Steel by Day, Music by Night:

John Douse’s story

My name is John Douse, and I worked at CIC from 1959 till 1968 as a maintenance fitter & turner after serving a five year apprenticeship based at the Fell Coke Works. I initially worked in the old plate mill for a month as a junior operator on the hot banks before gaining an apprenticeship. As well as the Coke Works I also worked in other departments and finally in the Oxygen plant until 1968 when I left to take up a job in Banbury working for General Foods. I went from making steel to making Bird’s custard, Maxwell House coffee and dessert products such as Angel Delight. Custard powder is a lot friendlier than steel dirt.

I worked with many characters during my time in the Works and I still remember quite a few names and the stories of the people there. Apprentices were assigned to a particular tradesman: in my case this was a fitter called Jack Leadbitter who was a real character, being the union rep., the overall co-ordinator, the tool club operator and the main fitter under the Foreman’s control. I remember the names of quite a few of the personnel in that workshop, such as Stan Dover, a Lathe Operator, Dave Younghusband, who I am still in contact with, Nick Weatherley, the Foreman and Alby Kirkup, a Fitter and a favourite of mine. I also remember Alan Tompkin, a Fitter who only had one eye after an accident with a chisel and who was a friend of my father’s. I remember Roy Matthews and Bobby Hinshelwood, both Fitters who came to work BSA Bantam and a BSA Gold Flash (& sidecar!) respectively every day!

My father, Tom Douse, also worked for the Company. He worked most of his life in the coal industry rising to electrical manager in central workshops at Bradley Shops (Leadgate) but following redundancy he finished his career in the Works Electric Department at Consett as an Armature Winder, repairing electric motors by making new coils and fitting them. My father was a well-known local character in his own right being a prominent and accomplished musician in the area, and having a band, the Tom Douse Mandoliers.

I come from a musical family: my father followed his father, as my grandfather Jack Douse (John Edward) was a semi-professional violinist and had worked full time for a while during the depression of the ’20s, playing in the pit orchestras around the north east including the Globe Theatre in Consett. I still have his violin which was bought in 1912. Jack was based in the old plate mill as a roll turner and he specialised in cutting the pattern into the rolls to make chequer plate for floors. His father, my great-grandfather, was Cuthbert Douse who was a foreman in the “big fitting shop”, which was the chief maintenance dept. for the Works.

Dad wasn’t keen on the violin and progressed to playing mandolin, which had the same fingering positions. At the outbreak of WW2 he was involved in a reserved occupation with his work and was not allowed to serve in the armed forces, so along with others in his industry he formed a band and taught others to play. He was then joined by other musicians in the area and they formed the Tom Douse Mandoliers who performed all over the north east raising funds for the Red Cross as their contribution to the war effort. The band became a “show band” involving singers, acrobats, impersonators, a magician & other acts. After the war they carried on doing charity work for many organisations including hospitals, sanatoria, church halls and many ex-servicemen’s associations, and were heavily involved with the British Legion.

I joined the band at the age of 10 or 11 playing banjo-mandolin or the mandolin and continued until I moved to Banbury in 1969. Dad played right up to around 1979 when he unfortunately he took ill and retired from it. My father-in-law was in the band from its early days as their arranger and so I knew my wife from a very young age, along with her brothers who also played.

Tommy Douse, my father and band leader – the best man I ever knew and whom I still miss terribly. This was taken in our home at Villa Real bungalows. I still have the silk shirt & leather belt that he wore standing in front of the band

John Douse, former CIC worker and skilled musician