Category Archives: people

Into the electric age: Marion M (Sinclair) Skelton (1883-1970)

My grandmother, Marion Margaret Skelton (née Sinclair), was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, in 1883.  My last post on her, ended saying that she left England to come to NZ in 1905.

Marion was very formal in the way she talked about family members. In her letter (dated 9th May 1938 ) to one of her nephews, she referred to her father, James Sinclair, as “the father”:

The father came to N.Z., and when the two eldest had finished their education in England, they came to N.Z..

Marion M Sinclair is on the passenger list for the German ship Scharnhorst, which left Southhampton for Australia on 30th January 1905.

The incoming passenger list has Marion arriving in Sydney on the Scarnhorst on 17 March 1905.  The names next to Marion’s on both lists are Mrs SM Parkinson and Mrs E. Elliott.  These two women and Miss M Sinclair are also listed as travelling on a ship  that went from Sydney to Auckland about a week later.

Auckland waterfront 1905 Heritage Image Sir george Grey collection

Looking south from the masthead of the barque Piri, showing …. various buildings and wharves in Auckland, 1905. Photographer : Henry Winkelmann, 1905, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W117

Mrs S M Parkinson was a social and temperance campaigner, much like Marion’s grandfather William Anthony Brignal.

Marion’s brother, William John Sinclair, must have come to New Zealand some time soon after that.  He was born in about 1985.  In the 1901 UK census, he was living at his grandmother, Margaret Sinclair’s house, 26 Beverley Terrace, Cullercoates, Newcastle Upon Tyne. His occupation is listed as electrical engineer.  This was in an era when,  “much of Britain’s most innovative electrical engineering emerged around the Tyne.”

[Moffat, Alistair and George Rosie, Tyneside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead from Earliest Times, Mainstream Publishing: Edinburgh and London, 2005: p.276]

Barras Bridge Newcastle

Barras Bridge Newcastle Upon Tyne post 1901: Newcastle Libraries 029167

William John married Mildred Cruikshank.  His father was mentioned in the newspaper report of the wedding (Observer, 15 June 1912, p.8.)  After the wedding, the couple lived in Gisborne, where “Bill” had already made his home.  Bill continued to work as an electrical engineer, for Turnbull and Jones in Gisborne (as shown in successive NZ Electoral Rolls and in his mention in the Poverty Bay Herald, 4 July 1916, p.4.)

Marion’s 1938 letter mention her first few  years in New Zealand:

I taught under the Auckland Education Board for 10 yrs, first at Hakaru (1906), then at Brynderwyn near Maungaturoto (1908-?) when I got married.

Maungaturoto 1914 Heritage Image

Development of the route of the North Auckland Main Trunk Railway: new buildings erected at Maungaturoto. Creator: Auckland Weekly News, 25 June 1914, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19140625-48-3

Marion married Marcus Noble Skelton (aka Noble Skelton) in Auckland in 1915.  The newspaper report (in The Northern Advocate, 9 April 1915, p.7) does not mention Marion’s father as being present at the wedding. At that time, Marion’s father James Sinclair was living in Matakana, north of Auckland.

The marriage certificate, states the full names for both her parents, plus names a witness as Dr F W Fullerton of Takapuna.  He was the husband of Marion’s aunt Eveline/Evelyn (see my earlier post on them).

There are many newspaper reports of the time of the social activities that Dr and Mrs Fullerton attended.  However, unlike the articles about Marion’s father and uncle in Matakana, none of these articles mentions the connection with John Sinclair, tobacco manufacturer of Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Neither do any articles about the Fullertons mention their connection with Marion, or the Matakana Sinclairs.

Noble was born and raised in Paparoa in the Kaipara region, and that is where he and Marion lived for the rest of their lives. Like many of her Sinclair family, Marion was a lover of music, and continued to teach music to people around the Paparoa area after her marriage.

Noble was first a teacher, then went into business as a solicitor with his brother, Hall Skelton of Auckland.  Noble was also a farmer on land where his home, Summerhill, Paparoa, stood.

Summerhill

Painting of Summerhill – owned by Skelton family, Paparoa.

During the depression of the late 20s and 1930s, Noble hit financial hard times.  He died unexpectedly at 59 years of age, leaving two young teenage sons, and his wife Marion (see his obituary in the New Zealand Herald, 15 August 1933, p.10).  Marion wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her life.

