and area as my true home. Although being probably conceived in Scotland, born in southern East Anglia and now having lived over half a century away from my boyhood at a myriad of locations, Whitley is still very special to me. We moved into our semi overlooking the flat fields to the sea as our family returned the my fathers home area just as I was about to start my school years, and remained until I was halfway through my senior school days - less than eight years that had an indelible impression upon my life. Back then Whitley was thriving sea side location and a magnet for tourists, holiday makers and day trippers. Relatives in our own family in land-locked Derbyshire came most years to spend at least a week of their holidays by the sea. I recall vividly most morns after breakfast my Uncle and Aunt accompanied by my older cousin striding off for the coast by Shanks's pony on the two and a half mile jaunt through Monkseaton onward to the Links. My mother always suggested the chocolate coloured Hunters bus or the red double decker United no 17, but they far preferred the stroll - or was it a route march!
Glasgow Fair fortnight was always a time when the town was packed and my Clydebank born mother must have very much at home as the streets and beach very literally invaded and taken over by what seemed the entire population of Scotland's industrial capital- this was at time long before anyone had heard of Benidorm or Lloret -de- Mar. My school pals and I used to delight when the wind turned a little blustery and had the sea create' white horse' waves rolling and crashing into the sea walls. We used to congregate at a spot near the Esplanade Hotel where the force of the waves always seemed to create the largest displays of spume rising into the air. Our aim as observers was really a cruel form of entertainment - we knew that from experienced viewing that about every five minutes the statistic probability of an outsize wave coming in an drenching unsuspecting tourists was a very real and regular occurance. Often we would watch drenched visitors heading back towards their guest houses or the railway station - sometimes schoolboys aren't very nice at all! Most holiday makers congregated on the Links - the grassed area next to the Spanish City or on the beaches immediately alongside - as locals we preferred the beach a little further up near the lighthouse - even when the sands were thronged all the way from the Venetian café right along to the long sands at Tynemouth the cliff foot near the St Mary's island was practically deserted. Here again was the opportunity for fiendish boyhood pleasures - unsuspecting visitors who did venture this far often would cross the short causeway onto the island where the lighthouse stood; of course when the tide returned if you did not know the local tide times it was more than possible to get your feet wet on the short return to the mainland. Endless pleasure for those observing in short trousers! My grandfather had spent a summer on the island with his pal the lighthouse keepers son before the first world war - it must have been bliss for an eleven year old boy. These days like everywhere else in UK has changed vastly with the passage of over half a century. Even in my mid to late teens and living in the East Midlands, when I returned to visit my pals in West Monkseaton, the area was starting to alter. Earsdon and Wellfield were still almost rural in those days when I lived there, few had cars, the mobile library visited once a week - the main library was situated in rooms above Whitley bus station. Wellfield used to half two corner shops, a butchers( Thompsons - who kindly provide free bones for my mongrel dog) and a Co-op and Post Office - all now long gone. The fields in front of our house which provided an seamless view toward the coast and distant lighthouse now have houses upon them - no more dancing for March hares on those pastures! Thankfully the nearby ancient Beehive Inn is still surrounded by fields. I cannot believe it is 55 years since I sat in the classrooms of South Wellfield County Primary drinking the obligatory third of a pint that Margaret Thatcher snatched away, nor the same time span since I wore the green and yellow neckerchief of the 19th Whitley Bay,1st Earsdon Scout group -but it unquestionably is!
Times change but hopefully memories remain untainted.
Neil Johnson SW Scotland May 2017.
A memory shared by on May 2nd, 2017.
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