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Two Rooms And A View: 69 - Football Plus

Robert Owen finds out that there is more to life in the Boys Brigade besides football and cricket.

One very sad incident comes to mind from those days. We had a lightweight, very athletic and good-natured goal keeper by the name of Andrew Powell. He was very concerned about his weight and told everyone that when he left school, he was going to train to be a jockey.

True enough, in the summer of 1948 he left the Company to join some racing stables near Oxford. A few months later in mid-October, we were all very saddened to hear that Andrew had died. We all thought it was a riding accident but later found out he had died of an illness and that was the reason he was so thin and lightweight. His funeral at St Andrew's Church was attended by many members of his former Company.

Looking back, perhaps the 8th (Laygate Baptist) was the best all-round Company in the Battalion at the time. They were regular winners of the drill, band and P.T. competitions and also had a better than average football team.

The South Shields Battalion also had a very active cricket league during the late nineteen forties. At St Andrew's, we were very fortunate because in the summer of 1947, the company got a local authority grant to purchase a complete set of cricket gear. It didn't help with our ability but we were one of the best-resourced teams in the league.

A scorebook from the time indicates that we played at the Brinkburn, Dragon (where else?), Daisy Field - our home ground - East Boldon and Boldon Colliery. Like football, Cyril Halliday, David Deacon, Bill Jermain and I were the stalwarts of the team.

The game I recall best, because it nearly became a boxing match, was against the 16th Company at East Boldon one summer evening in 1949. The lads from the 16th Company came mainly from middle class homes and this contrasted strongly with our team, mostly from Egerton Square.

On the day of the match, it rained heavily during the afternoon. In spite of this, all our team turned up at the Church at the appointed time and we set off to East Boldon on our bikes, carrying an array of cricket bats and pads.

Arriving at the designated ground after the two-mile journey, we were amazed to find no home team present. After a while, somebody appeared and said, "We didn't expect you due to the rain!" This brought a variety of sharp reactions from our team. The legalistic-minded thought that as it was past starting time and the home team had not appeared, we should claim the points and return home (perhaps to read the Bible?).

The more outgoing members of our team said, "We should give the Boldon Blouses time to come out of their large, nice warm houses to play in the rain."

This we did and the game started over half an hour later in a very tense atmosphere. We scored a creditable 43 on the rain-soaked wicket. The old score-book however, tells us that the 16th Company had the last laugh by scoring 45 for 3 with Hindmarch 39 not out. Cyril Halliday was our star, scoring 12 not out and taking 3 wickets for 12 runs.

The home team that night included three Lowson brothers. One of them, Ian, was later a work colleague of mine at Reyrolles. Although that particular night, he was run out for one, Ian went on to play for Boldon in the Durham Senior League and was a member of their only ever championship winning side in 1959.

During those early years, I found that there was much more to B.B. life, than just football. There was a long calendar of events that continued throughout the year, such as a swimming gala, sports day, a cross-country run, as well as drill, vaulting and bugle band competitions.

In addition, there was the Founders' Day Church Parade in October and the Battalion Church Parade in May. The last event usually saw about 200 officers and boys marching behind the battalion Bugle Band to a different church each year.

Locally, perhaps the highlight of the B.B. year was the annual Good Friday celebrations. This was when Sunday School pupils of all ages, dressed in their new Spring clothes, and uniformed youth organisations from the many churches in the west end of the town marched first to the top of Stanhope Road for a brief service and then on to the West Park.

There, each organisation assembled 'segment like' around the park's bandstand as the Salvation Army Band led an Easter open-air service.

After the service, the various Sunday School pupils and youth organisations marched back to their respective churches, where most of them would receive their traditional Good Friday Orange. The West Park was always packed and I recall crowds three or four deep on either side of Stanhope Road as we returned to St Andrew's Church.

We never had more than twenty members in the Company, but there was always a great spirit of comradeship. This was evidenced when younger brothers came along to join before they were old enough. (There was no Life Boys Group at the time.) If I remember correctly, we had six sets of brothers who passed through the 18th Company in the late forties. There were the Jermains, Deacons, Stobbs, Peacocks, Lindsays and Mackins.

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