In the early 1980s a group of volunteers worked hard to turn a fledgling Tees Cottage Pumping Station into a viable working museum. One was a young student with an interest in all things mechanical called Andrew Michael Holden or Mike as he was known. He had many practical skills which he applied to the boiler and beam engine as well as the maintenance of ancillary equipment and buildings.
Among his hobbies were the restoration of Land Rovers and vintage motor cycles so it was no doubt inevitable that this would lead to a keen interest in the gas engine. Mike’s other favourite place was the boiler house where he did his share of stoking as well as joining the merry gang of stalwarts who cleaned the flues every year.
Soon after qualifying as an electrical engineer and joining Siemens in Newcastle he became a member of the Board of Trustees at Tees Cottage where he shouldered responsibility for Health and Safety and sorted out numerous problems with the old wiring that was present in the buildings at the time. He was an active participant in meetings where his knowledge of rules and regulations always came in handy. He had the rare ability to ‘question the question’ and suggest alternative ways of looking at problems leading to practical and workable solutions.
One of our volunteers had a 12-ton Marshall steam-roller and a small gang from Tees Cottage helped him restore it and drive it around the North East, under its own steam, to traction engine rallies and other gatherings. Mike was one of the gang and his enthusiasm led him to buy a 10-ton Aveling steam roller, in partnership with another member. On the 1st August 1991 Mike, Mark Sutherland, Bob Baker and I entertained the residents of Ferryhill by taking our driving tests on that Aveling. It was a day to remember and what’s more, we all passed.
At around this time Mike became a volunteer engine driver on the Tanfield railway. I remember a very enjoyable day sharing the footplate with Mike where I learnt that wielding the shovel on a small industrial loco required more finesse than a big main-line one. He also drove traction engines, rollers and railway locomotives at Beamish museum.
Mike’s hobbies were many and varied. In addition to the above he drove trams at Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire where his electrical expertise was welcomed. He also explored old mine workings and owned a vintage Bedford RL pipe-carrying truck that once belonged to the Auxiliary Fire Service. Finally he was a short-wave radio enthusiast with a fine collection of vintage radios he restored to working order.
Mike was affable and sociable with a sharp wit and a sense of humour that poked fun at life in a ‘Pythonesque’ fashion. He was also an accomplished raconteur. I remember fondly those happy times at the end of the day enjoying his latest story or joining in the laughter as he ‘wound someone up’ over some incident on the rally field.
A few weeks ago Mike fell victim to the Covid-19 virus and was eventually taken into Durham hospital. Sadly at 3.30pm on Tuesday 9 February he lost his battle.
A well-liked and respected member of TCPS, he was taken from us too early. We will all miss him.
He leaves behind his son Matthew and daughter Nicole to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.
Secretary – TCPS