A Tale of One House : A Memoir.

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My incredible true story of building the marital home: domestic and legal drama: an ill-fated affair with my doctor: set against a backdrop of local construction work: colossal family treachery, betrayal and death. And making legal history with Britain's longest divorce 17yrs. and unlawful divorce representing a legal landmark.

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1. The Salt Pans

 

 


 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of the Gordon's.  On a beautiful sunny day in March 1973, my husband, Charlie Gordon, left the RAF, and we returned with two young daughters to his home town of Amble, a small fishing port on the Northumberland coast, dominated by a large caravan site. The sun would soon go behind the gathering storm clouds. 

  His parents owned The Salt Pans - a row of six unmodernised, Victorian terraced houses on the edge of the Links leading down to the sea. They had just sold 3, 4, and 5 as holiday homes. No 2 was rented by a wonderful couple in their seventies, Jimmy and Sally Kennedy, they had lived there all their married life, since the late thirties. Jimmy, had lost the lower part of his left arm in a mining accident, he was a real character -  nice friendly couple, good neighbours. 

  And given us no. 6 (not the Deeds) the end house right on the waters edge with panoramic sea and coastal views:  a one-up, one-down, with lean-to on the front housing, stone sink with cold water tap and a lavatory. No mains gas - cooking with gas was Calor gas .Low pressure water supply, which meant, when you flushed the lavatory you had to wait for the cistern to fill, before you could turn on the cold water tap. Septic tank sewage that had to be 'unblocked' from time to time to stop backflow to the house. This had to be done at high tide, using a 'chip shop' strainer and chimney sweep rods.

  Main outfit for this sparkling engagement, not for the faint-hearted: denim dungarees; leather builders boots; plastic orange apron with 'Guinness is good for you' on it; pink  marigold washing up gloves, and the compulsory, oh so lovely 1940's gas mask - what a sight for the seagulls. I would not have looked out of place at Sellafield. The heating was coal fire. No phone line - I had that put in. It took weeks, telegraph poles had to be erected across the Links to run the wire from the main road.

 His parents said, ''Do the house up, add an extension and it will be a lovely place for you and the children''.

  I still hear those fateful words today. What should have been an idyllic home with the sound and the smell of the sea, the waves crashing over the sea wall, the big sky, the sunrise over Coquet Island, turned into a nightmare, the end of the marriage and a traumatic, brutal, unlawful and protracted divorce 1980 - 1997. 17 years - Britain's longest divorce.

 To the sea-facing side of the house was the eroding sea wall. First, we had to brick-up the holes in the wall to stop us falling into the North sea. This involved lowering buckets of bricks and cement over the wall onto the shore, and working against the tide. Amble council and are local MP Alan Beith did not want to know about a new sea wall.

  Now we start work on the house.  There was no money for a regular builder - so it was DIY. I worked during the week, when the girls where at nursery school, evenings, weekends and the summer holidays, a local man came down to help out. The back of the house had no door, just two small windows, one at the top of the stairs, this is taken out and filled in, and one at the bottom in the small pantry, off the living room, this is taken out and the back door put in its place.  The  living room and bedroom windows are put in. The staircase is turned a 180 degrees, from south to north so it now faces the new back door. The council would not give permission for a porch. 

All the stonework had to be repointed.  Took some work cleaning out the old mortar. Did not like that job much !  Preferred the brickwork and the interior painting and decorating. Had some lovely 70's psychedelic wallpaper on the dining-room and bathroom walls. The  erosion to the sea-facing side of the house was worse from the wind-driven rain, salt water spray and sand blown up from foreshore. And the rough winter high tides, that crashed over the 'fragile' sea wall, the side of the house, down the chimney, putting the fire out... The chimney breast had to be completely rebuilt.  And the chimney stack is repointed. 