In the 1920s and 30s, life was not only difficult financially, but in the rural Paparoa, there were few of the conveniences we take for granted today. Travel and communications were far less sophisticated.

The weather could also sometimes be quite cruel.

Paparoa flood 1924

“The settlement of Paparoa, North Auckland under water, after the recent floods.”  Photographer: D Nicholas, Auckland Weekly News, 17 April 1924, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19240417-43-The settlement of 6

In her 1938 letter, Marion says that they had “heavy rain and high floods here last week”.

A newspaper of the time judged this to be the worst flood since 1924-5 (New Zealand Herald, 4 May 1938, p.14; See also New Zealand Herald, 5 May 1938, p.16)

Marion’s son Ron (Ronald Noble Skelton) continued to live with her at Summerhill until he got married.  At around the time of his marriage, he had a house built in the centre of Paparoa, and Marion lived there for the rest of her life.

In her later years Marion’s Strohbech piano was one of her most prized possessions.  She bequeathed it to her son Ron Skelton, as indicated in her Will held at Archives NZ. Marion M Skelton (née Sinclair) died on 21 February 1970.

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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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The Sinclair connections: Tyneside to Auckland

About this time last year, I thought that my grandmother and her father, a Sinclair, were the only members of their family to migrate to New Zealand.  Then, on learning my great grandfather’s name, James Sinclair, I discovered that he was living in Matakana (north of Auckland) in the early 20th century. He was living with his brother, Stephen Edward Sinclair, and Edward’s wife, Jessie (née Campbell).

Recently I have learned that two of Edward and James’ sisters also lived in New Zealand (mainly in Auckland) for over 40 years.  They were Isabella Sinclair (1875-1965) and Evelyn Fullerton (née Sinclair, 1879-1953).

In the 1881 England, Census, Eveline Sinclair (4 years old) and Isabella Sinclair (6 years) are listed in the household of John Sinclair, tobacco manufacturer, at 26 Beverly Terrace, Cullercoats. Also in the household are Eveline and Isabella’s brothers, Stephen Edward Sinclair ( 7 years) and James Sinclair (20 years). In the 1891 England Census, Isabella Sinclair (16 years) is listed in the household of John Sinclair, along with her brother Stephen E Sinclair (17 years) and James Sinclair’s youngest child, Fannie Sinclair.

Evelyn (aka Eveline) married Doctor Francis W Fullerton (1870-1953) of Hull.  The Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph, Thursday July 6, 1899, includes a report of the marriage of the previous day at St George’s Church, Cullercoats:

The article, “Fashionable Wedding at Cullercoates”, reports that the bridesmaids were Dr Fullerton’s sisters, Edith and Katie, and Evelyn Sinclair’s sisters, Isabella and Grace. The best man was Dr Fullerton’s brother, Arthur Fullerton.  The bride was given away by her brother John Sinclair. The article states that,

The bride wore a gown of rich ivory satin duchesse, handsomely trimmed with ivory Chantilly lace, and having transparent yoke of finely trimmed chiffon, and a skirt trimmed with pleated chiffon and lace. The upper drapery was finished with true lover’s knots and orange blossoms, and she also wore a wreath of orange blossoms and tulle veil, with a diamond, pearl, and ruby pendant, the gift of the bridegroom. The bridesmaids were attired in white China silk, handsomely trimmed with guipure lace, and shaded yellow chiffon sashes, and white chipped picture hats trimmed with roses, and they each carried lovely bouquets of white blossoms.

After the wedding there was a reception at the house of the bride’s mother.  The newlyweds then left for their honeymoon in Scotland.

In the 1901 Census, Dr and Mrs Fullerton were living in Hull, with two servants, Margaret Carvin (20) and Eliza S Clark (23).

Before leaving England for New Zealand, the Fullertons had a daughter, Gwendoline Eveline Fullerton, probably born around 1905The New Zealand Herald, 9 June 1908, p.4 lists Misses Fullerton (3), I. Sinclair, and Dr. F. W.Fullerton as passengers in the first saloon of the SS Cornwall.  They had arrived the previous day in Sydney, from Liverpool and Melbourne. The New Zealand Herald on 19 June 1908, p.4, lists Misses Fullerton (3), I. Sinclair, Dr. F. W.Fullerton as passengers arriving in Auckland on the SS. Cornwall from England.

When they first arrived in New Zealand, Isabella and the Fullertons lived in Te Kuiti in the King Country.

