ERIN MCMENAMIN: IT was very moving to read the story of baby Erin McMenamin's battle for survival after being born 16 weeks premature (Echo, Sept 22).

Our daughter, Caitlin, was treated in the next cot to Erin's at James Cook Hospital, Middlesbrough, back in February, after being born ten weeks premature - and so not nearly as small and vulnerable.

We were touched, not only by the professionalism and dedication of staff in the special care unit, but by the courage of Erin's parents Ciaran and Anna, as their daughter, little more than a week old, fought for life, hour by hour.

Caitlin was soon after transferred to Newcastle's RVI, and is now also at home, a healthy little girl.

But we have often wondered what happened to Erin and her parents and it was wonderful to hear of them through The Northern Echo, and to be able to wish the whole family congratulations and the very best wishes for the future.

Huw Lewis, The Mickleys, Northumberland.


I AM writing to complain about animal circuses.

Near where my horse is kept, where the A66 crosses Neasham Road on the edge of Darlington, an animal circus has appeared.

Jolly's Circus is huge and has been situated in a farmer's field. I have seen a zebra, two camels, goats, horses and a donkey.

I think this is utterly appalling and I think there should be a law in England that animal circuses are not welcome here. We are very lucky to have such beautiful countryside here in Darlington, why ruin it?

I have spoken to the RSPCA which will hopefully check out the situation.

But think where do zebras and camels belong? Not in our country, I'm sure.

The circus only arrived on September 13, but I couldn't sleep last night thinking of what they might do with animals in a circus.

I am setting up a petition against animal circuses in England and also one against the animal circuses in Darlington.

Miss Ellie Durham, Darlington.


I LEFT school in July 1951 at 15 years of age and followed my father down Thrislington Colliery, West Cornforth.

I remember the first day I went underground. The banksman said get in the cage, ten men in the top deck and eight men in the bottom deck. He signed to the winder to lower the cage in the shaft, and it dropped like a stone.

We were suddenly surrounded by darkness. Before we got to the bottom we could hear bumping and banging. We were told coal tubs were getting ready to go to the surface.

We did a tour of the underground stables. The pit ponies were getting washed and fed with hay. They had to continually pull timber props to the coal face - really hard work.

We were taken to a coal face and watched coal fillers shovelling coal on to a conveyor. We could see sweat trickling down their faces, back and arms. I thought here were men braving danger and death to earn a crust of bread, shut up in the dreary dark mine from pure clean air.

Rats were everywhere. They often stole coal the fillers' lunch from their pocket.

Sadly, a coal face worker was killed in a district called the top coal when I was 17 years of age. This affected me deeply. Union officials had to go to the dead miner's home and tell his widow her husband would not be coming home.

Death reappeared many times until the pit closed in March 1967, but death was never greedy at Thristington Culliery unlike some bigger pits. He only took his normal cut.

An exhibition is to be held on October 7 at West Cornforth. A pit wheel is to be unveiled outside the old miners' welfare, a gala day, a buffet will be served and the names of the men who were killed at the colliery will be read out.

I would like to thank Bob Bowerbanks for making this a special day we will always remember.

J Taylor, Coxhoe, Durham.


CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown, the apparent king in waiting, represents Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, a Scottish constituency. It is ruled by an independent Scottish parliament which has made several decisions in education and health that are advantageous to Scots and which have been voted against in the House of Commons by several Scottish MPs to the disadvantage of the English public.

How can a man with two feet in Scotland, become a fair Prime Minister of what is left of Great Britain? He certainly won't want to risk the wrath of his Scottish voters, so we the English will be the poor man of Britain. This is the Midlothian Question writ large, I think.

The Scots demanded independence but appear to want the best seats in both houses. Rule your part of Britain by all means, but not mine thank-you.

S Harnby, Stockton.


FROM where does the idea come that the words "I do" and "You may now kiss the bride" are part of the marriage service. Is this yet another example of the use of unnecessary American expressions as in Royal Air Force bases rather than stations and train rather than railway stations?

Peter Elliott, Eaglescliffe.


DENNIS Clark (HAS, Sept 20) suggests that most accidents are caused by "going too fast for the road conditions, traffic density or driving ability". It would be interesting to know who would make that judgement. A policeman, other drivers involved in the accident, or pedestrians knocked down?

Similarly, who is to judge the driving ability of other drivers involved in an accident? Is it not simpler to have speed limits, rather than have every teenage driver deciding for himself on what is safe for the road conditions or judging their own driving ability?

Having speed limits, irksome though they may be at times, stops drivers having to make such unquantifiable judgements.

Eric Gendle, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough.


IF Councillor David Budd, Middlesbrough council's executive member for regeneration, is so confident that property owners in Gresham and the Gem Streets are willing to part with their homes for the amounts currently being offered, then there is one simple test (Echo, Sept 19).

He must state that statutory powers to force people to sell will not be used. Why would he need those powers if, as he claims, homeowners are willing to sell?

In stating that Compulsory Purchase Orders will not be used to force families from their homes, he will be following an example already set by Derwentside District Council leader Alex Watson over plans to demolish 360 terraced houses in the Durham pit villages of Quaking Houses, New Kyo and South Moor.

May I also suggest that our MP, Sir Stuart Bell, reconsider his position on the mass demolition scheme? His fellow Labour MP Kevan Jones in North Durham has already shown the way by expressing his opposition to the Quaking Houses demolition plan. He even went so far as to say: "Derwentside Council has gone about things in a ham-fisted manner."

I leave it to Echo readers to make their own judgement as to the approach being taken by Middlesbrough council.

Ashley Marron, The Gresham Gems.