Curly's Corner Shop, the blog!

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This is a “fascinating blog”

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Should I don the black tie and go to the awards ceremony?

Curly’s Corner Shop, the blog!  has been nominated for the 2012 Fascination Awards, yes, I was quite surprised.

These awards are for blog writers who (in the eyes of the editorial team)

  • Inspire your audience
  • Encourage discussion through comment posting
  • Contain genuinely fascinating content

The nomination was made on the strength of this post and its 147 comments, I’ve emailed the organisers to thank them but sadly I will not be able to use the prize that I have received after being nominated –  a restaurant voucher worth $25. Oh well, perhaps one year they may start a new chain in the UK.
Accelerated Degree Programs accelerated degrees

Librarian? Moi?

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Written by curly

February 21, 2012 at 10:01 am

A chat with a UK snooker champion.

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John Maughan, former UK Snooker Champion

John Maughan: an interesting but undersold South Shields success story

It all started for me way back in 1987 when  my mate, who was to become my best man, challenged me to a game of snooker over a couple of pints. I was wondering where he was thinking of taking me, back then I could only recall the old snooker hall in Union Alley which ran towards Queen Street and was accessed from South Shields Market Place, or through the rear doors of Woolworths, and as far as I could recall it certainly did not have a license to sell alcohol . Additionally the place had been closed and demolished years earlier.

As far as I knew there were no other snooker halls in South Shields, which I thought was a pity seeing as we were all used, by then, to staying up late watching Steve Davis grind out wins on the television. Little did I know that a relatively new private member’s snooker club had opened in Chichester Road in the former premises of Buck Ryan’s car and helicopter showroom (it had originally been the Chichester Picture House). So one Saturday evening I was taken there, and taken aback by the friendly atmosphere and remarkably modern facilities, I never knew that one could play a few frames of snooker and afterwards enjoy a few pints in a comfortable, but small, bar with such engaging staff and a raconteur who turned out to be mine host!

This chap behind the bar cut a bit of a dash with his slicked back hair, three piece suits, immaculately shined shoes, garish waistcoats, and always sporting a bow tie. He was typically enthusiastic about the game and spun long tales of competitions in Prestatyn, Carlisle, or Skegness, and spilled so called secrets about a young Jimmy White, John Virgo, and one or two tales about Terry Griffiths, a typically chummy sort of bloke chuntering on as he pulled pints of Bass Scotch. Well we didn’t mind listening, but there were times when perhaps his stories were so far fetched that we could be forgiven for thinking that he’d just fabricated them to improve the atmosphere of the place. What was worse was the constant interruptions if a major snooker tournament was being shown on the TV, we got the commentary in advance, the analysis of the shot came long before it was taken, it was a bit of a distraction to be honest. Trouble was……..he was always right, this guy behind the bar genuinely knew his snooker!

Back then, the bar was very small, and the snooker hall housed eighteen full sized tables, many of which were Georgian or Victorian in origin, there were a few Rileys but most of the others were hand carved works of art, especially the robust legs, so this bloke behind the bar was able to hold forth and everyone could hear him whether they wanted to or not. So where are these big star names these days was the question we wanted answering, why are they not up here playing exhibition matches if you know them all so well? I think some of us just “took the Mick”, knowing that any sort of spectator event in the Shields Snooker Centre was never going to happen, the place just wasn’t created or styled with that in mind. That was until Mr. Maughan, the manager, challenged us to go and find the evidence that he had indeed been a pretty major player in his day.

