Sunday, 8 March 2015

Barty Keith - A Character

Bertram McKeith was baptised on 21 June 1813 at St Paul's Church, Jarrow, Co. Durham. His parents were Robert McKeith, a sawyer and native of Perthshire, and Mary Bertram of Pennsylvania, USA. 

Barty's baptism at Jarrow.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.

Bertram married Mary Widdrington on 16 July 1838 at All Saints, Newcastle upon Tyne. Mary was the daughter of the late Ralph and Catherine Widdrington of Heaton. Together Bertram and Mary had three children; Ralph Widdrington, Mary Ann and Catherine McKeith or Keith.

Bertram, or Barty as he was commonly known, appeared in the newspapers fairly often. One instance being when a young boy named Ralph Blackett stole his cloth cap. By the time the police had caught up with young Ralph he had already sold it for 8d. 

Barty himself was brought up in the courts at least once - by his own brother! Robert, who lived in Cramlington, charged Barty with assaulting him after they had both spent the afternoon in a pub in Horton. The case apparently "afforded considerable amusement" and the brothers seem to have been laughed out of the courtroom. Believing both brothers to have been severely inebriated, the Bench ordered them to equally pay the costs of court. 

I can deduce from other newspaper articles I've found, that Barty was a colourful, well-known character in his local area. He was once quoted as having said "nivvor gan te wark the day after ye lie idle."

Barty Keith died on 28 September 1882 of senile atrophy, at Bedlington. His will was witnessed only a few weeks prior, in which he left everything to his two daughters.  

His wife Mary died ten years later.

On 23 July 1892 a rather interesting article was published in the Morpeth Herald, in reference to old Barty Keith who had died just under a decade before.

It is not generally known that a new "Barty Keith" has arisen to life in the vicinity of Bedlington Station. Nevertheless the fact is reported; indeed, the Wood Hut has had a formal introduction to the ghost of Barty Keith, the matchless anecdote maker and profound liar. The new comer has a very genial frontispiece, with a rollicking twinkle in his eye, and when he removes his hat his snowy flocks resemble a covering of jeweller's cotton-wadden. His comic jests and notorious fibs are regular twisters, and cause the groups of hunker-men at the "Clayton Arms" corner to extend grins and give vent to clownish laughter. The news has already spread that Barty has come to life again, but the Wood Hut can assure the unsuspecting public on the best authority that the new Barty is not even the ghost of his great predecessor. 

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