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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


Starting school

Lizzie Cave

Silkey's Lane


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St. Cuthbert's School


Dad's sister, Aunt Lizzie, came while we lived in Silkey's Lane, along with my cousin Jennie, from Cramlington and had they offered to adopt me. I was called Elizabeth after her, and she wanted to make things easier for Mam. I can remember them having me standing on a chair with my coat on and Mam saying to me, "Do you really want to go?" and I was nodding my head, “yes.” However, Mam took my coat off and said, “No, I’ll manage somehow.” About the same time, my Aunt Jane, my mother's sister, who lived in Nova Scotia, Canada wrote and asked Mam to send Maggie out to her. Maggie was given Jane as her second name after Aunt Jane. She wanted to help too by bringing up Maggie, but Mam would not let her go either. When Aunt Mary Agnes, who lived a few doors further down the street, and was Mam’s other sister, heard about it she allowed her only daughter Agnes to go out to Canada. She was thirteen years old when she went, and came back o England when she was nineteen after Aunt Jane died.

It must have been just before or after Dad died, that Alby was hit with a brick, or stone on his ear, which caused him to have an operation and get a false ear. As children, we saw him smoking, when he was older, bringing smoke out of that ear as well as down his nose.

The few Catholic families in Chirton went to St Cuthbert's Church in Shields, and to the Catholic schools, St Cuthbert's Girls and St Joseph's Boys. We used to take our lunch in winter and a can of cocoa, which the caretaker heated up for us at midday. He had a cottage inside the school grounds where he lived with his wife, and we left our cans on his doorstep before we went into school. Our school hours were 9am to 12noon and 1pm to 4pm. I remember my first day at school, holding onto Mam's hand, feeling scared. She was carrying Joseph. Miss Dene was my first teacher. Mam told her my name was Elizabeth but I am known as Cissie. I also remember years later, going up from Standard II to Standard III. The usual thing was for the teacher from the higher class to come in, and our teacher would call out the names of those who were to go up into her class. The teacher from Standard III was the same one who first taught me. When the Standard II teacher called out “Lizzie Cave”, Miss Dene said, “She's known as Cissie”. She remembered. I had always been too shy to correct my teacher, and I had always disliked that class because she called me Lizzie. While in Miss Dene's class, Standard III, her parents had a wedding anniversary and all the children in her class were given bags of lollies and a picture postcard. I still have mine; it is called 'Language of Flowers,' and is about the meaning of flowers and the months they represent.

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