I was 10-year-old when I first went to the Durham Miners’ Gala. My Dad says to us, ‘John I’ll take you to Durham tomorrow’, that was on the Friday. Everybody in the village was on the hop, waiting for Durham Big Meeting. The band would come on a Friday night and play and then on the Saturday morning they would play all round the village, everybody walking behind the banner.
Well, we had to walk to Coxhoe, when we got to Coxhoe there was a chap with a pony and trap, a trap with about four people in. That was our conveyance to Durham. I don’t know what me Dad paid, maybe threepence or sixpence. Just me and me Dad. I remember the wonderful sight, there were hundreds of bands then and they all had banners. We used to look at all the banners coming in and all the shouting and waving. We went down the course, to the banners, there were shows and roundabouts, hundreds of them. Then we had to come back home. Oh yes, he took us to Durham Police Court and showed us round there. And when we come home we go in the little trap again, to Coxhoe. I got off at Coxhoe. My poor old Dad, he wasn’t a drunkard, he never drank in his life, he fancied a beer at Coxhoe. The Station pub. He said ‘come on, John, come in’, the lady behind the bar belonged Trimdon, in them days you know there was a biscuit and a bit of cheese for you. I got some biscuits and cheese, nowt to drink. Then we got the train from Coxhoe to Trimdon.
When we got to Trimdon we had to walk back to the Grange. I enjoyed it. I didn’t miss many Galas. The last time I went was round about when I finished at the pit. The bands came from different places, sometimes from Yorkshire. Trimdon Grange had a band at one time, before my time, they tried to make another one but it didn’t get on well.
Nationalisation had a big effect on the pit, it was a different pit altogether, it was good and bad. The safety standards were much better. A lot of men got good jobs, they didn’t have to do anything, we used to take no notice of them. It was terrible when they closed the pit down.
There are only seven pits in Durham and Northumberland now. At one time there was a pit in every village. It has changed the Gala, it’s not the Gala now. There’s only about six bands now. It’s sad. Trimdon Grange was never the same place one the pit closed down.
I LIVE ALONE
I Live alone dear Lord, Stay by my side, In all my daily needs, Be thou my Guide.
Grant me good health For that, indeed, I pray To carryon my work day by day.
Keep you on my mind In thought and every deed, And help me to be kind And helpful to my neighbour.
Spare me from fire, flood And malicious tongues, From thieves, fear, and evil ones.
And if sickness or accident befall, Then humbly Lord, hear thou my call.
When I’m sinking low and in despair, Lift up my heart, dear Lord, And help me in my prayer.
I live alone dear Lord, Yet, have no fear, Because your presence is ever near.
ON MY OWN
I used to play the tin-whistle. We’ve had three organs in the house, my sister used to play the organ, then a piano. One day I said to my mother I am going to buy a organ. So I bought a beautiful organ. And I am sorry to say I gave it away at the finish. It had 20 stops. I play by ear, all the old songs. ‘The Bird in a Guilded Cage’, Sweet Adeline’, I’ll be Your Sweetheart’. I played and a chap used to sing – Tommy Elliott, he can still SIng.
I’ve kept my faith, my religion throughout my life, I’ll keep my faith to the day I die. I went to Church for as long as I could. I have a lot offriends in Trimdon. I often think about my friends, a lot of them gone now. One of my mates, we used to go walking every night and I remember saying to myself that he was failing, I could tell he was failing, and we were coming through the Grange and I remember his last words he said to me. He said ‘John,’ I said ‘Aye, David,’ he says ‘We’ve been mates all these years, 40 years and never a wrong word, isn’t that a nice thing?’ And they were the last words he ever spoke to me, he went home and he had a stroke and I used to go down every day to try to get a word out of him. I still think about him. I have prayed all my life. I still have a lot of nice friends but I cannot get out to see them.
I stayed single, never married, I had the chance but my youngest sister wasn’t well and I promised to look after her, and I did. But she died poor soul when she was 45. I have been on my own 30 years.