   Round to the front of the house: The lean-to is demolished and we build the extension: bedroom, bathroom, dining room and kitchen. All the bricks and stone where reclamation and had to have the old mortar chipped off them. The front door, back door and all the internal  doors, also reclamation. We had a cement mixer, the recipe was: 1 bag of cement + 3 of sand + a dash of lime + a quirt of Fairy washing-up liquid !  mix with water to a smooth consistency - keep wet.  I did the inner brickwork, husband outer stonework. It got rather breezy up on the scaffolding, but what a stunning view of the beautiful Northumberland coastline, the lighthouse on Coquet Island, and the Cheviot Hills inland to the west. Always got a wave from the crew of the Sea King search and rescue helicopter out on exercise from RAF Boulmer.  We lived in a caravan the parents had on the property for four months while we did the building, and got to use the old communal lavatory set between the middle of the terrace and water from a standpipe.

  That house will always be part of me. The bricks and mortar are doused in my, money, blood, perspiration, toil, and tears  When the work was finished so was the money, my parents paid for all the internal work, plus the fixtures and fittings.

                                                         

                                                   The Toxic Feud.

 

The husbands parents, both in their late sixties, lived at no.1 - later, known as Checkpoint Charlie.  His mother, Peggy Gordon, was a short plump, very unpleasant woman - the original 'mother-in-law from hell' not happy unless she was making trouble, and thought nothing of going through your handbag, as she did mine. Peggy, looked like Ena Sharples from Coronation Street, minus the hairnet, and drank cider instead of stout. The children would sing The Wurzels hit song of the time, 'I Am A Cider Drinker', as they passed her house.   She dealt in antiques, house clearance, had a shop in the town. 

  His father, Charlie Gordon senior, was a tall, thin man, who had to do as he was told and follow orders. Peggy, sat in her kitchen and shop, making the bullets and Charlie senior, had to go out and fire them. We had been in the house just a few months, when husband, Charlie, had a dispute with his mother. He was doing a house clearance for her and something went missing - I never knew what, she had him arrested, he was taken to the local police station for questioning and released without charge. 

  We then received a letter from the parents grimy solicitor, Hylton Young, giving us a months notice to leave the house.  We took legal advice from solicitor, Andrew Garside, he told us:

   ''They can't put you out'', he cited Bannister v Bannister 1949, 'Stay put and wait till they die'.

The parents then started a war of attrition, more letters from their grimy solicitor, Hylton Young, one telling me:

  'To take down the washing line.' The washing line is a story in it's self.

 Another, telling us:

 ' Every time we step outside the front door, we are on their property'  - how are we suppose to get in and out ? fly ? 

   A padlock and chain was put on one side of the access gate, so you could only go in and out on foot, you had to park the car on the Links. There were running battles between father and son. Northumbria police were never away from the Salt Pans - the police station should have move down there.  On Guy Faukes Night we light a bonfire to the side of the house. Next thing we know, the police are down telling us to put it out, the parents had complained it was on their property - here we go again - they were very territorial. It was just none stop with them, the list is endless.  The house was in legal dispute, and they wasted an estate agents time, sending him down to tell me they are selling the house. Charlie, the husband has taken to drink, he is never at home now, either in the pub or at work. It's all going down the pan - the writings on the wall. My lovely friend and neighbour, Sheila Stephenson, who with husband, Roy, and their son Michael, had the holiday home next door, number.5,  and still have. Said to me,

 '' It's like something from a Catherine Cookson novel. We are only here at the weekends, you have to live with this all the time. Get yourself out of here with the doctor''.  I could have got out of this mess with my doctor, John Quarrie.    Carpe Diem.                 

                                                 

                                           Doctor John Quarrie.    

 

Dr.John Quarrie came to Amble in 1974, taking over the practice of Doctor Robertson, who was retiring. John, lived in Warkworth -  a lovely picturesque village half a mile outside Amble, noted for the Castle and Hermitage: with his wife, also a doctor, and their two children, who were the same age as mine. From the start he became emotionally involved with me. He separated from his wife, and they divorced after three years.

