Did you scramble for sweets on the Sunderland Sunday School treat

Monkwearmouth mums at the start of their race at the Sunday School treat.
Monkwearmouth mums at the start of their race at the Sunday School treat.
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Sunday school treats began back in the late 19th century.

They were primarily brought in as a reward to all the Sunday scholars for their excellent attendance numbers.

Silksworth children at their Sunday School treat in the 1930s.

Silksworth children at their Sunday School treat in the 1930s.

They were always looked forward to with eagerness by the children who dreamed about being whisked off to faraway places.

Philip Curtis, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, takes a look back.

It was not unusual for the numbers attending the Sunday School treat to exceed 100 children.

And the transportation of all those eager youngsters was usually carried out by way of a fleet of double-decker buses or sometimes a local train.

The favourite places for a visit were destinations such as Lumley Castle and Cox Green. But to the children that visited them, it seemed that they were on the way to the continent.

Philip Curtis

Although the journey may have seemed endless and exciting, in fact, the destination was usually no more than 20 miles away from their Wearside homes.

The favourite places for a visit were destinations such as Lumley Castle and Cox Green.

But to the children that visited them, it seemed that they were on the way to the continent.

Once everyone was safely on the buses and settled into their seats, the community singing would get under way.

Ewesley Road Methodists sack race in the early 1900s.

Ewesley Road Methodists sack race in the early 1900s.

And it would usually start with ‘Oh the Driver’s Got a Lovely Pair or Legs’ or ‘Ten Green Bottles’ .

The songs would be sung with gusto and it rarely came to an end before the journey finished. It usually carried on right through to the destination.

As soon as the destination was reached and everyone was settled down in the picnic area, organised races were held.

They usually included the sack race, egg and spoon and sprint.

And they invariably finished with a mothers’ race in which the children’s mums were encouraged (or shamed if they refused) to take part.

These races were usually well-contested as mothers and children’s pride, as well as bragging rights for the children, were at stake.

Once everyone had settled down after all of this fun activity, all the children were given a paper bag which contained their tea.

This usually consisted of food whose names all began with the letter ‘s’ such as a sandwich (usually filled with meat paste), a snowball, a sausage roll and a scone.

In addition there was often an iced bun.

These were usually washed down with pop.

Meanwhile, the parents would be having their cups of tea, which would often be poured out from what appeared to be the largest teapots ever made.

And, as I remember it, they were always brown.

A ‘sweet scramble’ usually ended the afternoon with one of the Sunday School teachers opening a tin and throwing sweets in all directions imagineable.

Chaos usually followed as all the children scrambled for them.

To ensure there were no tears of disappointment, a few sweets were always kept back for any child who was unsuccessful.

At the end of the afternoon, following a litter-pick, everyone made their way back to the buses or to the train ready for the trek home.

Of course, once on board the singing would start again, usually commencing with ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’ or ‘The Quartermaster’s Store’.

Once they arrived back at church, everyone would trudge home tired but happy.

And of course, they would all be looking forward to the following year’s Sunday School Treat.

Sadly, today the numbers attending Sunday Schools have fallen considerably and the annual treat is a rare occurrence.

But memories linger on and no doubt most of us can still give a good rendition of the songs that we all sang when we were on the buses.

Do you have memories of your Sunday School treat?

Where did you go and what did you do?

Tell us all about those great days.

Or perhaps you have another aspect of your past that you would like to reminisce on.

Maybe you would like to share your family tree reasearch in the hope Echo readers can help you dig further back into your past.

Or perhaps there’s a specific event in Wearside history that you would love us to look back on.

Whatever it maybe, get in touch and let’s take that trip down Memory Lane.

Send us an email to chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk