I can only ramble on about my feelings and experiences, but the odd sentence may spark someone else’s memories.
Wholehope was a remote, lonely place (I once spent a week there by myself) that was given a new lease of life by the unique band of pioneers mentioned elsewhere on this website. This was mainly before my time, because although I had camped with the Scouts at Milkhope Wood (Eric Kerr was my Scoutmaster), my YHA Cards show that I started to go to Wholehope in 1955 and continued until late 1961. By 1955, some of the old timers – Walter Wilkinson, Bill Pearson, Pitch, and others, had married and were no longer regulars, and the leading characters were Charlie McGonnigal, Bob Thornton, Jimmy Richardson, and “newcomers” such as Johnny Gorman, Eddie Hopper, Geoff Cobbing and Big Jake. (I have to look at “C Company” as a separate “tolerated” group, for I do not recall much interaction with them from an activity standpoint). I presume that this group did the Viva Zapata charcoal drawing in the hostel?
I remember Pitch having a 1932 Armstrong Siddeley and my being with Eric and Sadie Kerr when a back wheel fell off their old car. Ricky’s Morgan was a familiar sight outside the cottage and motor bikes were popular for a few in those days. Wholehope attracted the likes of David Sevante, a London schoolmaster, who was summer-time warden for many summers, and Charlie McGonnigal, the greatest of them all, was the mainstay for so many years. Wholehope was a people place and it declined in popularity when Rothbury Hostel opened with George Pearson as Warden, and then, when Charlie and Grace took over, even fewer went the ‘extra mile’ to Clennel Street.
There were so many characters – Bob Thornton could pull out the most fish from the burns and Tug Wilson’s spirited rendering of the “Wild Colonial Boy” made for a pleasant start to many a convivial sing-song and night out at the Rose and Thistle (I still sing some of the old songs to myself, even over here in darkest Houston) – while Charlie, under a form in the bar, would demonstrate the art of shovelling coal from an 18 inch coal seam. Very occasionally, these nights were so convivial that we did not make it back to Wholehope, and only made it as far as the hay shed next to the pub. I remember an Alwinton Show Day/Evening when Johnny Gorman tried for ages to sneak in the back of the dance tent, and then found out it was free entry! How we got the Tilley lamps working or ever cooked a decent meal will remain a mystery. I was at the rowdy meeting in Newcastle when YHA officials tried in vain to close the place down.
Our weekends were planned in the Crows Nest pub, in the Haymarket, and although I was not an active member of the Northumbrian Ski Club (I played football in the winter months) I have found two membership cards – 57/58 and 58/59 (#279) and I was interested to note that Mr T.A. Hipkin replaced Mr. G.H.Cobbing as Vice-chairman between the years. My YHA card shows me at Glendoll, Easter, 1960.
Here are 36 semi-randomised photos from those remote days, see if you can recognise any of the folk who appear here – if you can add or correct any detail, then please email Trevor quoting the photo number.
- ‘Monarch of all I survey’ – here I am outside Wholehope, looking over bonny Coquetdale to the Simonside Hills and beyond – 1957.
2) Charlie McGonnigal in June 1957 – ‘The greatest of them all’
3) Here he is again, at Alwinton Show in 1958.
4) Eric Kerr and Tug Wilson outside Wholehope, 1957/58.
5) Still hung-over? Brian Scott, Geoff Cobbing, Charlie, Wilf, Bob Thornton.
6) Jackie Addison, Johnny Gorman, Jimmy Richardson, unknown, Walter Wilkinson, Charlie McG, Bob Thornton, Tommy Peacock, 1957.
7) Wilf and Charlie tidy up the snowcem.
8) Charlie and Wilf in summer 1958.
9) Davy Sevante and Wilf in 1958.
10) Davy Sevante, Mary and Pitch Wilson and baby Wilson – Summer 1958.
11) Unknown, Jimmy Richardson, Ricky Bareham sitting on bike, around 1958.
12) Des, Jake, Bob Thornton, Unknown, Jimmy Richardson.
13) Jake, John Tribe, Grace McGonnigal, Des, Davy Sevante, Ray Rees, baby McGonnigal, Charlie McGonnigal – 1959.
14) Johnny Gorman – 1959.
15) Tug Wilson’s scrambler bike and group outside Wholehope – 1958.
16) Tug Wilson (or George Pearson) on motorbike and John Tribe – 1958.
17) Betty Pearson and baby, Sadie Kerr, Eric Kerr, Davy Sevante – 1958.
18) Wholehope Ski weekend – 1960.
20) Freddie Hopper, Bob Thornton, Bill Pearson – Glendoll – Easter 1960.
21) Gwen, Jake, Wilf – fishing.
22) Davy Sevante, Unknown, Freddie Hopper?, Charlie McGonnigal – below Kidlandlee 1960.
23) The Rose and Thistle – 1958.
24) The Three Wheat Heads, Thropton, 1960.
25) Outside Rothbury YH 1959 – Hugh Hunter, Unknown, Geoff Fawkes, Bob Thornton, Des, Tommy Taylor, Unknown, Unknown.
27) Happy days! Bill Pearson, Bob Thornton, George Pearson.
28) Alwinton Show 1960 – Freddie Hopper, Bill Pearson, Johnny Gorman, baby Pearson, Rosemary Pearson, Geoff Cobbing in front.
29) Alwinton Show – Eric Kerr, Johnny Gorman, George Pearson, Bob Thornton.
30) Alwinton Show 1958 – Unknown lady, baby Wilson?, Bob Thornton, Johnny Gorman.
31) Alwinton Show 1960 – Freddie Hopper, Geoff Cobbing, Bob Thornton, Betty Pearson.
32) Rose and Thistle hay shed, morning after Alwinton Show 1958.
33) Alwin Burn 1958 – George Pearson and family.
34) Alwinton Show 1959 – camping in the Alwin Burn. Joan Barnes, Freddie Hopper, Geordie Nevinson, Des.
35) Alwinton Show 1959 – Alwin Burn, Johnny Gorman, Tommy Taylor.
36) Tommy Taylor, Bob Thornton, Johnny Gorman.