Monday, 5 January 2015

A Grand Old Man

Thus far, I haven't any famous people in my family history. No fantastic innovators or celebrities. The closest I have is my 2x great-grandfather, old Adam Storey of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. 

Adam Storey BEM
1853 - 1951

Adam Storey was born on 11 September 1853 at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, England. His father was also named Adam who was originally from Cresswell, a seaside village farther up the coast, and his mother was Ann Renner, the daughter of a local fisherman and freeholder.

He had five siblings, John (who died in infancy), a second John, Ann Jane, Edward R., and Martha. In the year after Adam was born, his mother's brother, Edward Renner died, and in 1861 his only other maternal uncle, Johnny Renner drowned at sea, just off Newbiggin's Church Point.

Newbiggin's Church Point.

His maternal grandmother, Martha Renner, was no stranger to the dangers of the sea. Her own family, the Robinsons had suffered in a fishing disaster in 1808, in which Martha's father and brother died. Martha's first husband, John Armstrong, also died at sea a few years later.

The Renners were a wealthy family for the time with Adam's grandfather, John Renner owning a piece of land in the east of the village. Due to the loss of the Renner heirs, this land was inherited by the Storeys who later built and lived in what became known as Storeys Buildings.

Adam's father went to Australia for a short time in 1862, with a local member of the gentry, William John Pearson Watson of North Seaton Hall. They went in search of gold, it is believed. If this was the case, they certainly didn't hit the jackpot, as when Adam's father died in 1876, he left "under £200".

As a young man, Adam aspired to become a solicitor, and it was only when his intended office closed, that he went off and followed in the footsteps as his ancestors, and became a fisherman. When the fishing trade worsened, he became a coal miner for some time. 

It was around this time that Adam met and married Jane Mavin, at St Mary's Church, Woodhorn. Jane was from Widdrington, but her family had recently moved to Newbiggin.

St Mary's Church, Woodhorn.

Adam and Jane's first child, Jane Ann, sadly died aged only two days old. They went on to have six more children; Margaret Ann (Meggie), Adam (Eddie), Robert Mavin, Mary (May) Gladstone Renner and lastly Eva Jane.

Adam's mother Ann died in 1885, and for a while, he and his siblings attempted to rent out their mother's home, Sandridge House. Adam's elder brother John later moved into the house. In 1890, Adam's sister Ann Jane died. In her will, she left him their late mother's china tea set.

Adam did return to the fishing trade, and around the turn of the century he went into partnership with Dick Oram and became a fish auctioneer on Newbiggin sands. His son Gladstone would often help at the auctions. Around this time, Storeys Buildings formerly became known as Sandridge.

In 1911, Eddie went off to Canada and from there travelled to the USA, to visit some of his maternal cousins. Eddie soon returned but then went off to Australia in 1913, this time with his younger brother Robert in tow. 

During the First World War, Eddie and Robert enlisted in the Australia Imperial Force. Gladstone, on the other hand, joined the Royal Naval Division. Unfortunately, Gladstone was shot and injured at Gallipoli, but thankfully the three brothers survived the war. Eddie and Robert both returned to Newbiggin when the war had ended.

Eddie and Robert returned to Australia in 1920, now accompanied with their new wives. They were soon followed by their youngest sister, Eva who migrated along with her husband, a footballer named Ralph Shields. Meggie, May and Gladstone remained in Newbiggin, where the latter went on to open a bakery with his wife, Louisa. The bakery was originally on one side of Front Street, but later moved to White House Corner, which for some time was known as Storey's Bakery.

Adam felt great sorrow in 1931 when his beloved wife, Jane Mavin passed away.

In 1934, Adam's son Robert and his family returned to Newbiggin from Australia. Robert, a master bricklayer soon got to work and set up his own business. The following year he built four houses opposite Adam's home at Sandridge - naming them New Sandridge.

As well as being a fisherman, coal miner and fish auctioneer, Adam also acted as signaller for eighteen years at Newbiggin's branch of the R.N.L.I., and for over thirty years he served as secretary to the Newbiggin Freeholders. He was first initiated into the Freeholders at the age of twenty-one, and in total attended seventy-five ceremonies of the Riding of the Bounds. He missed only one in the 1880s, when he was out fishing at sea.

Adam was a life-long Wesleyan Methodist and brought up his family in the same faith. He donated both time and money to his local chapel, and was honoured with a window being named after him there. 

When a new street was built in Newbiggin, Adam was again commemorated when the street was named 'Storey Crescent' after him. Also in his diary, was the Keswick Convention which he attended every year, and he was also a superintendent of the Juvenile Order of the Rechabites. Adam regularly attended Northumberland Sea Fisheries Board meetings. Amidst all of this, Adam was a member of the Newbiggin Co-operative Management Committee for many years. 

Adam had a number of great friends, including Lord Runciman and Councillor Robert Wilkinson, the latter of which was a former Mayor of Morpeth. Before emigrating to Canada, Cllr. Wilkinson entrusted his sword and muzzle-loading rifle to Adam.

Due to his advanced age, and generosity he showed to others, Adam was awarded the title of Grand Old Man of Newbiggin, by the people and media of the area. Although his hoped to reach his hundredth birthday, Adam Storey died on 30 May 1951, aged 97-years-old. 

The Storey family grave.

A week following his death, Adam's named appeared in the Birthday Honours List, having been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his longtime support of the R.N.L.I., and in recognition of his work with the Northumberland Fisheries Board.

Old Adam was a very well-liked figure, and particularly took an interest in the lives of the youth in both his family and wider community. He would often be seen walking down Newbiggin Front Street, accompanied by his faithful dog, his walking stick and his usual peaked cap and reefer.

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