New issue of North East History – Volume 52 – 2021

Volume 52 – 2021 of North East History is now available. Details from the NELHS Secretary.

  • ‘One Aim, One God, One Destiny’? An Investigation of Black lives in Tyneside, 1939-1952
  • ‘A Bridge Across the Seas’: The Newcastle Migration Hostels for Boys and Young Women, 1927-1932
  • Children of the Revolution: Child Labour in Newcastle’s Iron and Glass Industries, c 1830-1850
  • Paul Robeson and the North East
  • The War Came Early to Sleepy Valley – Part Three, 1943-1946, D-Day Dodgers
  • Squatting in Tynemouth in 1946
  • The Labour Party in Newcastle: the struggle for office, 1945-1960
  • 1956: a year remembered
  • The Rise and Fall of Trade Union Education 1976 – 2021
  • What I Did in My Poly Days: Newcastle Polytechnic and Trades Union Education
  • ‘Let justice prevail though the heavens fall’; Thompson’s, the Miners’ Strike of 1984, and me
  • Scotswood: from green fields to green fields in a hundred years

Blue Plaque Unveiled to William Parker, Ouseburn Chartist

On Friday 13 August 2021 the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor Habib Rahman unveiled a blue plaque to William Parker; Labourer, Chelsea pensioner and leading Newcastle Chartist. The plaque is situated at the Cumberland Arms on James Street, the site of the Byker Buildngs where the Ouseburn Charter Association used to meet in 1840-42. Parker was self educated, not only learning to read and write, but to display in his writings a wide reading and grasp of history.

Much of the work done to discover Parker’s life and work was done by Mike Greatbatch a researcher and writer who has contributed a number of valuable papers to the North East Labour History Society’s Journal. Mike, an active member of the Society, who has also edited a number of our Journals gave a fascinating talk about William Parker after the unveiling.

Among the crowd of about fifty people who attended the unveiling were a number of William Parker’s descendants. One of them, Councillor Erin Parker-Leonard gave a short talk.

Councillor Erin Parker-Leonard speaking at the unveiling of the blue plaque to her ancestor, William Parker


A Message from the NELHS Treasurer:  Membership Subscriptions

Last year members were very generous in responding to our request for additional financial contributions to make up for the limitations on our activities due to COVID restrictions.   

Following the decision of the AGM 2020, the Committee has reviewed the Society’s finances and decided to increase subscriptions rates.  This was not a decision taken lightly.  Membership rates have not increased for many years.   On the other hand, some costs have risen and necessary development of the website and the Journal cannot be contemplated without a greater regular income.

The new rates are:

  • Full: £20
  • Students, unwaged: £10

Please add £5 if international postage is required.

What do you need to do now? 

 Contact details:

Judith McSwaine
NELHS Treasurer
12 Whitfield Road
Forest Hall
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE12 7LJ

0191 2665169


YouTube Performance: Learning about Local History at St Matthew’ RC Voluntary Aided Primary School in Jarrow

Year 6 at St Matthew’s have just completed a two-day workshop with the Bella Reay School Project. The children have worked with local teacher Peter Sagar, to learn more about their Geordie heritage.

They have learnt about many local stories including the story of Bella Reay – a famous female footballer; the Jarrow Crusade and what it was like during the Victorian days in the North East.

The project culminated in a Music Hall style production, which we have had to film due to Covid restrictions.

We hope you enjoy! It’s geed canny, like!

(444) Wor Bella Y6 2021 – YouTube

Archie Potts 1932-2021: Founding member and latterly President of NELHS

From Brian Bennison

It is with sadness that I pass on the news of the death of my colleague, friend and comrade, Archie Potts. Archie was a founder of the NELHS in 1966 and latterly its president.

Born in Sunderland, Archie left school without any formal qualifications and became a railway clerk, before doing national service. He took advantage of the education facilities in the RAF to pick up the equivalent of seven ‘o’ levels. When he returned to the railways, he began to take an active part in the Labour party and his trade union. Like many labour movement activists of his generation, Archie enrolled at Ruskin in 1956.

 After Ruskin, Archie embarked on a career in tertiary and then higher education. He joined Rutherford College, soon to become Newcastle Polytechnic, in 1965. I came to know Archie when I joined the Poly in 1974. As an academic, Archie wrote many articles for labour history and socialist history journals and directories. In 1981 he co-authored for the Library Association a bibliography of Northern Labour History.

