Born West Sleekburn, then in the Parish of Cambois, on the 20th June 1925, Mabel was the second child of Pearson and Sarah Ann Smith (nee Johnson). Her brother Jim had been born just over four years before on the 1st March 1921 at East Sleekburn where Mabel's parents owned a house. They had temporarily returned to West Sleekburn to a colliery-owned house at 22 South Row to allow her father to be more readily accessible as the honorary treasurer of the local trade union at the Winning Coalmine, listed as Bedlington 'E'(West Sleekburn) started in 1864 and nationalised in 1946 until it closed down in 1965. It had been known locally as the 'Winning' because its reputation as the 'top' producing coalmine in the area.

West Sleekburn was a village created for the coalminers working at the Winning Colliery, with colliery houses built in rows in three streets named South Row, Institute Row and North Row. Later, and a bit out of the village, newer blocks of colliery houses were built at Church Avenue. At the heart of the community was an enterprising branch of the Bedlington Co-operative Society which had been started in 1861 and there was a sub-post office in one of the houses. There were two Methodist Chapels, one Wesleyan and the other Primitive, becomg united in 1932.

The village had a school, and Mabel's father now an Alderman on Northumberland County Council was mainly concerned in having it replaced with a new school. He was awarded the British Empire Medal by King George VI for services to his community.

J. G. Hindhurst, in his poem My Village, writes:

 
It was only a village with three long streets,
Two chapels, a shop, and a store,
A Park, a School, an Institute,
And a Pit to provide the chore.

Large stone heaps were the backdrop,
Torn out of the earth below,
As the miners tunnelled within for coal,
In conditions man shouldn't know.

Mabel would recall that 22 South Row where she spend her early childhood, was approached from a yard where there was a large water-barrel to collect rain water from the roof of the house. The door led directly into the livingroom and kitchen which had a small room off for personal washing equipped with table, bowl and water jug. Although there was electric light, no water was pumped into the house until about 1935 when a sink was installed. Water before that had to be collected from an outside water tap placed to serve several houses.

The livingroom had large windows which looked into the front garden. There was a large coal fire with an oven at one side and it also heated an iron water tank on the other side which had to filled and emptied by hand. There was large walk-in pantry with a heavy iron urn for home-bread baked each Thursday. It was furnished with a three-piece rosewood suite with dresser-cum-cabinet, a dining table, china cabinet and a piano.

A carpetted step-ladder led to the the first floor where there were two bedrooms. The main bedroom had a light rosewood suite, of double bed, dressing table, a wash-stand with marble top and two matching chairs.

Their East Sleekburn house at 4 South View by contrast faced the main road and the garden had a monkey-puzzle tree (coniferous with broad leaves, native to Chile). The front door opened to a hallway with a sittingroom on the right, and a lobby led to the livingroom (the family room) with two bedrooms upstairs and there was a plumbed-in bath.

 

 

Pages: Index, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16