Memories of Childhood in Craster

Joyce Shaw
I've heard from Eva Archbold, she went to Dunstan School, and she said they got a visit from the Vicar every week but they also got visits from Mrs.Craster, that was the Squire's mother and she would come and they all had to stand up and curtsey.

Adam Dawson
We used to walk to Dunstan. There was nothing else, so we used to walk it. Now on very bad days, we used to get some very rough weather, our mother used to bring us our dinners up to school. We used to have all sorts at school, we didn't miss nothing, we used to have May Day we used to dance around the May pole with all the ribbons -we were all dressed up in whites and different sorts of ribbons on, it was lovely. There was a piece of land outside our school, a good bit of land, and it was common land. Now the gypsies could come and stay on that land for a few hours, but they had to go at a certain time, cos we used to use the common for football and May poles all those sorts of sports.

If you were clever at school, you used to go to Dukes School in Alnwick, it was a high school, much higher, something like a grammar school in them days. Yes we had some clever lads and girls, and some went to Dukes school, and there was a Duchess school for the girls. The old Squire, I don't mean John, Sir John, I mean his father - he used to come to the school to see if everything was going alright.

Geordie Grey
I don't think life was that hard when I was young, we hadn't as many facilities as what you have today. When I went to school, you had to go to Dunstan to school and come back for your dinner and go back for 1 o'clock, there were no buses, you walked. Some were lucky and had a bike - that was a grand affair, if you had a bike. You were brought up that way and didn't know anything else.

Willie Mitford
I went to school in Dunstan - no canteens in those days. You had to walk up and down at lunch time. If the hounds were out, we used to go away with them and get into school late and we used to get the stick about six times on your backside, and if you laughed you maybe got another stick. We still thought a lot of the schoolteacher, he had quite a life with us all, 'cause he had ulcers and now that I have ulcers, I wonder what sort of life he had. He took about four classes, there were just two teachers and 60 or 70 going to school. There was the little room and then he went into the big room, where there about four different classes. We used to say we went to the High School 'cause it was up the hill. I was at school till I was fourteen.

Dougie Hogg
Me and Dennis went to school together and we were always in trouble. I remember going up there, just before Guy Fawkes and we threw bangers at the teacher. We got into some trouble over that - got the cane in those days, got about six at that time. Me and him were always in trouble, like. When we were younger we used to play a lot in the quarry - there was a big pond there, and we used to get metal roofing sheets and gan down the crusher dust - dangerous but never hurt ourselves badly.

We used to go along the Castle field and all over, build tree houses and things like that. The tree houses were handy because some mornings we didn't get to school and we'd hide in them. We really slipped up one day, me and my mate, Bob McLaren, we got up ready for the school, this was Seahouses school, and we went for the bus and then we run past the bus and hid up this tree house and we stopped there till about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and had no trouble 'cause nobody had missed wer. We were sitting up in this tree-house, cooking something and this policeman come along, 'cause somebody had pinched some chain from the North Side, and we got into trouble then. Policeman said we'd better get away home - asked if we were off school. We said we were 'bad'. We got into trouble then, got a clip along the lug and put to bed. Dad wasn't ower bad.

Winnie Hogg
There were about 50 in the school and still just two teachers, Mr. Blackburn and Miss Barber. There were no school dinners -we came home every day, unless it was thick of snow and we would take sandwiches. We got horlicks in the winter and milk in the summer. There was a big stove and unless you were around it, you were frozen. You wore lots of jumpers and woollen stockings and things in the winter. We had wellingtons, mackintoshes and so'westers. We were never off school.

Children's play, jobs and duties

Willie Mitford
We used to play cowboys and Indians up the lonnen. In the summertime we all had boats and we used to go along the coast towards the Castle. We would spend all day sailing them in the pools. We were always in trouble because we didn't come back for our meals, nobody played around the doors in those days- We used to swim at the Hole in the Dyke over to Muckle Carr and along at the big hill towards the Castle. We never swam off the sand, we always swam from the rocks.

