Click here for Tom Tunney’s Memories of Growing Up in Thornley in the 1920s

This section, which is under construction, will eventually contain a potted history of Thornley Colliery including some basic information on the sinking of the pit in 1835, the building of the the railway line to Hartlepool and the prior history of the area as a farming community.

The heart of this section though is my father’s memories of growing up in the village in the 1920s and 1930s. As with all the other direct quotes in this site, these memories have been transcribed from a very informal series of interviews taped in the summer of 1995. (And please note that in the dialect of the North East, ‘why’ often means ‘well’).

Around this material I will eventually add some information on my particular branches of the Tunney and Longstaff family trees. The space to the right of the text on the pages that follow is for the photographs and explanatory notes which I will eventually place here.

To briefly set the scene: my grandfather, Hubert Tunney, born in 1890 in Kelloe, Co Durham and was prominent in local council and mining union affairs for many years. My other grandfather, Matt Longstaff, who was born in 1876 in Hart Village, was First Shift Overman at Thornley Colliery for a very long time, too.

For photos and background information on Matt, click here.

Hubert’s father, Thomas Tunney, was born in 1859 in Kilmore, Foxford, County Mayo, Ireland, the son of Hubert (or Hugh) Tunney, a farmer. Thomas had emigrated to England by the 1880s and was married in Middlesborough in 1882. He was working as a quarryman and living at the Davy Lamp, Kelloe, when my grandfather Hubert was born in 1890. Hubert’s brothers: were: John, killed at Kelloe Pit in an accident as a young man, Thomas who lived in Thornley and Wheately Hill, and Bill, who emigrated to the USA in the 1920s. Thomas Senior died in 1913 and is buried at Metal Bridge, Co Durham. Hubert married Ellen Dempsey and had the following children: Nora, Hubert, Margaret, Thomas, Leo, Katie and Gene. Thomas was born on May 7th 1920.

The pages that follow have not been edited so the conversation does wander. This is a rough guide to the topics covered consecutively on each page:

Family Background, father born at the Davy Lamp, Kelloe; Hubert Tunney and the Pit; Mother Ellen Dempsey’s brothers; starting school at St Godric’s RC; St Godric’s, teachers and routine; smoking, stealing cigarettes,, the General Strike; Uncle Bill Tunney’s emigration to the USA; leaving school and first job; classmates first jobs, apprenticeship as a bricklayer; going to the pictures; the wireless; Thornley Carnival; working with the Balderseras on the ice cream cart; the pub and Ginger Dawson; father’s new job in Newcastle from 1941 and the move to Theodore Cottage in 1942.

The 1995 interview this transcript has been taken from can be listened to freely online at the Imperial War Museum website here.

NEXT: Born in 1920


Thornley St Godrics (Small)
The Hippodrome, Thornley (Small)

Theatre of Dreams! Located at the very bottom of Thornley by the Working Men’s Club, the Hippodrome theatre and cinema (above) opened just before the First World War. One of two cinemas in Thornley (the other was the Ritz on High Street), it closed in the late 1950s and lay derelict for many years before being demolished in the early 1970s. First below: St Godric’s RC School on the road to Wheatley Hill, which happily is still standing and in use. Second below, St Godric’s RC Football team in 1932-33. And at the bottom, an early 1960s view from Thornley Pit Heap of, the Ritz Cinema and High Street Click on the photographs to enlarge them.
Thornley St Godrics Football Team 1933 (Small)
High St from the Pit Heap, Thornley (Small)