Escomb Church


Something very important indeed - in its own quiet kind of way - has been developing in County Durham over the last couple of years. In fact, it’s taken almost 20 years to come to fruition. And now, as a result of this long collaboration between the DLI Museum in Durham City and the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archive, visitors to the County’s Record Office can access Listen To The Soldier - 200 digitised recorded interviews with veterans who served with all the battalions of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) during the Second World War.

You can hear the voices of DLI squaddies from all over the north-east and beyond: Sunderland, Hetton-le-Hole, New Herrington, Stanley, Pelaw, Thornley, Tantobie.....and of their experiences training and fighting. Normandy, North Africa, Sicily, Kohima, Tunisia, Dunkirk and elsewhere.

This kind of ‘oral history’ is undoubtedly the best there is. Listening to the voices of men who were in the thick of the action - and to their unexpected light touches concerning new, starched uniforms and food parcels from home - is a sobering and uplifting experience. Not that you need me to tell you that!

I guess it’s going to be more and more difficult to keep memories like these alive and ‘relevant’ to the experience of modern life. Veterans of the First World War are, of course, already extremely thin on the ground and the number of men and women with first-hand memories of the Second will decline in the same way and just as quickly.

So if you can, make a date with the Durham County Record Office to Listen To The Soldier. Warmly recommended. 0191 383 3253/3274.

Thanks for all your contributions. I’m afraid the balloon idea turned into the usual kind of Ian Robinson fiasco; cheap balloons combined with a mischievous colleague (David) with a razorblade (no less) didn’t make for a world-record challenging attempt at balloon-inflating. It was great fun, though.

I must admit to being the teeniest bit heartbroken that nobody called with a bid nearly high enough for me to shave off my beard. Where are all the rich businessmen when you want them? (Good grief - I seem to have been saying that for years.)

ESCOMB CHURCH arguably the oldest complete building above ground in England. Our Anglo-Saxon ancestors used the stones of the nearby Roman fort of Vinovia to build it; the chancel arch is a Roman arch dismantled, shipped a couple of miles upstream and re-erected here. The church almost certainly existed while the Venerable Bede was still alive in the seventh century AD and is so old that its original dedication is unknown.

It stands - admittedly a little forlornly and forgotten - in the middle of a typically unkempt and even drab west Durham mining village near Bishop Auckland (of all places). For me, it is typical of the 'hidden gems' with which County Durham is adorned. I would say that its ancient and silent humility is awe-inspiring but that would sound like, and be, pretentious nonsense.

Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.


Sid said...

I hope something as unique as this will be released on DVD soon. I wonder why it is being held on just the one computer. Thanks for making this known to us Ian.

Inga said...

Such a 'oral history' may be sobering and uplifting but it also serves as a much needed reminder. Our generation has no personal experience of war. We may have post war memories but the next generation will not even have that and without either experience, memories or reminders the step to starting another war is just so much easier to make. You might argue that Americans have just made an anti-war statement with their choice for president and, while I hope that may be the case, the reminders need to made. Thank You Durham County Record Office.

Hildie said...

Hullo! wish me luck, I'm going to try to post a comment - I've had someone doin' things to the old computer - trying to fix it for me - here goes .... Lawrence, enjoyed 'On Your Doorstep' - did you say Richard Grainger had named streets in Newcastle after his thirteen children? Must find out what tnese streets are called. Inga, did you hear The Newsreel Theme Tune? Ian played it for you in it's entirety!
Ian, you look younger than Prince Charles (I have just seen him on the telly).... but how many balloons did you blow up?! And have you started growing your own Christmas Tree yet? I sent it last Saturday, it's time to get going with it ........ I admit I might have left it a bit late!

Hildie said...

p.s. I was listening in to 'The Nightshift' when I got in last night - Ian was asking us to send in suggestions for the Top 5 Comedians. He was having a little debate with himself as to who he thought would be his own top five, he was desperately trying to fit Frankie Howard in - if I remember correctly, but he couldn't find the space for him. I think I remember him mentioning Arthur Askey and Tommy Cooper but i'm afraid i have no recollection of the other names he said .... I feel sure you know what it's like when you are fighting hard to listen ... and sleep just overtakes you!! ZZzzzzzzzz

Inga said...

Yes, HILDIE, I did hear The Newsreel Theme Tune - what fun. Not sure I ever danced to a march before but I did! Well, nobody was watching, so what - right?
Of all the comedian's name Ian mentioned I only recognized Ronnie Barker and Buster Keaton. I had the same problem as Ian had but narrowed it down to: Victor Borge, Jacques Tati, Danny Kaye, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams.
SID, I tried to check out the other website for postcards but a customer came in and now I am about to leave to have dinner. I'll be back soon

Inga said...

Howdy You All :-) Had my dinner at the usual place which I am suddenly seeing in a new light. It's possible that it approaches what you guys call a pub. Nothing fancy, everybody knows everybody else [almost everybody, anyway], the food is good, the beer is ice cold [has to be to hide its gawdawful taste], the wine is unpretentious [in other words cheap]. The only thing missing is a pub quiz. Too bad! Anyway, SID, I still cannot understand what kept the people in the old postcard of the Quay on Sunday from being crushed to death. One other thing that caught my attention somewhere was the mention of buskers from Peru [Andes]. I was introduced to this music the last time I was in Germany. They had a very appreciative audience. When I saw them in America the audience was any thing but appreciative. But, this being America, they had CD's for sale and the one I bought is, to this day, one of my favorites.
Sweet dreams to all of you, I am ever so happy to be here visting with all of you.

