In memory of Andy Dennis

3rd January 1948 to 30th March 2007
My name is Andy Dennis. For the first 33 years of my life, I lived at
Newbottle. I was born in Gawswell Terrace (only lived there 3
weeks!) The house I lived in faced west, and gave a great view of
the "fever hospital" as it was known. The compound still exists,
but I believe that houses now occupy the site, and a haulage
business (?). I haven't been for several years, so I'm a little

In about 1950, a council housing estate was built at Success
facing the colliery houses. The council houses were called Clover
Avenue, Blossom Grove and Aster Terrace. I forget the name of
the colliery houses, probably "Colliery Row", such was the extent
of the imagination of the builders. My cousin lived in Clover
Avenue, and I visited him regularly to play. Behind the colliery
houses was a large field with goalposts, so it was a magnet for us.

Between Success and Newbottle was "the washer" where coal
was washed before being transported by train to its destination.
(Did you know that coal had to be washed?). The coal was from
the collieries at Herrington's "Dolly" pit and "New" pit as well as
Houghton pit. There was a colliery at Success in the past, but to
my eternal shame, I never knew its location. I would guess that it
was located between the council houses and the washer,
because there were some ventilation shafts there.

It makes me laugh now, but the path from Newbottle to Success
over the fields was tarmac, and known locally as "the black trod".
At the washer a metal bridge carried the footpath over the railway
line. As the bridge made a noise as you walked over it, it became
known affectionately as "the Clang". People these days would
think you were speaking a foreign language if you said you were
going "down the black trod and ower the Clang!"

When the collieries closed, the washer became redundant, and
was demolished along with the colliery houses at Success. A
large sixth form college now occupies their site, along with some
new housing estates. In fact I put my name down for a house
there, before a better one became available here at Roker. The
fields between Newbottle and Success have also been swallowed
up by housing. I would like to think that "the black trod" still
exists, but I doubt it.

Thinking about life in the 50's has me quite nostalgic, like Dennis
Potter's "Blue Remembered Hills". Life was so much more
innocent then, before the yuppie invasion.
Do you recognize the "Sun Inn"? (I don’t know who took the
photo.) It's a lot bigger than when you left Newbottle. I walked
past it four times per day from the age of 4 to 11. I feel quite
nostalgic. The house that can be seen in the gap between the
Sun and the white-ish converted farmhouse is the end house in
the street where I lived, St. Matthew's Terrace.

The original village of Newbottle is pretty, to me anyway, and it is
improving thanks to new building within the village centre, but it
is now surrounded by a massive housing estate covering the
fields where I played as a kid. When they were fields they were
owned by the Earl of Durham who lived in a stately villa in
Tuscany. No doubt he sold them to developers to keep him in
even grander style. He died the other day. The local sycophantic
press still called him Lord Lambton (he insisted on it!) even
though he gave up the title 40 years ago to be an M.P.

Are you able to pick out which one is me on my Newbottle Infant
School photo? I was in Miss Lowes' first year class of 1952/3.
That is me in the back row and wearing the bow tie.
The Sun Inn at Newbottle
Newbottle Infant School. Miss Lowes first year class of 1952/3.
Back row John Bestford, ?, David Beeston, Andrew Dennis, Les Richardson, Billy
Nicholson, ?, John Sweeting, ?, Peter Oxenham
Middle row ?, Billy Tate, Gregory Vaulks, Maureen Wilson, Ruth Oxenham,
Kathleen Lynn, ? Frank Dixon,  Kenny Turton.
Front row ?, ?, ?, Christina Cook, Marian Marshall, Evelyn Wilson, ?, ?,
Jeanette Cutmore

Only those highlighted went to Washington Grammar and were in
the same intake as us. You will remember that Jeanette Cutmore
was in our class.

13 March 2004  Thanks a bunch!!!!!!! I hate these photos of "Old
XXXXXX", because they are meant to be historical documents,
and I can remember several very well.

Gaumont Cinema, Sunderland
This was at the crossroads of Fawcett Street and High Street West.
Although not the most palatial in Sunderland (the Regal was), it
was the only one in Sunderland that had a restaurant. My Auntie
Mary would often take me and my cousin to see a film, and we
would have "high tea" afterwards. Usually egg and chips.

Sunderland District Omnibuses
Otherwise known as SDO or "blue buses". Their depot was only a
couple of hundred yards from my house. Coming from
Washington, it was at the bottom of the hill up to Newbottle.

Tram at Seaburn Terminus
I can just remember being taken to the seaside and getting a tram
from the town centre to Seaburn.

