Nostalgia: Wearside’s bonny babies of the past

What happened to Wearside's bonniest babies?
What happened to Wearside's bonniest babies?
Have your say

Over the past few weeks we’ve been on the hunt for Bonny Babies of bygone years. Today we catch up with the winners and the runners up of the competition in the 1970s.

WHERE are they now? That’s what we wanted to know when we took a look through the Sunderland Echo archives and came across the Bonny Baby competition on our trip down memory lane.

It’s been more than 40 years since the Echo started taking part in the competition, which used to be held as part of the Sunderland Carnival on Seaburn showfield, and I’ve been lucky enough to catch up with some of our Bonny Babies of the ’70s.

They are all now in their 30s and 40s and a lot less enthusiastic about getting their photograph taken, but the verdict is unanimous – they are all glad they were entered into the competition as the pictures that were taken at the time always bring back happy childhood memories.

But what are they up to now? Let’s find out ..

GORGEOUS Alayne Towers from Grindon, caught the judges’ attention in 1978. The pretty three-year-old looked a picture with her wild, curly hair, hoisted up on the shoulders of her proud big brothers.

Her mum Margaret entered her into the competition at the last minute and not only did she win her category of 2-4 years, but she went on to win the trophy for the overall winner.

“It was quite exciting really,” said Margaret. “All parents think their kids are lovely but you never think your child will win.

“Alayne knew there was a lot of excitement but she didn’t really understand what was going on – her brothers were proud as punch though.”

Alayne is now 37 and a full-time mum. She lives in Chesterfield with her three children.

“I remember going to the front of the stage and shouting ‘I’ve won’,” said Alayne, “but I can’t really remember anything else.

“It was a bit strange when my mam said I was in the paper again. It was a bit embarrassing really as I thought that memory was gone!”

She added: “It’s nice to have those pictures to keep though. My mam gets them out occasionally and she’s still got the little cup I won and the dress I wore on the day.”

The family have since entered Alayne’s daughter Charlotte into the competition and although she didn’t follow in her mum’s footsteps and scoop the top prize, you can definitely see the family resemblance.

LOVELY Nadine Page, or Wood as she was known, was entered in 1979 by her Godmother and Aunt, Peggy Nichols.

Her parents Carol and Thomas had chosen not to send a picture in as they were left disappointed the year before when she wasn’t placed in the final, despite making it to the last 100.

But thanks to Aunty Peggy, Nadine was crowned winner of the 9-18 month category and she scooped the prize for Bonniest Baby of them all.

Mum Carol said: “It was fabulous day, it really was lovely.

“She got a picture with the mayor and a little cup to take home. It was such a good day and Peggy really did pick a winner.

“The whole family were so excited about seeing her in the paper at the time and her aunties all told her she had to take part in this so they could see her in the paper again.

“It was absolutely great when she won the whole show. I just cant believe it was so long ago.”

Nadine married Chris Page in Mexico five years ago and they have a son called Dominic who is two.

When Nadine and her mum got the photos from the Bonny Baby competition out to have a look at, they soon realised that little Dominic is almost identical to his prize-winning mummy.

The 34-year-old former Farringdon Comprehensive pupil, who lives in Silksworth said: “I was so embarrassed when my mam told me I had to be in the Echo again, but it was quite nice to see the old pictures.

“I realised how much Dominic looks like me when I was his age – we are really similar.”

She added: “I don’t remember anything from the day but I won’t forget this. I’m really embarrassed about being in the paper.”

“SHE was gorgeous and she still is,” said Sheila Morris from Grindon. The 55-year-old entered her little girl Victoria when she was 19 months into the 1978 competition.

“I can still remember the day. It was at Seaburn and it was red hot and there were crowds and crowds of people there.

“Victoria was one of only a few mixed-race and dark babies, so it was lovely that the judges picked her out.

“There was a stage where you went up to see the judges and Victoria came away with a little silver cup, she came second and I was chuffed to bits.”

Victoria, whose surname is now Burella, has a son and lives in Silksworth. The 35-year-old works as a department manager for Morrisons and is married to her childhood sweetheart Andrew.

Sheila said: “She was a little tinker. If there was anything to be touched or broken, she’d be the one.”

Victoria added: “I was clever though, she once told me I couldn’t have any of the sweets out of a full box of Quality Streets, she had counted them so she would know if I had any.

“So I unwrapped all of them bit them in half then wrapped what was left back up! I thought I would get away with it, but she still knew!”

Sheila said that everyone who saw Victoria as a baby would comment on how beautiful she was. She said: “Wherever we went people used to say ‘she’s gorgeous’.”

Victoria took the Bonny Baby world by storm for three years. Not satisfied with the one prize, she also made the finals out of thousands of entries in a similar competition in 1979 and then came runner-up in 1980 in a competition organised by Blandford Studios.

She was presented with a portrait of herself by Tyne Tees television personality Bill Steel and when asked at age three what the secret to her good looks was, she said: “Curry – and it’s got to be prawn curry!”

“It’s really embarrassing reading that now,” said Victoria. “What three-year-old would say that, my mam must have told me to say it.

“I still look at the Bonny Babies and it’s funny that it’s still so popular. The names are a lot different now, though. They are more exotic than when I was in the competition.”

VALERIE HAYES was lucky enough to have two bonny boys in her brood. She entered son Edward in 1970 and this handsome lad got his hands on third prize aged eight months.

Then, seven years later, she decided to put her youngest, Neville, on show and although he featured in the paper he never made it in front of the judges.

“Neville was eight months old at the time,” said Valerie. “We got to Seaburn for lunchtime but there were so many babies waiting we still hadn’t seen the judges by 5pm.

“He fell asleep on my knee and one of the Echo photographers took his picture – it was lovely to see him in the paper even though he didn’t win anything.

“When Edward came third we got given a prize, it was a Pyrex dish and a food mixer – I’ve still got them both and the mixer is still in the box, I never used it.”

She added: “It brought it all back when I saw the pictures in the paper – it was such a lovely day and everyone said if Edward had been a few months older he would have won the category.

“They are both still the same as when they were kids, they are good lads and they never cheek their mam.”

Edward is 42, lives in Silksworth and he works as a Manager at Dunn House student accommodation on North Bridge Street.

Now 6ft, married and a father of three, it’s been 42 years since he won the judges over with his cute smile and although he doesn’t remember the day he’s glad his mum entered him.

He said: “It’s nice to see the pictures again. I’m sure everyone will laugh when they see me now.”

Neville, 35, from Silksworth said: “I fell asleep waiting for the judges and I’m still the same, I can fall asleep anywhere.

“I have four kids but I’ve never entered them in the Bonny Baby competition. It’s not really for me, but I’m glad I’ve seen the pictures of when my mam took me – it’s a nice memory but I’ll probably get some stick for being in now.”