November 16, 2008

Bellingham's Noble Street Kids: Wagon drivin

Northumberland Farming History - a village childhood remembered.

By Clive Dalton

Photo shows Clive holding Bobby Hutton outside No 5 Noble Street, where the Davidson's lived (Bobby's grandparents). The Daltons lived at No 6 in about 1940.

One game we played was very serious work. Over the fell were sheep tracks that we imagined were our main roads to places like Newcastle (the frog ponds), Hexham (the Blakelaw gate) and other spots such as gates or trees which became destinations like Wark, Otterburn or even Wooler.

The first job was to dig clay from a hole on the fell, and cart it in my small wheelbarrow (I was the sole owner of one my father got made at Redesmouth) to lay on the sheep tracks to make roads. Then all you needed was a tin lid, from the pantry to act as steering wheel, and the decision as to “where wor ye gana gan”.

But before that, you had to choose “we yi wor ganna be”. The most popular choices were the two Bellingham wagon drivers who drove for Hugh Thompson, of Tommy Smith (who lived at Number 4), or Jake Cowan (who lived at No 10). Their wagons were permanently parked at Noble Street,

You could also choose Hugh Thompson, or maybe Tucker Jamieson with his red wagon from Wark. We never chose names of wagon firms that came from the Scotch side to the marts – they never gave us rides and never even asked us to crawl into the bottom sheep deck to spread new sawdust. Anyway, they taalked funny and neebody cud understand them.

These journeys had to be accompanied by full sound effects of whether your wagon was full or empty, the size of the load and how steep the gradient. It was a fair pull up the fell to Newcastle with a full load of sucklers I can tell you! Many a time we were still on the road at dark and never heard the shoot – “Will ye git yorsel inte the hoose. Whaat hev ye been dein covered in muck - get yorsels inte the hoose and make sure ye wesh behind your lugs. And where’s the cake tin lid?”

The water for our street came off the fell and into a concrete tank (beside our No 6 netty and ash pit) with a cast iron lid on it. The outlet to the tank was the single tap in the middle of the street from which everyone filled their pails which they then took back to stand in the cool of their pantries.

It was great fun prising this lid off the water tank and looking into its dark depths. We smaller kids were banned from this exercise and constantly reminded of how my brother Geoff and Billy Davidson were at this forbidden lark when Bill fell in! From that historic event he got the name of “Tanky” for years afterwards.

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