  John, left Amble in April 1978 for a teaching post at Guy's hospital in London, asking me to go with him - my emotions were in such turmoil, it was a very torrid departure. I did not want to cause a scandal and ruin his career. The next year he remarried, marrying Elspeth Earle ( a children's psychiatrist) on the rebound, and had two more children with her, Susanna and Benedict. I was not the only one affected by John's departure. He certainly left Amble under a cloud. He had started a group for children with disabilities and their parents, with evening meetings once a month in the surgery. John's final meeting did not go well, he did not want to be there, was in bad humour, he took his leaving present - a very nice jumper to wear for his sailing pastime - he sailed close to the wind rocking the boat with me, and left in a huff and a hurry, causing upset and anger to the group. Driving off down the A1, in his 2CV, to his teaching post in Guy's hospital, then a GP again in Kent. Leaving a trail of destruction behind him.

And then the construction workers came.

 

                                       Considerate Construction 1978 - 1980

 

May 1978. The construction workers arrive. The Salt Pans is being connected to the towns main sewage system, which is being upgraded.  Now I will not have holidaymakers and day trippers, coming up from the shore, knocking on the front door to complain about the raw sewage on the beach. I always referred them to Northumbrian Water.  And the low pressure water supply to the property is going to be increased.  Back then, there was no communication, no information given, no PR meetings etc. and not much of the Health and Safety Act 1974.  A man from Northumbrian Water called at the house, asked if I wanted to be connected, I said, 'Yes', signed the form, and that was it. The construction firm Volker Stevin - then Harbour & General of Gateshead - turned three years of my life into a SAS assault course, the Amble Links into The 8th Wonder of the World.  At one point, the only access to the house from the main road was through the nearby cemetery, climbing over the wall - not easy with bags of shopping and a bike.

  'Safety First' was not Volker Stevin's motto.  I had done basic military training in the WRAF so was able to survive until, one evening, on my way home from visiting a friend I tripped and fell into their deep sewage trench on the Links, injuring myself and could not get out, sand and rubble rained in on me - I can tell you it was very frightening. Thankfully, it was summer, passing holidaymakers to the caravan site heard my shouts - got me out and home.  I tried to report the accident to Volker Stevin. It was impossible. The sexism and male chauvinism was appalling. All I got was raucous laughing, wolf whistling, and shouts of: ''We'll get you safely home from the pub next time Pet''...hic.. burp.... They were a theodolite short of the perpendicular axis. In the middle of all this engineering chaos they have to lower my phone wire for a crane - phone stops working - no mobiles then. When I complained to the engineer in charge of the work, he just walk away - not very civil. 

  Now the work moves from land to sea. They start blasting on the seabed for the outlet pipes from the pumping station they are building (demolished ten years later)  at the Harbour.  This took place over several days - between 5 and 6 pm - tea time - not far out to sea from my house.  The blast, blew the calor gas jets out on the cooker, shook the house and the eroding seawall so violently, I thought we would end up in a very large heap on the shore. Could have been made into a musical - on one evening of blasting, The Bee Gees hit song,  Stayin' Alive was playing on the radio !    

  Summer 1980. The final 'finale'. The water supply to the Salt Pans had to be turned off for the new pipes  to be installed - now we will not have to wait ten hours for the bath to fill. And we are being connected to the main sewage system too - the wonders of modern sanitation.   Northumbrian Water, provided a water tank, which they had to park on the Links, because the mother (the father died in 79) would not allow them to bring the tank onto her property.... So began the daily trek onto the Links to fetch water, and I had to start using the launderette at the harbour again.  This routine had to continue for sometime after the water had been turned back on, because it is now full of sand and so is the washing machine. When the work was finished at the Salt Pans, Northumbrian Water/Volker Stevin decided to join in the feud - Lord knows why.  The mother, got the men to lock the access gates together. Now, the only way in or out is to squeeze through the narrow gap, between the gate post and the dunes or across the shore at low tide. It took me three days going back and forth to the firms office at the harbour, before the site manager got the men to open the gates.  And I left Amble.   Today, with the old knee injury from falling into the sewage trench I have difficulty getting to the pub... 

