I was delighted to be contacted by reader Sallie Halkon who got in touch after reading my column that mentioned the twins Minnie and Fanny Benson, who were notable and well-loved characters from my home village.

Sallie recalls: “We used to get punctures repaired by Fanny. According to my mother (Eileen Kirk) their father wanted a boy but obviously got two daughters but brought them up like boys.”

Indeed, the sisters dressed in what I can only describe as a rather androgynous way, and when I was extremely young, I thought they were both men. It didn’t occur to me that their names were feminine, and Minnie usually wore a skirt, although with thick woolly stockings, woolly hat and boots underneath a heavy coat.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Twins Minnie and Fanny Benson, who were notable and well-loved characters from my home village

Fanny’s usual attire was a well-worn boiler suit, sturdy boots, thick coat, and often a woolly hat too. Their faces were like those of moorland farmers, weathered and lined through years of spending almost every waking hour outdoors. They could have walked straight off the set of Heartbeat and would have looked very much at home in Bernie Scripps’ garage or Claude Jeremiah Greengrass’ rag n’ bone smallholding.

Sallie also recalls: “They had cats as well as dogs. They got a lot of them from us as our cat regularly had a litter. I remember once we had a sweet kitten we wanted to keep but Mum had promised it to Minnie. So we took it up to the garage, showing it the path all the way, lo and behold it came back!”

Read more: Dogs called Lassie, super-sleuth mums and archive questions

As well as selling petrol and offering bike repairs, the sisters also sold oil, Calor gas, eggs from their own chickens, vegetables from their garden, plus logs and kindling they chopped themselves. They delivered newspapers, a huge job because in those pre-online days, nearly every household would have a newspaper posted through the letterbox each day, plus weekly or monthly magazines.

I remember that they had a hayloft, which has now been converted into a house. In there were piles and piles of newspapers and magazines wrapped up in neat bales tied with twine. They would let me go and root around to find copies of comics that I didn’t have, such as the Dandy, the Beezer and Whizzer and Chips (I was lucky to have the Beano delivered each week).

If I am right, I believe that villagers would take their old newspapers to Minnie and Fanny who would arrange for them to be collected and recycled (for which I presume they received a modest payment).

And that’s not all they did, as Sallie recalls: “I think Fanny was for a short time a church warden at St Hilda’s and she definitely used to ring the bell for church on Sunday.” Fanny also drove the school bus and offered a taxi service. They were veritable Jills-of-all-trades.

The sisters were notoriously trusting when it came to money and were taken advantage of more than once by some unscrupulous customers who paid with dodgy bank notes. Sallie recalls: “Mum used to do their banking when they were older, and it never added up. She used to dread telling them.”

As I mentioned last time, they had a succession of border collies, all named Lassie, and Sallie remembers Minnie’s very last one: “It was red and white and had not been handled much so a bit wild. She spent a lot of time gaining its trust and told mum how well it was doing.”

This dog was by her side all the time and was allowed to sleep with Minnie on her small single bed, even when it was wet. It was around this time that Minnie developed a bad chill which sadly led to pneumonia and ultimately her death at the age of 74 in August 1998. Fanny missed her twin dreadfully. She died five years later in June 2003 and the sisters are buried together in the local graveyard.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Twins Minnie (real name Miriam) and Fanny Benson were buried in the same grave after their deaths

My column about ‘super-sleuth mums’ was very familiar to reader Clare Proctor who said: “When my girls were small they would be in awe of how I seemed to know every little thing they did (even at school). I would use a phrase my sister taught me: ‘I am the All-Seeing, All-Knowing Mummy’! They were not to know that often my info came from a teacher or another parent. Also, the clues they leave...”

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.