Wearside Echoes: Lily is a woman for all seasons

LOOK OUT: The Look Out Inn, based in Millum Terrace, pictured in the 1930s. Known to be trading in 1854, it closed in 1937.
LOOK OUT: The Look Out Inn, based in Millum Terrace, pictured in the 1930s. Known to be trading in 1854, it closed in 1937.
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SPRING, summer, autumn and winter all brought treats and treasured moments for Lily Wilkinson during her childhood years in Monkwearmouth.

“We had proper seasons back then,” recalls the 81-year-old. “Winter meant snow so deep we had to dig our way out of the house, while summers were long and hot.”

Lily, the daughter of a foreman at British Ropes, spent her childhood at 25 Victor Street. They were, she remembers, “very happy” times despite the hardships of the Depression.

“Spring started off with Easter and we all got an Easter egg. My mam, Lilian, always boiled fresh eggs in tea to make them go brown, or you could paint faces on them,” she said.

Lily, who now lives in Farringdon, recalls the Palm Sunday with particular fondness as it was the day youngsters were treated to newspaper cones full of peas – or “carlins”.

“The women around the doors used to steep the carlins the night before and be at the front door the next morning with a large dish full to give to all the children,” she said.

The arrival of summer brought long, hot days free from the classroom – but Lily always found “plenty to do” around the streets of Monkwearmouth.

“Our summers were so hot that the pavement got hot as well. We had to wear sand-shoes and when we got holes in the soles, dad would cut innersoles out of cardboard,” she said.

“We’d play skippy ropes during the summer; mostly it was ‘Double Dutch,’ which used two ropes. Sometimes we’d use the rope to swing round lamp-posts, but the neighbours didn’t like that!

“We’d also go for a plodge down at the beach with the family. At teatime, we’d make a table with sand, and mam would put a cover over it. We still ate plenty of sand, though.

“Then there was Sunshine Corner, a stage at Roker beach. On a Sunday children got up and sang. I was lucky and often got a candy rock or chocolate for singing.”

Autumn heralded a return to school for Lily. Her first school, in Thomas Street, offered treats such as a roaring coal fire and the chance to warm her cold school milk in front of the flames.

“At 11 I went to Stanley Street School. In sewing we had to make navy knickers with a pocket, which we then wore in P.T. lessons,” she said.

Dark nights and cold days heralded the arrival of winter. Thick snow often covered the ground.

“It was always cosy at home, because we had a lovely coal fire burning. Mam would sit beside it sewing, while my dad, William, would sit at the table making pictures out of silver paper and small wooden toys,” said Lily.

The arrival of Christmas would see William and Lilian treat their four children to a night out at the Empire to watch the festive pantomime from seats high up in “the Gods”.

“It was also great when the illuminations in Roker Park were switched on. It was like being in another land. There were small caves with pirates in and the Fairy Dell was absolutely magical,” recalls Lily.

Christmas Eve would find Lily and her siblings hanging stockings over the fireplace and writing letters to Santa, which would then be sent up the chimney in a puff of smoke and flames.

“The next morning our stockings would have an orange, apple, nuts and a shiny penny. We would have a great time with snowball fights and sledges.

“Mam used to warm our feet in a hot towel when we came in and when we went to bed, she put the hot oven shelf in with us, wrapped in an old woollen jumper, to keep us warm.

“Our toilet was outside and on dark nights, either mam or dad had to come with me as it was pitch black and I was scared. It was also very cold!” she said.

Despite these freezing conditions, Lily has nothing but happy memories and “gives thanks” for her happy life.