I must have been a hard to convince member as I found myself down at the Central Library borrowing a copy of Clive Everton’s “Guinness Book of Snooker “ which showed that John Maughan had indeed won a UK amateur tournament once, but John Maughan was adamant that he’d won two titles! The 1965 under 16 title was shown in the Everton book, but strangely the 1968 amateur youth title was not, in its place was a blank space suggesting that the tournament did not take place that year. Sadly Clive Everton’s book is no longer in print and the library service disposed of its copy a few years later because of its poor condition. Well at least we then knew back in 1988 that we had a UK champion showing off his tricks on the tables, but it would be nice to put the record straight and confirm his status. A more recent visit to the Central library in Denmark Square came about after myself and John’s daughter Lucille had spent hours scouring the internet for any references to UK amateur or junior championships for the years in question, sadly not a single site was found to be listing them, either in “official” snooker sites or fanzine type places, John’s name was not even mentioned! Luckily the library in South Shields now has a copy of the Hamlyn’s Encyclopedia of Snooker in the reference section and this provided the pages and the proof that we needed to show the world and those few doubters at the Shields Snooker Centre, you can view those pages below.

So this little chat with John grew from this frustration that the official records for the period are so well hidden, and certainly until today were NOT available to look up or reference online. So now whenever people are searching for UK amateur snooker champions at youth or junior level, at least they will find some sort of result from the search engines, albeit this article is slanted towards one man living and working in South Shields!

This is his story.

John Maughan began life in 1949 in Consett with his family where his dad was the caretaker of the local billiards hall, he tells me he was only 11 years old when he acquired his first cue. A typical hard working family in the north-east of England, his dad was his greatest influence in taking up the game. By the time that John was 13 he’d won his first tournament, the Consett and District Senior Billiards, the proud young lad had taken home his first trophy having beaten grown men! From then on he made use of every opportunity to practice hard whilst his dad brushed and cleaned the tables. He tells me times were hard and that everyone in his family would take whatever jobs were available to help support themselves. John, at that stage had no intentions of taking up the game on any sort of full time or regular basis, and after leaving school took a job at Consett steelworks, as one might expect. However, he was at a stage of development in snooker where he needed better competition against better opponents, he was determined that he would try to be as good as his favourite player. “Who was that?”, I enquired, –  well it was the “legendary Joe Davis” of course.

Hence John used most of his spare time and money pursuing success in local and regional competitions, often sleeping in the back of an old white transit van with his dad if the venue was too far away from home, or more likely because funding was not sufficient to afford a hotel room – he was prepared to make sacrifices. He was making a name for himself on the amateur snooker circuit, and had reached the stage of playing in national events. In his early teens the family would go with him as John and his father traveled the north of England and southern Scotland chasing down more snooker competitions and trophies, they were by now regular entrants at the Prestatyn Pro-Am competition held each summer in the Welsh resort, playing three or four matches each day. John tells me that in later years he’d enter the competition with the aim of winning it solely because part of the prize was a free week holiday the following year! It was by rubbing shoulders with the new television stars of snooker that helped John improve his game, and in 1965 he beat P. Demaine to become the UK Junior Champion, and in 1968 he won the UK Youth Championship by beating Dave Clinton in the final, his aim now would be to become a full time professional player.

UK under 16 snooker champions 1944 – 1985

UK under 16 amateur snooker champions

UK under 16 amateur snooker champions

UK under 19 snooker champions 1949 – 1985

UK under 19 snooker champions

UK under 19 amateur snooker champions

He met his future wife Angela at the Freemasons Arms in Consett,  whilst she was visiting from Carlisle to see members of her extended family, and she soon came to realise that chasing the snooker dream came with the territory. Every summer John, Angela, and their young family would make an annual pilgrimage to Prestatyn in north Wales where John would again take part in the invitational week long tournament that included many of the top professionals of the day. Snooker was probably more elitist back in those earlier days, the EPBSA (English Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) maintained a sort of “closed shop” only allowing 32 players to become full time professionals and take part in its money winning tournaments, John Maughan had tried hard, so it seems, to become one of them, and according to him back in 1987 he’d been in a number of ranking tournaments and had done the annual summer stint at Prestatyn winning competitions which won him his annual holiday back to the same place next year! Aspiring professionals needed to garner not just ranking points but also had to be “accepted” by a committee which included World Champion Terry Griffith’s, John Maughan had done that, got the points, got the wins but failed to impress the Welshman Griffiths, who he had squarely beaten on the table a week earlier, consequently in 1978 he was not able to join snooker’s ranks of the elite professionals.  At this point John was one of the highest ranked English players in the world (he was ranked 13th.)  outside of those 32 elite professionals and he tells me he was gutted by the committee’s decision not to allow him to join their “club” – he nearly gave it all up.

