BRANCH Wansbeck
Stakeford and Bomarsund Social Welfare Centre,
Gordon Terrace West,
Northumberland, NE62 5UD
Contact: Phyllis McGraw (Secretary)

Meetings on 1st Wednesday in the month at 1.30 pm
(No meeting in August)

Non-members are always most welcome to attend the meetings and the coffee and chat afterwards


Date Subject of Talk Speaker
6th December 2023 Did You Know? Curious Christmas Facts Phyllis McGraw
3rd January 2024 AGM and Members’ Forum: Surprises, Secrets and Lies in our Family History.
7th February 2024 The Cresswell Pele Tower and Walled Garden Project Barry Mead
6th March 2024 The Newbiggin Genealogy Project-The Biggest Community Family Tree in the World? Hilton Dawson


Reports of meetings

November 2023

Wansbeck Branch Meeting held 1.11.2023
Attendance: 19
Apologies: 6


  • News from headquarters
  • Information about Morpeth Literary Festival 2024
  • Presentation to manager of Bomarsund & Stakeford Welfare on the occasion of her retirement

    Meeting: A most interesting, well organised talk and interactive session entitled, Children’s Street Games & Rhymes, was led by Michael Murphy.

    The next meeting will be a Christmas talk, ‘Did you know?’ and a quiz led by Phyllis McGraw

    October 2023

    Minutes from NDFHS Wansbeck Branch meeting 4.10.23 which was attended by 18 members plus 5 apologies.

    Business: Stuart Lawson offered DVD copies of several census records to members

    Meeting: This was a most successful members’ forum related to the theme, ‘How We Came to Be Here’. Several members brought interesting oral history, photos, documents and artefacts to illustrate their ancestors’ journey to South East Northumberland.

    The next meeting will be on Wednesday November 1st. This will be a talk given by Michael Murphy with the title, Children’s Street Games & Rhymes.

    September 2023

    Attendance: 18 members and apologies received from 7 members

    Meeting: A talk and workshop session entitled ‘Pitmatic Dialect’ was led by Phyllis McGraw. Branch Chairman kindly wrote these minutes.

    The session dealt with the links between coal mining and dialect in the Northumberland and Durham coalfield. An informative outline of the mining background was punctuated with ‘Pitmatic’ poetry delivered in an authentic ‘Eshington’ accent by Phyllis. There followed a structured, participatory workshop on Pitmatic dialect that members really engaged in as evidenced by the lively group discussion and in the feedback session. ‘It wez canny gud’.
    The meeting closed at 3:15.

    The next meeting will be Wednesday October 4th. This will be a Members’ Forum entitled ‘How We Got Here’, a look at how our ancestors arrived in the North East. This will be a follow on from the previous Forum when, due to time restrictions, only a small number of members were able to pass on their interesting family research. Bring along any photos, documents you feel able to share with the group. If you are stuck with your research other members may be able to suggest next steps to sort out problems.

    July 2023

    Attendance: 21 members and apologies received from 6 members

    Meeting : A most interesting talk was given by one of our own members, Veronica Lisle, about the life of her ancestor, Captain William Lisle, originally from Newbiggin who led an exciting life at sea becoming an Antarctic whaler. Veronica had researched the shipping and fishing trade of the period over many years.

    The meeting closed at 3pm.

    The next meeting will be a Newbiggin Town Trail, Part 2. This will examine the east end of Newbiggin (the old fisher village). This completes the Newbiggin Town Trails following on from last year’s Newbiggin walk that covered the ‘new town’ development westward. We will be able to see Captain Lisle’s house, The Crow’s Nest up on the Moor, which he used when living in the village. Joan Rose, Veronica Lisle and Michael Murphy (the latter 2 related to Captain Lisle), will share their knowledge of the area during the walk.

    Last year this was a most successful meeting and we can only hope for similar good weather.

    Members wishing to attend should meet outside Bertorelli’s ice cream shop by the bandstand in the town square for 1.30 on August 2nd

    June 2023

    Apologies: 6 received

    Attendance: 18 members

    Business: The Chair gave a brief and moving update about Wendy Stafford, our previous Chair, and her late husband, Jim, whose funeral was taking place that afternoon with 3 of our members attending.

    Jessica Turner gave a most interesting and lively talk about the Bamburgh Ossuary entitled Bamburgh Bones in which she had played a major role. Her talk was full of fascinating facts, deep knowledge and respect for the subject and humour. Those members who have not yet visited the ossuary at St Aidan’s church in Bamburgh will be making their way there soon.

    The meeting closed at 3:15.

