Monthly Archives: June 2016

Member feedback

We recently asked members who attend our talks for their views on how Heaton History Group is doing. In particular, we asked for suggestions for talks and visits, comments on the venue, your ideas to make  the AGM night more appealing, offers to help with research and comments on the website. To encourage everyone to take part, we even offered a prize* for one lucky respondent. Here is a brief summary of the feedback we received.

Corner House 1936

Corner House Hotel



We asked you which had been your favourites of the talks we put on last year. Almost every talk was someone’s favourite but the top three speakers were Les Turnbull, Yvonne Young and, favourite of all, Mike Greatbatch. We’ll endeavour to have them all back!

One member said:

‘Really enjoy the variety of speakers and topics. I appreciate all the work that others put into organising events so I can turn up and be informed and entertained. I look forward to Heaton history group evenings’

But you also gave us loads of suggestions for new topics and speakers. We have a crack team on the case, as we speak.


Most of the comments about our historic venue: The Corner House  were very positive. you especially liked its convenience – and the bar!

On the down side, the room temperature being hard to regulate; the sometimes iffy sightlines and the fact that the popularity of our talks means space is often at a premium.

We’ll talk to our hosts to see what can be improved but it seems like we’re  the victims of our own success and there appears to be no real appetite for change or a viable local alternative at the moment.

Visits and walks

You also said you’d enjoyed the visits and walks we’d put on this year and would like more. Again we have some good suggestions for the coming months.


Although everyone who had been said they’d enjoyed our members’ evening and AGM, which this year included a quiz and two shorter talks, we are aware that the numbers attending are smaller than for our other events. We think that’s a pity so we plan to try one of the suggestions that was made by a member: a free buffet as well as the quiz and mini-talks. The next one’s on Wednesday 23 November. Put the date in your diary now!


There was only positive feedback on our website. This was typical:

‘Hard to improve upon – modern feel, easy to navigate, likely to attract younger readership – keep up the good work – super regularly updated content’

That’s lovely to hear but we especially need your help to keep the content fresh and interesting.

Luckily three members volunteered to join our research team. We’ll be in touch with them individually so keep a look out for more great insights into Heaton’s history. (There’s always room for more volunteers though!)

To sum up

We haven’t included every comment here but please be assured that we have read every one and will bear them all in mind as we plan for the future.

But we were, of course, delighted that the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Here are two examples.

‘Very welcoming and entertaining. Appreciate too the efforts and organisation involved in provision of great programme’

 ‘I have nothing but praise for this exceptionally well-run history society’

The committee would like to thank everyone who completed the questionnaire. It’s a pleasure to work for such enthusiastic, committed and, above all, lovely membership. We’ll all endeavour to ensure that Heaton History Group goes from strength to strength.

PS *Ricky Jensen was the lucky winner of the aforementioned prize.

The ‘Happy Heatonians’ – Bob Colston’s Variety Entertainment Group

During WWI there were numerous groups of entertainers prepared to give their time freely and perform throughout the country to cheer up and boost the morale of soldiers at their camps and wounded soldiers in hospital.One such group was the ‘Happy Heatonians’ managed by Bob Colston, who lived at 127 Clifford Street, which was a 3 room flat in Byker. In 1917 Bob Colston (36), a postman, was living at home with his father, mother and sister.

It is not known when the ensemble was formed, but the first mention of Bob Colston performing as a comedian, was reported in the Daily Journal, Friday, 26 February 1915. This took place at the Collingwood Restaurant, Newcastle where the first annual dinner of the Scotswood Checkers of the Fuse and Shell Department at  Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd took place. About 80 members attended.

