Category Archives: temperance

Child of Victorian times: Marion Margaret Sinclair (1883-1970)

When I consider the contexts of the life of my grandmother, Marion Margaret Skelton (née Sinclair), I am amazed at the changes she must have experienced.  She was born in 1883, the eldest child of James and Fanny Jane Sinclair in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.

 Beatrice (1883) of the Tyne General Ferry Company by the Newcastle High Level and Swing Bridges

Beatrice (1883) of the Tyne General Ferry Company by the Newcastle High Level and Swing Bridges

Queen Victoria had been on the Throne since 1938.  Marion died in 1970, in the Kaipara region, about 80 miles north of Auckland, New Zealand – nearly 70 years after Queen Victoria died.

In 1879, horse drawn trams were common in Newcastle streets.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Tyneside was a significant center for the development of electricityJoseph Swan, who later joined with the Edison company, was an important player in the new applications of electricity technologies in Newcastle and internationally.

The world was changing. The year before Marion was born, a Newcastle drapers shop became the first shop in the world to be lit by electricity.

Marion’s mother died when she was 5 years old.  This death happened a few hours after Marion’s sister Fanny was born, according to a letter that Marion wrote in 1938.  I have a scan of the letter.  It was sent to me by a  descendant of another of Marion’s siblings who remained in the UK.  In the letter Marion wrote what she knew of her family history.   She named her siblings as William John, James George and Fannie. Marion wrote:

The mother died a few hours after Fannie was born, leaving four little children under 6 years old.

To my generation, it seems strange that she would refer to her mother as “The mother“.  However, this may have been at least partly due to the formalities expected in Victorian times.  I’m told that she always referred to her husband as “Mister Skelton”.  Her son, my father Trevor Noble Skelton, always referred to his mother using the Latin, “Mater” or “The Mater”.

Temperance gathering victorian Newcastle

Aaron Guy discovered a large collection of glass plate negatives depicting Victorial life in Newcastle. This photo is of a Temperance gathering.

Victorian Newcastle waiting for a launch on Tyneside

“Onlookers wait for the launch of a ship in Tyneside”

It is not entirely clear who Marion lived with throughout her childhood, but I was told that she was brought up by aunts.  I have a strong memory from the early 1960s, when my grandmother (Marion) was staying with my family. She showed me a photo of a young woman standing at the bottom of a household staircase and wearing a maid’s uniform.  My grandmother said that the young woman was a maid where she grew up, laughing at the memory.  She recalled that the young woman was “funny” and a bit of a jokester.  That’s the only photo I’ve seen from Marion’s earlier days.

During the 1891 census, I am pretty sure it is Marion and her 2 brothers who were boarding with Mr and Mrs Relph in Cullercoates: named as Marian, William, and Stewart.  This is the same area where the children’s grandfather, John Sinclair had a house at the time.  The children’s family name has been mis-transcribed as “Smeland”,  but the handwritten record shows the name to be “Sinclair”.  Also during that census, Marion’s baby sister Fannie, and their uncle, Stephen E Sinclair, 17 years old, were living in John Sinclair’s household at 26 Beverley Terrace in Cullercoates.

It is also most likely that, during the 1901 census, Marion was an apprentice music teacher, boarding in Hampshire. During the same census, Marion’s 16 year old brother, William John Sinclair, was living in Margaret Sinclair’s household at 26 Beverly Terrace in Cullercoates. Margaret was John Sinclair’s widow. William John’s occupation is listed as “electrical engineer”.  Also in the household was Marion’s sister Fanny.

Queen Victoria had died in January of that year, bringing the Victorian era to an end.   In the early 20th century, the electricity industry in Tyneside gathered momentum. In December of 1901,  electric trams began running in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Electric tram newcastle

Postcard of South Shields Tram No. 46, Fowler Street, September 1933: This tram was originally Tyneside Tramways & Tramroads No. 3, and ran on that system from 1901 until its demise in 1930.”

Four years later in 1905, Marion Margaret Sinclair’s grandmother, Margaret Sinclair died.  Early in that year, Marion left England to live in New Zealand.

Marion Margaret Sinclair’s life: To be continued.

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Filed under biography, history, marion margaret sinclair, newcastle upon tyne, paparoa, temperance

George Dodds (1810-1888): walking the talk

My great great great grandfather, George Dodds (1810-1888) had an extraordinary life when looking through a 21st Century lens.  He was born at Ouseburn, Newcastle Upon Tyne on 19 November 1810. He had to start work at 10 years old because his family had become impoverished.  He eventually became a campaigner for Temperance, and on behalf of the poor.  For the last year of his life he was Mayor of Tynemouth.