Washington F Pit-heap
We from the Grammar school will never forget it! When an
exhibition was held in our school in 1966 they asked for
suggestions. I suggested that it be kept as a monument to our
industrial past. Instead, it was used as a base for many of the new

Thanks for making me feel old!

I've got another two photos for you.
I am on the far left and my older brother Bill is centre front
I'm on the left with a book on my knee, aged about 10. At the front
is our Bill aged about 16 and on the right is my cousin who lives
in Freemantle, WA.

This second photo was taken round about the time I started the
Washington Grammar School.
Me when I was about eleven
Lots of people remember my calligraphy style of handwriting.
My main memories of WGS are Mrs Steel's wonderful ginger
puddings, all the lovely girls I failed miserably with, being
ordered by The Boss to get my hair cut when by today's
standards it was scarcely longer than a skinhead, and the
Beatles. Whenever anyone asks me what Bryan Ferry was like, I
tell them the truth. In the five years common to the two of us, I
cannot recall speaking to him once! Bryan Ferry played the part
of Malvolio in Twelfth Night, that would have been about Jan/Feb
1963. Although the plays were usually performed for the school,
I really cannot remember seeing Twelfth Night. I can remember
Macbeth, and Iolanthe in our first form, but no others. I left
school in 1966, having failed to get the necessary grades for
University entrance, so I entered the Civil Service as a trainee
accountant in the District Audit Service, on the E.O. grade. The
late sixties and seventies were very uneventful as I (very) slowly
climbed the ladder. In 1979 and 1980 I visited the south west
USA. Here I am at the Grand Canyon. I can remember looking
over the edge. It was a long way down
Me at the Grand Canyon
In 1981, I decided that spending money on luxuries wasn't all
that wise, so I bought a house in Washington. In 1982, my small
branch of the Civil Service was privatised by Thatcher. As the
new body (the Audit Commission) needed experienced staff to
get it going, I was "bribed" by a 57% pay rise to join them.

Having completed the Great North Run in 1982, I was training for
the following years event in 1983 when I started experiencing
some strange symptoms, which were diagnosed in 1984 as MS.

Apparently, I'd experienced the first symptom, without anyone
recognizing it in 1970. At first, the symptoms were not very
debilitating, I decided to see as much of the world as I could,
while I still could. You say I look businesslike on my1983
passport photo. I can remember the day and place I had that
photo taken. It was the day I learned that I had just got a very big
promotion at work (big as in 57% pay rise!) Having bought my
house two years previously, I hadn't been abroad for three
years. I decided that I could recommence my travels. I went out
at lunchtime and got a passport photo taken at Woolworth's in
Durham Market Place. That explains the shirt and tie! I visited
India, France, and Italy three times (being totally captivated)
before it became too difficult in 1989. I was finally forced to take
long term sick leave in 1990 and formally retired in 1991
Me in Jaipur. Note the turban!
Me at the Colloseum in Rome
Me on a group tour to the Taj Mahal. I'm in the back row, fifth from the left.
Over the past 25 years, I've heard countless numbers of "cures"
for MS. All have been proved to be incorrect. Some have proved
to be fraudulent, with one Irish "doctor" now being sought by
police abroad. Do you remember the great polio scare of the
1950's when people died, or spent years in an "iron lung"? With
the advent of the Salk vaccine in 1960, polio was eradicated in
the Westem world. But people who were confined to wheelchairs
in the 50's are still in wheelchairs today. Polio can be prevented,
but it has not been cured. In the same way, I'm sure that one day
a prevention for MS will be found for people showing the very
first signs by preventing the immune system from attacking the
central nervous system, but equally I'm sure that a cure for
people like me will never happen. For that to happen, parts of the
central nervous system which have already been destroyed
would have to be regrown. A bit like finding a way to grow a
replacement for an amputated limb!

14 Nov 2006 There's a lot of activity in the stem cell debate. One
guy from Co.Durham went to a clinic in Holland and paid
£13,000 raised by friends. He's in the papers claiming a miracle
change in his condition -no walking stick, going to the football
match unaided. The same week of his treatment, the clinic was
closed by the Dutch health authorities after another patient
suffered a massive reaction. I'm still going to give it a while.
However, it does seem that stem cells are the way forward. It's a
shame for Americans that George Dubbya Bush is opposed to
their use. Perhaps the recent mid-term election results will make
him modify his extreme views.

By chance my retirement coincided with the elevation of Durham
County Cricket Club to first class status. When their new ground
was opened in 1995, quite close to my home, I was there every
day for five years. For a long period, Mike Candlish was the
Cricket Club's Chief Executive. However an opportunity came for
me to move when some specially designed bungalows were built
at Roker, near the Stadium of Light, and I moved in in December
2000. I'm also a season ticket holder at Sunderland. (Just how
much suffering can one man take?).

