Old photo is proving quoit a mystery

From left, George Longstaff, unknown, and right, John Hetherington Longstaff.
From left, George Longstaff, unknown, and right, John Hetherington Longstaff.

A lovely lady rang me the other day asking me to ask you to help her with an old Gazette photograph that has winged its way across the Atlantic.

It was sent to Mrs Mavis Harkness (80), of Hebburn, from her brother who lives in the USA, and features her dad (George Longstaff) and his brother (John Hetherington Longstaff) and another man being presented with a trophy.

“My father was a pitman,” explains Mrs Harkness.

“He played quoits, and people used to go and watch him play.

“My brother, who lives in America, sent me a copy of a Gazette photograph, taken between the wars, of my dad, my uncle and another man with a trophy. It was a big trophy for the day, and I’d love to know what they got it for.”

Mrs Harkness told me that her father, who was born in 1896, and her mother, May, originally lived in Lawe Top.

“My mother lived in St Thomas Street and then moved to Lawe Top, to Heugh Street.

“They were very proud of the fact, telling people where they came from.

“The houses there were dilapidated, with no modern facilities, but it was a wonderful community.

“The properties were terrible, but the community spirit was good, and they loved living there, where a lot of people had big families.”

The Longstaffs left Lawe Top in 1938, moving to Centenary Avenue, where Mrs Harkness was brought up, and where people “ went into little palaces” – which included inside toilets.

“A lot changed when they went into that house, they had happy times there, my dad had work, and my aunts and uncles and cousins all lived around each other.

“My mother lived there until she moved into sheltered accommodation.”

Talking of change, Mrs Harkness said the changing face of the town’s Frederick Street reminded her of the transformation involving the River Drive Bridge area.

The bridge dates from the 1930s, when the riverside underwent large-scale transformation, resulting in most of the 18th Century dwellings being demolished and replaced with new industries.

The bridge, originally known as Heugh Bridge, took two months to build, at a cost of £35,000, and was officially opened in August, 1939 by the Minister of Transport, Captain Euan Wallace.

“Seeing the re-development in Frederick Street reminded me of what a wonderful achievement the River Drive Bridge work was. The engineering must have been fantastic,” she added.

If anyone can help with Mrs Harkness’ appeal for help over the old photo, please get in touch with me here at Time Of Our Lives.