Saturday, 7 March 2015

Lady of Sorrow

On 16 March 1783 my 4x great-grandmother, Martha Robinson was baptised at St. Mary the Virgin Church, Woodhorn, the daughter of George Robinson and Jane Simpson. The Robinson family were natives of the nearby Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

Martha's baptism entry.
Notice the spelling of Robinson.
The Robinsons were the victims of a fishing disaster on 14 January 1808. Martha, only in her mid-20s lost her father and older brother both named George, as well as other male relatives. All hands were lost in Blyth harbour during a storm.

Martha went on to marry John Armstrong, a fisherman like the rest of her family, however he was from Cullercoats a village further down the coast. 

Martha and John's marriage entry at Christchurch, Tynemouth.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
Only three months after marrying John, he died at sea on 7 April 1810 along with his father and brothers. The loss of life was well-documented and is quite a sad story. The Cullercoats fishermen were caught up in a storm, and so the lifeboat was called for. As Cullercoats did not have its own, the lifeboat came from Blyth. The lifeboat managed to reach the fishing cobles, but on the return journey was hit by a "high and ridgy wave." The lifeboat was hit yet again, causing her to strike the land and almost split entirely in two. There were only two survivors.

John's body was eventually found in August, and he could finally be laid to rest at St Alban's, Earsdon. To add to the tale, Martha was pregnant. 

She gave birth on 10 November 1810 to a boy. He was named George John Armstrong, after his two deceased grandfathers, and his late father. 

George John Armstrong's baptism.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
Martha went on to marry John Renner on 17 August 1817. Not surprisingly, this second John was also a fisherman. John Renner was also a Newbiggin freeholder, with some small parcels of land on Newbiggin Moor and in the east end of the village. 

The marriage entry of John Renner and Martha Armstrong at Woodhorn.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
Martha and John went on to have three children; Ann, Edward and John (known as Johnny). To complicate things, Martha's first son George John Armstrong dropped the 'George' from his name - meaning Martha had three Johns in her life, her husband and two sons! Her firstborn John Armstrong went on to marry a woman named Elizabeth Brown. Her daughter Ann married Adam Storey, but her two youngest sons remained bachelors.

John Renner died in 1847 at the age of 76. Martha's son Edward closely followed in 1854 aged only 33. Around this time Martha opened up her house, and started taking in lodgers. 

Disaster seemed to follow Martha and in December 1861 she lost her youngest son, Johnny Renner at sea just past the famous Newbiggin Church Point. Johnny was aged only 39 years old, and "left a widowed mother to mourn his untimely end" - as was reported in a newspaper at the time.

St. Bartholomew's Church, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
Johnny Renner lost his life just past here.
"It is impossible to realise the intense excitement which pervaded the entire community and great commiseration is felt for old Martha Renner, who, bordering on the 76th year of her pilgrimage, is thus deprived of her earthly stay."
- From the Morpeth Herald, dated 21 December 1861, on the death of Johnny Renner.


The Renner family grave
at St. Bartholomew's, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
Martha Renner died on 9 January 1867. Her legacy lived on, with two granddaughters being named after her and also a later great, great granddaughter. Martha was the maternal grandmother of Adam Storeythe Grand Old Man.