Keith was born in Cutlers Hall road Shotley Bridge in 1939, the third child of Delia and
Bob, a miner at the Morrison Busty pit Medomsley Edge. He had two elder Sisters, Joan and Anne, and his Brother Bob came along a couple of years later after the family moved to Derwent Cottages, a pit village now demolished.
As his Dad was in the homeguard, Keith was well known on Ivy Terrace for striding around with a wooden gun, keeping the enemy at bay!
Early memories included having to carry together with his sisters,massive bags of potatoes along from the Hat and Feather corner, in 2 stone bags his Mam had knitted from string!
He recently told a guide at Beamish museum that his Teacher at Benfieldside school
had played for Crook FC in the FA cup and instilled a healthy start to each morning before lessons. He made the boys do a 3 mile run every day in their normal clothes!
The school also had a garden and Keith’s love of growing his own produce started then. He loved working in the school gardens, he even won a gardening prize! A hobby that continued until last October with his allotment. His tomato growing made the rest of the family chuckle, it was all or nothing, sometimes June despairing with all the green tomatoes, however, everything would be utilised, and she would fill the cupboards with tomato chutney!
The family moved to a prefab house in York road Blackhill in 1948 where Keith joined the 5th Blackhill Boys Brigade, where he learned to play drums, he often pointed out the place they camped at Budle Bay in Northumberland, and told of extremely long walks to get fish and chips from Seahouses, which is a 12 miles round trip!
He had a great love of pipe band music and loved to visit the Edinburgh tattoo. With June and his sisters they decided to start New Consett Jazzmanians marching Jazz band in 1972 where he drilled the band and trained all the drummers.
It attracted children from all around the area, and they played in competitions and at carnivals for many years, his Sisters continued running “the band” until the 1990’s
Many of the original members are still in touch with each other today, forming a special
bond with their initial love of marching.
He met June Byers at Rossi’s ice cream parlour in Consett in 1961 He was working at the cinemas putting the reels on at the time.
He worked at the Empire and the Town Hall. Known locally as the loppy opera!!
They were just 19 and 22, they courted for just a year before they married, enjoying cycling up to Muggleswick, drinking coffee in expresso bars and going to see bands such as The Shadows and the Searchers at Newcastle City Hall.
They once went to a variety night at the Empire theatre where the audience was asked to get up and do a turn, to June’s surprise Keith hopped up on stage and did HIS version of
“The Lambton Worm” He was awarded the prize of a silver cigarette box from Senior Service brand which they still have.
It was at this time that Keith decided to buy a Morris Minor from West Auckland. He rode
his Vespa scooter up to get it, alone, he then got into the car and drove it half a mile, parked it up, and then walked back to the scooter, and rode past the car for half a mile, parked it up, walked back to the car, Drove that a mile, parked up, then walked back for the scooter, and so the story continued, until he eventually got both veichles home!!!
That Morris minor travelled the length and breadth of Britain, sometimes with 6 people and their luggage!! And on one trip back from Devon, boxes of Fruit under the passengers feet!
He did take an appreticeship at Consett steelworks, but he didn’t like it, as it was as a fitter up tall ladders and he nearly fell. So he ironically took a job at Lancasters TV and radio shop as an ariel fitter instead!! He had originally delivered newspapers for them.
It was here that he became more interested in the technical side of the work and paid his way through night school at Charles Trevalion college in Newcastle to become a TV engineer. He travelled around the area with Lancasters, Telehire then Visionhire mending people’s telly’s.
In 1987 he decided to open his own TV repair shop “Thompsons TV’s” in Derwent St. Blackhill, where he rented and repaired them.
He later worked for Dunn’s of Stanley and afterwards Cuthbertson’s of Anfield Plain where he worked until he was in his seventies. There was many funny tales to tell, being chased and bitten by many dogs, stampeded by bulls, and other occupational hazards!
June and Keith married at St. Johns church in Castleside in October 1962, their reception
was held at the village hall and the bill from the co-op includes 16 loaves, 48 large cakes
and then another 12 dozen assorted cakes, all for £7 13 shillings and 6 pence!! The flowers came to less than £7, probably less than the cost of one buttonhole today!
