Dales Diary: Outrage at Middleton head's £6 a week salary; tributes to Baldersdale's Margaret Ellen Fawcett; Westgate's 1950's footballers; Eggleston's First World War display and Anita's history of Wolsingham Grammar School goes global

The Northern Echo: William Oddy sitting next to the Reverend F.W. Rooker, who is praising him in a speech at a presentation ceremony William Oddy sitting next to the Reverend F.W. Rooker, who is praising him in a speech at a presentation ceremony

Many dale folk were shocked in 1885 over a rumour that a village headmaster, William Oddie, was being paid the exhorbitant sum of £300 a year.

It was felt this salary of nearly £6 a week was far too much, and that his fellow teachers at Middleton School were also overpaid.

It was a hot topic as an election was about to be held for the five-man school board. Some candidates wanted the head's pay cut and other staff sacked.

But one candidate, the Reverend John Milner, rector of Middleton, revealed that the head was getting less than £200 and was probably pocketing about £3 a week.

He declared: "You have a headmaster second to none in his profession -- one of the few who have passed through training college with a first class."

He also praised the other teachers, saying they would compare favourably with those at any school in the kingdom.

To replace them with others who would accept smaller salaries would ruin the school and result in a lower government grant.

He singled out three teachers who between them earned £56 a year as they had no certificates.

They could be replaced by a certificated teacher on £60, but he could not possibly do all the work they did.

William Oddie had been at the school for 15 years and was always given a fine report by inspectors.

But local people had to pay a rate contribution to the school and felt that if he and his staff were paid less it would reduce the rate.

One school supporter pointed out that if the rate went up slightly it might cost each person an extra three halfpence a year, the price of a half ounce of tobacco.

He added: "A whiff or two less each day for a week and you have saved it."

In the end the rector won his place on the board and William Oddie kept his job. He didn't have his pay cut, but it went up gradually for the next 25 years.

He was given the biggest send-off party every known in the dale when he retired after 40 years' service. He had been asked to stay on for two years beyond the normal retiring age.

Middleton Silver Band played for hours as 160 former pupils attended a tea to honour the great man.

Some said they were now in good jobs thanks to his inspirational teaching.

The Northern Echo:

The size of this group of former pupils at William Oddy's retirement indicates how deeply he was held in esteem. Photo courtesy of historian Bill Payne.

A series of presentation gatherings were held. Glowing tributes were paid. Songs were sung by individuals and concert parties.

Gifts handed over included a purse of money, silver tea service, gold ring, ornate walking stick, gold albert with pendant, paintings and a meerschaum pipe.

He was said to be the best head any school could have. There were also mementos from organisations he supported -- the village show, savings bank, churches and mechanics institute among them.

Warm tributes were paid at a funeral service on Monday to Margaret Ellen Fawcett, who in her younger years gave a wonderful service to dozens of dale women before, during and after the birth of their babies.

She was more than just a midwife, for as well as supervising births she ran the house as long as required, doing cooking and cleaning as well as farm work.

Expectant mothers booked her well in advance, and she stayed a week or fortnight in some cases.

She was described as "truly remarkable" by the Reverend Stephen Liddle, who conducted the service after she passed away at the age of 99.

The Northern Echo:

Margaret Ellen Fawcett

Nellie, as she was known to friends, was brought up at West Birk Hatt Farm at the top of Baldersdale, one of 11 children of Sam and Hilda Fawcett.

She often milked 20 cows by hand and heaved the heavy churns into place at the roadside.

She was never afraid of heavy work on the land but had a gentle touch with babies.

She was so expert at midwifery, without formal training and long before the NHS was formed, that she was regularly called to remote farms all over the dales.

Her reputation spread so she was asked to go further afield at times.

Once when a problem cropped up in winter she drove a tractor over snow to fetch a doctor.

During the Second World War she served in a laundry which cleaned the clothing of Canadian and American airmen.

She spoke of the sadness she and other workers felt when clean clothes were not collected. They knew, before any formal announcement, that this meant the owners had probably crashed. She later worked in an office until she retired.

After her original home was submerged by Balderhead reservoir she lived at Hunderthwaite.

The Northern Echo:

Balderhead Reservoir - covering West Birk Hatt

The service at Darlington crematorium was attended a large number of her relatives, led by her brother Sep and daughters Mavis and Olga, as well as many dale friends.

A notable feature of photographs of football teams from decades ago is that they usually have only 11 players.

It was before the era of substitutes so everyone was expected to play the full 90 minutes. Injuries or tiredness? They had to be overcome as they battled on until the final whistle.

A case in point is the Westgate team from the 1950s, in a picture loaned by Peter Nattrass from his collection.

There were no subs on the bench in those days to replace anyone who was hurt or, as the pundits say, to povide a fresh pair of legs in the latter stages.

The captain with the ball is Billy Moore, whose wife Sally was captain of the ladies' team printed here recently.

The goalkeeper is their son Terry, so they were quite a footballing family. In the back row from left are John Barron, Norrie Thompson, Eric Svenson, Terry Moore, Eddie Johnston and Brian Svenson.

In front are Frank Walton, Brian Milner, Billy Moore, George Hogarth and Malcolm Metcalfe.

The Northern Echo: The Westgate footballers ready for action in the 1950s

There could be debates about whether this well-groomed lot, reckoned to be fairly nifty, could beat any of the dale's present teams.

David Bainbridge is putting on a fascinating display of over 100 photographs and postcards from the First World War at Eggleston on Saturday May 17 1-4pm.

The collection built up by his late father Harold will be well worth seeing with the war centenary approaching.

The Northern Echo:

Private Harold Bainbridge in his army uniform in 1915.

Mr Bainbridge, who used to run the village post office, will celebrate his 80th birthday two days before the exhibition is held in the Methodist schoolroom.

There will be no admission charge but visitors will be asked to make a donation towards the £10,000 needed to repair the roof of the room, built in 1883. There will also be a tea.

Harold was a driver in the Army Service Corps during the war. As well as his photographs there will be postcards he sent home and a number of maps.

His material was a major help when the Royal Mail's dale website was set up.

Anita Atkinson has already sold 300 copies of her book, A Further History of Wolsingham Grammar School, which runs to 527 pages and is priced at £15.

The Northern Echo:

Anita Atkinson

Copies have gone to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America, Germany and France as well as all over Britain.

They are on sale at many Weardale outlets, but anyone from outside the area can order one from her on 07798748828.

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