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Cissie's parents with some of their children.

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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


Life in Chirton

Open country-side

I was born on 26 January 1912 at 82 Elsdon Terrace, Percy Main, Northumberland, (now known as Tyne and Wear) England. (Family note: Cissie’s full birth certificate shows 39 Elsdon Terrace.) I was the seventh of nine children who survived to adulthood of John James and Margaret Anne Cave. Two other children died in childhood. Percy Main was a country village about ½ mile from Chirton, another country village. The men in the two villages were mostly miners working at various coal mines – namely the Eccles, Backworth, Algernon, Shiremoor, and Preston. The miners caught the 'carriages' (train) at Percy Main to take them to the mines; excepting Preston, which was at the other end of Chirton and closed down when I was a child. Years later, when my brothers Eddy and Alex worked at the mine, I used to have a ride in the 'carriages' when they went to collect their pay at the mine. The carriages were just like wooden boxes on wheels, seats facing front and back, holding about eight miners. There was a station and trains ran through to Wallsend, Byker, and Newcastle.

The family must have lived quite a few years at Percy Main for my eldest brother Jamesy went to school there. Jim Nicholson, a brother-in-law, could remember him going to school at the same time as he did. Jamesy (also called Jimmy), was about fifteen or sixteen years older than me. Joseph was about three years younger than me, and he was born in Front Street Chirton, so we must have moved to Chirton between 1912 and 1915. My earliest memories are of living in Front Street. I remember standing crying at the corner of the street with my pram and my doll, and there were crossroads and I felt lost. Then one of my family came along and took me back home. I had wandered to the end of the street.

We lived in a two-storey house in the centre of the street; the adjoining house and ours were the only two of that kind in the street. The others were small cottages or similar, all built for the workers and staff of Chirton Hall, which had at one time been a big estate owned by Lord Collingwood. The Hall was no longer there and all the land around belonged to different owners, and had been turned into farms or market gardens; so we were lucky to be living in the open country surrounded by cornfields, wheat and barley as well as the open fields and market gardens.

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