A RAILWAY WAGONWRIGHT - AND A MAG
By Brian Hall
Thursday 28 Jun 2012 13:34:00
Browse all Brian Hall articles
 

 

 

Andrew was born right next the pit, in 1916, a time when many of his family were on holiday. At the Somme and Passchendale. Some never came hyem, others did - in shell shock.

 

 He lost his Dad when he was 9. He found work after school, aged 14, in a trade as a wagonwright apprentice, and got a reputation as a man who could sort out a steam tankie, or a truck, to carry the Black Diamond, King Coal, away from that pit. He was immediately called into the docks during the outbreak of World War Two, after being told that he could not join the fight against the Nazis. He was to get under those rail trucks, whilst many of his circle and future in-laws were asked to do other jobs - as Paras, Desert Rats, and so on..

 

 His best mate, in one of those 18 hour War shifts, told him to take a break - it was his best mate's turn for that break, but the latter thought Andrew, his marra, was looking exhausted. His friend was then hit directly by a Luftwaffe bombing raid, as Andrew took that cuppa. He always regretted that he should have been at that truck, not his mate.

 

After the war, he continued his graft for King Coal, the Black Diamond, now nationalised. The National Coal Board, it was called. NCB.  He became a key foreman, and then threw it all away, pension, coal allowance, etc, in the late 60s, after a clash with management. He refused to buckle on some order from them, and a few, but only a few , had backed him - a natural rebel, I suppose.

 

He was then poached, head-hunted in our modern jargon, to work for Esso at Percy Main, North Shields, on the Big River. Skilful wagonwrights were valuable commodities in those days.

 

Throughout his life though, he had a troubled soul. Unsurprising really.  He relieved it, or thought he did, by heavy drinking, gambling, and fighting anybody who provoked him. But he always remained a hard grafter, as they say in Geordieland, and respected for it. Less respected was the fear he could cause in people who ever crossed him. 

 

 In the mid-70s, he had a massive nervous breakdown, which changed him completely. The rebel, in all his anger, was gone.

 

 He retired by the early 80s, but had no time to enjoy his release from the world of graft and his previous inner turmoil. He died within 2 years, as his body collapsed, accompanied by dementia, or Alzeiheimers' Disease, whichever you prefer.

 

. He passed away during the Miners Strike of 84, having predicted the defeat at the hands of Thatcher. One of his sons was on strike. Another son shared a room with him in those last months, when Andrew used to awake at 4 in the morning, or whatever time, asking when the next shift started. That other son would say to him - it is a holiday, man, and the Dad would gan back to sleep. For a bit. 

 

The other son was me. Andrew was my Dad. Years later, despite his troubles which impacted upon his family, that son respects him. And understands him.

 

 

Brian                                      - one of his legacies was simple. He told me to support NUFC! And I did!!



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