When a future King came to town
FRED Gray, now 89, vividly recalls the day the future King Edward VIII came to Middlesbrough 80 years ago to open Constantine College and offer some cheer to a town that was down on its luck and suffering from widespread poverty and soaring unemployment.
A nine-year-old at the time, he attended Middlesbrough’s Crescent Road School, and like every schoolboy and girl in the town had the day off classes to crowd into one end of Ayresome Park football ground to welcome the Prince of Wales to Teesside.
“I remember my brother and sister had measles and I was only allowed to attend if I was quarantined away from other children in another stand, but I crept over a wall to mix with the other children. Luckily I never caught measles myself and didn’t cause an outbreak of the disease”, said Fred, who lived in Parliament Road at the time and now has a bungalow in Coulby Newham.
“The King arrived in a great big car and we all sang two songs for him. We learned the words so well I can still remember most of them today. The songs were supposed to lift the spirits of everyone despite the hardship we were all facing. Remember this was a period when many children went bare-foot to school - even in winter - and jobs were very scarce.”
Fred recalled one verse which celebrated Middlesbrough’s proud industrial heritage:
Iron we’re built on ‘tis iron we live by, Iron we’ve launched upon many a sea Then let our courage be also of iron As we look forward to what shall be.’
Fred went on to attend night classes briefly at Constantine College before the Second World War in the hope of training to be an accountant. But on his return from fighting in Italy and North Africa, he went to work for his father’s painting and decorating business before getting a job at ICI.
“ICI was the best thing that happened to Teesside”, he says. “I was there 29 years.”
He still keeps in touch with developments at the college through his daughter Val, who has been a senior librarian at both Teesside Polytechnic and Teesside University for more than 25 years.