A wedding breakfast at the Co-op and a beggar woman found dead with £4,000 sewn into the lining of her clothes.
HOWEVER roundabout the route, reference a couple of weeks back to Shanks Pony, prompts Peter Jefferies in Durham to recall that music hall entertainer Bud Flanagan was once so hard up that he walked from London to a booking in Glasgow.
But is it true, asks Peter, that Flanagan had his wedding reception in Chester-le-Street Co-op?
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Too true it is, though history fails to record whether he got his divvy.
Flanagan – born Chaim Reuven Weintrop, his father a London shoemaker – was in digs at Grange Villa, between Chester-le-Street and Stanley, and appeared at the Pavilion in the village.
He is described as unknown, and – though the far-flung Noble Organisation is said to have begun there with Joe Noble’s Bingo – you can’t get much more unknown than Grange Villa.
He married Anne “Curly” Quinn, daughter of the Irish comedian Jimmy Quinn and herself a dancer with Mrs Stacey’s Young Ladies, at Chester-le-Street register office.
The do was at the Co-op Café, famous for its wedding breakfasts and no less for its funeral teas. It cost 6/3d, leaving the groom nine pence with which to cross the waitress’s palm.
Flanagan went on to international stardom, to write and record songs like Underneath the Arches and to sing the theme tune of Dads’ Army.
Ah, the Bud old days.
THE story of Bud Flanagan’s wedding breakfast is confirmed in The People’s Store, a wonderfully anecdotal history of the Co-operative movement in the North-East. It’s not the best story though.
That concerns George Scott, a Methodist local preacher who pretty spectacularly ignored the commandment about not stealing, and quite a few of the others, as well.
Scott was secretary and manager of the Newbottle, Philadelphia and Houghton-le-Spring Co-op when he decided to take the slogan about its all being at the Co-op rather too literally.
In 1893 he absconded – Scott free – in the company of the Society’s £9,586 assets and of a young lady to whom he wasn’t lawfully joined.
They were seen on a boat heading for America at much the same time as the poor old Co-op went into liquidation.
The following year, the Christian Herald – he was a Methodist local preacher, after all – reported that a beggar woman had been found dead on the streets of New York with £4,000, top dollar whatever the Victorian currency, sewn into the lining of her clothes. She was, the Co-operative News later confirmed, Scott’s “paramour”.
“Why she should have adopted the role of beggar is a mystery unless she did it for the purpose of more efficaciously concealing her identity,”
added the News. “The banking of the money or otherwise dealing with it might have led to her discovery.”
Yet more curiously, Scott appeared to have given the faithful several clues to his larcenous intent.
His last sermon, but two, used the text “A little while and ye shall not see me”, the penultimate text was “Ye shalt seek me and not find me”
and, finally, “The time of my departure is at hand.”
The moral of the story – then as now, no doubt – is that you should always take notice of the sermon.
SCOT free? A “scot”, says the Oxford, is a contribution or payment, especially for entertainment, or a local tax.
To pay “lot and scot” was completely to settle one’s debts.
THE other etymological seam which recently we have been exploring is the mining term canch – or “caunch”, which Norman Ryan insists is the correct spelling.
The Complete Oxford, unusually, acknowledges neither.
The Station pub at Langley Moor, south-west of Durham, was originally called the Caunch, says Norman – and it still has a photograph of a caunch, apparently the layer of stone either side of the coal. Queer name for a pub, mind.
It is doubtless in the spirit of helpfulness that Jim Griffiths, former chairman of Derwentside District Council and man about North-East football grounds, explains that there was an upper caunch and a lower caunch and that their material was put into a goaf.
Whether that made the chap who worked the goaf a goafer is uncertain, but this particular seam is probably exhausted.
THE Gadfly Irregulars, that invaluably erudite group to whom recent columns affectionately have alluded, had no more valued member than Martin Snape.
However sporadic, his contributions were an occasional treat. As with many other correspondents, we often wondered what he was like. All that seemed manifest about Martin was that he was learned, and that he wore his learning lightly.
It was only after his death was announced in Thursday’s paper, however – husband of the late Marjorie, father of four, aged 81 – that we fell to trying to put together a few pieces from the archive.
He was born in Lancashire – how else could he have written that over there they call them batter puddings, not Yorkshire puddings? – served in the RAF after the war, lived for a while in Saffron Walden (which is how he could contribute memories of Vice-Admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson, the Terror of Tobermory), was a medievalist and lived in Durham in a Victorian house with a Frosterley marble fire surround.
His contributions – sometimes to Eating Owt, or to Echo Memories, too – ranged from the Durham lady credited with inventing English mustard in 1720 to the reasons for the name Seaton Carew, from the difference (should such exist) between a vennel and a snicket to why cows are called cushy.
Had he lived, he could also have explained why North-East folk supposed the Easter weekend to have been “starvation” while everyone else thought it cold.
His last was in July last year, ending with thanks for the column’s “wide-ranging lucubrations”. Wonderful word, previously unheard, it means discourses by lamplight.
A little internet research further reveals Dr Snape – he’d never used the title – to have been paleographer and archaeologist at Durham Cathedral. Paleography is the study of ancient writings, slightly appropriately as Martin was one of those who eschewed email in favour of Royal Mail, his letters typed immaculately.
Another internet entry acknowledges his work on the Cathedral muniments – “I owe these references and much else to the kindness of Mr Martin Snape.” So do I.
UNDERLINING the Irregulars’ silk purse factor, David Burdon returns a sports page cutting from the run-up to the appointment of Darlington FC’s new manager. “I’ve seen some of the managers at that place make a pig’s ear of it and I’d like the opportunity,”
said former Quakers’ captain Kevan Smith. Unfortunately for Smudger, they gave the opportunity to someone else – and why the now-ubiquitous “Smudger” for Smith, anyway?
LOST for words no longer, our friends at Darlington Scrabble Club have a new meeting place following publicity in the column. From next Tuesday they’ll sit down (6.45pm to 8.45pm) at the Clifton Centre in Clifton Road.
…and finally, a friendly man of the cloth (who’d best remain nameless) adds to the latest avalanche of column inches about priests with the one about the Irish father stopped for speeding in New York.
The state trooper smells alcohol, sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car and asks if he’s been drinking.
“Just water,” says the priest.
“Then why do I smell wine?” says the trooper.
The priest looks at the bottle.
“Good Lord,” he says, “he’s done it again.”