Marjorie Lumsden / Winnie Hogg
I can remember playing on a see saw on the Heugh, when there were long planks, and we used to put them on a barrel. The Heugh was all rough grass, we used to play on it. We found lots of places to play, we were never off the rocks - they don't seem to play on the rocks like we used to - you don't get the weather that we used to. We used to go in swimming when it was raining, during the summer holidays. We used to play on the big hill, there was like a proper round swimming pool, when the tide went out, you could jump in. We didn't swim in the harbour.

When I was very young, my mother was working at the kipper yard, so you had to be there to come back for your meals. Winnie's mother bought her a watch for a birthday, so she knew when to come back in time for dinner, 'cause she wouldn't know where to look for the children.

Willie Mitford
They took the bins down during the war, they thought it was a guide for enemy planes, but in fact, they could be guided by the Castle. I think it was due to come down anyway, it was a wood construction. We used to climb up it when we were young. We used to get into trouble. I was always in trouble for something. We used to have a little boat, we called 'the punt 'which was my uncle's, who owned the kipper yard, he used it for ferrying the herring ashore when the drifters came and couldn't get into the harbour because they were too big. We used to play in that and I was always in trouble for being away in it. They didn't mind so much if we stayed in the harbour but if we went out, we got wrong. My father was against it cause he didn't like the thing, he was never brought up at the sea. My mother didn't mind so much as she had been brought up at the sea. We used to go as far as the Castle and we would have to row back.

We used to play in the Castle, climb the walls, nobody looked after it when we were small, then they had a man from Embleton with one arm, he looked after it for a long time. It was probably dangerous but now if you see a kiddy running along the wall of the harbour you would have a heart attack but you did it yourself and thought nothing of it. The same with the wood on the edge, we used to run along that, you're sure-footed when you're young and have no fear.

Marjorie Lumsden
There used to be a division along each field. We used to go and skate up there, the girl who was the best skater in the district was Bella Mary's sister, Rachel. The water was just inside the Heugh, it really filled up. My father used to go mad when we went there in case the ice cracked. We used to take the brush up and brush the ice before skating.

Willie Archbold
My job, as soon as I come out of school and the other kids, we had to make a jug of tea and maybe a few biscuits and tek them over to the line hut 'cause it was away from our house, away on the North Side and they would get a mug of tea at the line, 'cause they daren't go away for a full meal 'cause the lines had to be done, so they just a quick bite and they would get their meal when they had finished. I used to have to empty the mussel shells into the harbour. The harbour was full of mussel shells. The boats used to crush them down and it made a grand place there. Of course now they're all washed away.

Joyce Shaw
My grandfather was a fisherman and I can remember my granny telling me - we used to play Ludo in the evenings and I used ask her things about what my dad did as a little boy - she said that when my grandfather was at the sea, (my dad) had to go away in the morning before he went to Dunstan school, with two zinc buckets and he used to have to go to the limpets, get the limpets off the rocks, they were for baiting the lines, and she told me that sometimes in the winter, he was so cold that he couldn't put the buckets down - the handles were fast to his fingers and she used to have to lift them -that was before he went to school.

Adam Dawson
Summer holiday we used to go and make Craster kipper boxes for pin money. We used to do OK. The wood used to come already cut and we just had to nail them up. There were large boxes, half boxes and quarter boxes, for the kippers to go in. That's how the kippers were sold, in these boxes. They had paper wrapped round inside, they were quite clean. They went to the markets to be sold, Newcastle, Alnwick and different markets.

Marjorie Lumsden / Ada Archbold
I wanted a new bike and pestered my mother until 1 got one. It was £7. 1s. with a pump. He charged me for the pump. I said to Edna to bike in to Alnwick and I would go on the bus, get the bike and we would ride out together, so my mother gave me the money. I went to the shop, pleased as punch, getting a new bike. Me and her sets off riding and gets down the Aln Bridge - we were seeing how far we could climb without getting off and I went smack into her back wheel and knocked two spokes out of the new bike. I didn't know what to do, so I told Edna to bike to Craster and I would go back to the shop to see if he would put the spokes in. He said 'that didn't last long'. He hadn't time to do it that day, he was busy and he said he would have it ready for Monday teatime. He said it would cost 2s to repair. I came back on the bus and I was thinking of an excuse to tell me mother, so I decided to say, it was in the shop window and there were other bikes behind it and he had no help and he couldn't get the bike out till Monday. I went back on the Monday and got it and she never knew.

