Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's grim up north

except, of course, that it's not. Not any more, anyhow.
We spent the half-term holidays up in Durham with my mother, and spent a lot of time revisiting places I went as a child. The awe-inspiring Beamish museum, which is a fantastic and humbling reminder of where I come from. My grandfather served an apprenticeship down the pit as a farrier before being laid off at 21, as soon as he learnt his trade. He moved away from his home looking for the job he loved, working with the pit ponies, before eventually giving up and taking a foul job as a pump-fitter, working chest-deep in water keeping the pumps running to keep the shafts dry. I have so much respect for anyone who goes to those lengths to support his family, as I honestly don't think I could have stuck it out. He made damn sure that his children stayed far away from the collieries though, even though dad missed his 11 plus due to TB and so went to the secondary modern school- a way was found to get my dad to teacher training college, where he met my mum (on top of a rubbish heap)  and the rest, as they say, was history.
I'm only just old enough to remember working mines. I remember the miners strike of 83/84, and driving through the pickets and seeing slag heaps but I don't remember much more than that- it wasn't a big deal for me. I know that a lot of my dad's pupils at Bowburn, his first school, ended up working in collieries though and so were out of work when the pits closed. It killed a huge proportion of the county.
Anyhow- yes. Beamish is an open-air historical re-creation of the time when mining and heavy industry was common place and sets itself in 1923, the year of the highest ever coal output in Durham. They have a chapel, a school, miners cottages, a working drift mine, a farm and a replica town. Most of the buildings have been moved from original locations brick by brick, rather than built from new (the Westoe Netty is their latest acquisition) and as conservation goes, it's breathtaking. Sadly, my major thoughts were 1) cute animals, and 2) obsessing over the fabrics used. I lost a good five minutes of my life pondering cotton lace socks (they're not stretchy, so wouldn't they be terribly uncomfortable? Did people really wear them?) and well over half an hour was taken up making proggy mats. The boys, bless them, are obsessed.

Then another day was spent up at Bamburgh and Seahouses, which is my home from home and always makes me feel better. It did this time, as well.
Oh, and River has grown again.


Cinders said...

Hi helen, found your blog through Ravelry , where else!! I went to beamish with my boyfriend of 2 weeks 21 years ago. he's now my hubby! I think we fell in Love whizing up the M1!!!! looks like you had a great time. We'd like to take the kids one day. I'd love to holiday on the Northunberland coast. it looks lovely. Your family history is interesting. I'm afraid i'm old enough to remember the miners strikes of the 70's, 3 day weeks and power cuts!

nikkishell said...

Hi helen, i was directed to your blog from Encircling.
I am originally from Fencehouses, not far from Beamish. I remember going to Beamish when i was younger. My Dad, uncles and grandad were miners at Dawdon pit before it closed down.
I now live in Melbourne,Australia.