    May 2023

    Attendance: 24 attendees with 2 apologies.
    Meeting :
    Professor Sir Alan Craft gave a most interesting and well received illustrated talk about the Red Spot Baby research programme undertaken by the paediatric team at the RVI in 1947. The study was set up by Dr JC Spence and Dr Fred Miller( both local men) to investigate the very high levels of infections and infant mortality in Newcastle. The research team kept in touch with the group involved during their childhood and at significant periods over the years.

    The next meeting will be Bamburgh Bones on June 7th.

    April 2023

    18 members attended (including 1 new member) with 5 apologies.

    Due to work commitments Jessica Turner was unable to give her Bamburgh Bones talk (rescheduled for June). This was replaced by a Members’ Forum entitled, How We Got Here, which was very successful. Some members gave brief talks showing how some of their ancestors had arrived in the North East. These were most interesting with varied origins from the near locality to Cornwall and the Orkneys.

    Meeting closed at 3:15.

    March 2023

    15 members attended with 8 apologies.

    Barry Mead gave an informative, interesting and lively talk entitled ‘Mining Memories’. Barry’s talk included many personal memories gleaned over the years from his contact with miners and their families.
    One interesting item of local history was the origin of the name Bomarsund that features in the name of venue.( I will make copies of this information for distribution at our next meeting).

    February 2023

    25 members attended.

    Angela G informed the group that a new Family Resource Centre linked to the Latter Day Saints and replacing the Ashington centre had opened in Alnwick at 9 Linnet Court, Alnwick NE66 2DG.
    It is open on Thursdays 6 – 9 and the final Sunday of the month 7 – 9.

    Professor Ian Moffat travelled from Acomb to give a most illuminating, well researched and well received illustrated talk about Sir Cuthbert Collingwood: Northumberland’s Admiral. Ian was extremely tolerant of some technical glitches which held up the start of his talk but the wait was definitely worth it. He also refused any fees for which we are extremely grateful.
    ( Thanks to Michael for being the warm up act and filling in the time with interesting details about some of his Irish research).

    January 2023

    Detailed minutes from NDFHS Wansbeck Branch meeting and AGM Jan 4th 2023
    11 members attended. 12 absences mainly due to sickness.

    Chair’s report: The chair reviewed 2022 which involved changes in personnel; change of venue; the need to increase subscriptions in order to improve the group’s financial situation. Subscriptions will now be £4 to include tea/coffee. An increase in speakers’ fees, including travelling expenses, had added to this problem. Several meetings had been led by members resulting in no cost to the group which benefited the finances. The attendance at most meetings in 2022 had been pleasing with growing social interaction which members had stated was an important aspect.

    Treasurer’s report:
    Treasurer distributed a break down of the branch finances which had been unhealthy throughout the year. The increase in subscriptions and a deposit of £200 which Margaret applied for and was successful in gaining from headquarters will ensure the finances remain in the black for the coming year.

    Business: All 3 officials were willing to remain in office and were re-elected.
    Chair: Michael Murphy proposed by Mavis Nicholson and seconded by Ian Hurford
    Treasurer: Margaret Balme proposed by Pauline Hurford and seconded by Ron Price
    Secretary: Phyllis McGraw proposed by Geoff Glass and seconded by Stuart Lawson
    Future meetings: The programme for 2023 is progressing well with several interesting talks in place.
    We hope to have the programme for 2023 finalised very soon although some meetings may have to be moved around depending on the availability of speakers.
    It is hope to continue to have meetings led by members.

    Some discussion took place regarding speakers’ costs.
    It was suggested that subjects for future members forums be gathered.
    David Nicholson informed the group that it would be possible to apply for a grant from the Parish Council.
    Free photocopying is available to all groups meeting at the centre .

    Michael Murphy prepared and presented a most interesting group activity based around the theme of The Way We Were.
    All members expressed their enjoyment of this session which generated much conversation and member involvement.

    December 2022

    Attendance: 18 members attended & 3 Apologies
    Business: Chair gave an update about Wendy, our former Chair, members had the opportunity to view and choose some of her books and information gathered over many years which she is unable to take to her new home.
    Chair confirmed the first 3 meetings for 2023 have been finalised and hoped to be able to arrange a talk about the Red Spot Baby project set up in 1947.

    Phyllis McGraw gave a talk about the origins of the traditional Christmas dinner followed by a quiz, refreshments and mince pies and lots of good ‘craic’.

    The meeting closed at 3:15.
    The next meeting will be on Wednesday January 4th at 1.30.
    This will be a Way We Were session presented by Michael Murphy. Get your thinking caps on and pull out those memories of times past!

    Last updated 5th December 2023