Band photo brings back memories for George

A CRAMLINGTON man was inspired to tell a story from the past after seeing the photo of Amble band The Boarddraggers in the Gazette on June 2.

George Nichol wrote: “Jimmy Wonders, who is clutching his guitar on the right-hand side of the photograph was my first ever work colleague and despite the fact we got on well it disturbs me to admit that we haven’t contacted each other since the mid 1960s.

“On the morning of Monday, December 7 1964 I did meet a young man by the name of Donald Pirt on Ashington main street. This wasn’t a chance meeting as Don was a friend and he had agreed to escort me to the rail platform at Ashington Colliery where we would board the two carriage ‘pit tanky’ for our journey to Linton Colliery and my first day at work.

“Some readers of the Northumberland Gazette may remember Don Pirt from his days as headteacher at Belford, the village in which he still resides, but in 1964 he was a wages clerk with the National Coal Board and looked after me on that very nervous morning.At the other side of the bridge which spanned the railway lines at Linton there was a converted pit head baths building which accommodated the clerical staff responsible for processing the wages of all NCB industrial employees located between the River Wansbeck in the south and the Scottish border to the north.

“Upon arrival I was taken to the senior clerk on one of the Ashington Colliery wages bills and told to sit at the desk next to Jimmy’s and he would show me how to do the job cards. The job cards were a means of re-charging time worked by certain types of employees and Jimmy was a fresh-faced youth, slightly younger than myself, who hailed from Amble and had the surname of Wonders.

“Jimmy and I were the most junior of the 70 or 80 people employed in the Central Wages Office and in addition to endlessly evaluating job cards we had all the fetching and carrying to do. One of these jobs, which occurred every morning and every afternoon was the collection of the tea urn from the colliery canteen and its transportation over the railway bridge.

“At first the indignity of such tasks was a real pride basher but I think that Jimmy and I probably came to enjoy them after a while because for two seventeen-year-olds it wasn’t particularly taxing and it got us out of the office.

“During these episodes and at other times as well Jimmy would talk with great enthusiasm about music, his guitar playing and, of course, the formation of the Boarddraggers, an event which obviously gave him immense pleasure and satisfaction.

“Don Pirt and I were both members of St Andrews Youth Club in Ashington which met on a Sunday night and occasionally held social events which incorporated local talent.

“When Jimmy became aware of this he immediately offered the services of the Boarddraggers and one night in 1965 the band made its way to Ashington and performed free of charge. My memory tells me that they went down extremely well and that the reassurance sought by Jimmy at work the following day was totally unnecessary.

“Around October 1965 the Central Wages Office disbanded and while I was moved to Ashington Colliery Jimmy was, I think, moved to Hauxley Drift. Life is always full of good intentions and we were going to keep in touch but never did – tomorrow will do when you are young.

“Thanks to the Gazette, Don Pirt, who sent me the newspaper cutting, and Alfie Allan, another Boarddragger, I have been able to contact Jimmy again.”