It was almost the end of the school year and we were preparing in May to take exams in June. The teachers worked tirelessly cramming information into our already fact filled heads trying to ensure we passed with flying colours. Yet as any 15 or 16 year old knows there are other distractions from study that gently wean students away from books.

This was our fifth year at English Martyrs, a reasonably new secondary school in Leadgate which housed pupils from all the feeder primary schools in Blackhill, The Grove, Moorside, Consett and Brooms.

The teachers were strict but always fair and over the years managed to guide us not only through the curriculum, but as trusted members of the football and netball teams, with the addition of the choir and drama group, where we participated in concerts and shows for the local clergy, governors and parents.
I can still remember all the words to ‘Back to Sorrento’, ‘Funiculi Funicula’ and ‘Santa Lucia’. My only gripe would be that as first years in the front row we had to kneel on the stage throughout the whole show, which must surely be a contributory factor to my now arthritic knees. Still, kneeling was our speciality as we had experienced plenty of practice in church.

By our fifth year the navy blue uniform was adapted to fit into the fashion of the day, so after our skirts were measured in Assembly and passed the inch above the knee test, they were quickly rolled up at the waist to just below the derrière! We’d sing Rod Stewart’s ‘You Wear It Well’ to each other laughing and posing as we passed in the corridor between lessons.

At break times most of us huddled in the doorways as we felt too ‘old’ to run round the yard with the younger kids. In addition we would be on lookout duty for those who contributed to the the steady stream of ‘No 6’ smoke emitted from behind the bins in the tech block. If any of them heard us singing ‘Clear White Light’ by Lindisfarne, then they knew there was teacher close by.
Knowing that some of us would be in work in a couple of months, while others planned to go on to sixth form at St Bede’s in Lanchester; at lunchtimes we planned on making our final days in the school memorable.

Most people thought that drawing on your uniform with biro and felt tips would suffice with maybe a couple of smashed eggs and a head full of flour. But the more enterprising were looking for something more dramatic. Various ideas were passed around verbally or scribbled on little pieces of paper during revision lessons and hidden in blazer pockets. Blocking the toilets was rightfully rejected by everyone, as was messing about with Bunsen burners in the Science Lab, but a few others were given some credence.

As the days passed the excitement grew. Stifled giggles and knowing winks abounded as the plan took shape around the top three suggestions. There was a whole class of 30 in the know and the voting was due to take place after lunch the day before we left.
The dining hall was up a flight of stairs at the back of the main hall and the older kids served food to the younger ones on tables of eight. During our 4 previous years in school we had to eat what we were given. Now, as prefects, if you were so inclined – as some were – you could give out meagre portions and save the largest slice of cornflake tart and the skin on the custard for yourself!

Finally with all the votes cast the day arrived and inspired by Alice Cooper’s song of the same name the whole school was out in the playground for 30 minutes, lined up in classes with each form teacher doing a head count and a roll call.
And when questioned not a single person knew who had taken the little hammer to the glass on the fire bell!
Care Home gets a visit from Mrs Brown’s Boys

Stoneleigh Care Home in Stanley, County Durham, had a visit from TV comedy star Mrs Brown’s lookalike, Brian Lewis, a great-granddad from Leadgate.

Having been a carer himself, he knew a couple of the team. Everyone was delighted with the special visit and some had to do a double take as Brian bears an uncanny resemblance to the lead in Mrs Brown’s Boys.

He made sure to visit every one of the Residents who were in their rooms and then sat in the lounge with the rest for a cup of tea, a slice of cake and had a good old chinwag.
“He looks so much like Mrs Brown, the resemblance is incredible! He had such a great sense of humour and we loved how he joked around with us”

Susan Dodds, Deputy Manager at Stoneleigh, commented:

“Brian is in his 70’s and still actively volunteers in the local community, specifically with Alzheimers as his late mother suffered with it. He does charity runs and shows to raise money for this and Marie Curie.”


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