When Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Gerry & The Pacemakers came to Sunderland

Sandra Laws has lived life to the full '“ and shared it with Wearside Echoes readers in recent weeks.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 6:37 pm
Ada and Arthur Laws are pictured on holiday with their daughter Sandra.

We’ve learned how she swapped Farringdon for a life which eventually led her to the olive groves of Italy.

Today, in the final instalment, she reminiscences on her dad who was a true Sunderland character.

Arthur Laws photographed during his National Service in Benghazi, Libya.

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And Sandra also reflects on another person who shaped her life – in her new home in Italy.

Sandra Laws’ dad Arthur died aged 56 and what a tribute he received from his colleagues.

“He worked at the GPO and his fellow workers lined up their little yellow GPO telephone vans in tribute as the cortege passed to the crematorium,” said Sandra.

But Arthur had made quite a difference in his life. He was one of the founders of Farringdon Social Club, which Sandra remembers as a ‘large hut’ initially then expanding with concert room and men only bar.

Arthur with daughter Sandra in Durham.

“The club extended to a large concert room and the old concert room became what they called ‘the dance’.

“On a Saturday night Arthur would take his wife Ada out and every Saturday morning she would have her hair done at the local hairdressers in Farringdon.”

Sometimes, Sandra and her husband Greg would join them and “following several long drinks it was traditional to have a ‘short’ before going home.”

Sandra added: “During his time as Concert Chairman, dad hosted many celebrities there, such as Englebert Humperdinck, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Roger Whittaker, Freddie Starr, Tom Jones.”

Another person to influence Sandra is Nonna – a proper Italian character and former resident of the ancient stone farmhouse Sandra now occupies in central Italy

”Born locally in 1936, Nonna moved to our ancient stone farmhouse with her parents, brother and sister in 1942.

“Her family’s only source of income was from the sale of extra virgin olive oil, livestock for meat and freshly laid eggs from the hens.

“The family were very poor and their meals were inexpensive and simple and still referred today as “Cucina Povere” (Poor Kitchen) cooking. They avoided eating eggs because the egg sales generated a valuable cash income.

“Nonna added that because they were so poor they did not waste any food, a legacy which still continues with the older generation in this region of Italy.”

“During Nonna’s life here, there was no running water or electricity, and even having to wash clothes was a complicated task. There was no bathroom or toilet, so the family had to use the barn or the stable.

“The farmhouse faces south east and the sun was the only source of light. During darkness the only illumination was from free standing lamps burning olive oil.”

Then came the Second World War years which were even more daunting. People lived in fear.

Ten locals were shot in reprisal for the partisan killing of a German soldier.

“The farmhouse, probably because of its increasing age was likely beginning to deteriorate and Nonna remembers once there was a disease that infected their hens, so in order to try and save them they were moved them into the third floor attic of the house.

“Thankfully the hens survived, but such was the dangerous state of the attic floor it would not have not borne the weight of adults to collect the eggs, so instead being much lighter only Nonna and her younger brothers and sisters could safely venture there.”

In 1951, Nonna and her family moved to a neighbour’s house next door which was owned by the same owner. Nonna married in the early 1960’s and had five children and nine grandchildren”.

We bought the derelict house and olive groves in 2002 from the descendants of the “Master” and were very fortunate – there was a basic electricity supply.

We had mains water supply installed in 2003 before relocating permanently from the UK in 2004. Since then we have gradually renovated it into our home and an authentic bed & breakfast.

Because of the fantastic sunrises which Nonna passionately remembers we named it “il sorger del sole” (sun rise).

We thank Sandra for all of her wonderful memories.

If you would like to contribute a nostalgic story to Wearside Echoes, email [email protected]