Despite the setback he continued to play snooker regularly and was installed as the resident “professional” at the Richmond Snooker Club in Carlisle before later moving to Newcastle, then in 1986 came the opportunity to move to South Shields when he was offered the job of managing the Shields Snooker Centre. After more than 25 years he still loves his job there and continues to buck the national trend for licensed premises with club going from strength to strength. South Shields is now firmly his home where he has developed many friendships and strong ties.

When conversing with him about the big name stars he’s played against we hear a stream of talent and only wish that one or two of them might visit South Shields and have an impromptu match against John, people like John Parrot, John Virgo, Steve Davis, Mike Hallet, Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, Willie Thorne, Joe Johnson, Jimmy White, Ray Reardon, fellow northerner George Wood, and late greats such as Alex Higgins and elder statesmen of the game like Rex Williams.. We’ve lost count of the stories that he tells of Thorne and White and their various exploits and horseplay at tournaments!

John is now content to indulge most of his sporting interests during the course of his day at work, he is a keen football fan, loves horse racing, tennis and darts. He has promoted a strong sporting ethos within the Snooker Centre over the past 25 years and helped form and manage a football team, and once arranged a day out karting for club members. His club now hosts 17 dart teams, a pool team, a couple of fives and threes teams, and is also the regular meeting place for the Westoe Fishing Club!

South Shields Snooker Centre now has 16 full sized snooker tables, a much enlarged bar area complete with pool table and four dart boards, and can offer a multitude of live sporting action from its satellite TV system, it also offers a good variety of hot bar snacks, hearty all day breakfasts, and beers and lagers from only £2 per pint. Membership is available at only £6 per year and table rates are very reasonable, the club on Chichester Road (next to The Cyprus) is open daily from 10:00 am (telephone: 0191 4567097 for table bookings or membership enquiries).

John said:

“I’ll be here for quite a few years yet, I’ve no intentions of retiring, my eyes may no longer be good enough to play top level snooker but you can guarantee that my staff and myself will ensure that South Shields has a first class facility here for any youngsters wishing to learn the game, and give other members comfortable surroundings to play and relax in. If any other sporting teams need a venue or a meeting place they just need to get in touch and have a chat. I might not have made it to the top in the world of snooker but I certainly feel as though I’ve a moulded a top job for myself here in South Shields. The family grew up here and we love the place, I guess I’m part of the fixtures and fittings now”

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Written by curly

February 21, 2012 at 9:34 am

South Shields’ girls in X Factor win!

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Little Mix chased the dream.

Exactly two years ago I used this video to illustrate this particular post where I said

“I think that South Shields girl Jade Thirlwall should think seriously about having another go at the X Factor, she could well emulate Joe McElderry next year.”

OK, so it took a little longer, but after initial rejection she was thrown in, along with fellow Shields girl Perrie Edwards,  Leanne Pinnock amd Jesy Nelson to a girl group later to be known as Little Mix.  It has been a hard road for the four girls as they went through the pressures of public votes in ITV’s flagship reality show but yesterday evening they won the coveted X Factor prize and that important contract with Simon Cowell’s music company. Another feather in the cap for South Shields  and a great advert for the young talent that we have in South Tyneside. It takes some “bottle” to be knocked down, get up, dust yourself down, and come back fighting, but as many girls from Laygate or Simonside can attest this determination to succeed is a requisite in the tough streets of Tyneside.

To be fair we knew that Thirwall had it in her as a former winner at the Pride of South Tyneside Awards, but how many of us saw Perrie Edwards coming through? I wonder too, how much of an influence “Mark” was in Jade’s success?

