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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Ordering toy planes from Gamages c1912

Toy Planes from Gamages

1912

We used to send off to A.W. Gamages for these model aeroplanes made from balsa wood.

They were made with three-ply tea-chest wood and had a propeller with a bit of an elastic band. Gamages were at 116-128 Holborn, London. They sent you a 900 page catalogue every Christmas. Billy and I got paid lugging this equipment around for Lubbock, making deliveries to the big houses, which is how we got to know everyone, and fixing the cars. We knew what made the things tick and with no mechanics about we learnt to do the job. I could drive at 13; I’d manoeuvre them about the yard and from time to time father would take one of the cars saying he had to run it in or check the new tyres or something. There was no traffic to speak of, mostly gigs and tub traps. You had to watch out for startling horses and upsetting old ladies who liked to carry their loads down the middle of the road.

An office boy on this 14th birthday in the offices of the North Eastern Brewery

Office Boy in the offices of the North Eastern Brewery

1910

One day my father comes up to me and says.

“Mr Murray wants to see you up at the house at Six O’clock. There’s a vacancy in the office.”

I was not fourteen so I couldn’t leave school.

I went up to the house where J.G. had me writing and one thing and another. He asked what class I was in. “Standard Seven” I said, which was about as far as you could get.

“You’ll learn a lot more in the office.” He said. And he was right.

I started work at the North Eastern Breweries in August 1910.

I was fourteen years of age. I was on Five Shillings per week and got an annual increment of Half a Crown which was (2/6d) – 2 shillings and 6 pence (Around £11 in 2012 money)

(In today’s money, 2012, Jack  was getting around £25 a week for doing five days plus Saturday mornings.  A 44 hour week? He was only 14 though and learning the ropes).

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I walked the two miles up the hill to work.

Bill Baron, who was the cashier lived down in Shotley Bridge took me in. He’d started work as a clerk at a railway station. His mother Margaret lived in Bywell. He had two sisters. He was a bit older than me; he was 28 when I started. He walked up from Shotley Bridge which was further away still and fetched me up to the offices which were right up at the top.

Tom Young was in my class; his Family lived on Harvey St.

He joined the Consett Iron Company works as a clear. And one called Ripley, who made a fortune; his father was a coalminer and his mother was from Stanhope.

He became a foreman at the works.

The theatres and pubs of Consett and Benfieldside before the Great War 1910

Theatres and Pubs

1910

J.G. used to build a theatre and a pub together.

He had the ‘Three Masons Arms’ and the ‘Globe’.

In those days there was nothing else, no cinema, just these theatres. I remember Gracie Fields was pelted with tomatoes at Stanley with the miners; she was a Rochdale girl and my age. She was in ‘Our Towers of London.’ She started out in Music Halls and became a film star in the 1920s and 1930s. The cinemas helped to black the music hall artists out.

The cellars held two gallon jars of gin and Irish etc:

The cellerman had an office which had a speaking tube running up to the first floor; you had to whistle down it to get your attention. Wagons would come in by these big double doors round the side. There were steps down in the cellars.

The manager of the Globe would ring his beer order down.

I’d run down to the phone in the corridor to take it down. I was just a boy and the man, a Cockney, asks for “Three barrels of oil.”

I went back to the office and asked.

“Where can I get some oil?”

They all laughed.

“Ale” they said. “He wants three barrels of ale.”

One day J.G. had my father carry this ‘Blick’ up from the car; it was a German typewriter.

J.G. tried to show me how to use this Blickenfurentstater. It was a portable affair with a wooden case. The top row of letters began ZXKGB so it came in before QWEERTY when they had to slow the action down on account of the metal keys getting jammed if you typed too fast. I did all the typing after that, up until the war. We started doing the letters with carbon copies. After the war they had girls in doing that job.

There were no girls in the office before 1914.

Working in the ‘Big House’ – life for the Wilsons working for the Murrays

The Big House, the Murrays and Domestic Servants

1896

My father called ‘J.G.’ the ‘Governor.’

He’d been a solicitor practising in Newcastle when his father died and left him the business.

There was his Mrs Murray. Her name was Isabella and she was born in 1867; she came from Wylam and their daughter Miss Ethne. Miss Ethne had a birthday in May and was born in 1894, same age as my older brother Percy. There was a harness with everything in glass cases, saddles etc: Miss Effne had a little Shetland pony with a cream tub trap. She had an Italian Governess for a while, a Miss Rosina Frache, a spinster in her thirties. And later a German Governess who had things thrown at her when war broke out; she was interred. They were locking Germans up. The butcher changed his name and we let him get away with that; he made these excellent sausages. He took the name ‘Butcher,’ which everyone liked. After that we made up our own names for anyone that had a German sounding name. Shotley Bridge was made by a German family; it was a German who had set up the sword makers back in the 17th century.