General view of Te Kuiti 1908 heritage images

General view of Te Kuiti, 1908. Photographer: A. S Hawley for Auckland Weekly News, 23 Jan, 1908. In Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19080123-2-2

There is a newspaper advertisement for Dr. Fullerton in the King Country Chronicle, 30 August, 1909, p.2. It says that Dr, Fullerton “May be Consulted Daily at Mr Kerr’s Boarding House, Te Kuiti.”

Dr Fullerton’s brother, Walter Ernest Fullerton also lived in Waitomo and Te Kuiti. Initially, he was a farmer, later he was a manager of an Assurance Association.

The Fullertons and Isabella returned to England for visits on several occasions. In May, 1911 they returned to England for the coronation of King George V (22 June 1911). The Fullertons and Isabella planned to be away for 12 months. However, after about 6 months, they left London to return to New Zealand on The Orient liner Orsova (New Zealand Herald, 29 January 1912, Page 4).

Later in 1912, the Dr Fullertons and Miss Isabella Sinclair moved to the North Shore of Auckland. The King Country Chronicle,  6 November 1912, p.5, reports that they were leaving to live in Takapuna and were farewelled,

at the Bowling and Croquet Club’s ground, on Saturday afternoon last. A large number of their friends attended, which evidenced the esteem in which the guests had been held. Games of croquet and bowls were indulged in, and a delightful afternoon tea provided. Altogether a most enjoyable afternoon was spent. The greens were in excellent order and the bright and pretty costumes worn by the ladies made the scene an animated and pretty one. Subsequent to the afternoon’s gathering Mrs Fullerton was presented by her friends with a very handsome rose bowl and stand, also a gold pendant, Miss Sinclair receiving a silver-mounted manicure set. Sincere regret was expressed on all sides at the guests’ departure from Te Kuiti, and many good wishes extended to them for their future welfare.

Takapuna Beach Jan 1913 Auck Weekly news

Auckland’s favourite seaside resort: Holiday-makers on Takapuna Beach, on Boxing Day. Published in Auckland Weekly News, 2 January 1913. In Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19130102-4-3

Dr. Fullerton was elected a councillor on the Takapuna Council. A 1913 report on the newly elected Takapuna Council lists Dr F. W. Fullerton as one of the Council members, but states that he was unable to attend the Mayor’s inauguration due to being “indisposed”. Dr. Fullerton was listed as being one of the members on a “Works Committee” that was set up. (New Zealand Herald, 2 September 1913, p.5,)

A 1914 article states that Takapuna Council member, Dr F. W. Fullerton had presented a report to the Council about the quality of water in Lake Takapuna.  The report showed it was necessary to remove weeds from the lake, move the location of intake pipes, and to further monitor it for bacterial content. (New Zealand Herald, 17 December 1914, p.9).

Lake Takapuna c1914

Lake Takapuna (Lake Pupuke), c.1914. Creator: Frederick George Radcliffe. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R233

Dr. Fullerton was still a council member in 1916.

In 1919, the Fullertons and Isabella Sinclair moved across the harbour to Remuera in Auckland city. On leaving the North Shore,  Dr F.W. Fullerton was presented with a leaving gift by the Takapuna Croquet Club. Speakers expressed regret that he was leaving to reside in Auckland. (New Zealand Herald, 18 February 1919, p.6).

To be continued…

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Auckland, Burns and A’ That

In preparing a talk for the recent Robert Burns’ anniversary, I learned a few things about my Scottish born grandparents.

(Burns’ anniversay 25 January, Wikipedia; Guardian 24 Jan 2014 on Burns and Scottish independence).

My mother’s parents were born in Scotland: John Barr (1887-1971, born Glasgow) and Jessie Barr (née MacPherson 1889-1979, born Perthshire) came to live in Auckland, New Zealand in 1913 and 1914 respectively.  For the rest of their lives they remained very enthusiastic about Auckland, its heritage and its development, while also remaining strongly attached to Scottish culture, heritage and literature.

John (aka, Jack) and Jessie both worked in libraries in Scotland.  Jack started working in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow at 13 or 14 years old. Abe Cunningham was also a cadet boy at the Mitchell Library at the same time.  He later moved to Auckland and worked as a cataloguer at Auckland Public Library.

This photo was taken in 1906, in Glasgow in front of a statue donated to Glasgow by John Stewart Kennedy:

barr statue glasgow 3 cropped

Abe Cunningham and John Barr:
The Munro-John Barr Album

John Barr was chief librarian at Auckland Public Library (1913-1952).