It’s fortunate for the researcher of family history to find such a high profile ancestor, because there are several newspaper articles, published during his lifetime, that tell about his life.  It is even more fortunate that such articles are easily accessible for those with Internet connections these days. I accessed articles about George Dodds’ life from the Auckland Libraries’ Digital Library.

According to his obituary (Newcastle Weekly Courant, Saturday, December 8, 1888; Issue 11160), George Dodd’s father was a butcher and his first job was at a pottery, earning 1 shilling per week. By 14 years old, he was apprentice at the flax dressing mill of Messers Plummer & Co., at Ouseburn, Newcastle Upon Tyne (the mill is part of Ouseburn’s industrial history).

Ouseburn's industrial past

Ouseburn’s industrial past: http://www.ouseburnnewcastle.org/

On 9 October 1833, George married Frances Middleton at All Saints Church.  Frances continued with her dressmaking business after marriage, but also encouraged George to give up the booze. He signed the pledge on 24 September 1836.  George was eventually able to pay back the publicans he’d owed money to as a result of the “drunken sprees” of his youth.

Following this, he became a member of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Primitive Methodist Chapel, where he rose to be a “prominent member”.

His ready wit, and great command of simple, but effective language, made Mr. Dodds a capital speaker…

Some gentlemen financially sponsored George to travel the north of England for three years as a temperance missionary .

… Mr Dodds was compelled to travel hundreds of miles on foot; and to Mr P.T. Winskill, the author of “The Temperance Reformers”, he once remarked, “You may judge I could not get rich out of it; sometimes I arrived at home penniless, and had it not for my dear Fanny we could not have lived.”

George also worked three years in Scotland “in the same cause”.  Later, back in Newcastle, he became a temperance hotel keeper, and then started a business as a coffee roaster. Meanwhile he continued to campaign actively and intensely for the temperance cause.

A profile of George Dodds following his election as Tynemouth mayor, included the following image of him (Newcastle Weekly Courant 18 November 1887).

George Dodds Newcastle Weekly courant 18111887

The article accomanying the image, says that, when he was a flax mill apprentice, Dodds did not take an active part in the trade union movement, because he did not agree with the often adopted method of using physical violence.  It says that, when he tramped the villages of the north to deliver his temperance message, George

[proclaimed]  his own meetings by means of a handbell, and …[spoke] from a chair or any other impromptu platform…

As a result of his wife’s illness, they moved to Cullercoats in 1864, where he

… laboured with great success among the fishermen.

George was also chairman of the directors of the Newcastle Permanent Benefit Building society.

When the announcement of George’s election as mayor was pending, a snippet in the Newcastle Weekly Courant ( Friday, November 18, 1887; Issue 11105) stated that many, especially publicans, in Tynemouth were opposed to Dodd’s stance on temperance.

W. M Patterson, in “The Metropolis of Four Counties: Newcastle and Gateshead”, from Northern Primitive Methodism (1909), stated:

And there are the two renowned Georges! Mightier men in the temperance world have been rarely produced than George Charlton and George Dodds. They had their hands on State affairs, too, and lived to see the enfranchisement of the workers and other reforms for which they laboured incessantly and with commanding force. The growing municipalities on the river also claimed their attention, and each borough in which they resided gave them the highest seats, for George Charlton was Mayor of Gateshead and George Dodds was Mayor of Tynemouth.

The two George’s were together prominent members of the middle period of Primitive Methodism in Newcastle Upon Tyne, and both opposed policies of the British Conservative Party.

The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend” (January 1889), said this of George Dodds.  He,

was elected a member of the Tynemouth Town Council in 1877, and had thus served eleven years as an efficient and useful member of that body. He had been a Guardian of the Poor in the Tynemouth Union for fifteen years, and was connected with most of the philanthropic and benevolent institutions in the borough.

It added that, on his death, George had been “the last surviving member of the original committee of the Newcastle Temperance Society”.  This image accompanies the text:

George Dodds Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend Jan 1889

George died on Wednesday 7 December 1888, a couple of weeks before his granddaughter, Fanny Jane Sinclair (née Brignal), died.

George Dodds led a very worthy life, walking the talk of temperance and service to the poor and to workers.

Alan Heath’s 2009 video of Cullercoats: includes several shots of Beverly Terrace where George and Francis Dodds lived at one time.  It is also the street where John Sinclair (James Sinclair’s father) had one of his residential properties.

A fuzzy amateur video of Cullercoats in the 1950s:

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Filed under biography, George Dodds, history, newcastle upon tyne, politics, primitive methodist, temperance

Edge of Tyne: border crossings in the industrial age

Now the whole river began to boom. Coal-based, this prosperity took in iron and later steel, shipbuilding, chemicals, light and heavy engineering.  This was the era of invention, and the Tyne was at the forefront.  From her banks came the first railways, the first electric lamp, the first big guns, the first Dreadnoughts, the first life boats, the most daring bridges … Now on both banks Tyneside filled with windmills and pits and factories.  The gaps between, and the long sweeps up the hillsides behind, were crammed with terrace rows of brick to house the thousands of workers who were streaming in from all over the kingdom to get richer than all but a few of them ever really did.  The salmon twitched in liquid poison and gave up the ghost.

