IN decades gone past, Witton-le-Wear went to war – well, tug-of-war, anyway.

We had pictures of past tug-of-wars in Memories a couple of weeks ago, and now Kate Bolton has kindly sent in this one, telling of the wars between Witton’s top house and bottom house in the 1960s and 1970s.

The bottom house was the Railway Hotel, and the top house was the Dun Cow.

“On the left is Matt Bolton, landlord of the Top House, urging his team on,” she says. “So many people will remember him and the late nights at the Dun Cow, drinking, smoking, eating chicken in a basket and standing because it was so crammed you couldn’t get a seat after 7pm.

“Matt was a wannabe Scot and dressed up in his kilt often. He had a huge collection of Scotch whiskies which he shared liberally when he was in the mood.

“Once in 1969 some drivers from Heseltines haulage were in and the conversation turned to whisky.

“'Ah love whisky and milk,' said one of them.

“'We're out of milk', said Matt.

“Ah’ve got a Jersey cow in the wagon,' said one of the drivers.

“'Fetch it in here,' said Matt.

“The cow was brought in and milk was added to their drinks and there was much hilarity and more drinking before the cow was reloaded and they drove away – this, needless to say, was in the days before the breathalyser.

“Does anyone else have stories to tell about Matt?”

IF not about Matt, here’s another Witton-le-Wear pub-related story, courtesy of Anne Yuill’s book about the village, A Witton Wander. It concerns the Victoria, and it ties in with our earlier story about the Boer War, of 1899-1902.

In 1907, Cuthbert and Ernest Vaux, the third generation to run the famous Sunderland brewery, bought the Victoria for £1,900.

Ernest Vaux had served with the 15th Imperial Yeomanry in the Boer War in South Africa, where he had been in charge of a Maxim gun company. When he safely returned home, the brewery celebrated by making Double Maxim beer which, partly because of its curious name, became probably its best known beverage.

It is said that Ernest only returned because his life was saved on the battlefield by Dr John Dodds who, when he wasn’t fighting in South Africa, was the Witton doctor.

In peacetime, Dr John returned to the village, but he committed a misdemeanour and was struck off the medical register. This left him without any earnings.

The Vaux family, though, was so grateful to him that they gave him the tenancy of the Victoria.

“When Dr Dodd left the Victoria,” says Anne’s book, “he moved into 22 High Street and continued to practise as a dentist, pulling teeth at a cost of one penny a tooth.”

REGULAR readers will know that the best way to get a mention in Memories is through flattery. “Yet more great articles in last week’s Looking Back,” writes Ged Davidson from Thornaby, thereby guaranteeing himself inclusion. He was particularly taken with the late 1940s photograph of Bishop Auckland Urban District Council’s new fleet of refuse trucks.

“I notice that only one of them has a windscreen wiper and it would appear that they all only have one headlight, if that’s what the item is to the right of the radiator. Was this normal lighting for refuse trucks of the time?”

He’s right. Each of the trucks seems to have just one spotlight on the nearside. Can you shed any light on this?

STAYING with old vehicles, Steve Guest in Hurworth Place takes us back to the picture of the opening of Sedgefield bypass on June 2, 1969, by a Durham County Council potentate accompanied by police officers.

“The police vehicle appears to be an Austin 1800/2200 "Land Crab" patrol car rather than an 1100 panda, as you say,” says Steve. “Unless Durham was wildly different to North Yorkshire, us "panda plods" would have been muscled out by Road Traffic Division for any remotely high profile event.”

Before anyone accuses Steve of geekery, he suggests that this piece of deduction is attributable to his training as a policeman. “As an operational Bobby in the days before, knowing the subtle differences between models and versions of models was often critical in spotting a vehicle on false plates.”

THIS week 150 years ago, the best story in the Darlington & Stockton Times newspaper concerned ironworker Patrick Rooney, of the Albert Hill area of Darlington.

The edition of November 13, 1869, said that he had “made the somewhat disconsolatory discovery that his wife had deserted him, and that a man named Riley, who for some time had been lodging with them, had disappeared about the same time”.

Apparently, Mr Rooney was not too concerned about the loss of his wife, but he was very concerned that some of his possessions were missing, and so reported their theft to the police.

“The faithless, fickle, fair one and her new companion were thus apprehended at the North-Eastern Station (ie: the shed that was then Bank Top) as they were about to take train for Leeds,” said the D&S.

Mr Riley – “the accused Lothario” – was arrested, but Mr Rooney didn’t want to press charges.

“He evinced no anxiety to retain his wife, but he refused to allow her more clothes than she was wearing, and during the day took his recovered property into the Market Place and had it sold by auction,” concluded the paper.

MEMORIES 446 had a delightful sequence of 1970s photographs by John Hill showing how a wagon on Darlington’s inner ring road had shed a load of pipes which had spread like a tsunami across the carriageway, pushing vehicles to the side.

“The wagon was owned by the Darlington company of Simmons,” says Mark Cooper. “They were based in Albert Road on the right, next to the River Skerne where the shopping outlets are now.

In the 1970s, they had a contract from Eaton Axles to deliver new differentials to the various wagon manufacturers across the country.”

Eaton Axles, of course, were one of Newton Aycliffe’s biggest employers. The managing director at one time was Tom Finnegan who in later life found a degree of notoriety. In 1983, he was the Tory candidate for Stockton South at the General Election. He embarrassed party leader Margaret Thatcher just before polling day when it was revealed that he had once stood for the far right National Front – he only lost the seat by 1,000 votes, and in the 1990s, he re-emerged running Zhivagos nightclub in Commercial Street, Darlington.

Eaton Axles left Aycliffe for Poland in 1999.