Joan crosses the globe to see Wallington show

Joan Hanacik (Left) with sister Gillian Mayne
Joan Hanacik (Left) with sister Gillian Mayne

ONE of the wartime evacuees in Northumberland travelled from the other side of the world to take a trip down memory lane.

Joan Hanacik was among the 116 girls from Elswick Road School in Newcastle who were sent to Wallington at the start of the Second World War.

She was eight at the time and remembers it as a bewildering experience at first, particularly as her younger sister Gillian was allowed to stay home with their mother.

She has vivid memories of playing on the grass, sleeping on mattresses on the floor and walking with the other girls, crocodile fashion, into Cambo village.

And Mrs Hanacik, then Joan Brown, was able to relive them when she visited the region from her home in Australia – where she has lived since the mid-1960s.

As well as catching up with her sister, she said she was determined to go along to Wallington and when she heard about the Operation Pied Piper show, she could not resist booking tickets.

The November Club performances that ran for two weeks from September were based on the stories and memories of the evacuees.

Mrs Hanacik revealed that she didn’t stay at the stately home, now owned by the National Trust, as long as many others did.

She said: “A dentist came and told me I was going to have six teeth out and I was so terrified that I took off.

“I had no idea how far away I was from Newcastle. They must have realised I was missing because I was taken back and then my dad came to collect me and take me home in a borrowed motorbike and side car.”

Her great-niece Amy Walder said earlier this week that Mrs Hanacik really enjoyed watching Operation Pied Piper and it was a highlight of her trip.

November Club’s creative director Cinzia Hardy said: “This wonderful story is just one of many that have come out of the audiences’ responses to the show. For example, on one of the nights the real Miss Wood, who is played by one of our actors, came along. There have been lots of laughs and tears and I think we’ve done our job of delving even deeper into the history of a fascinating place and a unique family.”