Born: 12 October 1929, Trimdon Colliery
Compiled by John Robinson April 2014
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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The following story was written a few years ago by my sister-in- law Doris Robinson (nee Morgan). It narrates her early life in the Trimdon area up to the age of sixteen, at which time she was living with her family in Hartlepool.

Her father Albert married Doris Oliver in 1922, they had one child Bernard in 1923, Doris died in 1925. Albert then married

Irene Oliver (Doris’s sister) in 1927 they had two children:

Ronald, 1927 and Doris, 1929. Irene died in 1934 when daughter Doris was 4½ years old. One year later, Albert married Hannah Harriman.

Doris Morgan was born in Tank Street, Trimdon Colliery. She attended infant school in Trimdon Grange until age of 7, then, Trimdon Colliery to age of 10. The family moved to Fishburn, Doris left Fishburn school at fourteen and started work in the pit canteen . She met Jim Robinson in the pit canteen and married him in 1948 after working as a ladies maid in Hartlepool and as a Land Girl at Lobley Hill, Dunstan.

Jim worked as an underground mechanic at Fishburn, Trimdon Grange and Easington Collieries. They lived in Trimdon Village until the mine closures. Jim accepted a retirement package from the N.C.B. in the late 1970’s and moved to Hartlepool where they opened a nursery school.

At the time of writing this introduction, Jim and Doris now in their late 80’s, still living in Hartlepool.

In 2013, I wrote a brief history of our Robinson family which includes more information on both Jim and Doris.

John Robinson, 10 April 2014.


A few years ago I took my granddaughter Ruth to Durham City. On our way there we passed through the Trimdons. I pointed out to her the spot where the little house in which I was born once stood in Tank Street, Trimdon Colliery.

Also the small school in Trimdon Grange where I began my education.

“That’s a school Grandy! It’s just like a grey brick house”

She was attending quite a large modern Private School in Bromsgrove and accustomed to the privileges that this can give.

“Yes I spent three and a half years at that little school”

It was a dull day and the smoke from the chimneys hung heavy in the air.

“Did you like it?”

“I didn’t mind, it was all I knew. Besides I had no other choice”.

I was part of a society struggling to survive the years of The Great Depression in the early thirties.

“It’s smoky, isn’t it?” she uttered through her cough.

“Yes, smoke free zones have not arrived here yet and it’s heavy today because of the mist, but it’s still not as bad as it used to be”.

The pit and the pit heaps were gone, and grass and trees were now planted in their place.

As I was explaining to my granddaughter what a pit heap was my thoughts took me back to my first day at that little school so long ago.


I stood looking up at the morning sunlight streaming through the tall windows, the teacher’s huge desk towering above me. The other children all in their shiny topped wooden desks fixed together in twos, with iron legs in rows, they chattered and giggled as they heard the teacher coming.

“Who are you?” the teacher asked me

“My name is Doris May Oliver Morgan. Please Miss I have come to start school.”

“And how old are you?”

“I’m four and a half Miss; but I can write my name and address.”

A peal of laughter rang out from the class and one little boy shouted

“You have to be five you have to be five”.

“Hush” said the teacher to the class.

“Where is your mother?”

“I don’t know Miss, I haven’t seen her for a long time, I think she is in hospital somewhere”

Complete silence fell upon the class and the teacher Miss Johnson beckoned me to come closer and whispered

“Don’t worry.”

“Well then we will have to find you a seat somewhere” she said in a very loud voice.

Not a murmur came from the children as they looked on inquisitively. Miss Johnson had already been informed that I was to be allowed to start school early due to my circumstances at home. My mammy was in a sanatorium at Sunderland with the dreaded T.B.

It was April in the year 1934, in the small community of Trimdon Colliery in the heart of the Durham coalfields during the time of the Great Depression, when people stuck together sharing what they could. The women did their washing together in the communal wash house and after a hard day’s work made broth for as many as possible in the big wash boilers. The people hurried to and fro with enamel cans to carry the broth home for tea. The vegetables were grown in the allotments by the menfolk, many of whom had trekked miles looking for work.

There was no social security in those days, people had to suffer the degradation of what was called “The Means Test”. Those who passed this test, that is to say had no obvious means of making ends meet, were given vouchers worth various amounts to be cashed at the local shops. Mostly they were given the broken biscuits, the bashed tins, the burst packets, the bruised fruit, the bacon scraps and mouldy cheese which had to be scraped. They were given the food tickets so that they could only be exchanged for food and not tobacco or cigarettes.

Men would do any little job to earn a crust, even putting in the coals of the miners who were in work, receiving some of the coal as payment for doing so. They at least would have a fire in the grate. This coal was an allowance from the coal company made to each man who worked for them. It was delivered by horse and cart and tipped in the road outside the house. The amount of coal given depended on the size of the family, if there were more than three children in the household then the allowance was 12cwt every two weeks. If there were less than this the allowance was 12cwt. every three weeks. This coal was unscreened and often had a lot of stones amongst it which had to be sorted as the coal was filled into pails to be carried down the path into the coal-house. The result of this was that there was always heaps of stones in the streets which the children played with much to the annoyance of their mothers. The council refuse cart came around every week but only came infrequently to clear the stones away so that by the time they did they were scattered about everywhere.

The next few months went quite well for me, I was a happy child and got on well with the other children.

One day Miss Johnson asked “Who taught you to write?”

“My brother” I said.

“Our Ron, not our Bernard, my oldest brother, he is too big to be bothered with me.”

Bernard was a nice lad really, twelve years old and rather shy with shining dark hair and large brown eyes.

One day I reflected on my first day at school when I had walked the one and a half miles over the pit heaps to make the distance shorter. I was only accompanied by my brother Ron, who reminded me not to forget to say

“Please Miss” when speaking to the teacher.

He had left me at the gate to hurry on further up the road to his own school. I felt quite happy. We made this trek each morning and back in the evening taking sandwiches for lunch. My brother and I were very close and did most things together.

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