Interview with Anne Mackie

On Wednesday 13th November, Grace College hosted its first Remembrance Tea, to commemorate World War One, World War Two and the wars still ensuing around the world now. The afternoon was a great success: our brass band and choir played some classic World War One songs and there was a lovely array of food and beverages for the guests, served by members of the sixth form. Many people attended the Remembrance Tea, including a group from the South Chowdene Care Home.

After expressing what a wonderful time she’d had at the event, I had the privilege of meeting and speaking to one of the attendees from the care home, Anne Mackie, and her daughter Susan. 

Despite her age of 91, Anne is still a very lively woman, with a wonderful personality, having lived a very interesting and inspiring life. Attending the Remembrance Tea was one of the highlights of her year: “The children were all very polite and welcoming. The choir was excellent, I really loved all the singing.”

As a singer herself in her youth, Anne actually won the Tynedale Festival, and took part in many big festivals as a solo singer. “She had an absolutely beautiful voice,” said Susan.

Anne Mackie grew up in Cullercoats as a child. When World War Two began in 1939, Anne was about 11 years old. “The fundamental years of my life were spent whilst the country was at war.”

Anne recalled many memories from World War Two, remembering plenty from the time period. “I remember the moment war was announced. As a child, my  brother-in-law was evacuated to Rothbury. Quite a few local children were evacuated, but I wasn’t.”

“I would see the bombing planes from my house,” Anne recollected. “I became able to tell which ones were German and which ones were British.”

Anne experienced a bombing herself, close to home. “The churches were bombed. Due to the meanders, the factories often couldn’t be bombed, so bombs would be dropped willy-nilly.”

“We had an air raid shelter in our backyard, which we turned into my father’s shed.” Anne missed time at school as a teen since “School was reduced to half-days, whilst the bomb shelters were being built.”

However, she made up for this as an adult, when she became a teacher at Windy Nook for 17 years, in charge of the choir, linking back to her love of music and enjoyment of our band and choir. Susan followed in her mum’s footsteps and also became a teacher, telling me, “When I was growing up, you’d have to say who you’re heroes were. I would always say my Mum. After my dad passed away when I was 10, Mum went back to school did her O Levels in one year and supported our family.”

Though Susan lives away from the North East, she still often drives up to Low Fell to see her mum, showing the very close relationship between the two.

When asked how war impacted her childhood, Anne told me, “You thought nothing of it at the time. War was just part of life. I never actually felt I was part of the war. It’s peculiar, the way it becomes normality. You just had to be careful.”

Others family members of Anne’s were also involved in war. “In World War Two, Grandad worked on the convoys as a radio officer,” Susan said. “He would see the shells and the bombs. He worked in the Middle East and even travelled to Canada and Australia.”

It’s incredible to hear stories from those directly impacted by war, and it really highlights why Remembrance Day is so important  – today, tomorrow and always. I think Anne spoke on behalf of all of us when she told me, “It is key we always commemorate Remembrance, but never celebrate it. Once you’ve experienced the past, you must do want you can to stop it repeating again in the future.”

We will remember them.

By Rosie Greatorex