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Sunday 22nd May
Newcastle
Saturday

I hadn't been to Newcastle since I was a child - my father's family came from Newcastle and Northumberland and I had always had fond memories of "the North". So when I had to think of a weekend break with a friend, an avid Newcastle United fan, what better than a trip to St James' Park to watch them battle it out with Liverpool!

All set and getting up at an ungodly hour to reach King's Cross we boarded the Express to Newcastle. Instantly childhood images flooded back of clutching bags of sweets and crossword puzzles, trying to endure a journey that seemed to go on for hours upon hours. Surprisingly though the journey seemed incredibly short, probably because of the amount of commuting I do!

I could remember Newcastle Station really well, navigating our way round the places from my childhood memories and hearing our first real Geordie accents which added to the excitement.

We arrived at our hotel after having a long chat to the cabbie who drove us from the station. All the Newcastle cab drivers we encountered (the hotel was outside the city) were great fun and desperate to talk about football or the stadium.

We got ready for dinner but had to go to the General Hospital for painkillers for my friend's arm which had been hurt during rugby training. Later I found out that the General was where my aunt had been a nurse and that my great great grandfather, *Alexander Pringle, may had been involved in building it although his company definitely worked on the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary).

Newcastle was fantastic: tall and beautiful architecture and the new Swing Bridge; a phenomenal choice of restaurants with people all "dressed up to the nines" and bars overflowing with customers.

After a night in the town we looked forward to Sunday's match at St James' Park.

Sunday

In the morning we went for a walk round the town, the Quayside (the oldest part of Newcastle) and the market, before heading to St James'. At the Stadium we visited the shop where I got decked out in a kiddies NUFC T-shirt.

We watched the grounds fill up trying to spot my uncle who was also there. Our seats were in Bar 1892 and we went into the same entrance as the players and officials. To our delight we found some of the Newcastle United players watching the Celtic match on TV. After rooting around for a pen, the programme was dutifully signed - the programme had been promised to a Liverpool fan at home but it scarcely left our sight and was no longer destined for him!

The atmosphere and the match were fantastic: the Geordie shouts of "howay the lads" and passionate chants all added to the excitement. Our seats were only ten rows back, pitchside - not bad for my first premiership match!

Newcastle lost the match but the journey, the exorbitant travel costs and the four and a half hours on the phone buying the tickets were all worth it. It was a trip to remember and one I definitely wish to repeat. (2001)


*Alexander Pringle of Cranmer Dykes, Gateshead built St George's Church in Gateshead; the Rutherford Memorial College, Bath Lane; King Edward School of Art and the School of Bacteriology at Armstrong College; the Commercial Union Insurance Building in Pilgrim Street; Collingwood Buildings in Collingwood Street and Tilley's Rooms and the YMCA in Blackett Street as well as the Gateshead Cenotaph in Shipcote. Alexander Pringle was also responsible for the reconstruction of The Palace Theatre and the Empire Palace Theatre (Empire Theatre) in Newgate Street.

Further information has confirmed that Alexander Pringle was the builder of the RVI (Royal Victoria Infirmary) which opened in 1901. His name is on the original entrance hall of the hospital. Other buildings included a police station, co-operative stores, breweries and schools. He also built Little Dene in Gosforth where he lived with his family.


The latest news from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (UK) can be found in The Journal


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