From chivalry to underground

The Newcastle Victoria Tunnel
The Newcastle Victoria Tunnel

MORPETH Rotary Club members have enjoyed a flurry of regional activity.

At club night on Tuesday, they welcomed Seahouses Rotary for the first round of the District Quiz.

Fifteen men and women from Seahouses included their quiz team of Judith Bell-Taylor, Chris Turner, Stuart Walton and George Scott. They were pitted against the intellectual muscle of Michael Duffy, ex headteacher at King Edward VI School, retired middle school head Simon Foley, Martyn Jenkins, who had been an Education Officer with Northumberland County Council, and St George’s United Reformed Church Minister Ron Forster.

It was an exciting contest with only one mark between the two teams and then equal scores for the last three rounds.

The tie was broken by the generous chivalry of the Morpeth team captain, Mr Duffy.

He said that as he had incorrectly read out one spelling answer, before immediately correcting himself with the right answer that he had written down, the contest should be awarded to Seahouses.

Later in the same week, a Morpeth Rotary group braved freezing temperatures to visit the Newcastle Victoria Tunnel.

The two-mile tunnel had been completed in 1842 to bring coal down from Spittal Tongues Colliery near Hunters Moor, under the Town Moor to the Tyne at Ouseburn. At least it was a constant 12C once inside.

It is narrow at about five-and-a-half feet with rails 4ft 8½ins wide, but it cut transport costs by 80 per cent.

The cauldrons of coal came down by gravity with a fall of over 200ft. Once, the rope snapped and the coal tubs shot onto a waiting ship and sank it.

A paranormal society is due to visit soon to check for ghosts. About 18 years after it was built, it was up for sale and three prospective buyers set off inside to examine it. They failed to send the right message and a set of cauldrons was sent down.

One tried to stand to one side and was badly crushed, but survived, one dropped down between the tracks and was unhurt, but one tried to outrun it and was killed.

In the Second World War, it was an air raid shelter, with bunk beds three deep at one side and internal blast walls in case of a direct hit.