Bowburn Girls Club
Bowburn Girls' Club was founded in about May 1936. (It celebrated its first birthday on on Monday 24/5/1937*.) It met in the Miners’ Welfare Hall, locally known as “the green hut”, which was across the road from the site of today’s Bowburn Community Centre.
The club was one of several established around County Durham (which in those days included Sunderland and Stockton, for instance) by Pearl Jephcott, who had been appointed in 1935 "as a temporary county organizer for the National Association of Girls' Clubs to develop youth work in the ‘special areas’ of high unemployment in co. Durham”.†
Pearl Jephcott was a girls club worker and organiser for some twenty years but was to become a noted sociologist and social researcher. She subsequently produced more than a dozen books and reports, some of which resulted in a number of key reforms relating to housing and youth policy. But she wrote a book in 1942, about the importance of girls clubs, entitled "Girls Growing Up", which drew on much of her work in the North East. (A copy of this book has been kindly donated to Bowburn Local History Society by Durham academic, Tony Jeffs; it is kept in the History & Heritage Room at Bowburn Community Centre.)
The Bowburn Girls Club is remembered by at least one local resident who attended it at the time. Her strongest memories are of country dancing, not least because the Bowburn girls entered – and won! – an inter-club competition at St. Hild’s College, in Durham. Other activities at the club, which had between 10 and 20 members, believed to have been mainly in their low-teens, included P.E. and discussions. The club's early members included Jean Barker, Rhoda Claughan, Ettie Priest, Bertha Wharton and Jennie Willey.
On 9th March 1938, The Times newspaper carried a special supplement promoting the National Council of Girls' Clubs. It contained a photograph of a member of the Bowburn club, Connie Garner.
Connie lived at that time with her parents, John Frederick & Mary Emily Garner, at 7, Burn Street, Bowburn. She became secretary to the members’ council for the Durham Union of Girls Clubs and was aged only 18 when she became leader of the Bowburn Girls Club, in January 1939 – the youngest leader in the county “and possibly the whole country”.‡
On 31st January 1939, Connie took part in the “Under 20 Club” debate, for the London Regional Studios, on BBC Radio.¶ And she was most probably the member of the Bowburn Girls' Club who took part in a “Week’s Good Cause” appeal, on behalf of the Durham County Association of Girls’ Clubs, which was broadcast (from Stagshaw) on BBC’s regional radio, on 9th April 1939.#
Bowburn Girls Club is believed to have closed in 1941 and did not re-open after the War.
There was also a Girls Guild at the Primitive Methodist Church (at the top of Durham Road West), did continue for many years after that.
It is not clear whether the Bowburn Girls Club was started before or after the Bowburn Boys Club, which also met in the old Miners’ Welfare Hall. An article in Durham County Advertiser on 1st April 1938 said that the Boys’ Club had only been established in November 1937. A much later article, recalling history on 10the March 1967, however, said it was founded in 1935. It seems likely that the 1938 report is more reliable.
Tony Jeffs told Bowburn LHS that it “was not unusual in some areas for girls’ clubs to proceed the boys’ club. That to a large extent came about because nationally from 1910 to 1939 the girls’ associations (NCGC, YWCA, GFS, FWGC) were better organised. In particular NCGC had a number of full-time development workers like Pearl [Jeffcott] establishing clubs. Nationally, the boys’ clubs had more members but there were wide regional variations.”
Bowburn Boys Club survived till 1964, when it was superseded by the DJ Evans Youth Club, which still thrives today as “Bowburn Youth Project”, and moved into new, purpose-built premises. When that was set up, its governing document (a charitable trust deed) explicitly stated that it was for both boys and girls. And it is so, today. However for most of its early years it was known locally, for good reason, as "the Boys Club" (or even “the Boysie”).
In 1946, Connie married John Waugh, a nurse at Durham County Hospital, and moved to live in Durham. She continuted all her life to be involved in youth services. She became Durham County youth officer and was awarded the MBE in 1981. She was living in Framwellgate Moor in July 2007 when, now in her 80s, she was invited to open the 50th anniversary celebrations of Durham Phab (Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied) clubs, at Glendene School, in Easington. She had helped found Durham Phab in 1957.
Connie Waugh died in 2015.
* Durham County Adertiser, 28/5/1937 (p.16)
† Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies
‡ Durham County Adertiser, 20/1/1939 (pp.4 + 14)
¶ Durham County Adertiser 3/2/1939 (p.8)
# BBC Genome Project (http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk)