Reporter: “Hello Mr. Cram, happy 100th birthday. What’s it like being 100?”
Barry: “I might be considered old, but to me, it all seems new – like the clock has turned over and I’m starting from zero.”
Reporter: “You used to run the Hebburn Message Board, didn’t you?”
Barry: “Oh, yes, after Norman, and I loved it, and all the regulars, but that seems such a long time ago.”
Reporter: “Can you tell me how it all began, Mr. Cram?”
Barry: “Well, the original Hebburn website was established in the late 1990s, by Hebburn Mike, to capture some of Hebburn's history and heritage. Mike was a tremendously clever, fair and helpful editor.
At this time, Norman Dunn was a regular on Mike’s website, and became one of the main supporters, contributing lots of historical photographs. In 2002, with a bit coaxing from Mike, Norman set up his own photograph websites, which grew considerably over the years.
“Many folk were surprised at the quality and quantity of information on Norman’s immense
photographic websites. Mike placed a link to Norman’s websites on his, and a mutual combination of the two websites began.
“With foresight, Norman unselfishly saved and recorded thousands of local photographs for our benefit; collecting and adding incredibly detailed information: names, dates and locations, while memories were somewhat fresh; without his perseverance, tenacity, conservation and safekeeping, we wouldn’t have had such a valuable and freely available collection to ponder over.
“Norman often thanked all the generous photograph contributors who helped make his website what it became; and added that without that help from hundreds of lovely people he would not have had a website.'
“Norman created many photographic compilations onto DVDs, and sold many for charity... how good’s that?”
Barry: “Also, Norman almost single-handedly added a tremendous amount of our history to the website, http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/, Just as I predicted, locals are now regarding Norman with great esteem, as his collections have become much more valuable with the passing of time - thank you for that, Norman, my old friend.
“In August 2012, after many years as Site Editor, Mike handed over the reins of the message board to a new editor known as Tree Tales. The regulars were sad to see Mike go, but welcomed Tree Tales, for taking on such a challenge. It was heartening to realise that the good folk of the board did not take for granted the very things that deserved our gratitude the most, and did not assume that whenever we needed something, it would be there. There’s a saying, ‘You don’t realise what you have until it’s gone; after running Mike’s message board superbly for 4 years, Tree Tales suddenly gave it up in November 2016. Thank you for all the wonderful years Mike, and Vikki.
“In November 2016, the valiant Norman Dunn, after hearing how saddened the regulars were to see the message board end, immediately set up his own, to the adulation of the regulars, especially those living away from Hebburn.
“The very unique, interesting and lively message board, with its ‘now & then’, interesting chat, shipping correspondence, and all kinds of wotsits come to mind. Thank you, Norman, for keeping the message board up-and-running, for all those years, for the many folk, far and wide - especially the ex-pats – that relied on it as a daily contact and a valuable link to news back ‘home’. How good’s that?”
Reporter: “Yes, Mr. Cram, how good’s that, indeed? Can you tell me about the board the regulars and admins?”
Barry: “Well, Norman had a great team of Administrators; there was Mac Cummings – he was very clever on a plethora of subjects. There was Barrie Mortimer – he was our Monkton Village expert. There was James Goring, our resident photographer, and Colin McAllister, of Australia, who kept an eye on the board while we were in our beds.
“It was a very unique, interesting and lively message board. We were all a bit spoilt for choice - what, with interesting stories and chat; Alan La Ruste’s ‘Wotsits’; Lilian, Alex, Elizabeth, Don and others’ wise comments and reliable long memories; The Hebburn Archives; Patrick Brennan’s historical knowledge; Peter Cook, the shipping aficionado, with his immense shipping knowledge; Trish Conway’s sterling charity work; John King’s first-class humour; John White's lovely poems; Brian’s immense music and film knowledge; James Goring’s ‘Then & Now’ and other fantastic pictorial contributions; Ricky’s excellent Computer advice; Tom Barker, Mac Cummings, Michael Lynch and Llyn Green’s great little stories; Allan Campbell’s adventures, and last, but not least, the numerous contributions from everyone else.
"Some of the regulars were: AJG, Alan La Ruste, Alex Baker, Alistair Coulson, Barrie Mortimer, Bill Wallace, Billy D, Bob Noble, Bob Smith, Brenda Williamson, Brian, Carol in Hampshire, Carol, Chris Wilson, Colin Mcallister, Colin Thompson, Colin Williamson, David Henley, David Jameson, Davy, Ray, dj, Don Scott, Eddy Nesbitt, Elizabeth Baker (Tindle), Elizabeth, Forster, FredB, Ged, Geoff, Harry Jones, J E Black, J. Coltman, Jackie (McPadden) Bone, James Duke, James Goring, Jean Fitzpatrick, Jimmy O'Mahoney, John Mills, John Shearer, John Stokes, John White, Joseph, Ken Turpin, Ken Wood, Laurence, Lilian, Linda in NZ, Linda, Liz Dance, Liz Johnston, Lorna Lakey, Mac Cummings, Mac Hardy, Margaret McD, Marie, Michael Lynch, Noreen, Noreen, Norman Dunn, Patrick, Peter Cook, Peter Cook, Philip Strong, Ray Daglish, Richard Gray, Ricky, Sandra, Sheila, Stan Wears, Steve in Australia, Sylvia, Tom barker, Tom dobson, Tom Lynch, Trish, Veronica, Vikki Holt.
“There were so many clever, knowledgeable folk on the message board, and they would respond to the frequent queries, and would, amazingly - more often than not - solve them!
“Norman had given us all permission to delete any posts that we deemed inappropriate, and many of them were removed before the regulars had a chance view them – yes, I think we admins were quite efficient.
“Lots of things went on in the background, that the regulars didn’t see, and Norman always sorted them, quickly and efficiently, and kept the board a safe and happy place to visit. He was a good man, Norman was, and I miss him and the good times we had on the board. I learned a lot from him. He used to go out of his way to obtain photographs for the board, and did so much for the community, all for free, and I think he should have been officially recognized, but he never was.
“When Norman felt that he was getting too old to run the board, he handed it over to me. I ran the board in the same way as Norman did, and took on new admins when the old ones passed on.”
“I was always proud of the website, and had much appreciation for all the folk that visited, and had a great regard for the lovely folk that used the board - we saw it as our little cyber-community. It was such a pleasure to visit, and I’m sure that many regulars felt the loss when a friend - even if we’d never met in person - left the board or passed on. Goodness, they’ve all gone now.”
Reporter: “Are you alright, Mr. Cram? We can take a break, if you like, or I can come back another time.”
Barry: “No, it’s okay, the memories are just so clear that it hurts, you know what I mean?”
Reporter: “Yes, I feel the same sometimes. Can you tell me what happened to the Hebburn Archive?”
Barry: "Oh, don’t worry, I still have that – the whole 51-years of it, all safely stored away; there is a digital copy in the local library, and several other copies dotted about here and there.”
Reporter: “Wow! 51 years of local history… that’s something to be proud of!”
Barry: "Yes, it’s half a century of social history: memories and knowledge, contributed and given freely by the wonderful regulars.”
Reporter: “If you had a chance, is there anything you would liked to have said to Norman, the admins and the regulars?”
Barry: “Goodness! If I had the chance to speak to my long-gone friends of the Hebburn message board, again? Well, I’d tell them how grateful I am that I knew them, and how I miss them and love them all from the very depth of my heart, and would let them know that the Hebburn Archive, which they created, is being used for the benefit of the town in their memory, in ways they would never have dreamed of.”
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. Cram, happy 100th birthday.
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