St-Marys-LighthouseThe days and nights were growing longer as the build up began. Tickets went on sale on June 1st and you could buy them from the secretary’s office in school.

Everyone wanted to go as it was the highlight of our year, every year! The small green printed tickets had an official Saint Patrick’s School oval stamp on the back to show they were genuine and they were numbered, so there were no forgeries!

When the day finally arrived the Venture buses were out in force. Fifteen 45 seaters lined up in John Street snaking their way towards Medomsley Road. Mass was at 9am and the church was packed, even the slide out side benches were occupied. We had all been instructed to to leave our bags and baskets in the church hall from 8.30 onwards. However the latecomers with only a minute to spare dragged their picnic and paraphernalia into the church porch rushing in before the bell signalled the beginning of Mass.

With over five hundred people wedged into the building on a hot June day there was an air of excitement as we belted out ‘Faith of our Fathers’ in honour of Saints Peter and Paul. The church’s front doors having been left open for ventilation produced a welcome warm breeze mixed with the pungent smell of egg and tomato sandwiches and homemade corned beef pie.

As soon as the priest disappeared into the sacristy the deafening sound of a hundred kneelers being slammed back into place heralded the mass exodus.

Luminous buckets and spades, stripped beach balls and cotton windbreaks appeared from nowhere. Clutching the little green tickets every family, including mine tried to find their

The excitement was electric. The kids all wore shorts, T-shirts and sunny san sandals. However the adults were more formal; I remember my Dad wearing a trilby and a sports jacket and most of the Mam’s – to compliment their summer dresses – wore nylons and kitten heel shoes.

The unlucky few who didn’t have tickets came to wave us off, and as bus Number 1 revved its engine we knew we were on an awfully big adventure. There was always one joker who started off the singing with ’10 Green Bottles Hanging on the Wall’ but they usually got pelted with jelly babies before they got down to 5.

We started eating our sandwiches as we passed over Leadgate Bridge and flicked the tops off the Fentiman’s dandelion and burdock and cream soda to wash them down.

After what seemed a lifetime of travelling and a million ‘Are we there yet’s’ someone shouted ‘I can see the sea!’ We all cheered out of our seats to the same side of the bus pressing our noses against the windows to catch a glimpse.

Before long, carrying string bags of food, pop and vacuum flasks we reached The Links of Whitley Bay, descended the stone steps to the sand, staking our claim on the beach until it was time to go to the Spanish City.

Exhausted and happy until next year, at 6 o’clock – just like the picnicking teddies in the song – their mammies and daddies will take them home to bed because they’re tired little teddy bears.


A BIG Thank you to Lorraine Weightman for providing this fantastic article.

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