Hildie said...

Morning Inga
I was at the Quayside Market not many weeks ago. It is still there on a Sunday morning. It doesn't seem as busy now as it was years ago, but I do rememberthose days when it used to be a bit of a gawdawful (!) crush - mind you, we Brits are a very orderly nation - we just move with the crowd.
Ahh, I heard Ian talking to Steve Drayton in the early hours this morning - I very much liked the Teddy Thopson music, there was something about the quality of his voice.
Ian, I've visited most of those places you mentioned - Ulgham, Woodhorn, Beamish. You know, I think there is a Carol Service held, one night in December, at Beamish Museum ... but I'm sure tickets are hard to get.
Lawrence, I forgot to say I liked that song you played the other night - "Beautiful City" .
Inga, the song was about Newcastle, we'll have to ask Ian if he can play it again.
I wonder if he investigated Radio Devon? He was going to see if he could borrow the play about Babbacombe Lee.

pam said...

Well now - I have never used/read/typed on a blog before, so this is a whiole new experience.
My five favourite comedians are Ronnie Barker, Billy Connoly, Victoria Woods, Chick Murray and Harold Lloyd. The Marx Bros were ground breakers but seem dated now simply becasue so many people followed them. Robin Williams has the same quick fire delivery as Groucho.
My problem is I want to have sub groups such as those who are basically comic actors like Danny Kaye and Julie Walters and Jacques Tati. Those who utilized music like Bill Bailey and Victor Borge and Richard Digance.
Tommy Cooper was a one off and I must admit I struggle with Spike Milligan. I always loved the Goon Show but latterly sometimes wiondered how much of Spike Milligan's humour was comic genius and how much was that he was quite simply mad
It is hard!!

Hildie said...

Hi Pam .... and welcome to the blog! We have been waiting for you to come and join us! You will come back again, won't you?

Hildie said...

Hello again, Pam, I thought I had better pop back to explain that comment of mine - in case it spooked you! We have recently been trying to get more of Ian's listeners to join us on the blog and you are our first success - we are very glad to see you? How did you manage to find us?

Hildie said...

I have been doing some investigating about that Beamish Christmas event that I mentioned earlier. I am very disappointed to tell you that all the tickets are sold. They do an Edwardian Christmas Fayre - they have period market stalls, music-hall and folk musicians, turkey stotties, soup ... as well as carol singers. This year they are staging the event three times and it's a complete sell-out! It would have been a good venue for a Truckshunters' outing, wouldn't it? Maybe next year - but we'll have to think about it in September, as that's when the tickets go on sale. You know what? I really am disappointed .... I still want to go this year!

Hildie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vivienne said...

Hi Everyone,

Wow Pam, Welcome to the Blog!
As Hildie said we've been longing for a few more people to come and join us. I hope you'll pop back to see us, and stay and have a look around. Have you been over to visit Murphy and Dora on our sister blog?
We jump back and forward for a change of scene, although we're spending more time here now that Ian has started posting new pages & Comments again.

I can't stay long as I'm still packing. I'll try and find somewhere in the Lakes to sign in, but if not, I'll be back Friday or Saturday.

Take care of yourselves,

Love Vivienne xxx

Inga said...

PAM - just wanted to say WELCOME !! I know just how you feel! Until very recently I had never communicated by blogging either until Vivienne talked me into it. It took me a while to find my way around but everybody has been very understanding and helped whenever I got lost somewhere in this wonderful jungle! Be prepared - we will want to know all about you :-)
Again - a very warm welcome and, as they say over here in Arkansas, Make yourself at home!

Inga said...

HILDIE - I, too thought the song "A Beautiful City" was absolutely wonderful. It is the kind of song we, in Germany, would sing along to while doing something we called "schunkeln". This is an activity which usually occurred completely impromptu. We might find ourselves seated with complete strangers at a crowded bar and when a popular song was played, everybody would lock arms and sway side to side in rhythm with the music. This song of Newcastle would definitely qualify for such activity.
As to the Quay Side business, you've got to check out the website which Sid sent me and find the picture I am talking about! "Orderly Nation" has got to be the understatement of the year :-). Here is the website:

Hildie said...

Inga, I found the picture that Sid led you to - the one of the Quayside Market ..... I see now what you mean!!! Awesome!!

Vivienne, I hope you find somewhere in the Lake District where you can plug in and keep in touch with us. You'll be like Sid - in the summer - when he used to log in, at Morrison's car park, in Hawick or somewhere! Hope you are okay though, and that you're not camping! Maybe you should have a go at this "schunkeln".

Inga said...

Hildie, so glad you took time to find that Quayside photo!
I tell you right now - should I ever make it over to your side of the world - all of us WILL be schunkeln together sooner or later :-) ! The beer alone will do it for Wendell, who is only used to this weak stuff they call beer over here and I just need a couple of glasses of wine and the right kind of music of course.
PAM - I also appreciate what Danny Kaye did with music but his ability to speak in a foreign language without actually saying anything is simply amazing. And my memories go back to his movie "The Court Jester". It may be slapstick but scenes like the "vessel with the pestle" can still absolutely crack me up to this day. How do you feel about John Cleese as in Faulty Towers or his days with Monty Python?