Some Jolly memories of a great Sunderland group

The 1993 line-up of Red House Jolly Girls. Recognise anyone you know?
The 1993 line-up of Red House Jolly Girls. Recognise anyone you know?

They were Jolly and they were magnificent fundraisers.

And it is 35 years this month since the Red House Jolly Girls from Sunderland first got under way with their remarkable charity efforts.

From their earliest days, the women have raised money for everything from cancer research to comic relief and all the money has been spent locally

Sunderland Echo reporter, 1993

In the first 10 years, they had amassed £83,450 for worthy causes.

We thought we would take a look back at the girls who were described by the Echo - on the occasion of their 10th birthday in 1993 – as “the tops” for their jovial jaunts and excellent efforts to help others.

The Red House Jolly Girls were women aged from teenagers to pensioners and they celebrated their tenth anniversary by aiming to reach £100,000 raised. They really did make a difference to everything from cancer research to comic relief.

All the cash was spent locally and, as the Echo reported, it had all started with a one-off performance in 1983. The Jolly Girls’ first show was for a group of pensioners and all they charged for the show was 30 pence admission.

By 1993, they were getting plenty of bookings for a show which was two hours long and included mime and comedy.

Our report at the time said: “Under the leadership of founder and concert chairwoman Topsy Armstrong, the troupe has gone from strength to strength.

“Despite losing members along the way the ranks continue to be swelled by new recruits.”

Twenty five years ago, Topsy spoke to the Sunderland Echo and said: “We started off with a performance for old people and it snowballed from there.

“We all enjoy helping people in need and I can not think of a single charity that has not been helped out.

“We hope to keep that going and ideally top the £100,000 mark.”

Jolly Girls members did not have to be experts at taking to the stage. The only pre-requisite for joining the team was a willingness to “put on a show, have a laugh and raise money for charity,” said Topsy at the time.

We would love to hear your memories of the Red House Jolly Girls back in 1993. Were you a member and what can you tell us about those good old days?

Or perhaps you were a member of one of the many other Jolly Girls groups which existed in Sunderland such as the Round Robin, White House, Steels Club, and Thorney Close.

We would love to hear from you all and to re-live those great days of fundraising, performances and much more.

And just to give you a reminder of what else was happening back in the day, here’s a few of the other stories to make the news.

l Southmoor School in Grangetown was pulling in awards “like there was no tomorrow” with the girls under-13 hockey team, and numerous athletes winning championship titles.

l Four new factories were being built on the banks of the Wear at a cost of £6million.

l Sunderland was at the centre of plans to beat the car thief. The city revealed plans for hidden electronic transmitters to be fitted to vehicle so that they could be traced if stolen.

Wearside’s 1990s social scene was as busy as ever in the early 1990s.

There was Bobby Pattinson on at Farringdon Social Club, a great line-up of live entertainment at Chevvies in Washington, quiz nights at Ryhope Sea View Social Club and Lakeside Sports and Spocial Club, and a mix of house, garage and soul music at Bourbon St – Sunderland’s newest nightspot which was in Fawcett Street.

The 1993 television line-up back then included Eldorado, Tomorrow’s World and Growing Pains on BBC1. Blockbusters with Bob Holness, The Darling Buds of May, and Round The Bend were on Tyne Tees Television, and Brookside, Fifteen-To-One and The Big Breakfast were all on Channel 4.

What are your memories of the Jolly Girls – or is there another aspect of Wearside and County Durham nostalgic news you would like us to reflect on? Email