I loved Amble - still do. I never wanted to uproot and leave all my friends, but I  had to get away from the bad situation at the Saltpans, the eldest daughter had just been diagnosed with diabetes.  The marriage was already on the rocks and collapsed under the strain. I was going to rent a house in the town, until I found out she would be in the same class as John Quarrie's eldest daughter, Rachel, when they started at Coquet High School that September, after meeting them, with their mother at the parents evening, and his son, Ian, would also go there. After what had happened with their father - crossing the line, breaking his hippocratic oath - it would have been a constant reminder, and he was coming back to see his children. I had no choice but to leave Amble.  

The Salt Pans should have been demolished in the early 60's, when Amble Urban Council placed a 'compulsory purchase order' on the property, just after Charlie and Peggy Gordon had bought it. Unfortunately, their grimy solicitor, Hylton Young, of Carse and Goodger in Amble, who bought his antiques from Peggy Gordon at a knock down price, won the court case for them. And the rest is horrible history.  The case was reported in the Northumberland Gazette, with photo of Charlie and Peggy Gordon and grimy Hylton Young outside the court house. 

 

                                   .

                         Britain's Longest Divorce and The Treacherous  Daughter

 

At the time of the divorce, nothing could be done with the house, it was still in legal dispute with the mother, the father having died in 79.  So, my property settlement had to be 'laid aside' until she died.  She died in 89 leaving the house to my now, ex-husbands brother, Reg. I had never meet him, he'd had no contact with his parents for years. He saw his fathers obituary in the local newspaper when he died in 1979. ££££ signs flash up, and the prodigal son returns to his mother.  Ex- husband contests the Will and lost. Told me, ''I did not get the bloody house, and your not getting any bloody money'' - he never forgave me for leaving him, and he was determined I was not going to get my property settlement. So, I did not believe him or trust him. I wrote to his solicitor Andrew Garside and his mothers, grimy Hylton Young, both told me the same - the court had given the house to the brother.  I thought that was the end. No, worse, far worse was to came.  At this point, and all agree, I should have burnt the house to the ground.

  Summer1991. The marital house is finally sold.  Ex- husband goes to live with his girlfriend, widow Dorothy Swordy, in her council house - they meet, nine years after I had left and   divorced him. He spent the first three years blackmailing me, trying to get me to go back to him, threatening to stop the maintenance. He was made redundant in 1983, and said he was not going to work again to pay maintenance for his daughters, and he never did.  While all this is going on I have to cope with my mother being gravely ill and her death in 1984.

   In 93 they marry, his daughters are not invited to the wedding - I wonder why ?  He dies suddenly in 95. The daughters go up to Amble for the funeral.  His widow is now ill, and they had moved into a council bungalow. Her council house  is up for sale ? Where did   the money from to buy this house ? It then transpires, that, back in 91 their father made an Appeal and the court awarded him the marital house - half of which was mine. He then sold it to a Peter Sutherland for £32.000, and bought Dorothy Swordy's  council house.

  I will never forget that terrible day, my younger daughter telephoned me from Amble. To tell me about my house. Everything stood still. I could not take it in. Still can't.

His solicitor Andrew Garside - who later went on to be the Coroner for Berwick - was negligent, he failed to inform me my house was being sold. The eldest daughter Catherine Gordon knew all this, she knew her father had got the house and sold it - she was staying with him at the Salt Pans the summer of 91,  when he sold the house to Peter Sutherland, she saw and spoke to him when he called to arrange the sale. Catherine Gordon lived with me for four years and said nothing. Her father bought her silence, telling her, he would give her some of the money if she did not tell me. He never did.  

  I should have removed this treacherous daughter from my life at this point but, for the sake of my baby granddaughter  who was only three months, and I had put my life on hold  to look after her fulltime, I decided to  'Let It Go' and continue contact -  Big Mistake - she just carried on lying and cheating her way through my life - history repeating it's self. The crunch came 2006, when I finally stood-up for myself after this daughter from hell involved me in her long term benefit fraud, using my address, phone number, and HOUSE.  Catherine Gordon and her partner, father of her children, divorcee, Michael Gilligan - the only thing I can say about him is: his wife knew what she was doing when she left him, went back to live with her mother and divorced him:  stopped me seeing my grandchildren. Emily was ten, I had cared for her since she was born. William was two, I had cared for him since he was born.

