Why we need your help to find clues about this South Shields family

No doubt, from time to time, many of us will think back to our schooldays and the friends and classmates we used to have.

Thursday, 1st November 2018, 8:55 am
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 12:48 pm
A class photo of Warninglid CP School from 1975. Siôn is pictured seventh right, on the front row. Janet cannot be identified. Thanks to the Slaugham Archives for allowing us to publish the photo.

In some cases, friendships from those days have lasted a lifetime, but for the most part, boys and girls, who were often inseparable in class and the playground, drifted apart or moved on to pastures new, never to meet again.

Such a fate befell reader Siôn Rees Williams, who lost touch with his former school pal Janet Burt due to family circumstances.

Glenn McCrory (left) pictured at Westoe pit in 1989, with his uncle Arthur Barrass, a Westoe miner, just after winning the world cruiserweight title. Picture courtesy of Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare.

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But now, after 42 years, Siôn is hoping for a reunion with Janet, whose family originate from South Shields.

He said:“My family and I lived in the Gate House, at Old Park Farm, in Warninglid, West Sussex, between 1974 and 1976.

“Along with other families we were ‘attached’ to the ‘big house’ of Old Park, where my parents and the other adults worked.

“Through our proximity, I became friendly with Janet Burt and her family, who were originally from South Shields.

“I remember that, along with her parents, she had a sister (who hated being photographed), but I’m not sure of any other family members.

“Janet and me, I guess, were fairly inseparable. We were about seven or eight-years-old, though she was older, than me, I think.

“We would often be in each other’s company and perform hand puppet shows for the parents (with our own scripts) as well as going to various local places together.

“In late 1976, a combination of my paternal grandmother passing away in North West Wales and other family reasons led to us (I’m an only child) going to Gwynedd and leaving West Sussex.

“Of course, I left my Warninglid friends behind – including Janet Burt.”

However, in recent years, Siôn began thinking back to his schooldays and to the friendship he shared with Janet, and so began doing a bit of research.

“A wee bit of Googling recently has shown that the Old Park estate seems to have changed ownership in the early 1980s,” he explained.

“But what happened to the Burts? Are they still there or did they return to Shields?”

If anyone can help Siôn with his search, they can get in touch with me.

Meanwhile, local playwright Ed Waugh has been in touch to give advance notice of a play (which tells of the inspiration behind the success of a North East boxer) coming to South Shields – and an appeal for items linked to the event.

He said: “Next year marks the 30th anniversary of Glenn McCrory becoming the first-ever boxing world champion from the North East, and the producers of a play to commemorate that epic event, are appealing for memorabilia.

“The historic fight took place at Stanley, County Durham, on June 3, 1989, when McCrory, aged 24, outpointed the well-fancied Patrick Lumumba to win the cruiserweight title.

“Carrying David is the name of the play that details Glenn’s incredible rise to becoming world champion.

“David was Glenn’s inspiration; his terminally ill younger sibling who had the progressive neurological condition, Fridriech’s Ataxia, which affects balance, co-ordination and mobility.”

Ewan Waugh, from Wisecrack Productions, is preparing an exhibition about Glenn’s achievement to accompany the play’s tour, which will be presented in South Shields, Stanley, Newcastle, Blyth, Whitley Bay and Hartlepool, and “would like to hear from anyone who has memorabilia”.

He said: “The fight was broadcast live worldwide and is still one of the biggest events ever in North East sporting history; one of ours fighting for a boxing world title!

“It took place at the Louisa Centre in Stanley which had a capacity of 1,500 but by all accounts there appeared to be a lot more people crammed in that night. Glenn wasn’t fancied to win but, aided by the magnificent crowd and David, he was lifted and inspired to outpoint Lumumba, a top-class opponent.

“Unfortunately it was the days before social media. However, we’d love to hear from anyone with the programme, tickets, posters, leaflets or any other mementos that we can photograph for the exhibition.”