Online Archive  
Issue 12 - May 1973
Tucked away in a recent issue of the Journal was a very revealing story about the plight of 28 old folk in the Durham village of Esh Winning.

It was revealing because of what it failed to reveal. A report of a bitter battle between a local council and a mineworkers' homes association. Another round of irresponsible bickering between two authorities with no concern for the people involved.

And that was what was so revealing about the report which appeared in the Journal, a good solid representative of the straight press. You see, they had all the details of the row between the two authorities but nothing, not one word, on the plight of the old folk.

The story is a simple one. The elderly inhabitants of a row of tiny mineworkers' cottages perched at the end of the village, want inside loos. Today they are still waiting for them even though they were promised them a year ago.

Ernie Baker was waiting for his inside loo. Not now. They found him dead in his outside loo last month. He had had a heart attack. His neck was broken. Ernie, who was 80, had had to walk down the steeply sloping yard behind his house to reach the loo.

Maybe Ernie would have had a heart attack anyway. In his bed, say, or eating his dinner. Anywhere, anytime. But he didn't have his heart attack anywhere, anytime. He had it in an outside loo after picking his way down the sloping yard. I find that very significant.

But the authorities believe Ernie's heart attack could have occurred anywhere, anytime. So they're still wrangling and the remaining old folk are still waiting.

The urban district council insist that the homes association can't have grant aid unless they carry out a host of other improvements at the same time. (Do we detect a hint of real concern about the plight of the old folk, in spite of the delay? Do we hell!)

Unfortunately, the homes association, grandly known as the Durham Aged Mineworkers' Homes Association, can't do that. The money they have available just now is enough with grant aid, to provide the indoor loos. But there isn't nearly enough to carry out the other improvements right away, even with maximum grant. And there isn't enough to provide the loos without a council grant. Ergo stalemate.

And that's been the situation for a year now. Still no solution and still no inside loos.

And in Coronation Terrace, a terrible fear that the fate of Ernie Baker might be the fate of many.

It is a case which could rouse public sympathy. If they knew about it. And how the hell can they get to know about it if the good solid representatives of the straight press don't print the facts. They've printed some, but they've missed the important ones. And it's not unusual. But it's damn near criminal!