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John Meads 2021
'The Durham Boys'

Medomsley Cottage Homes, Gateshead, which sent children to Burton Latimer

When I was younger, in my footballing days playing for Burton Town, I played alongside Wally Thompson who was older than me and who had a strong Geordie accent. I was also aware that there were several other men, about Wally’s age, who had Geordie accents and I also heard the term “Durham boys” without really knowing who, or what, was meant by it.

However, whilst trawling through the newpaper archive on the Find My Past website, I found the articles quoted below in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette and now know that Wally and his fellow-Geordies had come from the North East to Burton Latimer in the mid-1930s as part of a scheme to find work for young people who had little or no chance of a job in that deprived area of the country. Arrangements were made by the Durham Public Assistance Committee for boys and girls in its care to be found work in Burton Latimer at Whitney & Westley’s boot and shoe factory and to be lodged with local families.

WORK FOR BOYS AND GIRLS - 26 November 1934
Durham County Public Assistance Committee - It was stated in a report that three boys and girls had been accepted for employment by Messrs. Whitney and Westley, of Burton Latimer and Wellingborough.
Wages to be paid for boys were 12s 6d, for the first twelve months, 17s 6d. at 16 years of age, 20s 3d. at 17, 23s at 17 ½, and 26s at 18. Girls would be paid at the rate of 10 shillings a week at 14, 11s 6d. at 15, 15s 6d. at 16, 19s 6d. at 17, 21s at 17 ½, and 23s at 18.
The Public Assistance Officer in his report pointed out that it would be necessary for the children to be supplemented until they became self-supporting, and suggested that the Minister of Health should be requested to sanction this.
The Homes Committee are recommending that the course suggested by the Public Assistance Officer be adopted. It is also reported by the Committee that applications for four further girls and two boys have been sent from Messrs Whitney and Westley, and arrangements have been made for their transfer.

PLEASANT READING - 25 February 1935
There is so much adverse criticism of the conditions under which juveniles who move from the hard hit areas to other parts of country are required to live and work that I was pleased to read a report presented to Durham Public Assistance Committee by the Medomsley Cottage Homes Sub-Committee.
Referring to two boys sent to a factory at Burton Latimer, the sub-committee remarked: “The boys were taken to their lodgings by the superintendent of the Cottage Homes who took an opportunity of visiting all boys and girls who had been sent to this class of work. He found them all very happy in their lodgings and on visiting them at their work the manager of the factory gave good reports as to their progress. He also saw other children who have been sent to service and gave good reports as to their conduct.

“We may add to that numerous letters have been recently been received from children sent by us to service all of which speak very highly of the conditions of work and living and we are very gratified to be in a position to report that this aspect of our work is resulting in children being given an opportunity to earn their own livelihood.”

Wally Thompson

There must be several families in Burton Latimer who are descended from these boys and girls – can they add more information to this story?

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