Letters, Friday, April 15th, 2011

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Inconvenience for friend on visit

ON March 31 my cousin, Mrs Doris Ostendorf, visited my husband and me for three days as part of her visit to England from Australia.

She hadn’t been to Houghton for many years but just wanted to walk around to jog her fond memories.

I took her along to where Dimambro Ice Cream Parlour used to be as my dad always took her there for an ice cream when she visited us from Wallsend where she was born.

She enjoyed the walk around the church grounds and the park, which she thought was no way like is used to be and she missed the fountain working.

Being a Friend of the Park, I explained what had been done. She loved the spring flowers on show that were planted earlier by some of the Friends and schoolchildren.

However, while we were in the park, she asked if there was a toilet, “no” being the answer and that the nearest one was in the Co-op.

She was really desperate so I rushed her into a shop and, under the circumstances, thanks to the staff, they let her use their toilet.

It was a very windy day but she still enjoyed the walk about. We shopped on the Friday and met some of my friends in the chapel for a coffee.

She said Houghton wasn’t like it used to be and she couldn’t believe we had no toilets like we used to have.

Thank goodness the landfill wasn’t sending out its stink on those days.

Doreen Richardson, Marsden Close, Houghton

Clubhouse plan

I READ with interest your recent article (Tuesday, April 12) about Seaham Town Council’s proposal to turn the former Seaham Red Star FC clubhouse into a new town hall, having made a very similar proposal to the then town clerk around five years ago while the football club still occupied the building.

The proposal was rejected at the time on the basis that the council preferred to move to new, more centrally located, purpose-built offices planned for St John’s Square.

What then has brought this “about turn”, especially now that the new civic buildings are nearing fruition?

There is no doubt in my mind that it was heavily influenced by the fact that, after the closure of the clubhouse, the council took possession of the former Red Star building free of charge.

Given that the building had been last valued at about £300,000, this is not an inconsiderable acquisition.

While I am not suggesting any impropriety in this, I know to my personal cost that it was done with blatant disregard for the Red Star’s creditors, whose loans to the club were left unsecured as a result of this opportunism. Even an acknowledgement of the situation would have helped.

That said, as someone who helped to build the clubhouse – and indeed rebuild it after major fire damage in 1995 – I am delighted to learn that the building is to be given a new lease of life and become a major focal point in the town again.

I wish the town council all the very best in their new venture and only hope that the contribution of the Red Star Football Club and those associated with it in providing this facility is not forgotten.

Bryan Mayhew, Former chairman and secretary, Seaham Red Star FC

Letters thumbs-up

I THINK that it is a very good idea to stop writers from using a pen name or a nom de plume, as a lot of these people do not have the courage of their convictions.

They have a lot to say but for one reason or another they are probably too cowardly to sign their real name and it makes the page look shambolic.

The Letters Page is my favourite part of the Echo. I think it shows just how much talent we have in the city. Can we have more from Little Billy Craggs? He is a very good writer and I would also like to defend Mick “The Pen” Brown who comes in for a lot of unfair criticism.

I take his comments with a pinch of salt. I find him hugely amusing, if not a bit eccentric.

That’s the beauty of the Letters Page: it displays a balance of serious political views, humour and controversy.

So congratulations on a great page and keep up the good work.

M. Leadbitter, The Westlands, Sunderland

Historical error

WITH reference to the feature about the Vine Street excavation in the East End (Echo, April 7), there is an error in that it mentions a rented hall built in Vine Street in 1785 after the Lodge there burnt down.

The Freemasons’ Lodge stood on the corner of Vine Street Open that led to Maling’s Rig. Vine Street was initally called Lodge Street and the opening to Maling’s Rig was then called Freemason’s Passage prior the Lodge burning down. This was in 1783 not 1785 as stated.

The Lodge there was the King George Lodge listed in Vine Street rates for 1770-80. George Thompson was Master of the King George Lodge for seven years and built a hall for them in 1778.

There is no evidence of another Lodge replacing it on this site on which the Lord Byron Inn was later built.

The only time it was known as Phoenix Lodge was when it moved Queen Street in 1785 on land which they had purchased in 1784 the year after the fire.

Michael Bute, Sunderland Antiquarian Society

Cost of credit

IN our area, there are lenders who charge 1,200 per cent APR and are allowed to get away with it. It is about time that we had proper legal controls to stop this, just as happens in most of Europe, the United States and Canada.

It is a sad fact that better-off people in our community pay less for credit, while families on a low income often have little choice but to go to the legal loan sharks when a crisis hits. It’s really important that this should be publicised and action taken.

The UK is one of the few industrialised nations that doesn’t have a ceiling on the total cost of credit. When the new Financial Conduct Authority regulator gets going next year, it should have the power to impose caps – to protect consumers from the ludicrous charges lenders are free to make in the area where you and I live.

Crucially, I want the total cost of credit, rather than APR, capped. This ensures that the caps do not distort the market, and that lenders cannot wriggle out by applying high administration fees or repayment charges.

With the pain the country is going through, we need to help low-income households to be more resilient to cycles of debt and poverty.

Ealier this year, over 400 MPs showed some support for these measures – it would be good to have the response of our local representatives on this page too.

This issue really matters and affects those who are most vulnerable. You can help by publicising this issue

Jacqui Tyson, Portland Road, Sunderland

Convoy veterans

TESTIMONY Films is producing a new documentary for Yesterday Channel to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Arctic Convoys in the winter of 1941.

We are very keen to hear from anyone who made the treacherous journey from Britain to Russia in any of the Arctic Convoys throughout the Second World War.

If you or someone you know was involved with the Arctic Convoys and have memories to share, please contact me on 01179258589, pete.vance@testimonyfilms.com or at Arctic Convoy Appeal, 12 Great George Street, Bristol, BS1 5RH.

Pete Vance, Testimony Films

Royal bloodline

I AM finding it increasingly difficult to control my excitement at the fast-approaching Royal Wedding. Prince William is a shining example of our willingness to welcome German and Greek immigrants into our cosmopolitan hearts.

Everyone is welcome into our royal blood stock so long as they are not Catholic. All Protestant patriots should rejoice that the non-Catholic heritage seems preserved.

B. McGill, South Bents, Sunderland