Mrs Richardson - through the field - Bella Mary, showed me a picture, "cause it was her granny that lived in that house -that garden where that house is was like a field - there was no Joiners' Shop. My Dad told me that she was as deaf as a stone and he said that she had a muckle trumpet in her ear and he says that when they were kids they used to go to the house and would speak to her and she would hold the trumpet that they used to yell as hard as they could down the trumpet and she used the jump. Every New Years' day you got a penny and at Easter you got a hen's egg and nobody ever went twice, it was never abused.

Joyce Shaw
I was born in 1928 and after that, we came to Craster every other weekend until he (my father) died in 1935, aged 39. So my memories (of Craster) way back, were the memories of a child. I always loved Craster and my mother told me that when it came time on a Sunday night to go back to Low Fell, I never wanted to go, I wanted to stop here. I never thought I would come here to live, not in a working life - in retirement perhaps. My grandmother lived until I was 21 and she died in 1950, so I came to Craster over all those years very regularly, including holidays. The War came in that time and of course you couldn't go away for holidays, so I always came here and spent nearly all my school holidays here.

A typical day- when I was here - I loved going on the rocks and we went quite a lot to the Chantey Hole and the harbour. My granny would say to me, when I was 12, 13'ish, she would give me a basket and say 'Hadaway and get some black sticks'. They were black because when they burnt the whin bushes on the hills, what was left were very brittle sticks which were marvelous for lighting the fire. As you can imagine, you got absolutely filthy and I really hated that job, but never mind I did it. The fisherman burnt the gorse bushes to clean them out, so that they didn't get too big.

Willie Mitford
All the villages had what they called a Feast, the children ran in races and there was a big greasy pole to climb, with a ham or something at the top and whoever got to the top got it There used to be few sideshows and they used to park alongside the wall beside the pub. Easter time we used to go round the farms collecting eggs and we had to be at the Tower at 11 o'clock and we went down and knocked at the door and Mrs Craster would come out and give us all a new penny, we used to stand for hours waiting for it.

Adam Dawson
Craster Feast - my mother used to make a spiced loaf. Now that was a fruit cake, a rice cake was a plain cake and scones, girdle scones. Craster feast always came on the Bank Holiday Monday in May. Every house in Craster was painted inside and outside, for the Craster feast and the peg rugs used to come out that day. It was sparkling and clean, looked gorgeous. Now my father used to buy a ham, a whole ham, and my mam used to boil it for the relations at Boulmer, cos they used to come on the Sunday. Craster feast was a day of sports - that was on the Monday. Even the fishermen used to race their cobles and there was plenty of talent in Craster. They used to make small boats to sail in the harbour for racing. It was all racing, it was good. Also there was a pigeon race, I couldn't forget that. We also had a holiday, it was an annual holiday. We also had one on the Tuesday for the older men, they used to bring kites. There was also a greasy pole, with a ham on top, and it was fun trying to get that ham off the top of the pole. There used to be a colliery band come, and they used to play at night in the Reading Room, dances and all that. It used to be a sort of a carnival. It was great.

Once a year, when it was nice weather, we used to go to Craster Towers. We used to have strawberries, tea and cakes. It was good. It was the old squire. Where they used to get the water from, there was a windmill in a field not far away from the Towers. It was pumped up, and we used to call it Windmill field, and it's still there. The day at the Towers was held on the lawns, and sometimes there used to be sports, running for the kiddies. It was good for us. Old Mrs Craster was very nice, a very nice person indeed. She used to mix with us all the time.

Every New Year we used to go to Newcastle - we had a cousin who used to organise this trip. It was a very good trip. We use to go to Newcastle in a bus, go to the football match first, then go to a restaurant, Carricks, to have a good feed. After that we used to go to a pantomime. That was the day's outing. We used to get back about midnight.

(Sources: Ada Archbold , Willie Archbold , Adam Dawson, Geordie Grey, Winnie Hogg, Dougie Hogg, Marjorie Lumsdon, Willie Mitford , Joyce Shaw, Edwina Simpson?, Gladys Simpson, Meggie Wilson)

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