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A great sense of COMMUNITY.


THE CO-OPERATIVE Movement has played an important part in Tyneside communities since the Co-op was established in the 19th century. Eileen MacKinnon, nee Forster, has been involved with the movement for more than 60 years and has many fond memories.

She was introduced to the movement at an early age by her mother, Sally Forster, who was a Women's Guild member when the family lived in Denton Burn, Newcastle.

In 1945, aged 11, Eileen joined the youth club - Pathfinders at Benwell High Cross, which was run by the Co-op's Education Service.

This was a group for Co-op members' children aged between 11 and 15 and it ran every Wednesday night.

Children learned the Pathfinder pledge and took part in co-operative activities, such as tap dancing.

Pathfinders also organised social events and holidays and Eileen regularly went to Dalston Hall in Cumbria, which belonged to the Co-operative Movement.

These holidays were subsidised, so that everyone could attend.

When Eileen turned 15, she left Pathfinders and moved on to the Co-operative Youth Movement.

It was here that she learnt more about the movement, as well as doing practical and educational projects.

During this time, Eileen became a Pathfinder leader and moved to Whickham View Co-op to start up a new group with her friend Joyce.

In 1954, Eileen, then aged 20, went to the International Co-operative Youth Rally in Switzerland and met other young "co-operators" from all over Europe, including France, Yugoslavia and Switzerland.

This was the first time Eileen had been abroad and she vividly remembers her journey to the camp.

She travelled down to London by train, then on to Dover where she got the ferry to Calais.

Then she caught another train which took her through France, Belgium and into Switzerland.

She enjoyed being part of the Co-op community and continued working as a Pathfinder Leader despite getting married in 1959 and moving to Cullercoats.

Eileen travelled back to Denton Burn every week to carry out her co-operative duties, even with her young son in tow.

They stayed overnight with Sally, Eileen's mam, who used to babysit while she was at work.

In 1963, Eileen and her family moved back to Denton Burn and her daughter was born. After trying to juggle family commitments with her co-operative youth work, Eileen made the difficult decision to leave.

But later that year, she decided to join the Women's Guild and went there with her mam every week.

She remained a dedicated member for the next 16 years before joining the National Guild of Co-operators, which is open to both men and women, in 1979.

Sixty-seven years later, Eileen is still a member and now chairs meetings of the Whickham View branch.

Her involvement with the movement shows how communities can benefit from "co-operation".


ADVENTURES Whickham View Pathfinder Group at Dalston Hall

COMMUNITY SPIRIT The Co-operative Youth Movement, 1954. Eileen is on back row, fourth from the left

GREAT FUN TOGETHER The Co-operative Youth Movement pictured on a coach trip in 1954
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 24, 2012
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