This is an aerial photo of the area in Sunderland where I live now.
An aerial photo of Sunderland where I live now
On the bottom right margin you can see a white-ish tower block.
That is the block beside my place, to its immediate left with the
red roof. Below the tower is an L-shaped building. That is
Chillingham House, where I lived when mine was being built. At
the bottom beside the river with two chimneys is the Glass
Centre. To its left is St. Peter's campus of the University. Further
downriver the big white building is the Stadium of Light where
Sunderland play. You can see how close I live to it. The big white
mass in the distance is the Nissan plant at Washington.
Unfortunately it isn't possible to make out Washington. If you
can make out the bridge in Sunderland, just at the left end is a
blue-ish roof. Beside that is the new multiplex cinema which
opens next month. It should be great for me, as long as they
haven't put the wheelchair spaces in the front row!

This is a view of the back entrance to my unit. I moved here in
2000 when the complex was newly built.
The back entrance to my unit
The front of the unit overlooks a nice lawned area. Here is yours
truly with my Mam, brother Bill and sister Pam. The room behind
us is my very large bedroom where I not only sleep but also do
my computing.
My mam, our Bill, my sister Pam and me at the front.
Unfortunately my Dad died some years ago but here is a photo
of the two of us having Xmas Dinner in 1987. We enjoyed tucking
in! Hmmm ... is that me sporting a beard?
Me and my dad having Christmas Dinner in 1987
I'm busy trying to look up my ancestry. On my Mam's side I can
trace her mother's side back to 1775. All the men were called
Robert Green, all lived in Newbottle and all were miners. So in
230 years they amounted to bugger all and never went
anywhere. I've got her father's line back to 1850 in Lambton. I'm
having little success with the Dennis line, getting no further than
my grandad's father. I guess the Dennises weren't big on filling
in forms.

Below is a photo of my grandfather, Moses Mills, seen here with
yours truly. He is retired in the photo and was a greengrocer, as
you suggest. He was a saint! My Mam adored him till she died.
We scattered her ashes on his (and wife's) grave. By the way,
our Bill thinks that it's hilarious that one of the William Millses
was described as an imbecile. Funnily enough, the next census
described him as an oil merchant , which is how my Mam
described him. I'm really fascinated by all this, but a little
disappointed that no-one amounted to very much, or was
hanged. It makes me realise how fortunate my generation of the
family has been. I think we all owe a huge debt to Moses Mills,
who broke free from the labouring of his family, and sent my
mam to grammar school till she was 18.
This is my grandfather, Moses Mills, seen here with yours truly.
I remembered today that my other grandad, William Dennis,
Charles' son, always repaired his own and his family's shoes.
He'd obviously been taught by his father Charles the cordwainer
(old name for cobbler), although he wasn't a cobbler himself. In
fact in the house where I lived in Newbottle, we had two of his
cobbler's lasts, but nobody knew how to use them.

My sister gave me a fascinating document, my grandfather's
indentures when he was apprenticed to Jobling's glassworks in
Sunderland. It specifies the behaviour of an apprentice … no
frequenting taverns, playing houses, no gambling, no marriage!

A woman contacted me a couple of days ago, because she'd
learned through genesreunited that I'd included a Margaret Green
from Newbottle (my maternal grandmother) in my family tree, and
she believed that her great grandmother was called Green and
lived in Newbottle. I found out that they were sisters, and now I'm
helping her! She didn't know of any people before about 1880,
and that's the line I've(or should I say you) been most successful
with, possibly back to 1719. The funny thing is that her father's
family lived just round the corner from me, but I can't remember
them, even though I can still name most of the people in their
street, including the family that lived in their house before them!

I'm finally getting out and about in my new car which I got a
couple of weeks ago. I'm starting to visit local places which I
haven't seen for years, like Durham City and Hartlepool. The
changes are unbelievable. Durham has changed more in the last
20 years than in the previous 800! Fortunately nearly all are in
keeping with the character of the city.

