FOR Christmas 1971, The Northern Echo published a special, glossy magazine that cost all of 15p, with a seasonal North-East flavour.

Opera singer Owen Brannigan had written some songsheets; Catherine Cookson had penned a short story, but it was the image on the front which caught readers’ eyes.

“I must congratulate you on your cover,” wrote Mrs R Hawkey of Scarborough in Ontario, Canada, to Hear All Sides. “It brings back memories and I think it is worth framing. No one from the north can see this without a little tugging of the heart strings, even in this most Canadianised home.

“Thank you and please keep up the good work. Do not let our heritage fall into oblivion.”

The image, which is also on today’s front cover of Memories, is by Norman Cornish, the great County Durham artist who was born 100 years ago. It shows the back of Salvin Street in the Mount Pleasant area of Norman’s hometown of Spennymoor, with Holy Innocents Church in the background.

It was a scene that he revisited on several occasions. There’s a summery version with boys playing football at the top of the street while women gossip on the right and washing billows in the breeze below, but best known of all is probably another snowy scene in which the snowball fight is turning nasty and a mother, in a white apron, has appeared at the yard door on the left. She is gesticulating to a toddler, wrapped up tight in a bright red coat, who is straying dangerously towards the gladiatorial arena that he should return to the warmth of her safety before he gets wiped out by a cold, frozen ball to the face.

Norman, who was born on November 18, 1919, had retired from the coalmines and become a professional artist in 1966, five years before the Echo paid him the princely sum of £35 – that’s nearly £500 in today’s values, according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator – for the use of the image.

It went with a second, rougher sketch showing towerblocks rising above Gateshead. This sketch was used inside the Christmas magazine next to the short story by Catherine Cookson. Ms Cookson, from South Shields, was at the height of her powers – her first successful novel, The Fifteen Streets, had been published in 1952.

The story was called Enough to make a start on… It tells of an elderly North-East couple who’ve been forced to move into a towerblock. It’s Christmas, and they’re bemoaning the loss of the back yard community of their old terraced days, but a young rapscallion, who in years gone by would have been burning up his energy in the safety of the back yard, adopts them and sets them to work organising his dream party so that they are beginning to become part of a new community up in the sky.

It seems appropriate to use the image a second time on a Christmas Echo cover in the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Definitive Collection of his work is on display in the Bowes Museum until February 23 and was being warmly appreciated during last weekend’s Christmas fair. Norman Cornish Revealed is on display at Gallery North at Northumbria University, where PhD research into his work is being carried out, until February 22, and his sketchbooks are in Palace Green Library in Durham until the same date.