John Barr authored various published books, including a couple of histories of Auckland:

The city of Auckland, 1840–1920 (1922) – includes a Maori history of the Auckland Isthmus, by George Grahame

The Ports of Auckland, New Zealand: A History of the Discovery and Development of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours (1926)

Both books are an accurate historical record and are of their time: they are presented from a European, male perspective, with the main focus on British colonisation, settlement, and municipal development of the area.

John and Jessie had three daughters:  Catriona MacPherson (aka Mac – eldest); Sheila MacPherson (my mother) and Margaret Jean (youngest).  This family photo was taken outside their house in Manukau Road, Auckland – next to the original Epsom Library, sometime around the late 1920s or 1930s.

barrs2 grayscale cropped

Daughters back row: Sheila, Catriona (Mac), Margaret

Both John and Jessie were very active in the Auckland St Andrew’s Society, and both gave many talks or lectures on Scottish topics.  Jack’s specialism was Robert Burns, and Jessie’s main literary interest was Robert Louis Stephenson.  She also gave lectures on Kipling and James Barrie, and was a founding member of the New Zealand Penwomen’s League.

In a review of a John Barr song-lecture, he is reported to have said that Burn’s ‘Scots Wha Hae’ was “one of the greatest poems of liberty ever penned.” (New Zealand Herald 5 Sept 1919. p. 10).

In his typed version* of his address for the 169th Burns’ Anniversary (1928), Jack outlined Burns’ importance: he restored national pride to Scotland at a time when it was needed; Burns provided songs and poems of a quality lacking in other Scots works at that time; Burns’ nationalism was not a narrow patriotism but his humanitarian, liberal and egalitarian values gained international support.

With respect to Burns’ support of “universal brotherhood”, Jack quoted these lines from ‘Scots Wha Hae’:

By oppression’s woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
         But they shall be free!

Following this, he wrote:

That was its commencement, but it rose to the sublime heights of universal freedom in his hopes that there would come a time when

Man to man the world o’er                                                                                     Would brothers be for a’ that.

The last two lines are from Burns’ song and poem, ‘Is There for Honest Poverty’, commonly known as ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’.

For Burns, poverty is honest: a man’s character and self-respect are his true worth, and not social class or the trappings of wealth; the wealthy can disguise their true worth with fine clothes; honesty and goodness are worth more than aristocratic titles.

This video uses Ian F Benzie‘s version of ‘A Man’s A Man for A’ that’, and various images related to Burns and the content of the song.

*The typed copy of John Barr’s speech is in the Douglas Munro collection: Douglas is grandson of John and Jessie Barr and son of Catriona Munro (née Barr).

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Filed under Auckland, biography, glasgow, heritage, history, jessie barr (nee macpherson), john barr, library, mitchell library

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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A life too short: Fanny Jane Brignal 1863-1888

My great grandmother, Fanny Jane Brignal, like many women in the 19th Century had a short life, dying in child birth.  Nevertheless, she played a very important role in giving life to 4 children, 2 of whom migrated to New Zealand.

The 1861 Census shows that Fanny Jane’s parents were living with her younger brother, George Dodds Brignal (2 yrs) in the All Saints Parish at Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Fanny’s father William Anthony Brignal was born in Durham, and his occupation at this Census is “Wholesale Druggist”.

Fanny Jane was born in March 1863, in Newcastle Upon Tyne. [ England and Wales free BMD Index 1837-1915].

Fanny was 8 years old at the time of the 1871 UK Census.  She was living in the St Andrews Parish, Jesmond Ecclesiastical Parish in Newcastle Upon Tyne, with her family:

Father: William A Brignal 34 yrs  – Newspaper Publisher & registered (?) chemist.

Mother: Mary A. Brignal 33 yrs

Brother: William J Brignal 5 yrs

Servant: Kate Richardson 18 yrs

In the 1881 Census, William Brignal (45 yrs) and his wife Mary Anne Brignal (44 rs) are in the household of her parents (possibly visiting from Liverpool), George and Francis Dodds (both 70 yrs) and the Dodds’ grandson, George R Allison (16 yrs) at 51 Beverley Terrace, Tynemouth.  Also in the household are servants, Annie (21) and Mary (18) Richardson. George Allison is listed as a Commercial Clerk.

