Voices of Consett - Mick

Consett Heritage Project / August 30th, 2023

Voices of Consett - Mick

My name is Mick and I am 86, with a long family history in Consett. All my family bar one lives in Consett, Blackhill and Leadgate and I have lots of grand children living here too, but my family background in Consett goes back years and years.

My grandfather came over from Ireland, to get a job in the steelworks. He originally came from a place called Carrickmoor in County Tyrone, which is in Northern Ireland today. He had heard about the steelworks because Irishmen came over to work in Consett and then went back home to Ireland and bragged about where they had been working. This encouraged a canny few of them to go over to Consett from Ireland to find work.

My grandfather, who originally came to work at the steelworks, died when I went in to the army in 1981, he was called Mick Curran. My father was called Mick & I was Mick, there was three Micks - I don’t think they could spell anything else!

My grandmother died and my grandfather married again, to a woman who already had a family but was very poor. They got money from him and when he died all my father inherited an old Trilby hat, but my father didn’t mind because he was a first-hand smelter at the works.

At first, my grandfather and other immigrants from Ireland all did the jobs that nobody else would have, but my father was a first hand-smelter and was the man who made the steel. He was the man in charge of the furnace, he was the man who said ‘do this’ and they would do it. He was the head lad and he did well. It must be back in the 1940’s.

One day when my father was at work, he was stood on the plate with his special glasses on looking to see if the furnace was ready to tap. Then the plate he was standing on buckled and he fell down the hole – they all thought he was dead. He was badly burnt, broke his leg and cracked his ribs, but two days later I was at the house in Bridgehill where I was taking out the big fire place for my mother. I moved the fireplace and oven in to the garden and left it because my mother wanted a modern one. I went to work the next day and found that my father had got out of bed with a cast on his chest, and he had broken up the old fireplace in the garden straight away. He had just got up, just days after the accident, because he just had a drive to always work.

I was a time served bricklayer for 40 – 50 years, where I worked all round the area. There was two of us, me and a lad who I went to school with. There are some good people in Consett and I thought the steelworks would have carried on personally. Everybody got a share of the ‘red dust’, that’s one thing I don’t miss – but we survived.

Just outside the town now we have the River Derwent and beautiful scenery surrounding us. Where I lived at Bridgehill I just went down the back and I was in the River Derwent. People think it’s all steelworks in the past but it isn’t, at places like Shotley Bridge and Allensford the scenery is fantastic.

I think there are two big gyms, the cricket, the football and the boxing club, there are things there for the young people in Consett. I had four sons, I used to say to them ‘get out there’ and work and get on in life. One is an engineer and they have all worked and travelled and done all sorts now. I think this is what the young have to do have a go at something, take an opportunity, and if it doesn’t work at least, you have tried and you wont come out empty handed. I still go to the boxing in Consett on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays which is something that I am really proud to have supported the young people of Consett with over the years.

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