Village historians recording lockdown life
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
HUNDREDS of photographs, personal accounts, leaflets, newspaper clippings and other paraphernalia are making up a comprehensive record of life in Evenwood during the coronavirus panic.
These will culminate in the printing of two books later this year in a project spearheaded by Evenwood and District History Society.
Throughout the pandemic society members have been out and about in Evenwood, Evenwood Gate and Ramshaw capturing the emotional highs of the Thursday night claps for the NHS, VE and VJ Day celebration, and the lows of the people who lost their lives to the disease.
Jackie Dodds, from the group, said: “We have been around the village taking photographs and talking to people as and when we could. We have written accounts coming in from young people, children and adults. My favourite was from Lewis about how bad his mum was at teaching him at home.
“It’s about people’s experiences of Covid and how they coped.
“The history group is generally well received in the village. When I am going around taking photographs – I always ask – but then people pose for me. They know what I am up to.”
It is not only the society that has been involved in documenting life, a teacher from Evenwood Primary School made a contribution by taking “doorstep portraits” of households which will be included in the two volumes.
Some of the more poignant pieces are the personal accounts written by residents. One eight-year-old child wrote: ““Every day it was sad to see the upset on the television.”
Also included is a letter from a four-year-old to her grandmother whom she had not seen for almost a year. It describes how bored she was, how her brother still hated school and how much she missed her nana.
Other accounts document the pain of losing loved ones.
History group member Kevin Richardson said: “Anyone who reads that and didn’t have a tear in their eye must have a heart of stone.”
The books will show how people adapted to lockdown – for example Evenwood Road Runners changing one of their planned events.
Mrs Dodds said: “The road runners did a virtual run which was supposed to be from Evenwood to Glasgow. It wasn’t the big event that the road runners wanted it to be but they went ahead and did it round this little area.”
The local historians also recorded volunteers maintaining the community garden and cricketers preparing their ground when restrictions were partially lifted last summer.
Brian Carter, from the group, said: “We have people doing things for Halloween – this was when lockdown 2.0 came along and everyone had to shut down shop again. And we have Remembrance Day with people putting stuff up for that.”
The publication of the two books has been made possible through a grant from the neighbourhood budget of the village’s county councillor Heather Smith. Society members have also been extremely busy helping people who have taken the opportunity of extra time they have had during lockdown to research their family tree or the history of their area.
One peculiar request came from Ramshaw School which received an email out of the blue from someone from Macclesfield.
Mr Richardson said: “I did a little bit of research for them and I didn’t think it was our Ramshaw. I put it on our Facebook page, and Aline Waites got a hold of it and she said, ‘no I don’t think it is our Ramshaw School. I think it is a Ramshaw down in Staffordshire.
“She found the school, there is a photograph of the school, and she has found the person as well. So, it solved another mystery.”
The society also instigated a number of events, such as activities for VE Day, Remembrance Day and celebrations of the NHS and key workers. Mrs Dodds said: “One of the things we were going to do before Covid hit was a big exhibition. As part of that we were gong to do another pebble hunt, but we couldn’t.
“So, I put it on the Facebook page to see if anybody wants to paint a pebble for the NHS for a trail around the village. Well, there were hundreds.”
Though not able to host exhibitions, the society has been maintaining people’s interest by updating its noticeboard outside the parish hall.
Mrs Dodds said: “Brian and I have been coming every four or five weeks and changing the photoboard. It is a feel-good thing for people walking past.”
The current display has images of the village during the recent wintry weather and in the past there have been aerial photographs of the area by drone flier Liam Dobinson.
When lockdown is lifted the society is planning a major exhibition of mining in the area and to make preparations to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Darlington and Stockton Railway, of which the former Haggerleases line passed through the village.
Anyone interested in following the activities of the society can search for “I came from Evenwood and Ramshaw” on Facebook.