[David Bean’s Tyneside: A Biography (1971), cited in Tyneside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead from Earliest Times, by Alistair Moffat & George Rosie, Mainstream Publishing: Edinburgh and London, 2005: pp. 281-2.]

This came a couple of pages after Moffat and Rosie began their chapter, entitled “Workshop of the World”, on Tyneside in the first decade of the 20th Century  (Moffat & Rosie: p. 279), with this:

It’s a venerable saying, but it’s worth repeating: in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was not Queen Victoria and her son King Edward who ruled over Britain, it was Old King Coal.

The period between 1850 and 1905 was when part of my family history shifted from Scotland to Tyneside, prior to my great grandfather (James Sinclair) and my grandmother (Marion Margaret Skelton, née Sinclair) immigrating to New Zealand. Many Scots have a long history that shifts between the Scotland and the border territory north of Tyneside.  For many centuries, there was not a clear demarcation between the two countries.  Hadrians wall was built from along the banks of the River Tyne across to Bowness-on-Solway (east of Carlisle, on England’s north east coast).

Between Benwell and Newcastle City Centre Hadrian’s Wall more or less ran along the course of what is now the Westgate Road.

“Between Benwell and Newcastle City Centre Hadrian’s Wall more or less ran along the course of what is now the Westgate Road.” (Going Glenn blog)

Hadrian’s Wall was a defence built to help keep the borderland and Scottish clans out of England.  Some of my other ancestors originally lived and fought in that border territory (the Skeltons and the Nobles) at least as far back as the 16th Century. The Scottish clans ceased their attempts to annex Northumberland and Tyneside after their defeat by James IV at Flodden Field in 1513 (Moffat & Rosie, p. 153).  Following this, bandits (or “Border Reivers”) raided and terrorised others in the border territory and Scotland.  The Nobles were bandits that terrorised many families, including the Skeltons.

Later, in the 19th Century, with Scotland part of Britain, many Scots travelled to the Tyneside area to participate in the acceleration of industrialisation in the region.  My great great grandfather, John Sinclair (1826-1895), and his brother Robert Sinclair (1836-?) migrated to Tyneside in the mid 19th Century, where they began getting experience in the tobacco industry.  They opened a small tobacco shop in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1856.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Robert Sincalr Tobacco Factory (c.1919), top floor of the Westgate Road building.

Robert Sinclair Tobacco Factory (c.1919), top floor of the Westgate Road building.

The coal industry developed early in Tyneside because coal was relatively close to the earth’s surface and easily mined.  As industrialisation gathered steam, the ship building industry developed around the Tyne. This provided a context out of which associated industries and commercial activities developed. With the relatively quick rise in population, activities arose that supported urban living and city life: arts and education for instance.

Migration from places like Ireland and Scotland and other places contributed to religious diversity. The Anglican Church was dominant, with a significant amount of political/social “dissenters” in Presbyterian, and non-conformist churches such as Congregationalist and Methodist churches (Moffat & Rosie: p. 268).  Working classes tended to be associated with non-conformist churches such as the Primitive Methodists (A New England? Peace and War, 1886-1918,  G.R. Searle, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2004: p. 104).

Industrial development, urban rural shifts, and the rise of the popular press in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (Searle p110-111), resulted in a shift from local towards more nationally focused politics.  From 1885 to the mid 90s, the (Gladstone) Liberal Party supported Home Rule for Ireland (Searle: pp. 119-169).  This was a signficiant issue which at times split Liberals.  The very active Temperance movement also was associated with the Liberal Party.

It was into this context that James Sinclair was born (1861) and married (1882) at a Primitive Methodist Church in North Shields, Tyneside.  This evangelical church was associated with the Temperance movement and working class culture.  It adopted the popular culture practices of “Chapel”, as opposed to the more classical style of the Anglican Church.  It is not surprising, then, that my grandmother, (born Marion Margaret Sinclair in 1883) was teetotal throughout her life, and advocated an abstemious lifestyle along with strict observance of Sunday as a religious day.  Nevertheless, perhaps reflecting the context of religious diversity on Tyneside where she grew up, she also supported middle and upper class culture in the form of music, literature and the arts.

The Newcastle band, Lindisfarne, achieved popular success in the 1970s, drawing on the Celtic culture that was, by then, an important part of the Newcastle heritage.

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Filed under heritage, history, james sinclair, john sinclair, liberal party, marion margaret sinclair, newcastle upon tyne, temperance

Family history & changing times

Over the last year or so I have been looking into some of my family history.  It has revealed a few surprises, brought forward some mysteries, and opened new and intriguing lines of research.  As with every family history, it comprises a network of bloodlines, that overlap and intersect at specific moments of time, in diverse locations.  And, when tracing the routes through which these lines all led to my life, begun in New Zealand, I am intrigued by the vast changes in the course of individual lifetimes: changes in the economic contexts, social change, political struggles and technological capabilities

Two of my grandparents came from Scottish working class backgrounds: he the son of a tinsmith, and (when single) a mill worker; my grandmother the daughter of an engineer from a line of shoe makers.  There’s an intriguing photo of my grandfather and fellow cadet at the Mitchell Library cadet, in front of a statue in Glasgow, in Edwardian suits, in the first few years of the 20th century.

Mitchell Library c1911

Mitchell Library c1911, North St, Charing Cross area of Glasgow, on Virtual Mitchell Library

My grandparents married in a boat off Manly beach in Sydney, early 20th century, then came to Auckland for my grandfather to take up a job as Auckland City Chief Librarian, curator of the Art Gallery and Director of the Old Colonialist Museum.

Anglo-Irish great grandparents born during and/or just before the Irish potato famine near Enniskillen in County Fermanagh: families largely of teachers, lawyers, clergy, military men, and at least one owner of a heritage residential property.  Such families fared better during the famine than the poverty-stricken Catholics.  See for instance, this record of the Workhouse in Enniskillen:

Enniskillen1 workhouse 2003

Enniskillen – Workhouse building, 2003

My great grandparents married in Melbourne in 1869, then journeyed almost immediately to the Northern Kaipara, to start the New Zealand family lines Paparoa. [The Back Roads blog has an interesting record of the Paparoa Dairy Cooperative of 1895-1896]

Paparoa Settlers’ Annual Picnic and Group of Small Children, 1900.

– Image from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19000727-6-4 [Auckland Weekly News 27 July 1900]

The Matakana mystery man: my great grandfather, James Sinclair, and his brother, were the eldest and youngest sons of a successful tobacco manufacturer in Newcastle on Tyne.  How did they come to be living in Matakana, Rodney at the beginning of the 20th century?

– Image from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19021218-12-1. [Auckland Weekly News 18 December 1902]

At the headquarters of navigation: The S.S. Kotiti lying at Matakana Wharf, on the Matakana River, Auckland, 1909.

– Image from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19091223-3-2 [Auckland Weekly News 23 December 1909]

Why do my great grandfather and his daughter appear to have become estranged? She doesn’t seem to have acknowledged his existence in Rodney, yet she had married my grandfather of Paparoa, in 1916, and lived there for the rest of her life. She seems to have grown up with the tobacco manufacturing family in Newcastle Upon Tyne before migrating to New Zealand in 1915.

Victorian Newcastle, images, The Guardian,2012

Victorian Newcastle, images, The Guardian,2012

James Sinclair had married the daughter of William Anthony Brignal, a newspaper manager, temperance campaigner and secretary for the Railway Men’s Mission. Born in Durham, he lived for a time in the Tyne and Wear area, but was most active in the Liverpool area where he lived the last period of his life, dying in 1895.  How political was he?  He worked for the radical Sunderland Daily Echo soon after it began publishing: it was set up to oppose the Conservative Party and was aligned with the Liberal Party.

 – Image belongs to Sunderland Daily Echo.

It actively campaigned on issues such as taxation and Home Rule for Ireland. He later worked for the moderately liberal Liverpool Daily Post. This was a significant period in the rise of the popular press.

All these life strands led to my immediate family that came into being soon after WWII. The prior lines in the New Zealand family branches included the following occupations: farmer, teacher, lawyer, librarian, accountant/manager, post office worker, telephone/telegraph operator, “gentleman” (Remittance Man?).

The various lines of my ancestry from the past couple of centuries, seem to have come from various parts of the north of England and Ireland, and from Scotland.  In earlier times, many would have lived in the border territories between Scotland and England.  They include a mix of people from the poorer and middle sections of society; largely protestant, but from various denominations and political positions.

NOTE: I have learned of these family lines from family statements and records; official birth death and marriage certificates; census and other records found on the online Ancestry Library; newspaper articles accessed via Papers Past, Trove, and the British Newspaper Archive and the New Zealand Herald on microfilm; cemetery records.

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Filed under enniskillen, glasgow, james sinclair, liverpool daily post, matakana, mitchell library, newcastle upon tyne, paparoa, politics, railway men's mission, sunderland daily echo, temperance, william anthony brignal