Monthly Archives: August 2013

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch’s Twelve Days of Christmas

The days immediately following Christmas 1906 were bleak across much of Britain, with heavy falls of snow, icy temperatures, strong winds, even thunder and lightning. Much to the disappointment of North East football fans, the Tyne-Wear derby due to be played at Roker Park on Saturday 29th December, was postponed.

Holiday fixtures

Newcastle United’s Colin Veitch could be forgiven for secretly welcoming the enforced rest. Footballers in those days faced a punishing schedule over the festive period that would make today’s superstars blanch. In the previous week Newcastle had already played three matches. The derby was due to be their fourth in eight days, all away from home, at a time before luxury travel, pristine pitches or squad rotation.

The previous Saturday, 22nd December. Newcastle had played and beaten Manchester United at United’s Bank Street ground. Colin had scored a penalty in a 3-1 victory. Veitch’s defensive performance in shackling United’s best player, Menzies, was singled out for particular praise in the press.

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch

Perhaps the game took a lot out of the Tynesiders because three days later, on Christmas Day, Newcastle travelled to Blackburn where an almost unchanged team (just one of the full backs being replaced) suffered their heaviest defeat of the season, 4-0 in front of a big holiday crowd of 35,000.

And the unrelenting schedule continued the following day, Boxing Day. Snow was already carpeting much of the country but players and fans, not to mention train companies, were clearly made of stern stuff back then and United fulfilled their fixture at Stoke City. There were just two further team changes and Colin played his third game of the week in a 2-1 United victory. The win left the Magpies just two points behind Everton at the top of the league.

New home

Newcastle will have had a long and difficult journey home and, had it not been for the weather, would have played their fourth away game in eight days the next Saturday. Colin Veitch and his wife, Minnie, had recently moved into a new house at 1 Stratford Villas, Heaton, where on September 25th Colin’s achievements as a footballer, an actor and a politician will be recognised when the Lord Mayor of Newcastle unveils a commemorative plaque.

We’ve chosen to highlight this period of Colin’s football career because, when carrying out work on their home, the current owners of the Veitches’ former house, found a copy of the Evening Chronicle dated 29th December 1906 under the floor boards. It doesn’t take too much imagination to guess that instead of sitting with his feet up on his unexpected rest day, Colin had instead found himself crouched under the floor mending a burst pipe. His day would get even worse, championship rivals Everton beat Middlesbrough 5-1.

Colin Veitch

Colin Veitch

But Colin and the team soon got back to work. Just two days later on New Years Day 1907, they at last played a home game. A football-starved Newcastle crowd of 30,000 cheered the team to a 2-0 win on an what was by all accounts a quagmire of a pitch. Colin and most of the Newcastle team played their fourth match in eleven days but, luckily for them, it was their opponents Derby County’s fifth! Not to be outdone though, Newcastle played a friendly the following day against Corinthians and won 3-0.

Champions again

United lost to Everton later in the month but showed much greater resilience than their rivals over the second half of the season. They won three matches in four days over Easter and on 7 April, when Blackburn beat Everton, the Geordies were confirmed as champions for the second time in three years.

This was undoubtedly the Magpies’ golden era: in the eight years between 1904 and 1912, they won the league three times and played in five FA Cup Finals, albeit winning only once.

Not only did Colin Veitch play a leading role in the football team’s success, he was also, in 1907, a founder member of the players’ union and in 1911, a co-founder and leading actor (and composer) of the People’s Theatre. In his spare time, he also wrote for the Evening Chronicle!

Special day

Come to our talk at the Corner House, Heaton on Wednesday 25 September to find out more about Colin Veitch, his part in the history of Newcastle United, the PFA and the People’s Theatre – and what his story tells us about the Edwardian era and life in Newcastle and Heaton at that time. Booking is essential as a capacity crowd is expected! Contact maria@heatonhistorygroup.org/ 0191 215 0821 / 07763 985656 to book a place.

The plaque, which will be unveiled earlier in the day, has been made possible by Newcaste City Council, the PFA and private individuals. We’re delighted that we’ll be joined at both events by members of Colin’s family, who are delighted that his achievements are being recognised by the city.

Life and Wartime on Heaton Hall Estate

Heaton History Group member, Keith Fisher, is a keen local and family historian. Here is his account of his grandparents’ move to the Heaton Hall Estate in the 1930s and their wartime experiences:

My Grandad Fisher’s Mother and Grandmother, stalwart refugees from Aberdeen, had lived over their drapery, millinery and hosier’s shop – Carrol & Co – down at the bottom of Raby Street until 1920 when they moved into a flat on Eighth Avenue [#75]. Apart from working in the family shop, my Grandad also played violin and piano in the orchestra at the Heaton Electric dances which is where he met my Gran and they also went to live in Eighth Avenue after getting married [#73]. That’s where my Father was born in 1930; it was also where his younger brother was born, although he was still in the cradle when, in 1933, the Mother and Grandmother – whose business was doing very well – decided to buy a pair of flats on the forthcoming prestigious Heaton Hall Estate.

William Hall & Son of Low Fell were about to turn the Potter estate into what we know today and the flats at 20/22 Tintern Crescent were sold to us for £330.00. They were only ever sold as up and down pairs; in fact, that protocol remained in place until 1984 when #20 – which was then my flat – was sold independent of #22 after a great deal of head-scratching and pencil chewing by our solicitor considering who owned what front garden, who owned the shed, the coal-houses, the driveway down the side etc, etc, etc.

