Dame Catherine Cookson


Dame Catherine (Ann) Cookson, nee McMullen was born on the 20th June 1906 at 5 Leam Lane, Tyne Dock in South Shields. She wrote about 90 novels which have been translated into several languages. She also wrote as Catherine Marchant.

When Catherine was born her unmarried mother, Kate Fawcett (who she believed was her sister) returned to service. Catherine was brought up by her grandmother Rose and her step grandfather John Mc Mullen.

The first school she attended was Simonside Protestant School, but her grandfather wanted her to have Catholic education. So she became a pupil at Saint Peter and Paul's School at Tyne Dock (South Shields).

At the age of fourteen Catherine entered service to a lady in Harton Village (South Shields), weekly pay nine shillings a week (45 pence).

At 18 she started work in the laundry at South Shields Workhouse, which is in the grounds of what is now the General Hospital (Harton Lane, South Shields).

Catherine left the North East for Hastings in 1929 where she worked in a laundry. She spent forty six years in Hastings, where she met and married schoolmaster Thomas Cookson.

Catherine suffered four miscarriages and a nervous breakdown, on the advice of her doctor she took up writing. Her first novel "Kate Hannigan" was completed in 1948 when she was 42.

She went on to write more than 90 novels, many are based on the North East of England and are set in various periods from the nineteenth century onwards.

She became Dame Catherine Cookson in the 1993
New Year's Honours List.

Other honours bestowed upon her are:

The "Round Tower" won the Winifred Holtby award
for the best regional novel of 1968.

In 1973 she was made an Honorary Freeman of the
County Borough of South Shields.

The television programme "This Is Your Life" featured her life in 1982.

Also in 1982 she was the Variety Club of Great Britain
"Woman Of The Year".

In 1984 she was granted an Honorary Degree from Newcastle University.

In June 1985 she was awarded the O.B.E.

In 1991 Catherine was given the
Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Sunderland Polytechnic.

Dame Catherine had several varieties of flowers named after her.

Also named after her is a ward at Newcastle General Hospital

Westoe Village in South Shields has a block of flats named Catherine Cookson Court. The area also has a block of offices called Cookson House.

There have been television versions of:

The Black Candle.

The Black Velvet Gown.

The Mallen Trilogy.

The Fifteen Streets.

The Catherine Cookson Country Trail

1. South Shields Museum, Ocean Road. The Catherine Cookson Gallery includes a reconstruction of the facade of 10 William Black Street and the kitchen, also Cissie Affleck's shop.

2. Seafront, Sandhaven, South Shields.

3. Marsden Bay, South Shields.
Her children's book "Mrs Flannigan's Trumpet" was set here.
The bay was also used for the television version of
"The Fifteen Streets".

4. Sir William Fox Hotel, Westoe Village, South Shields.
This conservation village was was the setting for many of her books including Katie Mulholland and Kate Hannigan.

5. South Shields General Hospital, Harton Lane.
Catherine worked here when it was a workhouse laundry
from 1924 until 1928.

6. Saint Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church,
Boldon Lane, South Shields.
It was here that Catherine worshipped when she was a young girl. It was the parish priest Father Bradley who found her employment in the workhouse.

7. 5 Leam Lane, South Shields.
Catherine Cookson was born in this two bedroomed house on 20th June 1906.

8. 10 William Black Street, East Jarrow.
Catherine lived here from when she was six in 1912 until she left the area in 1929 for Hastings.

9. Jarrow Hall. This was used as a setting for the television version of "The Fifteen Streets".
Nearby is Bede's World and Saint Paul's Church.

10. Saint Paul's Church, Church Bank, Jarrow.
The monastery that stood here was the home of the Venerable Bede, Catherine played nearby as a child.

11. Corstophine Town, South Shields.
Her book The Blind Miller was set here.

12. Mill Dam Bank, South Shields.
The book Colour Blind was based on this area, Tide Of Life features the nearby Mission To Seamen.

For further information:

Now read on... by Mandy Hicken and Ray Prytherch (1996)

Catherine Cookson's autobiography called OUR KATE, was published in 1969.