Voices of Consett - Eileen

Consett Heritage Project / September 18th, 2023

Voices of Consett - Eileen

I have lived in Consett for 64 years, my family live in Consett, I work and socialise in Consett, my grandchildren go to school in Consett, so you could say my whole life is in Consett. I have three children and three grandchildren who all live in this area, one of them teaches in Leadgate, in Consett. Both my mother and father were born in Blackhill and Leadgate in Consett, with my father working in the steelworks. No matter where you lived around here, the pollution of the works touched everybody. All the red dust and the smell of the chemicals, it was inescapable.

To me the steelworks was all we ever knew, it was the core of Consett and provided the majority of men in this area with work. My father’s occupation was as a Blast Furnaceman, as was his father before him. It was a very dangerous job, I can remember my Mam, who cleaned at the works, and they took her round beforehand and she was totally blown away by the danger he was in.

My parents probably met at a local dance like they did in this area back then, with my father being employed in the works from about 15, with his father getting him in for a job. The annual dinner dances were a thing to talk about. My dad would actually organise them as he was a Union man and a good organiser who helped out a lot of people.

They were all against the company closing and went on a march to London with their banners but to no avail. It was quite a sad time for him obviously for him as he was only 52 and having done a rough sort of job for most of his working life, he had been made up to a Training Officer for a few months, which was a way for him to pass on his knowledge, and not be in so much danger, but then the works shut.

My Mam was like myself and would do part time cleaning work there for extra money as we were a big family. They both lost their jobs when the works shut and my dad never worked again, there were no schemes for them or anything like that. It was quite sad and must have been very worrying for them as all they knew was Consett Iron Company, it was their very life blood. All they could hold on to was that everybody was in it together. I didn’t realise the trauma of it as I was only a teenager but I always remember my Mam saying Dad sat and cried, for the first time, in the kitchen because of what was happening.

My current views are that Consett is lacking something for every generation, particularly the younger generation, especially around youth centres and sporting activities. I notice alcohol and substance abuse and I think we need more businesses and input for the young people for when they come out of school as there is nothing for them. I just hope that my family are still around here in the future, that there are jobs for them, and that they don’t have to go further afield. I don’t like hearing people slate Consett as its all I know and a place with lots of good in it.

I would encourage young people to take every opportunity at school and to stick in. I don’t knock people moving away to get that out of their system when they are young. However, the work need to be done in providing something for them to come back to. I would never move away, I love Consett.

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