Winning the X Factor is no guarantee of fame and fortune, and the winners see little of Cowell’s £1m contract, it is rumoured that they are advanced as little as £150000, and must spend the rest promoting an album on behalf of Cowell, however some are now reckoning that the four girls could be in for a huge windfall as advertisers, and promoters see the marketing opportunities presented by a bunch of young vibrant girls put together as much for their looks as well as their singing prowess. They have already featured in a Marks and Spencer’s advertisement, and will no doubt be signed up to promote hair and beauty products at home and in the UK as Cowell looks to exploit a gap in the market. Little Mix could be on the verge of reaping rewards running up to £10m. Don’t begrudge them this success, they will see very little of their home towns or families over the next 12 months, they will need bags of strength and enthusiasm to cope with Cowell’s demands, there will be travel and sleep deprivation, their lives will no longer be under their own self control – they now belong to Simon Cowell.

What does it mean for this region though?

We become seen as a nursery for talent, others may become inspired to emulate this level of success, we get a little more national press attention, and sometimes it may not be for the best of reasons as personal lives become laid bare to reporters, our youngsters may become seen in a more positive light too. Most importantly, we may see young entrepreneurs in business and commerce become more emboldened and self confident as they follow their own dreams. They may be inspired by the competitive attitudes of girls like Little Mix, and we may find that other more diverse young talents on Tyneside succeed in building bigger contracts that lead to some growth in our regional economy, the experience of the hard knocks that eventually lead to a winning position might hopefully rub off on many of Tyneside’s teenagers, upon whom our future relies.

Damian Rice’s Cannonball, great song, would not have been my choice for the winner’s single.

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Jarrow Tories, young and enthusiastic!

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Much new support on the streets of Cleadon Village and East Boldon

Just as we were discussing last week the state of some local parties on South Tyneside and the apparent resistance of people in South Shields to join their local parties or volunteer (for either the Conservatives, Labour, or the Liberal Democrats), news comes from the Jarrow constituecy of a resurgence in interest in party politics, particularly from the younger age groups.

You will remember that I mentioned an influx of younger members to the Jarrow Conservative Association in my last post on the subject, and notwithstanding the lingering problems they have over the eventual resignation of independent councillor David Potts, association chairman cllr. Jeff Milburn happily tells me that they are enthusiastically getting on with the job of fighting the local elections in Jarrow. More than that, the Jarrow Tories can call upon almost 200 members for support many of them in the 17 – 35 age group! This influx of new blood has happened over the past couple of years putting them in the position of having “competition” for the opportunity to stand as a candidate and represent the party in the local government elections. Jeff is delighted with the current state of affairs in the Jarrow association where fund raising has been going on for aome time in preparation for this month’s campaign. Jeff knows that Labour’s Joan Atkinson will prove stiff opposition in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, she networks well with two Twitter pages and a blog, but he is confidant that his large team of young enthusiastic keen young legs will help sitting councillor Donald Wood successfully defend his seat.

Jeff (who is younger than I) told me:

“I really want to emphasise and let people know that there is a world of difference between South Shields and Jarrow, we have very much a young vibrant party of people here, we are well organised keen and energetic. We have no shortage of volunteers, of course we will always welcome more if anyone wishes to join us, who wouldn’t? However, there is certainly a different balance to the party here in Jarrow and the future looks great for the association”

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Written by curly

April 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Flipping retailers!

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Pancake Race, South Shields

Come on folks, lend a hand!

The annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race took place in King Street, South Shields yesterday, always a laugh and it draws a half decent crowd as teams of four from retailers and South Shields businesses run a 100 yard dash along the town’s main shopping street in an effort to (a) win a small trophy, and (b) raise some pennies for a needy charity. The usual rules apply as the teams run in a relay fashion flipping their pancakes in their pans at the start line before being allowed to dash to the far end of the course, return and hand over to a team mate.

