Una Mack had a friend who lived in a DAMHA home, and she remembers her saying “you are very well looked after.”
The ended up being words of wisdom because Una then ended up living in one of our homes as well, and we’re glad she did because she has played an important role within DAMHA.
But Una’s story begins well before she moved into our (then) new build scheme in Witton Gilbert.
Born (and definitely bred) in Sacriston on 8th August 1939, less than a month before the start of the Second World War, Una was a war baby.
Whilst that part of County Durham wasn’t a strategic target, the proximity to Hartlepool, which was, meant Una and her family (Una is one of five siblings) often had to run to their air raid shelter when the German bombers were above, but they didn’t always have time.
Una explains: “Once we had to take shelter under the stairs and my uncle John’s bike was in there and my mother sat one of the spokes.
“After, she said ‘I didn’t know whether Hitler would get us or John’s bike, but that was her way of shedding a bit of light on the situation because we were all very frightened.”
When she was older, Una started working as a dental nurser, something she would do most of her working life.
She met a local lad call Bobby at a cricket match and before long they were courting and were married. They went on to have two children, Elizabeth, and Joanne, and enjoyed going on holidays to places like Lytham St Annes and Scarborough.
Bobby always dreamed of running his own pub and he did this in 1974 when they took over the lease of the Uplands Hotel in Crook, Sadly, just 6 months later and Bobby was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (like many at the time he was a heavy smoker) and he passed away at the far-to-young age of 42. It’s one of the reasons why she volunteered at the Willowburn Hospice in Lanchester for so many years, because there was nothing like that when Bobby was dying.
Widowed young, Una didn’t qualify for a widow’s pension due to her age at the time (she was 39), so she had to take several jobs in order to keep a roof over the family’s head.
One of Una’s lifelong loves is singing (as you will know if you have attended one of our residents’ forums – more on that shortly!), and this helped her through all the ups and downs she has experienced in life.
She says: “I was in a group called The Bowers Singers and in 1959 Tyne Tees television were looking for a group of singing girls, so we auditioned and got to the final of a talent show.
“Unfortunately, we chose the wrong song, and we didn’t win but it was a wonderful experience and I have ended up singing all my life.”
That brings us back to DAMHA.
At her friend’s suggestion, he put her name down for one of our homes, thinking it would be when she was much older and when she was less mobile.
But it came much sooner when we opened our scheme in Witton Gilbert in 1997.
Una says: “I spoke to my girls, and they told me to do it and it’s the best decision I could have made.
“Up until that point I had always been active in the community, so I volunteered to become a residents’ representative for the scheme and it’s something I enjoy doing.
“You get to attend the residents’ forums where you find out what’s happening within the Association, you meet people from all different walks of life, and you even get paid for doing it.”
Una, being Una, decided to go even further and served on our housing sub-committee and became our first-ever resident board member, only recently standing down as part of the governance changes made at DAMHA.
“It’s an organisation steeped in history, so I am proud of the part I played, and still play now as a resident representative.
“I have always been of the opinion there’s no point in complaining to yourself so if you get involved at DAMHA, you can help to change things or get things done. They do listen and take on board your views, and you feel valued.”
You could say that DAMHA was made for Una, and Una was made for DAMHA!