Curiously, at the time of the same census (1881), Fanny Jane’s husband-to-be James Sinclair (20 yrs) is living in his father’s household at 26 Beverley Terrace. Meanwhile, Fanny Jane Brignall (two Ls), 18 years old, appears on the 1881 Census record as living at 16 Low Hill in West Derby (Liverpool). Also in the household were Fanny’s brothers,

George Brignall (22 yrs) – Estate Agent

William Brignall (15 yrs) – Draper

Fanny’s cousin,

Isabella Brignall (20 yrs)

and a servant, Rhoda Adams (20 yrs)

This was likely to be the home of the parents, William and Mary Brignal.

Church Street, Liverpool, c.1880

Church Street, Liverpool, c.1880: from Streets of Liverpool.

In 1882, Fanny Jane returned to Tynemouth to marry James Sinclair. The marriage notice in the Newcastle Daily Journal, Wednesday June 7, 1862 says:

North Shields, Primitive Methodist Chapel on the 6th inst., by the Rev Vian Williams, asisted by Rev John Stoddard, James, eldest son of John Sinclair of Cullercoates, to Fanny Jane, only daughter of W. A. Brignal of Liverpool.

The marriage certificate records that the chapel was in Saville Street, that the witnesses were John Sinclair and Isabella Ella Marshall, and that James Sinclair’s Rank or Profession was “Tobacco Manufacturer”.  It also records that Fanny’s father, William Anthony Brignal’s occupation was “Journalist”.  It gives James age as 22 yrs and Fanny Jane’s as 19 yrs and states that both Fanny Jane and James were residing in Beverley Terrace.

The Newcastle Daily Journal of Thursday 12 October 1882, reports celebrations for the recent marriages of James Sinclair (bn 1861 son of John Sinclair) and his cousin, James (bn 1959 son of Robert Sinclair), who married Sarah Jane (née Brewis) in September of that year.

MARRIAGE CELEBRATIONS:  – On Tuesday evening, about 40 of the male employees of the firm of Messrs John and Robert Sinclair, tobacco manufacturers, of this city, were entertained to an excellent dinner at the Crown Hotel, Clayton Street, in celebration of the recent marriages of the Messres James Sinclair. After dinner, various toasts were given and duly honored, the toast of the evening, “Long life, happiness, and success to the newly married sons of the respected heads of the firm,” being admirably put by the Chairman (Mr Joseph Davidson), and enthusiastically received by the company. – Last night, about 200 employees of both sexes, including several invited friends, were further entertained to tea in the Temperance Hall, Nelson Street.  After tea, an adjourment was made to Northumberland Hall, Grainger Street, for the convenience of the unexpectedly large company, when Mr James Taite, jun., was called to the chair. A lengthy and exceedingly entertaining programme of songs, glees, violin solos, &c., was gone through, to the great delight and satisfaction of all present.  Mr John Sinclair, jun., ably presided at the piano on both occasions.

Grainger Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne poscard, posted 1902.

Grainger Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne poscard, posted 1902. [see more about this image, and the history of Newcastle at the Island Guide website.]

Sadly the newly wed Fanny Jane Sinclair only lived for just under 6 more years. Fanny Jane’s death notice:

NEWCASTLE, 17. Stratford Grove, Heaton, on the 20th inst., aged 25, Fanny Jane, the dearly beloved wife of James Sinclair, and daughter of W.A. and M.A. Brignal of Liverpool, and grand-daughter of the late Geo.Dodds of Cullercoats.

Above that on the same page in the BIRTHS section,

NEWCASTLE, 17. Stratford Grove, Heaton, on the 20th inst., the wife of James Sinclair of a daughter.

[See the Heaton History Group website for information about, and images of Heaton’s history]

Fanny Sinclair (22 yrs), as this daughter was named, was in the household of her aunts, Ann Lindsay (46 yrs), Jane Miller Sinclair (42 yrs), and Margaret Thompson (née Sinclair, 41 yrs) at 26 Beverley Terrace during the 1911 census.  Margaret’s husband Frederick William Thompson (accountant, 43 yrs) was also in the household, along with their children and some servants.

Fanny Jane’s older children were Marion Margaret (bn 1 Aug. 1883), William John (bn 1884) and Stephen/Stewart/James (bn c.1886)

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Filed under biography, fanny sinclair, james sinclair, john sinclair, liverpool, marion margaret sinclair, newcastle upon tyne, primitive methodist, tobacco, william anthony brignal, william john sinclair

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.

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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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