Me and wor Nan made up wor minds, te gan te catch the train
Te gan te the toon te buy some claes, for wor little Billy and Jane.
But when we got te Rowlands Gill the mornin’ train had gone
There was nae mair te pass the day till twenty minutes te one
– Tommy Armstrong: Wor Nanny’s a Mazor
On a good night, as everyone knows, the crack can be as entertaining as the match. So it proves at Brandon United v Willington.
The conversation turns to pubs, and in particular to micro-pubs. Tim Grimshaw – top bloke, photographer of churches, pub signs and hounds at the grounds – mentions that there’s a new micro, the Railway Inn, at Rowlands Gill, between Newcastle and Consett.
The strange thing, says Tim, is that Rowlands Gill doesn’t have a railway. Nor does it, but until 1954 it was on the discursive line from Newcastle to Durham via Blackhill (where the engine got its pipe for five minutes), Lanchester and Witton Gilbert.
Lintz Green, next station down, is still recalled for the unsolved shooting of the station master in 1911.
It’s Rowlands Gill which became immortalised, however, in Tommy Armstrong’s glorious song about missing the train. Born in Shotley Bridge in 1848, known as the Pitman Poet, he fathered 14 children and may have been yet more prolific at writing songs and verse.
His work ranges from the melancholy Trimdon Grange Explosion – “Let’s not think about tomorrow, lest we disappointed be” – to altogether jauntier numbers like The Ghost That Haunted Bunty.
Wor Nan’s the best, and best known, of all, though old Tommy may have used pitman’s poetic licence to suppose that the morning train had gone. My 1922 facsimile Bradshaw tables four in the morning and another six after noon.
What’s highly unusual is that I know all the words and feel compelled to offer a rendition during a lull in play. What’s utterly unique is that Tim thinks I can sing.
This is the guy who lasted just one enchanted evensong in the church choir back in Shildon, who regularly reduces The Laughing Policeman to tears, who couldn’t – as they say – shout coal.
Yet more improbably I have a rasping cold which makes me sound rather like Bob Dylan on a very bad day (of which in recent times there’ve been a great many.)
There’s a short silence. In the second half, most of a decent derby crowd decamps to the stand overhang, where we’ve been all night. This could be either a) because it’s started to rain or b) because they want an encore. The latter is more likely.
Fuirther diversions come with news of other matches: a greatly enjoyable encounter between Morpeth and Marske, a Wearside League game at Silksworth abandoned because of a serious player injury and another ambulance no-show, Shildon’s FA Youth Cup tie with Guiseley.
Brandon’s is a Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup tie, ends 1-1 after 90 minutes. Willington, who’ve won the Northern League Cup more times than any other club – but not since 1974-75 – edge home 4-3 on penalties.
It’s been a very good evening. A mazor, as probably they say elsewhere. I can sing The Ghost That Haunted Bunty, an’ all.