BRANCH South Tyneside
The Charles Dickens Room (1st floor),
The Word,
Market Place,
South Tyneside, NE33 1JF
Contact: Ann Franklin



Meetings on 3rd Wednesday in the month at 1.30 p.m.
(No meeting in July & August)
Visitors are always welcome


Date Subject of Talk Speaker
17th July 2024No Meeting
21st August 2024No Meeting
18th September 2024Branch AGM + Members Forum
16th October 2024Branch Visit
20th November 2024Title of Talk TBCJohn Stobbs
11th December 2024*** (Note change of date)Members Get-together

Branch Reports

June 2024

The talk at the meeting held on the 19th June 2024 was by Blyth Branch member Chris Killen on the subject of ‘Herring Lasses’. 12 members were in attendance and with one apology.

Chris began by explaining how the trade in pickling herring began with the Danes in the 12th century but in the 18th and 19th centuries the industry was dominated by the growing fishing industry in the UK. The population of Blyth increased and it became a thriving town due to the development of the coal industry and shipbuilding was well as fishing. The ‘herring lasses’ tended to follow the fleet, with many of them coming from the Scottish Iles down to the east coast of England.

Work was seasonal, highly skilled and demanding, the lasses having to work until all of the day’s catch had been gutted and salted. They travelled with a ‘kist’ which held their clothes, knives and bandages etc. used to protect their hands. They worked in teams of three – two gutters and one packer. For all of their hard work they received an allowance and somewhat basic accommodation. Herring lasses loved to sing and to knit.

After reaching it’s peak around 1907, the herring industry began to decline after the end of WW1 and by the 1950s overfishing began to take it’s toll. In the 1970s the Government placed a ban on herring fishing in the North Sea to allow stocks to recover. These days there are strict quotas on all North Sea fishing which resulted in many fishermen opting to de-commission their boats.

In 2023 a statue by Ray Lonsdale was unveiled at North Shields Fish Quay in tribute to the ‘herring lasses’.

May 2024

The Speaker at the meeting on the 15th May was David Hastings whose talk “The Real Heroes of the Sea” was enjoyed by 12 members and 1 apology.

David is a prolific fund raiser for the RNLI and he started by giving us an insight into how the RNLI came into being with the first lifeboat station believed to be at Bamburgh Castle, where they made use of a coble. Following a tragedy in the mouth of the Tyne, the first lifeboat was designed and built by Messrs Henry Greathead and William Woodhave in 1790.

The talk highlighted acts of bravery such as the well-known tale of Grace Darling who rescued passengers and crew from the s.s. Forfarshire off Bamburgh in 1838, and Henry Freeman who was the only lifeboat crew member who survived a storm off Whitby in 1861; his life being accredited to the fact he was wearing a cork lifejacket. Other heroic events mentioned were in 1907 when 456 lives were saved in Cornwall, 1962 saw 17 lives lost in Seaham attempting to rescue a fishing coble and the Solomon Browne, the Penlee lifeboat, where 16 crew were lost in 60ft breakers. Henry Blogg was the most decorated lifeboat man who received his third gold medal in 1941 and who saved some 873 lives. The presentation ended with a short video showing how the lives of residents on the Orkney Isles had been affected by the loss of the Longhope lifeboat and its crew in 1969.

As always a very well presented talk by David which is recommended to other Branches and organisations.

April 2024

The meeting held on Wednesday 17th April 2024 was attended by 16 members who enjoyed a talk given by Ben Haddon on the life of “Bobby Thompson – the Little Waster”.

March 2024

Julian Harrop, Archivist at Beamish Museum, was the speaker at the meeting held on the 20th March, which was attended by 10 members.

His talk “A Treasure of Memories” was an insight into some of the 35,000 glass negatives of Co. Durham which have been acquired by the museum, originating from the old Durham Advertiser offices. The images are currently being catalogued and digitised by staff and volunteers at Beamish covering the period 1930 to 1960. We were taken on a ‘trip down memory lane’ with excellent quality photographs of sporting events, cinemas, Elderado ice creams, Royalty visiting the area, and the story of Lord Lawson of Beamish who started work in the coalmines but, through study, reached the dizzy heights of becoming a Baron and also Lord Lieutenant. Despite all this he continued to live in a two-up, two-down house in Beamish.