Members of the ‘Happy Heatonians’ mentioned in subsequent newspaper articles were as follows (Not all appeared at each venue and they were not necessarily from Heaton.):

Mr Bob Colston                       –           Organiser, Comedian and Mimic

Mrs G D Tetley                     –           Mandolin Duettist

Miss Cockburn                        –           Mandolin Duettist

Miss Peggy Lowrey                –           Banjo and Mandolin

Mrs T H Booth                      –           Banjo and Mandolin

Little Rita*                                 –           Juvenile Entertainer

Madam Laura Fraser              –         Entertainer at Piano

Miss Gerty Moskow **             –        Mezzo Soprano

Miss Lily Farrell                       –        Comedienne

Corporal Bob Maitland            –     Scotch Comedian

Mr Taylor Scorer                    –         Baritone

Miss Enid Carverhill                –     Comedienne

Miss Bella Angus                    –       Soprano

Mr J B Cavan                       –         Actor, Vocalist

Miss Lily Nicolson                   –     Accompanist

Miss G. Makon

Mr G W. Beautyman

*Rita May Barker of 20 Tenth Avenue, Heaton, the daughter of William, a commercial traveller (flour milling) and Sophia, seem to fit the bill. She would have been aged 13 in 1917.

**At first we thought this must be a stage name but it is her real name as recorded in the 1911 census. The was the daughter of Samuel Moskow, a watchmaker and jewellerand his wife Julia. they lived in Elswick with Gertie’s sister and brother, Lily and Abraham Jacob.In 1917, she would have been 19 years old.

Newspaper Reports and Venues

23 January 1917  –   North Shields YMCA – Variety concert to a crowded audience.

17 May1917  –   Newcastle Naval Hostel – Where 587 men lived

12 October 1917  –   Residents of Greystoke Avenue and Jesmond Vale arranged for a party of wounded soldiers to have tea and supper and be entertained by a programme of music performed by the ‘Happy Heatonians’.

27 October 1917  –   Blyth YMCA Hut – Where a crowded audience of soldiers were given a concert.

4 December 1917  –   Cambridge Hall, Northumberland Road – A fund raising concert for St John Ambulance, under the patronage of the Lord Mayor. Over 200 members of St John Ambulance are on active service.

29 January 1918   –  North Wylam, Holeyn Hall, home of Sir Charles Parsons, the inventor of the Steam Turbine and of Turbinia fame. During WWI his private residence became the 14th Northumberland VAD Hospital, where a variety concert was given for the wounded soldiers.

Charles Parsons

Charles Algernon Parsons

18 November 1918      Holeyn Hall – A concert, directed by Mr Bob Colston and arranged by Mrs Manning of Wylam, was given for the wounded soldiers.

12 December 1918      Holeyn Hall V.A.D. Hospital Saturday Night Entertainment Committee offered their thanks to friends who have kindly entertained the wounded soldiers during the year. Amongst them was Mr Bob Colston. Others with Heaton associations that maybe of interest were:

Heaton Juveniles Dramatic Entertainment run by Madam Kendall and Mr Alfred Braford;

Addison Wounded Soldiers Entertainment Committee, who on 10 occasions invited the soldiers to half day entertainments at Wylam Institute and also at Ryton and Newcastle;

Addison Branch of St John Ambulance Association;

Addison Male Voice Choir.

The last three would have been associated with the Addison Potter colliery and village, just west of Blaydon and named after Addison Potter, the owner of Heaton Hall and the colliery.

1 August.1919      West Moor – A second ‘welcome home’ was held in the West Moor Council Schools for the soldiers residing in the West Moor and Forest Hall districts, who enlisted from Burradon Colliery.

The above was the last reported performance of the ‘Happy Heatonians’, nine months after the Armistice took place.

It certainly seemed that during WWI (as now!), ‘Heaton had Talent’ in abundance and it was put to good use, entertaining wounded servicemen, munitions workers and helping with fund raising events, all under the direction of Bob Colston.

Note: We cannot find any evidence that Bob Colston was conscripted to fight in WWI. He does not appear in the Newcastle Absent Voters List to indicate that he was away on active service. Whether he was not fit enough to join up is unknown, but his occupation was given as postman in the 1911 Census. Being in his mid thirties he would not have been too old to join up and fight for King and Country.


Researched and written by Arthur Andrews, Heaton History Group.

Can you help?

If you have any more information about the Happy Heatonians or any of the members listed here, we’d love to hear them. Please either leave a message on this site by clicking on the link immediately below the title of this article or email