SERIOUS students of these offerings may have noted that last Thursday's John North column was chiefly given over to Glenn Reynolds - Quaker, shaker, author and Darlington councillor - while the following day's Backtrack was devoted in its artless entirety to George Reynolds, who may need less introduction.

The place is starting to resemble the Reynolds News, and there are those who may just remember it.

It was founded by a different George Reynolds in 1850, a Sunday paper with "a radical working class approach combined with sensationalism" - sound familiar? - said particularly to be popular in northern England and to be the foremost left wing periodical of its time.

Though George Reynolds died in 1879, his family owned the paper for another 15 years. In 1929 it was bought by the Co-operative Press, became the Reynolds News and Sunday Citizen and ultimately the plain Sunday Citizen until its demise in 1967.

The death knell, says an article forwarded by the Stokesley Stockbroker, was sounded by the decision to remove the Reynolds name - "an inspired spasm of pretension".

A year younger than The Northern Echo, the Co-operative News still appears, however - its 20th century campaigns including a battle against jingoism in the First World War, a proper food rationing system at the start of the Second World War and, in the 1960s, a drive to convince the retail Co-op movement that the future lay in selfservice.

Retail self-service? We shall return to the basket cases very shortly.

CO-OPERATIVE as always, the Stockbroker also recalls that Reynolds News was full of ads for Wheatsheaf bread, Defiant televisions and Pelaw boot polish - the area of Gateshead to which the Society had clearly taken a shine.

"The Co-op had a policy of naming products after places, hence the gloriously titled Crumpsall cream crackers." Pride of place, do similar tributes still exist?

THEN there is Mr Ernie Reynolds from Wheatley Hill - former military fireman, prolific Hear All Sides correspondent and periodic migrant to these more sheltered climes. One thing about the English language has always puzzled him, he says - only one, Ernie? - and that's why, when a phrase is hyphenated and one word contains the little "i" - the "i" word always comes first.

Ding-dong, zig-zag, tip-top, pitterpatter, clicketty-clack - some of the country's finest linguists (or at least those who gather in the Britannia on a Monday lunchtime) were unable to deny his point.

Do the i's always have it? Gadfly readers will doubtless know better.

RECENT columns have wistfully recalled Doggarts department stores, centred on Bishop Auckland and - until their demise in 1981 - with 13 branches spread throughout the North-East.

"It was incredibly labour intensive, " recalls Jamie Doggart.

"Father's philosophy was that if you had a counter, there should be someone behind it to serve."

The business was founded by Arthur Doggart, Jamie's grandfather - his first outlet a stall on Bishop market, his first shop in Shildon. The green vans, the ticket - "tick" - system and the pneumatic change dispensers are still affectionately remembered.

Arthur was a committed Baptist, became president of the Baptist Union and brought Christian principles to his commercial dealings.

"We called ourselves a family store. That was our ethos, " says Jamie, 57. "We served the family and all Doggarts' staff were a family, too."

Jamie's long lived on Guernsey, where his activities are mainly charitable. His brother Sandy is in Henley-on-Thames, his sister Alison in Scarborough.

Having to announce the closure, he says, was the worst day of his life. "We'd been badly hit by death duties and by inflation in Edward Heath's time, but it was still an awful decision to have to make.

"We weren't small enough to become a self-service operation and we weren't large enough to have really big bulk buying power."

The column is pointed towards Jamie by Christine Dykes, Barnard Castle B&B owner and former landlady of the Three Tuns at Eggleston, who is godmother to his son.

Many other readers, to whom thanks, recall that both Jamie and Sandy were albino, didn't drive, and were every day chauffered into work from Barney.

"Most lunchtimes they were also driven out to the Red Alligator at South Church, " says Barrie Green, from Chilton.

"You have to have a drink somewhere, " says Jamie, who denies that the Doggart brothers were strictly albino.

"We didn't have red eyes or anything. We were the blue eyed boys in every sense of the word."

MIKE Heaviside from Cockfield worked in Doggarts' carpets and floor covering department in 1965, a "raw" 15-year-old and very much bottom (as a carpet man might say) of the pile.

It really was a bit like Are You Being Served, but Doggarts ensured that it served them right.

The department, says Mike, revolved around the two buyers - Mr Muncaster and Mr Tallentire.

Beneath them was the "first sales", then the "senior sales", those over 21, and finally the youthful ranks of "junior sales" like himself.

"We were told at all times to wear dark lounge suits with white or blue shirt and tie. They were always available in the gents' outfitting department and we were allowed to take out a £5 Doggarts club. I actually bought three suits during my time there."

Young Heaviside was the most junior lino type, of course, allowed to speak to customers only on Wednesday morning and Saturday - "and then only if everyone else was busy elsewhere".

Mostly he was involved with brown paper packages tied up with string. Favourite things? "I look back on it with affection."

SINCE the last two columns have dipped a toe into the great sea of Irish jokes, Jo Stevens - Dubliner and former teacher of English, now living in Eaglescliffe - responds with the one about the three fellers at the Pearly Gates, each granted one wish by St Peter.

The American asks for the world to be free of famine and disaster, the Swede asks for an end to nuclear weapons.

The Englishman asks for a nice cup of tea and two sugars.

SUCK it and see, last week's column recalled the Dum-Tit Gang - said to have been a fairly fearful force in 1970s Station Town - and wondered what happened to them.

Perhaps matured a bit, none has come forward. They're remembered, however, by former England amateur football international George Brown, who comes from that east Durham community.

"They were a bit younger than I was. I think they got their name because one or two of them had been sucking their dummies rather longer than they should have been, " says George, capped while at West Auckland and now living in Spennymoor.

He has little doubt that all have now got their pipe. "I'm sure, " says George, "that the Dum-Tit Gang are now all pillars of the community."

HIS e-mail headed "Bostin' Barney", Steve Smith returns - "rather amused and equally puzzled" - to the job lot of Barnard Castle picture postcards on sale at WH Smith's bookstall on Birmingham New Street railway station.

"Bostin', " reckons Steve, is Black Country slang meaning "fantastic" - as in "bostin' fittle, gerrit down your wassin".

Memory also suggests a cafe somewhere called Bostin' Beans. Is there a North-East equivalent?

. . . . and finally, our attention is drawn to the programme for this week's Richmond Live music festival - bands like Outrageous Wallpaper, The Revs and Nine Pound Note - in which 1940s American radio comedian Ed Gardner is also quoted.

"Opera, " said Gardner, "is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings."

It may be kettle calling the pan the other thing, but offers a suitably discordant note on which to end today's column. The Gadfly department opens again next Wednesday.

Published: 04/08/2004