Going against my parents wishes was nothing strange to me, but the day I am about to describe where I did just that definitely set the course of my life.
I was born in Brunton Park, Wideopen, to Cynthia and Bert, a firm upbringing but nontheless loving. I mostly had a carefree childhood ’til my little brother came along when I was 4 and everything was my fault from then on! Then, for some strange reason, we moved to Jesmond and without realising it, that was the start of love and despair following the glorious Black and Whites.
Perhaps my parents fell on tougher times, I never found out or even asked the question. However we arrived at Clayton Park Square, just behind the Brandling Park. I’d settled into my new school, made some mates, and managed to get to seven years old without too many scrapes. As with most young tear-arses, I was up to all kinds when one Saturday morning, I was playing with all me new mates in the Exhibition Park who were all alot older than me because I was always very tall for my age, when they all decided it was time to “nick into the match”. Whats this aal aboot? I’d never even heard of “the match.”
Away we gans, through the exit and into Leazes Park, arriving at Leazes Terrace with about 30 mins to kick off. The queues were miles long and I had nee idea how this was going to work until I saw two of the lads crawl under the turnstiles and dissapear. I got in the queue and was about ten from the front when it dawned on me that being nearly 6ft tall at my age was a distinct disadvantage. Having written that, I’ve never lost a pugilistic confrontation, but I digress somewhat.
It was probably only about 2 bob in them days (10 pence) but the most I ever had was a threepenny bit. (God I feel old!). So with due consideration, I abandoned that one and was on my way towards the Leazes end in despair, when, I spotted a bunch of kids climbing all over a spanking brand new Morris 1000 Traveller with a roof rack on top. Every one was being pulled up over the wall so perhaps this was more me being so tall. The top of the motor was absolutely totalled but this was more important.
Not to be outdone by me mates, I took me turn. The row from inside the ground was rising to a crescendo, and, frantic not to miss owt, I made a last desperate leap. I was grabbed from above by the wrists and hauled over the wall, to be confronted by a police seargant with the brightest ginger hair I have ever seen to this day. The bollocking I recieved was,”not to leave it so late the next time”. Very strange looking back, but it shows that nothing should be a surprise with Newcastle United. A bloke lifted me up onto a barrier in the Leazes end, I was astounded to see so many people in one place, and the sight of that lush green turf for the first time was to live in my memory for such a long time. Nowt like the rec we kicked about on every neet with it’s craters and doggy dump.
Most of the day went by in a blur, but I do remember we were playing Preston N.E. and the score was 2-1. it was season 56-57, I’m not that sure, but the memory of that day burnt it’s way into a young lad’s mind that would never be changed or forgotten. So many people in working clothes, woodbines and flat caps and the like. I can’t remember who the players were even cos I’d never seen them before. It was my first game as a Toon Fan. Needless to say, my arse glowed in the dark for a number of days afterwards, and it was some time before I ventured up to the Cathedral on the hill again.
The damage had been done however. We got a black and white cat that Mam and Dad called “Badger” but I insisted on calling it “Maggy” instead. Everything in my life was black and white, as it still is today, so my indoctrination was complete. Over the many years that followed, the passion grows in the loins like the lust for a good (bad) woman and in the case of the Toon is even stronger, (well mebbies not).
When I got to 17 years old, I was working as an appprentice ships cabinet maker (sometimes known as a joiner) at Vickers Naval Yard. My life was good at this time apart from an illness to my mum who had suffered from the Big C since I can remember. One day, at about 2 in the afternoon, I was summoned to the Head Foreman’s office to be told that mam was gravely ill in the RVI, and I was driven to the hospital by the gaffer in double quick time. I should have known but this was my Mam, always there. I missed her passing by about 10 minutes, and found Dad in shreds.
A few days later I was working on a newly launched ship, when out of the blue my workmate, Kenny Greaves, offered me an envelope. Surprised, I opened it and found a season ticket for the North side centre paddock in the old stand, right behind Joe Harvey’s dugout. Kenny’s brother, Alan, had sent to work at Southampton and therefore the ticket was to go to a deserving cause, which I gratefully accepted! Every Saturday was a joy, not only for the football, but I was never more than 6ft away from the players as the came up the tunnel and we quite often swapped a bit of banter with Joe Harvey.
Little did I know…
Part 2 soon.