In 2007 I was over in Ireland researching my family tree when I picked up a book ‘Old Irish Country Life’ by Hugh Oram. It was packed with photographs taken at the beginning of the 20th century of people working on the land, some I have included here along with text by Oram.
From fishwives to seaweed harvesting, weaving and cutting turf, the wonderful black & white pictures illustrated a harsh life – and these were similar scenes to what my ancestors lived through.
A branch of my family came from Galway so I was drawn to a picture that featured The Claddagh. The houses in the photo remind me of old black and white image’s I’ve seen of homes near St Paul’s Church and along the river Don in Jarrow.
My grandfather lived in those white walled cottages, and before he died in 1986 wrote down his memories of Jarrow life growing up in an Irish family.
To begin with a word about the type of house I lived in and the surrounding area. I suppose when they were built they would be a hamlet outside of Jarrow. There were three communities like this at the time; the Old Church at Jarrow Slake, pronounced ‘Slacks’, where we lived, Quay Corner at the riverside, and East Jarrow over the Don Bridge. The Don was the river that ran past our house.
The house itself was old it was one of the original pit cottages built when there was a pit in Jarrow. The pit itself was at the top of Queens Road and when I was young we had a fair there every year.
But back to the houses, they were white cottages, the walls would be about 8 feet high with a shallow sloping roof. They were two roomed, but the attic was turned into a bedroom for the children and there was room in it for two beds. To make it more comfortable we pasted layers of newspaper over the rafters.
Hugh Oram book published in 2007 by Stenlake Publishing Limited.
Gary Alikivi May 2021.