Their first home was a flat next to Mountsett crematorium at Dipton, which cost a £1 a
week to rent but they later bought a house in Edith Street, next to the Steelworks in Consett where in 1964 Mandy Clare was born and Melanie Joy in 1967. June used to hang out the white nappies in the back yard, but when she brought them in, they were a murky pink from the steelworks dust, Also the milk on the doorstep would disappear after the night-shift finished!
A year after Melanie was born they moved to a new house with an indoor loo and large
gardens in College View, Delves Lane, and third daughter Elaine Ruth was born in 1971
completing their family.
Keith loved photography, and the wash room next to the kitchen became a dark room for developing the photographs for many years, with black plastic sheeting up at all of the windows!
Another hobby Keith tried was fishing, while on holiday in Scotland, failing to catch
anything he went out and bought fancy floats to aid his attempts, where he sat out all
night in his dingy every evening, only to come back with absolutely nothing, he even lost the floats on the rocks!!!
But a hankering for something different came along, and plans were made to emigrate to
Australia! However, Keith decided at the last minute, not to venture when he discovered
the pollen count was so high, as all 3 of his girls suffered from bad hay fever!
That didn’t stop plans, and in December 1977 they started the “good life” at Middle Gap
Rowley. This house was a small holding, where the girls finally got their longed after ponies, chickens, cat, goats, pig and border collie Sally. June and Keith worked the rest of the plot growing veg and were fairly self sufficient in time.
Happy times lay ahead, but Mother nature had other plans!
The heaviest winter in decades landed! Ever thrifty and practical, Keith fashioned a snow plough for the front of his Hillman Avenger to help navigate the mile long track to the A68. But the snow kept coming, until he had to leave his car at the Smelters Arms in Castleside each day, and use telegraph poles to guide his way home to the family, who were snowed in for 6 weeks.
The girls revelled seeing him on the local TV broadcasts walking the lonely climb up Rowley bank armed with milk and bread on an evening.
After Melanie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he was worried that an ambulance or even helicopter would not be able to reach the property if needed, the sad decision was made to sell.
Keith and June bought a lovely house in Moorside which they have lived in ever since, bringing very happy times to the family, and have welcomed their wonderful grandchildren Sophie Melissa Fenn Hayley and Charlie.
Along with Son’s-in -law, Stephen Frankie and Simon and Grandson-in-law to be, Johnny.
He loved them all, as the sons he never had.They loved him back, and when he became ill, they all rallied around to support him and June. He would be immensely proud that he meant so much to them all.
Together with the girls this made one big happy family, that I’m sure will help and support June in the next chapter of her life.
Dad, Granda or Uncle Keith to many of you, was a happy gentle family man, gone too soon, who will be fondly remembered by one and all.
Below are some photos taken at the funeral. Where he was escorted by bagpipes and drum, his great nieces sang a duet, flowers supplied from the organic gardens where Mandy works, filled the church, peonies and delphiniums along with roses from Elaine’s garden, and ferns and hostas from Junes. Stephen created a spade for the flowers to decorate the lovely wicker coffin, and June did the arrangement. Their scent filled the air. His Brother Robin read this eulogy out, and nephew Stuart did the reading from the bible. His nephew and sons-in-law carried the coffin.
Music was played to the old photos, Donovan’s Catch the wind, and The Searchers, when you walk in the room, who he was booked to see later this year.
He was carried in a 1960’s Bedford black maria van.
A white dove was released at the quiet burial ground as a sign of peace and love.
We asked for no other flowers, but donations to Dad’s favourite charity DEBRA, of which £680 was raised to help people in need.
Keith is buried in a beautiful spot at Chapel view greenfield burial site Rowley, Consett.
From there you can see both TV masts, Burnhope and Pontop Pike, of which he always pointed out, and laying behind him is his old drinking mate Lorrie Allan. He lays in a meadow of beautiful wild flowers, and it’s my wish to be buried there when the time comes.