The house had a butler, called Fry.

A housekeeper, called Mrs Kirkpatrick. A cook, called Mrs Woodburn who was replaced by Annie Ridley. A house maid, called Emma Housby, a laundry maid, Kathleen Robertson, a Waiting Maid, Jessie Brown and an 18 year old lass they called the ‘Dope’ as the Kitchen Maid – her name was Edith Walker. There was a gardener, called Booth, two gamekeepers, Jack Bell, and a Scotsman called Frank Carruthers. Jack lived at Elm Park and Frank was up at Allensford, Blanchland. Bell lived on the other side of the railway; he’d come over to cut the lawns on a Monday, if the weather was good. Bell pulled on a bit of cord and Booth pushed; it wasn’t motorised and you weren’t to use a horse or pony because that would spoil the lawn. They had these big rollers too; they kept it like they were going to play cricket. All you ever saw was a bit of croquet or lawn tennis.

Jack Bell paid the wages for everyone working at the Big House. He kept these single entry estate books up at the Royal Hotel.

We were living in the lodge

As a boy, I used to come up to the yard to fiddle on with the engines. I remember at one time there were these great crates of dinner sets to unpack for the cook.

My father worked for the Murrays and we lived in the cottage at the end of the drive

General Factotum to the Murrays

1896

We were living at Benfieldside, Shotley Bridge, Co. Durham

It was on the road which ran up to Blackhill on the way to Consett. It was eventually sold to the Consett Iron Company for £6,000 and became a students’ residence. It’s now part of Murray Court – opposite Saint Cuthbert’s Avenue which runs down to the Church. Dobson designed the Church, the man who designed Grey Street in Newcastle. So you see, there was a lot of money in Consett at the time. An Estate Agent bought the Big House in 1967, demolished the old house and built all those houses.

My father, Twentyman Wilson was general factotum to the Murrays

The Murrays owned the North Eastern Breweries. My father left Cumberland for Consett in 1894 to take up this position as a Coachman; he later became the Chauffeur when they got a car and they got another groom in. When J G Murray moved into Benfieldside House a relation of my father’s suggested that he apply for the job of ‘general factotum’ and a letter of introduction was prepared for him. This relation was a cousin Mary who was a domestic servant to the Annandales. She married a miner. I took your mother over there on one occasion to pay a visit but your grandmother was funny about it; bit of a snob to tell you the truth. Your grandmother didn’t know her own roots, her father had been a shop assistant when he started out. There was a lot of that going on, people doing well and moving up a peg. JG came from a farming background, his father set up a grocer’s shop, then a wine merchants, from that a pub and another grocers and so on. Once they got a dozen Inns they started the brewery. He had this idea of building a pub with a theatre attached. As the railways spread they built hotels by the stations. There was money to be made if you knew how. Consett in those does was a thriving town.

I had three aunties and two uncles on my father’s side

There names were Sarah (b1853), Thomas, known as Tom (b1856), Joseph (b1861), Mary (b1863), Ann (b1868) and Edward (b1874). So you can imagine, if there was a wedding or something the turn out could be huge. We had big families in those days, five or six children were the norm.

My father did all sorts for J.G: before the motorcars he looked after the horses – they had two landaulettes – everyone got around in carriages and pairs. He also had charge of the garden and would bring in extra men at busy periods to cut the lawns and such. That was done by two men hauling a cutter; none of these mowers you see these days.

Twentyman was well in with the Murrays. He was part and parcel of the outfit.

He used to look after the hunters and would go with J.G. (b1865) and the Braes of Derwent Hounds. Twentyman would take a second horse for J.G. to change onto when his became tired. The Braes of Derwent Hounds still go out – Otis Ferry, Bryan Ferry’s son, is the huntmaster.

Tuesday 24th December, Christmas Eve 1912

Benfieldside

Jack walks down from Consett to Benfieldside with his mate Steve Barron. Its been a busy day as poor weather has delayed some order making it to the various pubs of the Northeastern Brewery.  For much of the morning Jack sat by the phone taking calls and relaying messages to the office. He’s 14 and a half, he’s been at the Royal Hotel since August. He lives at home with his father, the Chauffeur and general factotum to JGMurray at Benfieldside House and his mother and his younger brothers Billy 12, and Spencer 7.

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