I was born and brought up in the North East of England in small mining village south west of Durham city. For those of you who like maps – here is the location
Set amongst rural farms and not far from the coast – the place and the community is very much a part of me. Not my home – but part of where I belong and have travelled from. It is a great part of the world – friendly folks who know how to tell a tale and look after one another.
I travelled up,last Thursday, to catch up with my parents and especially Dad who has been in hospital. It was good to see my sisters and brother and pass on my American presents – which seem to have been appreciated! My nephews loved the Chicago baseball caps! I was glad to see them all after such a long break. My parents have an extraordinary capacity to cope with age and vulnerability with grace and humour.
The A1 is a long road very familiar to me. I know the towns and landmarks. I have charted the upgrade of the road into sections of motorways and notice the new buildings and old ones that have been demolished! The familiar offers some security.
I love the last stretch of the road beyond Darlington where the Durham countryside opens up – clusters of trees and the main railway line bringing its fast trains to the north East and beyond to Scotland. Then beyond the hill Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor and Bowburn – all nearby towns to this small village of not many more than 2 000 folks.
All the mines are now closed and the site of Kelloe Colliery has now been landscaped with European cash. This is a community and workforce that has endured change and the decimation of and industry that became so deeply embedded into families and their way of life. It was the pit and my fathers work that shaped many of my childhood memories. I do not think that you can under estimate the sheer struggle of this way of life. Hard dirty and dangerous work and for many years poorly paid.
The story of English coal is a controversial one – and it is bound up with the story of my family and this community. Part of the roots that go so deep and shape perspective and character.
A small fragment of the story. More to follow. I am grateful for this Village and its lessons for life. What about your roots?