 Away from the Poly, Archie was very active in the Labour Party. He stood as a Labour & Cooperative Party candidate in a parliamentary election and had a distinguished career on the old Tyne & Wear County Council.

 Archie was something of an expert on North East boxing and boxers and wrote several books on the subject and another on wrestling.

 Archie took a keen interest in politics to the end and was equally enthusiastic about debating the fortunes of Sunderland FC. Phone calls or visits to his flat on NELHS business soon moved on to more important matters. On many occasions I would tell my wife I was nipping out for a paper, only to return almost one hour later. She learned not to panic. She knew I’d bumped into Archie and we would be involved in serious and exhaustive discussion about the state of the region’s football teams.

 Archie, an old school labour man, will be missed by many.

For other appreciations of Archie, see:
Joan Allen’s appreciation on the Society for the Study of Labour History website
NELHS Facebook Page

Councillor Nigel Todd, 1947-2021

Nigel Todd

Sometimes it is only when we lose someone that we appreciate the size of the space that they have occupied. Nigel Todd, who has died unexpectedly on 26 March, was primarily a community activist but his interests were wide ranging: Greening Wingrove, the Bike Garden, tackling climate change and food poverty, fighting racism and fascism, his forty years as a Labour member of the City Council, producing three books as well as articles for our own Journal, his long-term commitment to the co-operative movement and the Workers Educational Association, and his championing of life-long learning and helping to bring about the women’s access course. For him, the struggle for socialism whilst working tirelessly and effectively to enrich the lives of the people around him in Newcastle’s West end were all part of the larger whole. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to his family and friends.

See also these tributes from:

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor
Workers Educational Association: WEA
Greening Wingrove and Arthur’s Hill
Co-operative News
Joan Allen, The Society for the Study of Labour History
Keith Flett
Chi Onwurah MP (Facebook)

For two of Nigel’s many contributions to North East History, see:
-Workers’ Education: centenary reflections, North East History Volume 50 and scroll to page 137
-Blitheringly Fantabulous. Ruskin College 1967-69, North East History Volume 47 and scroll to page 143

The North East Labour History Society will mark Nigel’s life and work with a number of appreciations which will appear soon.

New T-Shirts Available from the International Brigade Memorial Trust

The International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) is a registered charity that keeps alive the memory and spirit of the 2,500 men and women from Britain and Ireland who volunteered to fight fascism and defend democracy during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.

The IBMT looks after memorials to the volunteers, 526 of whom were killed in Spain, including 35 from the North East. It organises educational and commemorative events and works with schools and trade unions to teach new generations this inspiring story of anti-fascism and international solidarity. 

 Proceeds from the sale of these t-shirts will go to the International Brigade Memorial Trust in order to support their work and can be ordered at

 With thanks to Marie-Therese and Paul Mayne for this information.

Calendar now Available: African Lives in Northern England

Note from Sean Creighton:

The calendar which I was involved in producing with an informal group of historians and community activists mainly based in the North East has been posted up on the website of the Newcastle Society for Antiquaries.

The Society has devoted a special section of its website to the calendar including resources information including the link to my The Involvement of People of African Heritage in the North East.

Pamphlet and School Resource Chart

The project group is now working on a pamphlet with fuller detail about many of the people in the calendar and about some people who are still living. It will be published later this year.

It is also preparing a school resource chart with funding by Historic England which will have questions, activities and resources for teachers on its website.

The Unite History Project

Your union needs you! Your history is our history and to this end, Unite Education together with the Marx Memorial Library are putting together thoughts, feelings, recollections, triumphs and losses, through the eyes of those who were there – you our members. This ambitious project is called the Unite History Project and we’re asking you to join us in this quest to record forever the deeds of the past and present.

Unite education director, Jim Mowatt says. “All too often ‘history’ has been about the winners – kings and queens – with little or even no focus on the participants.

Unite’s History Project is about the women and men who often unwillingly, live through history. We want to capture these experiences, understanding impacts and contributions to the making of Unite’s past and present.”

Get involved at:

Hannah Kent wins the 2020 Sid Chaplin Prize

Hannah Kent has won the 2020 Sid Chaplin Prize for her essay: “One Aim, One God, One Destiny”? An Investigation of Black Lives on Tyneside, 1939 – 1952

Further details to follow.