From Hot Fettler to Home Guard to Hownsgill:

David Colborne’s story, told by his daughter Susan

David Colborne and colleagues from the Works; David is front right in dark trousers and white shirt

My Dad, David Colborne was born in May 1916 and started work for the Company in March 1934. He and Mam were married in 1938 and my brother and sister were born in 1939 and 1943; I was an extremely late arrival in 1957! We lived in Edith Street and then moved to Berry Edge Road in 1970. My Dad died in 1986 and Mam in 2005, so I have tried to piece a few things together with the help of my brother and sister, but as you can imagine things are a little hazy now.

My brother thinks Dad started in the Angle Mill and the ID card I have confirms this though it doesn’t show any dates. We think the Angle Mill was closed and moved to Gateshead [Jarrow] and Dad was then put in the labourer pool and worked as a Hot Fettler. During the war, as he was in a restricted occupation, he was in the Home Guard and was a Fire Warden. My brother says the Home Guard trained in the yard of the Baptist church which was on the corner of Albert Road and Front Street, right opposite where Aldi is now, and there were dugouts from there to the entrance to the company, roughly where Starbucks is now.

When news that the closure was to happen Dad thought that if he transferred to Hownsgill he would be safe, rather than being made redundant. The RP3 paper I have shows his employment dates as 26/03/34 to 19/01/80 ( I think he would have retired in 1981 anyway as he would have been 65) but instead the closure came about at the company and at Hownsgill anyway. And so it happened that he appeared to get a fraction of the redundancy from Hownsgill that he would have got had he stayed at the Company. I say appeared, as none of us are sure. He was devastated and never the same after that. I think a few of the men were in the same boat and some did try on behalf of them all to sort things out and get proper compensation but as far as we know nothing ever happened. 

Susan Colborne, Consett resident and daughter of steelworker David Colborne

[Ed. note: Susan has kindly provided HCSW with some great images of the steelworks site in the 1970s which we will share in our gallery. Her father David was unfortunate to be one of two workers who discovered that a fellow steelworker, Joseph William Stoker of Moorside, had been killed by falling down a flue, date unknown. I will do some research and update the post asap. If anyone has information to share on this accident we’d love to hear from you via the email or the contact form.]