Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Auntie Nellie's Birthday Book - D. Orkney

My Great Auntie Nellie's Birthday Book is an absolute treasure to have, and I feel so lucky to have it in my possession. The book itself is now 102-years-old, closer to 103 in fact. It was given to Auntie Nellie on her 17th birthday, 10 February 1913.

Auntie Nellie Metcalf
The book has the birthdays of numerous family members, as well as friends close to the Metcalf family. I have given myself the task of trying to trace the families of Auntie Nellie's friends. The next person I want to research is the puzzling D. Orkney.

D. Orkney's entry in the Birthday Book.

The entry for D. Orkney appears on 2 June, and is the only Orkney in the book. As the Metcalf family were living in the Morpeth district of Northumberland throughout this time, I concentrated my research there. A simple search for a D* Orkney in the Morpeth district brought up only one result; a man named Daniel Kinghorn Orkney, born in 1888. 

Daniel Kinghorn Orkney was born on 2 June 1888 at Choppington, close to Bedlington, Northumberland. His father was George Orkney, a coal miner, and his mother was named Elizabeth Russell. Daniel had two older siblings, Alexander and Mary Ann, as well as a younger sister named Hannah

As a child Daniel, or Dan as he was known, went to the local Infant School, before moving up into Barrington County Primary School. His father George was well-known locally, being the secretary of the Barrington soup kitchen committee, as well as serving the same role on the Choppington society benefit. 

When Dan came of age, he followed his father into the local coal mine. He enlisted in the British Army on 2 September 1915, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. Dan's brother Alexander joined the Northumberland Fusiliers and was wounded. He was taken to a war hospital in Boulogne, where he later died. 

After the war, Dan married a woman named Elizabeth Simm at Choppington, but had no children. Like his father, Dan was on local committees and was vice-chairman of the Sleekburn British Legion. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Mat the Bedlington Terrier

The Bedlington Terrier is a dog which originates in the Northumbrian borders. It was first called the Rothbury Terrier, but was renamed after the Bedlingtonshire district. The Bedlington Terrier was primarily a hunting dog, used to eradicate vermin, and also used to hunt badgers, hares and foxes.

Bedlington Terriers were also family pets, and were a favoured companion of Northumbrian pitmen. The first dog show with a Bedlington Terrier class was in 1870.

In May 1872, James Knox of Bebside, placed two advertisements in the Morpeth Herald. He claimed that his blue Bedlington Terrier, was "of the Pure Blood" and had a "Pedigree from 1791", and was wanting to stud him out.

In November of the same year, James placed a notice in the newspaper, saying that his blue Bedlington Terrier, Mat, was lost. He was last seen at Bedlington. There would be a reward for anyone who returned him, but anyone detaining Mat would be prosecuted. 

Clearly Mat was sick of being a stud dog! 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Sixty Years a Miner

In April 1924, Andrew Harbertson the elder brother of my 2x great-grandfather John, died at New Hartley, Northumberland. He was later buried at Seghill churchyard. 

The Harbertson family moved from the Chatton area of Northumberland to New Hartley in around 1853. John and Andrew's father, James was a labourer on farms, but turned to mining when the family moved further south. 

Andrew was born in 1843 at Coldmartin, a piece of farmland just outside of Wooler. He was very young when his father moved the family to New Hartley, although not too young to work in the mines.  

At the age of ten, Andrew began work under the Seaton Delaval Coal Company. As a boy, his job was to release the "keps" - blocks on which the descending cage is held to stop it moving. 

The Harbertson grave.

Andrew was performing this role on 16 January 1862 when the beam in Hester Pit broke, causing the deaths of 204 men and boys - the Hartley Pit Disaster. Thankfully, Andrew and the rest of the Harbertson family were not involved in the disaster. 

The disaster was caused by the pumping engine beam snapping in half. There was an almighty crash as the beam and other debris fell to the centre of the pit. The beam was now blocking the miner's only exit from the pit, meaning they had essentially been buried alive. 

Although there were rescue attempts, carbon monoxide began to take the miners, who eventually accepted their fate. There are heartbreaking stories of hardy, staunch fathers found with their arms around their young sons, and other young boys sat on their father's knees. 

In the aftermath of the calamity, Queen Victoria herself sent letters of condolence to the miner's wives and families, in which she expressed her sincere grief, a feeling she knew well. Victoria had only lost her dear husband Prince Albert, only a month or so before. 

The 204 men and boys were to be buried at St Alban's Churchyard, Earsdon but the churchyard could not take such an amount, and so the Duke of Northumberland gave bordering land he owned to the church. 

The Hartley Pit Disaster truly changed mining forever. Six months after the disaster Parliament passed an Act, which required all new pits sunk after that date to include two shafts, to act as another means of escape in case the worst happened again. All existing pits were to sink a second shaft before the end of 1864. 

There is a memorial and garden to the miners in Earsdon churchyard, where many people go to pay tribute.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Happy New Year .... From January 1916

Happy New Year! 

I wish to thank all of my readers this past year. It's quite hard to believe that I started this blog one year ago. I've came up with a schedule and have many blog posts in the pipe line already. I will also continue to post on a Wednesday morning.

Now, for my first blog post of the New Year, I want to take us back 100 years ago to January 1916, to see how people celebrated then.

100 years ago, the New Year was celebrated in very quiet style. After all, the country was going into its second year of war, and morale was naturally low after so many had died already.

"In spite of the fact that the country is at death grips with the enemy beyond the narrowest channel that divides England from the Continent the old custom of 'first footing' was largely indulged in, but in somewhat more restrained fashion that usual, and with the dismal shadow hanging over every nation in Europe, belligerent and neutral, the usual seasonal greetings can hardly be spoken anywhere without some touch of irony with the nation giving to death so many of the best and brave of their sons, there could not be but a brooding and prevailing sadness, no matter how stern and sincere our wishes."

Despite the general feeling of the country, there were still some celebrations to be found in Northumberland. 

There was a fruit banquet held at the Dudley United Methodist Church, which was well attended. The church choir sang, an organist played and people gave numerous recitations. All in all, a very varied programme. At the end of the evening, fruit was handed out to all who attended.

In Morpeth, the inmates of the workhouse were treated to a grand dinner of roast beef, roast mutton and plum pudding. As a New Year's gift, the women received a packet of tea and sugar, whereas the men received a pipe and a quantity of tobacco each. Apples and oranges were also served. In the evening a concert was put on by the children, in which they performed songs, sketches and dances.

In Gosforth the children were treated to a cinematograph show, and afterwards given presents of a toy or game, crackers, oranges and sweets. They were all gifts of a charitable couple who lived in Corbridge. 

There was somewhat of an absence of celebration in Blyth. The New Year was usually ushered in with the ringing of church bells and colliery buzzers. There were no bazaars or church parties. "First-footing" was as common as before however, and Blyth was fairly lively after midnight with people visiting neighbour's homes, taking luck and goodwill with them. There was also an absence in the customary sword dancers and "guisers", but thankfully in local crime too it should be noted too!