Co-operative Wholesale Society (Coop)

Amble CoopHow many of you remember being sent to the “The Store” to pick up some shopping for your mother in your childhood? The Store was the term we used for the local CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) shop. They had grocery shops, hardware shops and more.

The Coop was founded by consumers who clubbed together to enable bulk purchasing. This was a way to avoid the extortionate pricing in company owned shops, e.g. those run by mine owners where workers only had one option for where to buy their produce. By paying a minimal sum to become a Coop member, people had the opportunity to buy their groceries at an acceptable price and also earn a dividend (which we referred to as the divi). The amount paid for purchases was recorded on a “cheque” after giving your 4-digit cheque number and the dividend was paid out annually. As children we all had our mother’s cheque number firmly implanted in our minds and rolled it out regularly with every loaf of bread, quarter of bacon or bag of flour we were sent to purchase.

The photograph shows Amble Harbour Coop on the left (beside where the women are walking). This Coop was managed by my Dad’s cousin, Ralphy Tweddle, until his retirement in the 1980s. Until reminded today by Ralphy’s son Les, I had forgotten that this was one of the first shops in Northumberland to introduce a self-service system, back in 1964. Just imagine the shock to the average Amble housewife of being able to pick her own goods directly off the shelf rather than stand in a queue and ask for each individual item with her neighbours listening to what she was buying. The Coop management were clearly men of vision, ahead of their time, as they were prepared to invest in training their staff in the new system and take the risk of losing customers with such a challenging innovation as self-service.

Ralphy actually gave me a kick-start on my family history research as he told me the names of the dozen Cracketts in the banner photo on my blog. One of the girls is his mother Dorothy Ann and the couple in the middle were his grandparents, Leonard Cracket and Mary Parkinson.

The Jarrow March 1936

Marshall Riley’s Army – Lindisfarne

In October thirty-six they took a trip,
The men who made the ships,
Searching for some kind of salvation.
With heads held high, and dignified,
The towns folk and passers by,
Held them in some kind of admiration.

March on, Marshall Riley’s Army,
Marching for your rights,
You’ve surely earned them.

Any among you who grew up in NE England in the 70’s can probably quote the whole song word perfect, but I wonder how many have reflected on the meaning. I remember heading for the library at the time to figure out what it was all about. (If you are wondering why I chose to link to that particular rendition of Marshall Riley’s army on youtube, it is because I was very probably in the audience at that concert !)

For some time now I have been mulling over a couple of unconnected questions, but had not decided who to ask about either:

  1. Why are there so many Cracketts in the Midlands?
  2. Did any of my family participate in the Jarrow March?

Both were answered for me today, before I even asked the questions, by my cousin Julie Crackett-MacFarlane, who published a comment on facebook with a link to a BBC History article about the dire employment situation on Tyneside in the mid 1930s following the closure of Palmer’s Shipyard. Her grandfather, Edmund Rudd Crackett (1907-1974),  who is my 3rd cousin once removed, was born in Jarrow, County Durham. In his early thirties he joined the Jarrow March to London in October 1936 to fight for the right to work and provide for his family. It was Edmund who subsequently made the decision to uproot his family and move to the Midlands in search of employment, where they established a thriving group of Cracketts in the Sandwell area.

A big thanks to Julie for triggering my thoughts on this subject and giving me permission to publish a post about her grandfather and mention her as a contributor.

Medical discharge record

This army medic certainly didn’t mince his words. I found this rather blunt statement in the 1918 records of a 21 year old 2nd cousin twice removed who was discharged as physically unfit for service in the 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers:

Discharge record

Elsewhere in the record it states that the reason the poor chap was unfit was that he had suffered from rickets since childhood. It also states that he was unable to lift a rifle, but that his condition had not prevented him from working as a miner. I suppose he had no choice. However difficult it may have been for him, work in the pit was probably the best option when he was young, despite his disabilities.

I have not posted his name here out of consideration for his living family. He lived in Jarrow. If you think he belongs to you and would like to know more about the full record (several pages), then drop me a line.

Barrington Colliery

In the latter half of the 1700s my Cracket / Crackett relatives were agricultural labourers in the Lowick, Kyloe, Shoreswood and Norham area of North Northumberland. With the opening of pits around that area many of them moved into the mines. It is interesting to see that as old pits closed and new pits opened they migrated south en masse to the Chevington, Barrington, Bedlington and Choppington collieries. My granda George Crackett (1890-1978) grew up in the hamlet of Choppington Colliery. 12042782_1664016537218452_3407140090025408738_n

This undated photo is of Barrington Colliery. I do not have a full overview of which of my Cracketts may have worked there, but one who most likely did is my granda’s uncle George, born 1833 at Cornhill-on-Tweed. In the 1871 census this George Crackett is living in the hamlet of Barrington Colliery and has the occupation coal miner. (Thanks to Geoff on the facebook group: Sixtownships History Group for allowing me to borrow his photo.)