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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2013
I have enjoyed reading Sydney Carr's story more than I can remember enjoying a book for many a year - and I am an avid reader.
Syd grew up in the tough streets of Ashington, in Northumberland, and his young life was a daily battle in very tough and often cruel times, both within the walls of his Pont Street home and beyond. Nonetheless, I found myself laughing out loud at the many anecdotes he writes so well about. Many of these tales are hilarious!
Having seen the sad demise of pit communities, it's also going to be a lasting record of those very tough times, of the humour, the daily punishing graft in conditions that were always bad, and often dangerous. We may never see such communities again, comprised of individuals, families and communities that bonded together to mine the coal that kept the nation going.
Syd epitomises the spirit of the best of these 'pit lads,' and you will read about his indefatigable spirit from home to school to pit to Army life; how he remained upbeat when up against it, how he had the strength and spirit to get back up one more time than life knocked him down, and how he always maintained a ready sense of humour along with a kind and compassionate nature, when he has had to go through so many trials and tribulations.
Whether you come from Ashington - or the North East, whether you are or were a miner, or a squaddie - or whether you just want to enjoy a fantastic book, this is a truly great story, and I would recommend that you read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2013
Having just completed reading The Fourth Lad and coming from a similar background, mining community in North Nottinghamshire, Army at 17 and a half and then the rise through the ranks to be commissioned in a similar vein to the author, who I must confess to serving with. The book is a true to life story of what it was like to be brought up in the post war area and illustrates how tough it was for some of the 'Baby Boomers', whilst being humorous and dispelling the myth that large families are 'loving and close' (I was one of seven).
The only advantage I had is that my mother supported me in going to Grammar School, the chance she gave me, but I also remember her collecting my paper round money and tater picking money.
For the people that think that the language and violence is thought to be acceptable, perhaps you are right but this was reality, this book should be mandatory on the school curriculum and mandatory reading for all of the social professions - in order to make them realise that you can always succeed and not need full time counselling.
Underneath it all it is really a love story, well done Syd from another generation 60s soldier, it is an outstanding read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2015
Wow, what a read. I wanted something good to read, to help pass the time on a flight to Australia. I was half way through a Wilbur Smith Novel, when I had a peak at 'The Fourth Lad'. Wilbur Smith, has still not been finished, and, I never once used, what is one of the best in flight entertainment systems, on long haul flights.
Even though the book is based on a Northeast pit village, and I am about 12 years younger, and from a Lancashire mill town, I could emphasise with 'Syd' in many ways. Though thankfully, not his mother.
The book is both funny, and moving, with a down to earth grittiness, only people of a certain age will fully appreciate.
Having served in the Army myself, I really don't know how he got away with it, it was certainly a bit different in my day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2015
Although I have not yet finished the book I am happy to give an opinion.
I too was brought up in a pit village although not in a mining family. Syds story brought back many memories. The lad on the book could almost have been my brother, the boys nearly all had the same hair cut. Picnics with jam sandwiches and a bottle of water orpopto share if you were lucky.
I could almost taste the raw turnip,taken from the field on his travels.
Mother sounded a bit if a witch. Although we were sometimes walloped for some misdemeanour we did not live in fear of daily beating,.sharp slap soon reminded us who was boss...
Very discriptive and evocative story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A remarkable book about a remarkable life,often moving,sometimes harrowing but with the grit & determination of his Northumbrian mining heritage running all the way through it.Sydney Carr gives an accurate warts & all picture of life in a post war mining village,a life that was often hard sometimes positively grim but one where neighbours were also friends & keeping up with the the Jones wasn't hard as they often had nothing either.His time as a miner is superbly described & shows the brutality of some of the labour expected from a remarkable group of men.I look forward to reading Mr Carrs other books in the near future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2014
I found this very difficult to comprehend. Although slightly older than the author I. Was the daughter of a miner who was also a colliery overman and my life could not have been more different. My Dad'.s wage packet was put on the table every Friday u opened. I was grammar school educated and did not realise how privileged I was until I read how things were just a few miles from where I was brought up. How very sad for the author that he had to grow up without his parents love and support. This book needs to be read by all the young people of today who have no comprehension of hardship
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on 28 April 2013
An excellent soldier, superb artist and now the author of an outstanding book. This is a can't put down story which will appeal to a very wide audience. Many Geordies out there will relate to the struggle to bring up a large family with few comforts, though most kids had far more sympathetic parents than the Carr family were blessed (or should I say cursed) with. Anyone wanting a picture of what life was like for some in a mining community in the North East in the fifties need look no further, and those who enjoy a good book about family relationships and the struggle to overcome adversity will be uplifted by this narrative.
The book flows well, and grabs you from the first pages. You need to know what happens next to the lad, and will find yourself laughing out loud, then hardly believing how thoughtless and cruel a mother could be, and how devious and manipulative Syd's father was. Taking us through his childhood and school days, early work experience in the mining industry, and his eventual escape into the army with ups and downs in service life, you'll find it difficult to put down and when you get to the epilogue, you'll marvel at what this man has achieved despite what his early life threw at him. The characters and descriptions are superb, both of his family life and the wider social scene at the time.
This book is a cracking good read which I would recommend to anyone and you'll be left wanting more. Roll on the follow up which I'll be one of the first in line to buy.
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on 12 May 2013
The Fourth Lad is a fascinating true life story of a young boy and his numerous siblings being brought up by extremely thick-skinned parents, in austere conditions in the north east mining town of Ashington. A truly absorbing read!

The whole of that town's mining community will have empathy with the author. The adage "You try telling that to the kids of today" could not be more apt.

The use of some very colourful language is necessary to properly set the scene in this foreboding household. Whilst there are some quite shocking sequences described, there is also an abundance of humour and amusing passages.

Should the tale come to the attention of those two famous Ashington footballing sons, Jackie and Bobby Charlton, they would enjoy comparing it to their own upbringing I am sure.

Knowing him as well as I do there is little doubt in my mind that this tough upbringing stood him in good stead, making highly successful in his later life and achieving great things.

The various scenarios and character of each individual involved is brought out expertly. The 'army' snippets in particular are highly recognizable.

I hope it achieves the acclaim it deserves.

Ray 'Sewell'.
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on 21 May 2013
This book, recommended to me by a former army colleague of the Author, took me on an emotional roller coaster ride.
Far from being just a book for other Geordies to enjoy, it is for any human being with any real life experience at all. I was born and brought up in Salford and I could not help but identify with this lad. It is a story of economic, social and emotional privation. More than that, though, it is an illustration of the strength of the human spirit and this man's triumph over incredible adversity.
I too was a fourth lad, of five. I was brought up in a two up and two down terraced house, with one cold tap, an outside loo and no bath. The difference was that I had a mother who taught me how to love and a father who gave me his positive values to live by. What success I have had, I have put down largely to that. Syd Carr had none of that and still, almost miraculously, came out on top.
Heart rending and heart warming at the same time, funny and so inspirational. I am going to make sure that my own sons get the benefit of reading it.
PS. By the last chapter, I think that I too was a little bit in love with 'Little Blue Eyes'.
Terry Gray.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2014
Well what can I say,I was given a kindle for Christmas and this was on it ( downloaded by my partner who knew it was on my wish list) I have loved every minute of it,it's kept me awake every night as I didn't want to put it down! I have now added all the other books by The same author to my kindle! A truly amazing first book, highly recommended!
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