Memories of Anne and Jim Standish of Stocksfield - recorded 2016
This is a summary of the interview given by Anne and Jim. The sound recording will give you much more detail.
Anne and Jim were originally from the Durham area. Jim was born in 1933, in the colliery village of Sherburn Hill near Durham City. His family lived there until he was about three years old, when his parents bought a house in Durham. Anne was born in the city in 1938. Her mother had worked for the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral, until she married and had to give up her job. Her father worked for the Durham Carpet manufacturing company, eventually working his way up to the position of managing director. The family lived in a 1930s semi, with a huge garden which her parents adored. When Anne was five, a new sister, Margot, was born. It was around this time that Anne developed scarlet fever. Rather than have her taken into an isolation hospital, her parents cared for her at home - still in isolation. She had to stay in her bedroom, and sheets were soaked in Dettol every day. They were squeezed and hung on the outside of her door. All visitors had to wash their hands before and after a visit. To this day, Anne still has a fear of confined spaces.
Young Jim kept hens at the bottom of the garden. People would give him scraps with which to feed them, and he gave them eggs in exchange. He once held a raffle, with eggs as the prize, and sent the proceeds to the Red Cross to support the war effort.
Before marrying, Jim’s mother had worked as a seamstress at the Co-op in Sherburn Hill. His father was a local government officer working in Durham’s Shire Hall. He was also a member of the Observer Corps. This meant that he would do a normal day’s work, then spend nights and weekends plotting enemy planes. At that time the Germans were targeting all cathedral cities, like Coventry, which had been devastated. Enemy planes were spotted over the North Sea, heading directly for Durham. It was a clear night, which meant that the city was in great danger. Then, miraculously, mist rose from the River Wear, and covered the whole city. The Germans, unable to see what was beneath them, flew over without bombing the Cathedral. This occasion is now recorded in a stained glass window in the Cathedral.
Jim’s paternal grandfather had worked in the colliery at Fencehouses, where he was a “first-aider.” During World War 1, he nursed wounded soldiers at a hospital in Aldershot. As far as Jim knows, his paternal grandmother never did any paid work.
Anne’s maternal grandfather worked at a brass foundry in the Gilesgate Moor area of Durham, while her grandmother was kept busy taking care of their charming old house. Her paternal grandfather worked in Durham Post Office. Grandma did not do any paid work, but was known locally as the “layer out,” a lady who was always available to help when any births or deaths occurred in the area.
As a young boy, Jim attended primary school at Neville’s Cross. This meant that he walked two miles to and from school each day. He remembers buying dirty carrots from a local shop, and he would wash them to eat with his packed lunch. A two hundred yard walk from school meant that he and his friends could watch trains going over Durham’s landmark railway viaduct. There were air-raid shelters in the school yard.
His headmaster was an artist, who encouraged Jim to do art work, some of which may have been shown at local exhibitions.
In 1942, Jim walked to school with friends through snow which was piled up eight feet high at the side of the road. After walking through a particularly bad snow storm, he contracted pleurisy, and consequently missed quite a lot of schooling.
Anne’s father was not called up for war duty because his services were needed at the carpet factory, which produced webbing used for the manufacture of soldiers’ bags, sacking for sandbags etc.
When he was eight, Jim became a choir boy at his local church. He then progressed to being a server, and to reading lessons in church. At the age of 25, his vicar recommended that he should train to be a lay reader. He trained, and was licensed as such in 1959, and has taken services ever since - first in Durham, then later at Bywell and Mickley.
Most of Anne’s family had been heavily involved in the church, and she and sister Margot were brought up as church goers. Following her mother’s example, young Anne eventually became a Sunday school teacher.
Jim has many happy memories of his time in the cubs and scouts, including his very co-British German scout master, camping in the Lake District and Teesdale, going to London to receive his Chief Scout badge and sleeping in a hammock on Captain Scott’s ship, the ‘Discovery.’
Anne attended college in Newcastle, to train as a domestic science teacher. By this time, Jim was already teaching at the colliery village of Brandon, near Durham.
