When I was growing up in Gosforth, we always had a barometer beside
our front door. Every day, before going out, my Dad tapped the
barometer and said "Oh, pressure's going up" or "Oh, pressure's going
down". I never really understood this mysterious ritual but gradually
realised it had something to do with the weather.
Years later, I inherited the barometer and hung it beside my own front
door. I tapped it every time I went out and probably mystified my own
One day, I began to think about the inscription on the base of the
barometer: 'Presented by the employees of Bomarsund Colliery to J D
Sutherland in appreciation of services rendered in designing the
Bomarsund Colliery Banner June 1953'. I was born in July 1953 so
began to imagine my Dad proudly returning home with this gift, showing
my Mum who would have been 8 months pregnant with me. I realised
what an important part of our family history the barometer is.
I started to do some research into the banner mentioned on the
barometer and, after many false trails, ended up at Woodhorn Colliery
Museum, where I asked if they knew anything about the Bomarsund
Banner. One of the museum staff explained that many of the
Northumberland banners had been lost or damaged over the years and
only 23 of the original 200 had survived. However, he recognised the
name 'Bomarsund' and thought it might be in storage.
We went to the store and he brought out a large rolled banner - about
12ft by 10ft - which he unfurled across the floor. This was an amazing
moment and I felt a lump come to my throat as I immediately recognised
my Dad's style and knew that it was 'his' banner.
He was very political as a young man and his design on one side
equates Nationalisation of the coal mines with the British victory at the
Battle of Bomarsund in the Crimean War, after which the colliery was
named. The other side asks which is the safer power: coal or nuclear.
The museum staff told me that a woman called Hazel Edwards was
writing a book about Northumberland Miners' Banners and she might be
able to tell me more. I gave them my telephone number and a couple of
days later she rang me. She said the book was about to go to print but
didn't know that my Dad designed the Bomarsund banner so was
pleased to add this information to the book just in time.
She also told me that he'd designed another banner - Sleekburn A -
which I didn't know about. When her book came out, I was able to see
both his banners and many of the other survivors.
Recently, I went back to Woodhorn and was really delighted to see both
of my Dad's banners on display. He was a very proud man and he
would have been even more proud to know that his banners are still
flying in Northumberland although I think he would have been shocked
to see what has happened to the mining industry.
I now live in Bulgaria and the barometer is still beside our front door,
doing a good job of predicting the Bulgarian weather. Every day, when I
tap it, I think of my Dad.