middens. Why, aye, you used to have to walk over the road and they were earth middens. They used to come and empty them out.'

And there was a smell?

'Umm! Serious! Flies? Why aye!'

Name your brothers and sisters.

'There was our Nora, our Margaret, Hubert, me, our Leo, our Katie and our Gene. But we had to move out of that house, there only two bedrooms, I think, and he got the top house in School Square.'

Near where my mother lived?

'We lived in 43 and your mother lived in 41. But that was later on. They moved out of Park Street. Why, they were only single storeys, like a bungalow--but the bedrooms were in the loft, they used to put curtains up and make bedrooms of them, separate bedrooms if there was a mixed family.'

And your father was stern?

'Oh, aye. Yeah, we used to get some bloody stick off him! For nowt, many a time. I used to get the blame of bloody things. Some bugger's put a window out somewhere and I used to get the bloody blame of the bugger. Used to get a bloody good hiding! I used to have to go to church at half past seven on a morning. Every day. For months.'

The whole family?

'No, sometimes they used to go, but I used to have to go. I was on the altar. He got us on the altar. Why, I don't know.'

Who with?

'There was about six of us. John Regan, Joe Regan. I used to go up to Regan's house around the North and learn the Latin.'

The housing estate at Thornlaw North. The North was already built then?

'That would be built in the 1920s. I can remember when they built that, we were only young 'uns.'

And your father was a devout Catholic ever since you can remember?

'Oh, aye.' And your mother's family?

'They were all renegades, the Dempseys! My uncle Tom and my Uncle Bill, they were twins--they didn't look like each other but they were. My uncle Paddy and my uncle John: that was the four and my mother and my aunt Katie--she used to live at Ferry Hill, she was another daughter. I think there was another one as well, but I can't remember. My uncle Tom worked on the council, he was a labourer, a navvy. My uncle Paddy and my uncle Bill they worked at the pit.'

At Thornley?

'Umm. And my uncle John worked on the council, he was a bricklayer, maintenance. Used to go round doing repairs.

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Hubert Tunney was involved with the Durham Miners Association and Thornley Parish Council for many years before and between the wars. This agreement on new electric lighting powered by the colliery’s generator is taken from a small ‘cavilling’ book of rules and regulations for the pit. Click the image to enlarge it. Courtesy of Fred Bromilow.