Julian concluded with an update into what was happening with Beamish Museum. A thoroughly enjoyable presentation which is recommended to other branches.

February 2024

The meeting held on the 21st February was a Members Forum which was attended by 11 members plus 1 apology.

The theme was “How did our Ancestors arrive in the North East and Where did they go to”. One member’s research took him to Madras, India where an ancestor was a prominent medical doctor who, when he returned to the North East, was knighted only days before Queen Victoria came to the throne. This story also led to much discussion on the validity of Wills. Another member was born in Barbados and how her parents had ‘criss-crossed’ the Atlantic through the course of their work. As well as Irish ancestry, there were connections to the USA and Canada. We also discussed a family of ‘travellers’ who had settled in South Shields at the time the fairground became a permanent fixture, plus there were links closer to home with Earl Grey and Chillingham Castle.

We closed the meeting with suggestions of where and how to research and one thing became very clear which is something we all agreed on, our research into our ancestry is never finished.

January 2024

The meeting on the 17th January was attended by 11 members, when our guest speaker was Pete Hampson. ‘The Angel of Comical Corner’ is a novel and a play written by Francis Daniel in the late 19th century and it was on this that Pete had based his research.

Francis Daniel was born in Staffordshire in 1864 but by the time of the 1881 census he is a plumber age 16 living in Hebburn. Having held several jobs, including an actor, he becomes publican at the ‘Stirling Castle’, located in Wapping Street, South Shields. Although originally an area of prosperity, the rich moved out and the area along the riverside deteriorated into slum housing. It is believed Francis Daniel drew inspiration for his book from the characters who resided in such streets as Wapping Street, Long Row, Shadwell Street and Pilot Street. There are a number of theories as to how Comical Corner got its name, and although the slum housing was demolished in the 1930s, there is a name plate for Comical Corner attached to a building which is now the home of the Sea Cadets. Francis Daniel married twice, he became the landlord of the Queens Head, High Shields, and died in April 1919, buried in Harton Cemetery, South Shields.

This was a thoroughly interesting talk which, although more local history, certainly brough to life the area and conditions our ancestors were living in.

November 2023

We had 11 members attend the meeting on 15th November plus 3 apologies, when the Branch Secretary gave a presentation entitled “The Stowaway”. From a literal ‘find in the attic’ Ann researched the life of Edith Williams, a young English woman who, having lived in Melbourne, Australia since childhood, she wanted to return to England. Unable to afford the passage she stowed away on a Swedish windjammer, the C.B. Pederson. This turned out to be a somewhat epic voyage as not only was there a stowaway on board, but instead of the usual cargo of grains, there was a selected group of fare paying passengers, plus Captain Dalstrom decided to navigate the notorious Torres Straits, a somewhat ‘graveyard’ for sailing ships.

The find in the attic mysteriously linked Ann’s father to this tale from his days as a Radio Officer in the Merchant Navy. Having spent time in South Shields with the Franklin family, Edith returned to her native Bootle where she married in 1938. On the 20th December 1940, in an attempt to destroy the Atlantic fleet moored in the docks, intensive bombing took place over three nights which became known as the ‘Christmas Blitz’. On the first night of these raids, Edith was among many civilian casualties who sadly lost their lives.

The meeting concluded with a very active discussion on family history research in general.

October 2023

The meeting held on the 18th October was a Members Forum, lead by John Stobbs, on the theme of ‘Life in South Tyneside between the Wars’.

17 members/visitors (plus 2 apologies) took part in the discussion on a time of economic depression, welfare reforms, social unrest and female emancipation. John had methodically researched facts and figures on unemployment and comparable wage rates in industries such as shipbuilding and coal mining. Also discussed was the provision of services such as roads, parks, libraries and health as poor housing and the fact South Shields was a port, lead to high instances of TB.

Unfortunately, time ran out on us and John has kindly agreed to do a follow-up on this topic at one of our meetings in 2024.

September 2023

We had 13 members plus 2 apologies attend the meeting on the 20 September which commenced with the Branch AGM. Current Officers agreed to stand for re-election and were unanimously accepted.

From conversations with our members earlier this year it became apparent that there was little, if any, of our members making use of the NDFHS website. Therefore, our Chairman made a splendid job of showing how the Membership Section can be accessed and the extensive records which can be used with their family history research.

Last updated: 3rd July 2024