In her youth, Anne loved ice skating at Durham’s ice rink, which was near the carpet factory. She remembers one bitterly cold winter when her father flooded the lawn, so that it would freeze and become the family’s own ice rink.
The city’s first rink was like a big marquee with a pole in the middle. Then in about 1946, the Canadian government gave a grant to the owner of the rink, so that a proper one could be built for the use of Canadian servicemen, who were keen ice hockey players.
Jim also enjoyed playing ice hockey, and he practised with the junior team. However, when he went to college in Birmingham, there were no facilities for ice hockey. The college had two hockey teams, and he joined one of those, although being left handed, it was not easy.
One day the goal keeper could not play, so Jim took his place, and he enjoyed it so much that it became his team position for many years.
When he came home from Birmingham, he played for Durham County, and after moving to Stocksfield he became a member of the Tynedale team based in Corbridge. He also played for Northumberland. His skills were so sought after, that he continued playing until he was in his 50s, when he became a member of Durham County Veterans, as well as playing for Sunderland.
In his 60s, he was invited to become a member of the LX Club (over 60s), and played for England in many parts of the world. Anne accompanied him when his team competed as far away as South Africa, South America and many parts of Europe.
Jim was eventually forced to cease his sporting activities at the age of 75, after being told by a medical consultant that he could not have a much needed hip operation as long as he played such a risky game.
Anne and Jim became engaged in 1960, and the young couple wanted to start a new life. They were married at St Cuthbert’s church in Durham - the church they had always attended.
Jim started a new job in the mining village of Coxlodge near Gosforth, and Anne became a domestic science teacher in Hexham. They had no means of transport, so had to find a new home half way between their two places of work. They stuck a pin in a map, and Stocksfield was chosen for their new residence. Their first home was on Hillside Villas, and the village had shops and services to supply all their needs. There was a Co-op, a chemist, a baby shop which sold wool, a hardware shop, fruiterer, butcher and baker. Services such as plumbing, joinery and painting and decorating were also available in or near the village. There was even a locally based ‘bus service - Norfolk’s - which ran a limited service between its base at New Ridley and Newcastle.
Anne taught in a unit behind Hexham’s Roman Catholic Church. Pupils came from various parts of the Tyne Valley - the boys for craft lessons, and the girls to be taught domestic science by Anne. When passing St Mary’s First School, she saw the young children in the playground, and soon decided that this was the age group she really wanted to teach. Her first job with primary school children was at Prudhoe West. Meanwhile, Jim had progressed to the post of deputy head teacher at Coxlodge.
After the arrival of son John, Anne had a break from her job at Prudhoe West. She returned for a while, before being given the new post of deputy head at Prudhoe Castle first school, where she was happy to work until her retirement. Jim became head of Mickley Primary School in 1966, at a time when old colliery houses in the village were being demolished. This meant that pupil numbers were substantially reduced. The plan was that no new houses would be built in the “category D” village, but fortunately, a change of plan meant that Riding Dene Estate was built on the site of the old colliery houses. Children from these new houses, and from the new Birkdene Estate in Stocksfield raised pupil numbers from about 40 to more than 70. After five years at Mickley, Jim became the new head at Gosforth East Junior School, which later became Gosforth Park First School. He was happy to serve there for more than twenty years.
Jim remembers going to a meeting at Prudhoe’s new library (since demolished and replaced by the Spetchells Centre). The meeting was chaired by County Councillor Mrs Mitchell, who suggested that Prudhoe could benefit from the formation of a Local History Society. Jim agreed that this was a good idea, and Mrs Mitchell said that he should therefore become the chairman of the new society. The result was the formation of Prudhoe and District Local History Society, of which Jim was chairman for 21 years. Because he did not want people’s memories of Mickley to be lost, he proposed that the Society should produce a book to keep such memories alive. After interviewing a large number of Mickley people, and writing down their memories, he produced “The Drumming of the Poss Sticks,” a book which sold very well and has since been successfully revised and re-produced. A second book - “A Prudhoe Likeness” was followed by a third - “A Prudhoe Reflection” - showing old photographs of Prudhoe alongside current views from a similar spot.
Anne and Jim continue to be loyal members of the Society, and we are proud to have Jim as our Lifelong President.