Google image of the estate showing the former position of Heaton Hall and other features (by Keith Fisher)

Google image of the estate showing the former position of Heaton Hall and other features (by Keith Fisher)

Anyway, back to Mother and Grandmother McPherson: they – along with my Grandparents – were convinced at the time of purchase that they would enjoy an unobstructed view across Tintern, out over the park and way beyond to the setting sun. It would have been a good deal less convincing if they had bothered to check the site plans, because not only was it Billy Hall’s intention to build on the opposite side but they had actually all been sold in advance before the end of 1932. My family had already moved-in when they discovered that construction was beginning on the top of the bank (overlooking Shaftsbury) and by then, of course, it was too late. It had seemed inconceivable that a row of houses could be secured on such a precipitous incline; and, in fact, only a few years after construction, two weeks’ worth of concrete was poured into the existing retaining wall in the hope of stopping the almost immediate slippage. Needless to say, it was unsuccessful and they continue to slide down the hill to such an extent that you can’t raise a mortgage on those properties and they must change hands on a cash basis.

By the time the war had started, my family had opened another shop at 108 Heaton Road (the opposite end of the block to Clough’s bar one) so my grandmother could run it and be close-by for her boys who were studying at Chilly Road School.

Because they were not short of a bob-or-two, my Grandparents had a rather sophisticated air-raid shelter constructed in the back-garden – by the same workers who had demolished Heaton Hall and built the new estate as it happens. Sophisticated by Anderson Shelter standards anyway: they dug a 10 foot deep and 8 by 6 foot hole which was lined with six inches of concrete; accessed by stairs past a blast-wall and covered over with 12 inches of reinforced concrete which was further protected by heaping up all the soil they had previously dug out. My Grandfather had money and he was using every penny necessary to protect his wife and kids. They put bunk beds in there, a fireside chair, an electric fire and a light. Luxury! Apart from the rain coming down the stairs of course; sandbagging was all they could do about that.

Friday 25th April 1941, the night of the Guildford Place/Cheltenham Terrace tragedy, my Grandmother stopped briefly at the top of the steps into the shelter because she heard a curious flap, flap, flap sound in the sky that she had never heard before. It was the parachute bringing down the ‘land-mine’. The explosion cracked the back wall of the house behind us (at 87 Heaton Road) from top corner to door lintel and it remained that way because the landlord wouldn’t repair it; I suspect the house was prone to subsidence because it was built on the site of a large tree from the old estate; I further suspect it is still cracked.

When my Grandfather (both he and Mr Clough had been on duty with the Auxiliary Fire Service that night) went to open his Heaton Road business the following morning he found a back-boiler, still glowing red-hot, in the rear of his shop – blown there from Guildford Place by the land-mine. He was subsequently told by neighbours that eight people had been found dead – totally unmarked and still sitting upright – in an air-raid shelter behind Clough’s: their heart’s stopped by the blast of the bomb. This fact was never reported publically and even today doesn’t appear in any of the official accounts of the incident; probably because of the adverse influence it could have had on people using shelters.

In the August of 1945 they brought in the workers again and broke up the roof of our shelter – it took them a week – then dumped the concrete and the soil into the hole, leaving the steps, the walls and the floor intact. My Grandfather built a large garden shed over the site that was subsequently replaced by my Father with the existing version in 1989; so the presence of the walls and stairs and floor of the shelter will remain a buried secret for eternity I suspect. Not exactly Tutankhamen’s tomb of course, but never mind: there’s so much undiscovered history on the site of Heaton Hall estate that it can just be added to the list.

If you would like to contribute to the Heaton History Group website, please contact Chris Jackson

Working at the Wills Factory

The Wills Building was voted Heaton’s second favourite building in our recent poll. It’s now a smart, residential apartment block but until the 1980s housed a cigarette factory. We’ve interviewed two former workers to get a feel for what it was like to work there:

Olga Jackson (born 1935) initially worked in retail at C&A in the centre of Newcastle but her love of Newcastle United forced her into an early change of job where she didn’t have to work on Saturdays. Here she describes the amazing social life at Wills and the inauspicious circumstances under which she met her future husband:

This photograph shows the stage in the dining room where Olga’s drama group put on plays:

Wills Factory stage in the canteen

Wills Factory stage in the canteen

Thank you to John Moreels of Photo Memories Organisation for permission to use this photograph from the Ward Philipson collection.

Next Olga describes how cigarettes were made.

Although Laura Young (born 1936) was born in Heaton at 7 Sackville Road, her family moved to the West End when she was a small child. Her father, grandfather and cousins all worked at the John Sinclair tobacco factory on Bath Lane. She joined them when she left school but when that factory closed in 1953, she, along with many other John Sinclair workers, went to work at Wills. Here she describes how finding an alternative to the long bus journey home led to her meeting her husband.

This photograph of the outside of the building is reproduced by kind permission of the Amber Films and Photographic Collective:

Wills Factory Exterior

Wills Factory Exterior

You can see more photographs of the Wills Factory, taken by Isabella Jedrzejczyk just before it closed in 1986. here.

Olga has a collection of Wills memorabilia which she hopes to bring to the Heaton History Group members’ night in November.

Many thanks to both Olga and Laura for giving up their time to be interviewed and for giving us permission to use extracts here and in any future publication and to deposit the full recording in a local museum. If you or anyone you know would be willing to talk to Heaton History group about your memories of Heaton including schooldays and play, work and leisure or living through World War 2, please get in touch with Chris Jackson – chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org. We’d love to collect more memories.