June 2018

3036 days ago

THE closure of the Marton Hotel and Country Club will have been received with certain sadness by many thousands of people on Teesside who will have many happy memories of this somewhat anachronistic establishment. It was built on the site once occupied by the Sparks (Bakery) family house in the 1950s and later by Alf Finlay (bookmaker) and, if truth be known, it never left that era.
It was the brainchild of entrepreneur Charles Amer who, in recognising there were few faclities in the area for accommodating large functions, set about doing just that. His timing proved inspirational. The Marton Country Club quickly became the number one choice for all manner of black tie events held in its massive ballroom. One of these was the annual Press Ball that Malcolm Race recalls later.
The dance bands featured at these occasions included Charles Amer’s own musicians and another favourite was Alan Waller’s Band.
But fashions change, and companies who do not respond to such changes suddenly find themselves fighting a losing battle with newcomers coming into the industry. Despite the success of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, organized dances are fast becoming a thing of the past; in fact how many young people these days could take the floor to dance a waltz or tango?
The official statement issued by the Directors of the Country Club says it all. They just couldn’t compete with the new kids on the block like the Premier Inns and Travel Lodges.
By sheer coincidence I, and a number of journalists, held our annual lunch at the Country Club only two days before the closure announcement. We chose the venue because of the quality of the food and the fantastic loyal staff who serve us. Yes, it was like stepping back in time. The dining room has hardly changed over the past decades, and we shared the ghosts of Middlesbrough Football Club Directors lunching in the far corner, which they did when the late Charles Amer was chairman of the Football Club. How many deals were hatched over that table?
As ever our meal was quite excellent and remarkably inexpensive at £10-a-head.
As we said our goodbyes and went through the door into the car park, little did we know it would be for the last time, and effectively we had been present at a wake. How Sad.

The Press Ball was the hottest ticket in town
THE events held at the Country Club over the years were many and varied including boxing bouts, exhibitions, weddings, and every manner of company dinner.
But, undoubtedly, one of the most impressive of the balls held there was The Press Ball, writes Malcolm Race. Tickets for this event were quickly snapped up. The ball was more than just a dance, rather more a cabaret evening featuring acts like The Freelanders, and Mark Darrell and the Boys from T’Country. There were Go-Go girls, limbo dancers, even fire-eaters. On one occasion, In addition to the featured dance band, a Caribbean Steel Band took to the floor. I was there on the night President Kennedy was assassinated. Harry Evans, the then Editor of The Northern Echo, heard the news on his car radio on his way to the Country Club and immediately performed a U-turn and returned to the office to produce a special edition. He would miss out on winning one of the dozens of prizes, including holidays abroad that the organisers always collected for this event.

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Rob Watson



October - November 2008

3617 days ago

It was a Sunday evening and Ruth and Peter Annison were driving back to their Nottingham home after spending another delightful weekend in their favourite Yorkshire Dales.

“We so loved this part of the world,” Ruth explains. “And on that journey we began asking ourselves why we were leaving it. Why not move there permanently?”
It proved to be a road to Damascus moment for these two college lecturers, who decided there and then to sell up in Nottingham, and become residents.

But in so doing, two problems immediately presented themselves. Firstly they would need to find a suitable residence, and secondly, how would they earn a living?
It was while Ruth was looking around Hawes that the answer to that important second question was answered. “I was watching Tom Outhwaite the local ropemaker twisting rope in his small workshop, and he told me he was hoping to retire soon. With no obvious successor it seemed that the ropemaking tradition in Hawes, as in so many other places, was doomed. I made a quick telephone call to Peter and we began to explore the possibility of taking over Tom Outhwaites’s business. We were not alone. The news had got out, and Tom suddenly received 300 letters from people wanting to buy W.R. Outhwaite & Son which had been established in Hawes since 1905.

By Saturday morning Andrew was almost at the end of his tether. “I was now convinced that I would be found dead on the cliff.”

With his strength ebbing away, he decided on one last throw of the dice. Ignoring the pain and stiffness that was ravaging his body, he somehow managed to climb on to the rock that had given him some shelter. Stretching out his phone above his head he suddenly realised he had got reception. He frantically keyed in a text message and pressed the ‘send’ button.

“It took an age, and I shook with relief as I finally read the response – ‘message sent’. I tried immediately to make a