Waiting For The Result
One Saturday afternoon in the 1930s, the young Norman Cornish was walking past the Spennymoor Post Office where a crowd of over 100 men had gathered outside. It was just after 4-30pm and Spennymoor United were playing Rotherham United, away, in the FA Cup. The men were waiting for the final score which was being telegraphed from Rotherham to Spennymoor. Other similar incidents over the years also made an impact on Cornish as he became aware of the importance of sport in the lives of folks in the north east which has often been referred to by some writers as, ‘the hot bed of football’.
The regional landscape during these times was dominated by coal mines, and pit heaps, but there was also room for Miner’s Recreation Grounds, with pitches for football, cricket, tennis- courts and bowls. Although he was very fit from physical work underground, he didn’t participate in any sports and recalls in his autobiography how he went to watch his father play football for a local team. But his abiding memory was of ‘freezing to death’ on the touchline. The first evidence of a sport related picture was, ‘The Flood-lit Match’ (12 Guineas) exhibited in 1962 at The Stone Gallery in Newcastle, which had re-located to St Mary’s Place near The Haymarket. The exhibition was listed with reviews in the National Press and was one of a number of successful exhibitions at The Stone Gallery during this era.
Other examples were to follow during the 60s including a drawing of the Durham Road entrance to The Brewery Field, home of Spennymoor United which most likely attracted his attention with the unusual aspect of spectators and telegraph poles. The letters in the drawing are reminders of his colour notes NG - Neutral Green, CY- Chrome Yellow, B-Blue or Black, UB- Ultramarine Blue or Umber Brown.
The Man With Scarf : was included in two exhibitions during the centenary year but was first exhibited in 1969 at The Stone Gallery exhibition Men of The North East. The colours of the scarf are of a Spennymoor United supporter although sometimes mistaken for the other team in the region with the same colours. The lovely drawing of Redheugh Park, former home of Gateshead United, with St Mark’s Methodist Church in the background, is also from the same era, and recently correctly identified via social media by a former Gateshead Utd goal-keeper who now lives in Thailand!
There is no evidence in Cornish’s body of work showing Bowls matches or Horse Racing which he was once advised to consider as a subject, but which he quickly rejected. His pub scenes including other games, greyhounds and whippets are well documented and in one example he captures men at a crowded bar watching ‘The Big Fight.’ Perhaps Cooper versus Ali ? In conversation many years ago he was honest enough to explain that his interest in sport helped him to join the conversations with other workmates, and men in pubs enjoying the craic. The drawing of Redheugh Park (pronounced Redyuff) is featured in Behind The Scenes: The Norman Cornish Sketchbooks.
Throughout the centenary year, an interesting range of themed exhibitions is planned in order to commemorate Norman’s life and to celebrate his work.
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