Christmas is a time for giving, not only to friends and family but also to those whose festive season may not be so comfortable or so happy.
Looking back through the Consett Iron Company Magazine, steelworkers and their families supported many good causes both at home and abroad. Collecting silver paper seems to have featured strongly in the late 50s, with Gas Plant operative JG Robson’s daughter Patricia collecting a colossal quantity for the WVS appeal in 1957. The Evening Chronicle Sunshine fund for blind children also asked for donations of silver paper in 1959, and this was enthusiastically supported by the workers in the Boiler Shop.
Irene Hope seems to have been a familiar figure in the Pay Yard on pay day, with those picking up their wages putting money in the tin for various causes including Barnardo’s, the Salvation Army and the Poppy Appeal. Here she is in all weathers in 1958. More formal pay day giving schemes are nothing new as this snippet from 1966 shows: Miss Nora Bell in Invoicing set up a group amongst her colleagues to pledge 3d a week, or a shilling a month, to Oxfam to contribute to overseas relief efforts. In the four years the scheme was in operation they had raised over £100.
It wasn’t just money that the people of Consett gave. In 1963 there was an appeal for additional blood donations, with a shortfall in supplies. It is interesting to see that the supply to the hospital seems to have been locally organised rather than as a national blood donor service as now.
Fundraising activities also took place, some more enjoyable than others! In November 1967, members of the congregation of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Blackhill set off on a sponsored walk from Blanchland back to the church, only to find that the day that had chosen was the start of the winter blizzards. Soldiering on, a good amount of money was raised for church funds.
A more comfortable event to raise money was held in aid of the Slabbing, Blooming and Billet Mill in 1964 with a dinner and entertainment for the retired workers fund. It sounds as though a very jolly time was had by all, and the evening included a chicken and turkey dinner, musical and comedy entertainment and dancing – all in the warmth and out of the snow!
Consett’s kind heart continues to be a feature of the town still, with some excellent schemes to help and support local people. Here are a few local organisations who are working hard to collect food, toys and money for distribution to local people and families this Christmas time: