Sticky Bainbridge

I wrote a character called Sticky Bainbridge into A Just and Upright Man; he doesn’t actually appear, because he died before the date (1763) that is the setting for the book. Here is how one of the characters, Jeffrey Drabble, describes him:

They called him Sticky because he had a wooden leg. He was wounded in the militia, and Sir Thomas gave him a bit pension. Sir Thomas Liddell, Master. Him as was Lord Ravenshead’s father. Sticky commuted it to a lump sum and bought himself a horse and a cart. Sticky’s gone now, sir. Dead these many years.

Why am I mentioning Sticky Bainbridge in Invisible Lives, which is a section of this blog that deals with real people (though all of them so far have, like Sticky, been dead)? Because Sticky Bainbridge was a real person, too. All I did was move him a few miles to a different village and shift him back in time about 150 years.

Sticky Bainbridge—the real Sticky Bainbridge—lived in South Moor, County Durham from about 1880 to about 1940 and not, as his fictional counterpart did, in Ryton, County Durham in the 1760s and he really was called Sticky because of his wooden leg. He kept a shop and he had a car, which set him apart from almost all his neighbours (the huge majority of whom—the men, at least—were coal miners). It wasn’t much of a car, because Sticky was not related to the Bainbridge family that had the imposing department store in nearby Newcastle and a South Moor shopkeeper in those days couldn’t afford much of a car. Nevertheless, it existed.

If you know South Moor, you will know that the hill from there to Stanley is long and steep. (Stanley is at the top of the hill; South Moor is at the bottom).

My great-uncle Jot (really George William Burnett, but everyone called him Jot) was born in Burnhope, County Durham on 6th August 1891 and died in Quaking Houses, also in Durham, on 5th May 1957. (Why was it called Quaking Houses? Look, are you listening to this story or not?) Jot was a coal miner all his working life from the age of twelve; he was also known locally as something of a wit. One day in the 1920s, his shift finished, Jot was walking up the hill towards Stanley when he came level with Sticky Bainbridge’s car going in the same direction. It isn’t recorded who was going faster but Jot was a sprightly man and Sticky’s car was Sticky’s car. In any event, Sticky called out, ‘Howay man, Jot, Ah’ll give ye a lift.’ To which Jot replied, ‘Oh, no thanks, man, Sticky; Ah’m in a hurry.’

Well, it made me laugh the first time I heard it. Still does, matter of fact.

Read more Invisible Lives here.

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