  Catherine Gordon is very deceptive, she is not the nice person people think she is, she is nasty, dangerous, obsessed with money and will do anything for it, as my story shows - the love of money is the root of all evil  - a reincarnation of her paternal grandmother, Peggy Gordon.  I have no contact with her now or my grandchildren. This daughter is now dead to me. I have had to write a special letter to go with my Will, stating the reasons I make no provision for this daughter, with the exception of 30 pieces of silver of the lowest denomination 5p - Blood Money to Judas.

 

 

                                          The Strange Death of Charlie Gordon

 

Late October 1995. A friend telephones from Amble, to tell me, Charlie Gordon had been found unconscious, with a head injury in a lay-by outside Amble by council workmen. They called an ambulance but not the police - why not ? He was taken to Wansbeck hospital in Ashington, where he died a few days later, aged 55. It was a sudden, unexpected death and by law the police have to be involved and the coroner informed. The law was broken by the hospital doctor who signed the death certificate and the family's grimy solicitor, Hylton Young - the only solicitor in Amble. It was all covered up and swept under the carpet because Charlie Gordon's widow was terminally ill. Grimy solicitor Hylton Young has a lot to answer for - he has Blood on his hands.

  A few years later, Charlie Gordon's youngest brother, Francis Gordon, was found dead in his house in Amble, a concerned  neighbour noticed he had been lying in the same position on the settee for a few days, and called the police.  There was an Inquest - I contacted the Coroners Office in Berwick, to ask why there was no Inquest for Charlie Gordon - I was told: 'There should have been one'  ?  His Will left everything to his daughters. He did not change it on remarrying, his wife was terminally ill, in the normal course of events she would have died before him, and her family would have got nothing....

 

 

                                                  Newcastle Court Ordeal 

 

November 1995. Now I try to get the money for my house - my property settlement. I instruct a solicitor, Cheryl Lewis, a 'stop' is put on the sale of the council house Charlie Gordon bought in Amble.  The following year I have to go up to Newcastle for the Hearing. I travel up to Newcastle only to be told at the court the Hearing had been cancelled at the last minute, and would be rescheduled for the following year 1997 ? 

  It was just a brutal kangaroo court - a behind - closed doors stitch - up, absolutely horrendous. I will never recover from the trauma - no woman could. My vengeful ex- husband Charlie Gordon, deliberately cheated me out of my property settlement - he stole my money when he sold the marital home to Peter Sutherland in 1991. When I found out about my house, I telephoned his solicitor Andrew Garside, 'Quella Surprise' he was 'not available', his secretary told me:

              ''YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD THE HOUSE WAS BEING SOLD''.  

   Andrew Garside  should have been struck off and prosecuted for negligence. Instead he was made Coroner for Berwick - on - Tweed.  And now, I'm being victimized because Charlie Gordon's widow died a few weeks before the Hearing - the villain in the piece for trying to get what is rightfully and legally mine. Charlie Gordon stole my money, and his grimy solicitor did not informing me my house was being sold. When the Judge came into the court you could see straight away, he was not 'with me', he just glared at me. I felt I was on trail for murder, all that was missing was the black silk square on his head.  It had all been decided in his chambers with the oppositions barrister, instructed by their solicitor, none other, than grimy Hylton Young, they intentionally disregarded the courts legal obligations.   At the end of this living nightmare he said to me:

   ''You should have done something about the money at the time ( I DID ) and you are not entitled to any now. There is to be no Appeal and no more court case involving the Gordon's''. ?

 I didn't stand a chance. The whole thing was a stitch-up. This vindictive, so-called judge gave a personal judgement not a legal one. He knew very well,

   ' I did do something about the money at the time,'

  It was in my Affidavit, and he had the letters from the solicitors, telling me the court had given the house to the brother.  My barrister was useless. Just sat there like a dummy, he did not speak for me once.   Why would he do that ?  He was not going to make waves knowing I was the victim of a stitch up.  He was just there for the free trip to Newcastle, staying in a plush hotel with all the fine wining and dining, and of course the very large fee - all courtesy of the taxpayer.   He did not give a monkey's - typical of the legal profession.