The event has been organised over the past few years by Mavis Maughan, the events co-ordinator at Asda in Coronation Street and this year included teams from the Shields Gazette, Specsavers, Slimming World, and Asda, however, (and here’s the rub) it seems that Mavis is having some trouble getting new participants, resulting in the same bunch of people taking part each year, and getting older it hurts the knees and hips. This is surprising because there are more than enough businesses in the town who could spare a team of four people for half an hour, perhaps some might even be persuaded to donate the half an hour on their day off!

It is a fun occasion and an opportunity to raise your business profile with the public, show your involvement with the community that you work in and make your profit from, and generally show that your organisation is a caring one when it comes to charitable fund raising. The sort of businesses that I have in mind that employ sufficient people to spare four might include the likes of Wilkinsons, Lidl, MacDonalds, Marks and Spencer, Greggs (who have four outlets in the town centre), M.I. Dickson, Superdrug, the Ocean Beach Fun Park, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco, and a clutch of solicitor’s offices.

I find it pretty embarrassing that Mavis has approached some of these and been rebuffed, come on guys give it a second thought for next year, half an hour out of your working week is not going to cripple the business. There may be other ways in which you may be able to help the event without actually taking part in the race, for instance the printing of plenty of A4 posters to decorate shop windows in the week leading up to the race would help generate a larger crowd and a bigger footfall in King Street, I’m sure one of you could produce a poster on a PC and have it printed on your office laserjet printer!

So come on, give it some thought and get in touch with Mavis Maughan at Asda in Coronation Street, South Shields to offer your help for next year – please!

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Written by curly

March 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

Miliband and the naked ladies

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Picture originally from The Times but found in The Daily Mail

Well done Miss Goggin

There has been a fair bit of Twittering “tweats” and giggles over this picture which has appeared in the press showing South Shields MP David Miliband and his wife Louise looking relaxed in their Primrose Hill living room under what some might describe as a “salacious” painting. I’m not at all bothered by their choice of furnishings or decorations, just so long as the tax payer isn’t funding them, unlike someone at The Daily Mail who said:

‘There is no way I would have that on my wall. It is a bit smutty and sleazy and looks like it ought to be in a pole-dancing club rather than the home of the British Foreign Secretary.’

However, remember this was The Daily Mail, and my libertarian leanings say that a liberal mind will see artistic expression in a far different light in comparison to those with a closed mind.

No, I was far more interested in the story about how and why this picture was taken. I have to tip my hat to Naomi Goggin, winner of The Times Canon Young Photographer of the Year 2010; her fortitude, determination, and the  sheer guts displayed by such a young waitress is admirable and heart warming. As someone with more than just a passing interest in photography I am highly impressed with her desire to be a “winner” and her sheer brass neck in deciding to knock on the Milibands’ door on the day of that famous announcement. To  cap it all, she got her shot after fumbling around with an unknown tripod found by David’s wife, in uncertain light, with nervous and shaking hands – the girl did well, extremely well, under the circumstances.

When one joins in the “scrum” of full time professional photographers chasing down a story, one is always conscious of other eyes upon you, the adrenalin rush begins, the heart beats faster, and the brain hurries along trying to keep to the beat – it can be so easy to do something stupid, set the wrong iso speed, choose a wrong aperture, set a shutter speed which is too long for shaking fingers,  spoil it all with a huge burst of flash, I’m sure Naomi knows exactly what I mean, sometimes you get it right, and sometimes it just goes plain wrong.  After all, those prying eyes have been at it for years, and getting paid for the pleasure (or pain if they fail to come away with a newsworthy picture), it does just make you wonder why none of them had her nerve.

Anyway, congratulations Naomi for managing to find a winning picture amongst such a massively strong field, on a day of intense media feeding frenzy!

And now to a couple of the “lighter entries”.

Meanwhile I am pleased to note that this picture has been chosen by Sterling Publishing in the USA for inclusion in a book authored by Prof. Jim Bell of Cornell University to be titled “The Space Book: 250 Milestones in the History of Astronomy”, which should please the young artists of South Shields’ Customs House no end!

