Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles My name is Catherine Cookson. I know this place... it's not like it was, yet... it's exactly the same. Yes, I used to write stories about this place, about its people. I was one of them. Stories about great love... ...and the loss of it. I would have been 6 years old in 1911, it was then we moved to William Black Street, East Jarrow. I can see myself sitting with our Kate on a cracket by the fire, my face warm as toast and me back chilled to the bone. I can still smell the broth me Mam made. When she had the money she would buy a shank of ham. I can still see it bubbling in the pan. I loved sittin with a bowl of broth and a lump of lard on me bread. But that was a time of innocence, before the truth had its day. [Distant laughing] I grew up thinking me Mam, our Kate, was me sister. It was a lie designed to hide the truth. I had no father, I was illegitimate. In the street where I grew up the other kids would chant, “you've got no Da, you've got no Da!” "You've got no Da." Those words burnt a hole in my heart. In those days to be illegitimate was one of the worst things a person could be. I can feel the shame I felt then... I remember a girl telling me, “you can't come to me party cos you've got no Da!”. That's a horrid thing for a little girl to face. But you know, perhaps some things happen for a reason; from the cruelty I found a great sense of ambition. There's many a lesson learned from adversity. I well remember my school days here in Jarrow, when I was given a penny each day for the tram to St Bede's Catholic School. We would learn by rote 'six sixes are thirty-six, seven sixes are forty-two'. But words were always my thing - I've always loved to tell stories. I would write of a handsome prince who would choose me and take me away to a better life. It was a dream that lived with me day and night. I wanted to leave this place and never return. I wanted to be a lady... ...not some bastard from Tyneside. I struggled with God in later life. I struggled with life in later life. Fear and despair took me to St. Mary's Psychiatric Hospital. My thoughts flushed me down a whirlpool of terror. I had my dark night of the soul. “Write it down, hinny", our Kate said to me. "Write it all down." And I did. I channeled that pain into something that brought me great peace. After school, in the afternoon, I would save the ha'penny return fare to buy sweets and walk home through St Paul's Monastery. I loved the innocence of play. Pretending. I could be anyone I wanted; I didn't know how true that was at the time. For me, Jarrow Hall stood out like a bright light in my life. I would steal a glimpse at the world that seemed a million miles away from home. I've lived this story before. I've felt the pain of it. more than once. I was never able to be a mother. I had miscarriage after miscarriage. This river is the blood in my veins. There, quietly, confidently, it told me to flow. To keep going. To move with the current. I can hear the drumming of a thousand boots... men walking down Ellison Street to the shipyard. If men weren't working themselves half to death they were lining up to be handpicked for work by the gaffer. If they didn't get picked they'd be selling their furniture for food. There's no sign of Palmers, Jarrow's great shipyard. Granda worked at Palmers, like many an Irishman in Jarrow. Some wives had to wait for their husbands outside the gates of the shipyard or they'd spend all their wages in the nearest bar. Between that and me real Mam, our Kate - who fought with alcoholism all her life - I hated the drink. Mind you, I understand why they drank. Palmers built over a thousand ships until it closed in 1933. That led to the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. People were just so desperate. The men must have felt like failures, unable to provide for the people they loved. Unable to feed their own children. It all just seemed so unfair I felt that we were all so adrift in life. So much pain. So much suffering. But it wasn't all that... no good story is. Remember the handsome prince I told you about? Well he did come along and he did take me to a better life, or perhaps I finally allowed myself to go there. My beloved husband Tom would say to me, 'Kitty you can't take on the hurt of the world.' Though sometimes, I wish I could. When I was 22 I was jilted by a man who felt I was not 'grand' enough for him. My heart was broken. The only joy of this place had abandoned me. It was then I left for the town of Hastings, and I intended never to return. But it was there I met my Tom. I would be so scared that Tom would go before me. I wrote, don't leave me, beloved, on this plane, without your hand to grasp in the night and your voice to wake me from sleep. Don't leave me in the darkness of my being, for I am but a reflection of despair, when you're not there. He never did leave me. I passed aged 91 whilst Tom held my hand. He followed me just a few weeks later. The greatest romance I wrote was my own. My writing helped ease my pain in ways I can't describe. I just hope it helps others with theirs. We each have our stories to tell. These people... This river... They will always be with me... ...and that is why I wrote of them every day God sent.