  Unfortunately, in a vain attempt to move on, I destroyed the court papers so, cannot name and shame the so-called judge: I refer to him as Judge Jeffries, the notorious 17th century 'hanging judge'. The oppositions well-nourished female barrister, and my useless, equally well-nourished male barrister

  A thing is not settled, till it is settled right.  I did not get my property settlement. The whole thing was UNLAWFUL. All of them should have been struck-off and jailed for breaking the Law.  At the time, I complained to The Legal Ombudsman and The Law Society, they just closed ranks, rallied around their own, telling me, 'Nothing could be done because I had not been given leave to Appeal'. ?   The HORROR of that Newcastle court room will live with me forever.

   I'm sick and tired of seeing reports in the media of greedy divorced woman, going back to the courts for more money. They need to read my story and be satisfied with what they got first time round. I got nothing.   

 

         

                                                       Journey's End

 

Along with my parents, I put more money into the marital home than Charlie Gordon. My grandmother died in 1972, leaving me some money, that all went into the house. Yet, he and his second family - who had nothing before they meet him. By now, a life time of heavy drinking and smoking had taken it's toll on his health, he was a sick man, saw him coming with the marital home and my possessions - walked away with everything. It was spend, spend, spend. He bought their council house for them, which had increased in value when they sold it, cars, holidays - Disney Land 'Florida', you name it, he bought it for them.

  Of course they thought, 'Charlie was a lovely man', he was spending his money and the money he stole from me on them.

I was dealt a triple whammy: A vengeful ex-husband in league with his grimy solicitor Andrew Garside: A treacherous daughter Catherine Gordon - in league with her father: A bent, psychopathic Judge Jeffreys  in league with bent grimy solicitor, Hylton Young, now living out his retirement in Amble with his antiques and blood money. 

  You never recover from trauma, it never goes away, you just learn to live with it.

   I have to be unique, the only woman in existence, who, after fourteen years of marriage, two children and building the marital home, came away from her divorce with literally nothing. Not even some of my own possessions with a Court Order, When I went back to the Salt Pans in 1980 to collect them, Charlie Gordon had been drinking and turned violent towards me.  My nice, kind neighbour, Hilary Hewson, who is now living permanently at number 3, with her family since the utility upgrade, called the police - police Sgt. came down to the house, ignored the Court Order I showed him. And said,

         ''Take what you have got and go.''

So much for the Court Order, a useless piece of paper, the police Sgt. should have been jailed, along with the rest of the legal criminals. My story is a searing indictment of the legal system, judicial system and police force in this country - rotten, corrupt and masonic.

  In 1998, 'It's like something from an Agatha Christie novel'. My solicitor Cheryl Lewis, was murdered on holiday in Egypt - poisoned with cyanide by her boyfriend, John Allan. The case was known as: Death on the Nile.   Friends asked me if I had done it ?  I would have gone for Judge Jeffreys, grimy solicitors  Hylton Young and Andrew Garside then Catherine Gordon. She has ruined my life, her sisters life and her children lives.

  Did you know ?  St. Stephen is the patron saint of bricklayers.  He didn't do much for me. I built my house in 1973 for next to nothing, and then lost it. 

What has happened to me is unique, in particular the unlawful court ruling. There is no precedence, and never will be. The only therapy and advise available to help me cope with nearly fifty years of constant trauma, and sleepless nights - I still have flashbacks' to that terrible Newcastle court room. And remembering the time when I had contact with my grandchildren -  was writing therapy.  'Write it all down', it takes great strength to come through something like this, and have to live with it, write it all down, Get your story out there.  And colouring-in, using colouring books and crayons leftover from when I had grandchildren.

I remember, John Quarrie, saying to me: ''Your good at throwing things away''. Yes, and I have never stopped beating myself up for throwing it all away - I could have had a life.   Keep Calm and Carry On.

 

                                                         Postscript

  No names have been changed to protect the GUILTY living or dead.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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