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Written by curly

October 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Old time atmosphere at The Stadium of Light

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Alf Ramsey knew my grandfather

Click to enlarge

“Alf Ramsey” cast to appear before Burnley game, Lipton Trophy to be aired!

I won’t be able to see Sunderland playing against Burnley this afternoon at the Stadium of Light, in fact I’ll be nowhere near South Shields at all as we travel away on a long standing engagement, so this may be the only blog post of the day. South Shields playwright Ed Waugh, whose politics are not my cup of tea – but he does have a good seam of humour in him – is sending the cast of “Alf Ramsey Knew my Grandfather” on to the pitch at Sunderland this afternoon for a pre game appearance.

Older readers may well recall the 1982 film “The World Cup: A Captain’s Tale” which starred Dennis Waterman, him of “The Sweeney”, Nigel Hawthorne, Andrew Keir, and Tim Healey, which depicted the exploits of the boys from West Auckland as they undertook the onerous trip to Italy to play against Stuttgart and FC Winterthur and in what was to be the world’s first cup competition for clubs. Incredibly the lads from West Auckland, competing for the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, won it in 1909 and even managed to retain the trophy two years later in 1911 against clubs from Switzerland, Germany, and Italy beating Juventus in the final and returning the cup to  County Durham. They were allowed to keep the trophy in perpetuity but it was stolen in 1994 and now the West Auckland Workingmen’s Club only has a replica.

It will be this replica of The Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy which will be paraded at the ground this afternoon by the cast of the play (I hope they will be wearing the “replica” woollen jerseys of West Auckland too it will add a good sense of history to the game, especially as so many Sunderland footballers were recruited from County Durham during that period).

Ed has sent me this, and I’m happy to help out, and hope that plenty of South Shields folks get along to today’s match or even better get along to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal to see Ed’s play.

Sunderland Football Club have invited Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather cast members onto the Stadium of Light’s hallowed turf on Saturday to display the impressive Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy prior to the Premiership match against Burnley.

The play, about the West Auckland football team who won the first world cup in 1909, is to transfer to Newcastle Theatre Royal in May.

Niall Quinn, Sunderland’s charismatic chairman, will attend the pre-match event, which will be used to publicise the “greatest football story ever” – when a team of miners from West Auckland in County Durham were invited to compete for the inaugural world cup in Italy against the top professional teams from Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

“West” beat German champions Stuttgart Sportfreunde 2-0 in the semi-finals before seeing off the Swiss champs FC Winterthur 2-0 in the final.

The lads returned to Turin, Italy, in 1911 and won the cup outright after hammering the mighty Juventus 6-1.

The play, written by former Vaux Breweries worker and Sunderland Polytechnic student Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, premiered at the Gala theatre in Durham last April to mark the centenary of the first achievement, was a huge success. Around 4,500 people attended and by the end of the 10-show run, it was playing to full houses at the 500-seat venue.

West Auckland were a team of County Durham miners playing in the Northern League when they were invited by the Glasgow-born tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton to participate in the inaugural world cup in Turin, Italy.

“West” subsequently kept the cup but it was stolen in 1994 and an exact replica today takes its place in West Auckland Working Men’s Club. People come from all over the world to pay respect to the achievement of these plucky miners.

Ed Waugh said: “This is an incredible non-partisan, forgotten episode in football history.

“Sunderland has always been a brilliant community club and we can’t thank everyone involved enough for allowing us to bring this story to many more thousands of people.

“Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather is a fantastic story of fairytale proportions about the sacrifice of the lads and lasses who made this incredible story happen.

“While football is its central theme it’s really a story about characters, community, solidarity and friendship – a bit like Auf Wiedersehen, Pet with balls!”

Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather runs at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, from Tuesday, May 11, until Saturday, May 15. Telephone 08448 11 21 21 or visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk

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