Boyhood memories of growing up in Hendon

The author Alan Sinclair as an infant, pictured with his sister Jean.
The author Alan Sinclair as an infant, pictured with his sister Jean.
0
Have your say

Thirty years ago, Alan Sinclair decided it was time to put pen to paper and write about life on Wearside.

The resulting work – which is all about the experiences of a young boy growing up in the Hendon area – is a beautifully detailed account of Sunderland life between 1939 and 1951.

Alan aged 12.

Alan aged 12.

The autobiographical account laid in a drawer for years until friends persuaded Alan to have it published.

Now, No Trees Down Our Street is available to buy on Amazon.

Alan’s Sunderland days are behind him as he now lives in southern Spain, but he’s never forgotten the place where he was raised and has so many memories of.

The talented writer told Wearside Echoes: “I worked as a design draughtsman in the research and development office of Sir William Doxford and Son in Pallion.”

My pre-school world is a hazy kaleidoscope of hot pavements, spinning tops, marbles and scurrying beetles: of fussy young aunts with tumbling hair and loquacious tongues; or roaring coal fires and simmering pans, gravy dips, dripping and bread, and pineapple chunks; of scabbed knees, cut fingers and stinging iodine

Alan Sinclair

When he was 28, Alan “changed career completely and went into teaching, obtaining a BA HONS in English Literature on the way.”

He taught in Norwich, the Cotswolds and Bristol, and for the last nine years was head of English in a large comprehensive school.

He added: “I then took early retirement and my wife and I moved to Andalucia in southern Spain where we have lived happily for the last 22 years.”

But Sunderland remains dear to his heart and his book is packed with recollections, including the time when his family home was bombed in the Second World War.

Alan Sinclair.

Alan Sinclair.

He remembered “growing up with barrage balloons, searchlights, air raid shelters, gas masks, concrete machine gun posts, barbed wire along the local beaches, blackouts, window panes taped in criss-cross patterns to protect us from the shattered glass.”

He remembered incendiary bombs, whistling bombs and land mines. He remembered the childhood innocence of exploring among the rubble of a bomb site and added: “I felt like a king surveying the aftermath of a huge and bloody battle.”

And he remembered the day the war was over. “More and more people poured out of the houses and the singing grew louder and the dancing more frenetic.

“Young men grabbed hold of young women and kissed them, much to the young woman’s delight.

“Then as their confidence grew the women grabbed the men and kissed them and soon the whole street was caught up in an amorous musical dance with everyone hugging and kissing and singing and dancing.”

And in a wonderfully descriptive reference to his early years, he tells readers: “My pre-school world is a hazy kaleidoscope of hot pavements, spinning tops, marbles and scurrying beetles: of fussy young aunts with tumbling hair and loquacious tongues; or roaring coal fires and simmering pans, gravy dips, dripping and bread, and pineapple chunks; of scabbed knees, cut fingers and stinging iodine.”

Just as wonderful is his description of a day at the picture house.

“The people of Hendon owed a lot to the Villiers. Twice a week, it transported us from the cares of war-torn Sunderland to a fantasy world of Hollywood heroes where Errol Flynn and Betty Grable gratified our romantic yearnings, and Laurel and Hardy, the Bowery Boys and the Dead End Kids vied with home products such as Old Mother Riley, Frank Randle and George Formby to bring laughter into our lives.”

From trainspotting to allotments and camping to his first day at the school, Alan covers it all.

And he shared a memory of what Christmas was like for a young boy growing up on Wearside.

“In the early hours of the morning, I awoke to find a brand new Raleigh Hercules bicyclestanding against the bedroom mantelpiece.

The frame was still wrapped in packing paper and the silver chrome of the pedal cranks sparkled and gleamed in the electric light.

“I shall never forget the thrill of that moment. Dad had kept the bike at my nan’s house and had carried it to Christopher Street late on Christmas Eve.

“On his way, a policeman had passed by and said to him ‘some bairn’s ganna be lucky tomorra’.”

On those wintery days of sledging in the snow, he said: “We scurried about like black beetles on a white table cloth, scampering up and down the hill.”

No Trees Down Our Street is available at £7.69 on www.amazon.co.uk. The Kindle edition costs £3.28.