Seahouses is high on the list to visit, as is Wensleydale, which
we're very fond of. We went to the cricket at Chester le Street last
Friday and it pee'd down! This arvo (Sunday) we had a ride up
Weardale to Wolsingham. As we were coming back to the car I
took a quick snap. I took it with the tailgate up, and ramp down so
that you can see how I enter. Note the blackened windows so that
passers-by think I must be a celebrity. Although the car looks big,
it's not a lot bigger than a normal car, and can be parked OK in a
normal space. In a normal 7 seater, the seat arrangement is 2-3-2.
In mine, the back two seats and the middle of the three have been
removed so that I can be pushed straight into the second row.
My new car. I had it modified to accommodate my wheelchair.
This arvo, we had a ride through to Washington to see how
much the old place had changed over the years. In one respect it
hadn't changed one jot, except that the windows may have been
cleaned. We also had a wander up to the old alma mater. The sun
was not in the best position for taking a picture.
Our old music room at the Grammar School
I suppose that you knew that the old 1908 block was demolished
a couple of years ago. What surprised me was that they have
cleaned the 1932 block and removed the old patina. It doesn't
look right, being a sort of beige when it should be reddish-brown.
Can you remember music lessons in that room in the photo? A
sign of the times was the sign inside the school stating
"Scholars' car park"! Mather made the couple of people who had
cars (Gary Clark & Pat Masters, can't think of anyone else) park in
the back of Municipal Terrace.

I was thinking of you this arvo as I was on my computer. I looked
to my left and saw this sight. I think my patio furniture will come in
really handy … in about seven months! This photo was taken
about 2 p.m. (9th Nov 2005) and by 3.30 it was just about dark.
My very wet patio
We've just got back from Seahouses. As today was fairly mild,
we decided to take a chance. When we got there it was
f-f-f-freezing. We went into Lewis' fish and chip restaurant. We
were the only people in for an hour. When we left, there was still
no-one in, nor was there anyone there when we walked up and
down the street, or when we eventually left for home. I don't think
our £11.00 will have covered much of their gas, electricity,
wages, fish, potatoes etc. They're building a block of luxury flats
with balconies with sea views at the bottom of the street.

We continued on to Bamburgh and came home on the coast
road through Craster, Warkworth, Alnmouth, Amble and
Druridge. We got home just before sunset (today's the shortest

28 Dec 2005 This is what I woke up to an hour ago. It had actually
stopped by the time I took the photo, but there's going to be
intermittent blizzards throughout the day.
Snow on my patio
Wednesday 28 June 2006. It's a beautiful day, with hardly a
cloud in the sky. Just look at the hordes on Seaburn beach!
Admittedly, it was a school day, but that never stopped
Sunderland schoolkids from "playing the nick".
A deserted seafront at Seaburn
I had a very quiet Xmas 2006, having lunch at my favourite
Sunday restaurant. I got a great pressie from Bill.
It is about 6'' square. It's a piece made in Sunderland between
1813 and 1819, which we can tell because the mark on the base
"DIXON & CO." was only used between these two dates. It was
made at the Garrison pottery which was directly across the river
from the Glass Centre here.
My Xmas pressie from our Bill
The white pub at the top is on High Street East. From that
pub a steep road goes down behind the back of the Quay,
and to this day the road is called "Pottery Bank". Before
the Quay was built in the thirties there were many small
privately owned quays, and the pottery would have been
very close to export its products. I think it romantic that the
piece was made there and nearly 200 years later it's on my
coffee table. My cleaners have been told that if they
damage it, the consequences will be too dire to
contemplate! I'm thinking of rearranging my furniture and
buying a display cabinet.

Watch this space!

The Quay
Pottery Bank is a steep road which goes down the back of the Quay.
Please consider emailing me with your memories of Andy.
I will include them at the end of this memorial web page.
16th May 2007

Hi Audrey

I also kept in contact with Andy through e-mail and want to thank
you for the memorial.  His own eloquent words are perfect and
need nothing adding to them.

I miss his words of encouragement and praise, even for the
terrible jokes I forwarded to him.   He had an incredible memory
and when I numbered the school photograph he willingly help
put names to the faces. His brother told me that the photo hung
in his bedroom.

As a teenager he attracted us younger girls with his blond Beatle
cut and he will always have a special place in my heart.

Lilian Wellburn
5th March 2008

Hello Audrey,

I was drafted into the Grammar School as a first former in 1963,
but I have a great memory for faces and names and I can
remember Andy very well, along with Mr. Ferry and co (always
aloof, even then), together with some of the older pupils, E.G.
Christine & Tom Arrowsmith, Gary Clarke, Arthur Cope, John
Marley, John (Bunse) Bailey, Dianne Tully, Kev Carr and
Royston Humphrey (with whom I kept in touch and who died
tragically after a long illness in 2005). In fact, I remember most
pupils of note in every form both above and below me.

I read Andy's page with great interest and laughed out loud at
some of his descriptions of the old school and places in and
around Sunderland. It was heartening to note that there was no
trace of bitterness regarding his illness in the text; he obviously
had a great sense of humour.

Best Wishes

Anthea Diane Bishop (1963 - 1968)
Web Page designed by Audrey Fletcher
in tribute to my friend
Andy Dennis
1948 to 2007

In the face of adversity you maintained your
wonderful sense of humour

April 2007

April 2017