The Smiths

Mabel’s parents came from large families: Pearson Smith had three brothers and two sisters; Sarah Ann Johnson had three brothers and three sisters. Their families were close knit with regular visiting and meeting up a strong feature of family life. This allowed the creation of happy life-long friendships with her eight cousins – all girls, seven around her age – making her early years of growing up a very happy experience with countless memories of family and friends (which included the families of the Grays, Cleghorns, Tubbys, Taylors) and a life centred around West Sleekburn, Bedlington Station, Ashington, Morpeth and Blyth.¬†Mabel remembered her first day in school. The classroom had a doll’s house but the day was not given over to play but rather it was conducted in a more formal fashion than nowadays. Pupils were seated in rows, indeed at very long desks, and although she cannot remember using slate pencils she did use an individual sandtray for writing work. The school day began with the singing of a hymn during assembly at nine o’clock and at twelve midday everyone went home for lunch and re-started again at 1.30 in the afternoon. Her first teacher was Miss Grand, who became a very good friend of our family and a frequent visitor to our home in Edinburgh. Both Mabel and Jim had piano lessons and Mabel attended elocution classes, she loved teaching in the Sunday School and occasionally playing the Church organ in the absence of the regular organist.¬†Each Armistice Day during our married life her thoughts invariably turned to the West Sleekburn School as she remembered with great sadness Mr Douglas, a young Scotsman, who took up his first teaching appointment during her last years at school, fondly recalling the great interest he took in the pupils. Sadly, it was only a brief career because he was killed whilst serving in the Second World War.Leaving school at 15 years of age, she became a junior in the office of the Bedlington Co-operative Society but then in 1943 when 18 she was accepted for training as a State Registered Nurse at the Newcastle General Hospital.