In 2020, Hannah Kent won our Sid Chaplin Labour History Trophy – a miner’s lamp – for her brilliant dissertation on the Colonial Office hostels on Tyneside for African and Caribbean sailors and students, 1939-52. Because of the pandemic not only were we prevented from presenting the lamp in the usual way, at our AGM, but we were unable to award it at all last year. Hannah got to keep the trophy for two years, but now we have a winner for 2022, we arranged to collect it from her at the Discovery Museum on the evening of 10 August. This was an exciting occasion because it was the official opening of the museum’s exhibition, Stories of Service, which explores lesser known stories of the home front on Tyneside in WW2, and Hannah’s research contributed to its development! The exhibition is on until 25 September, and the article based on her dissertation (‘One Aim, One God, One Destiny’: an investigation of Black lives In Tyneside, 1939-1952) can be found in our 2021 journal.
In 2020 the Alliance of Radical Booksellers began producing a series of fascinating newsletters about the history of radical bookselling, publishing and journalism. The latest newsletter includes a history of John Cobbett.
You can find these newsletters on their website: https://www.radicalbooksellers.co.uk/?p=652
Issue number 2 has an article on Days of Hope, Newcastle’s Left-Wing bookshop between 1975 and 1986. The article is by Martin Spence who was one of those running it for a number of years.
In March this year we sadly lost the absolutely wonderful, kind, energetic, politically passionate spirit that was Doreen Henderson. Here, in an interview conducted for North East Labour History Society, we hear Doreen and her husband Bryan perform a song (A Miner’s Life, aka The Miner’s Lifeguard) that was a particular lodestone for them and their extended family, the internationally recognised Elliotts of Birtley. The images on the YouTube video show Doreen and Bryan at Doreen’s 90th birthday party, at the Newcastle Mining Institute, and at Durham Miners’ Gala in front of the ‘Cotia Banner that features both Jock Purdon and Doreen’s dad, Jack Elliott.
Thanks to Kath Connolly who transcribed her 2012 Popular Politics interview at great speed. It is now on our Oral Histories pages at: https://nelh.net/resources-library/oral-history/oral-history-political-organisations/oral-history-political-organisations-doreen-henderson/
These words are from Doreen’s nephew, also a fine folk singer – Bill Elliott:-
Doreen Henderson, my “Auntie Dot”, has sadly but peacefully passed away aged 94. Anyone who ever met her, spent time with her or became friends with her, I’m sure will never forget her. A remarkable person, whose beliefs and values were never a mystery, but always evident and authentic. Her “Words” were always matched with “Deeds”.There is a wonderful Mining song, which she loved from the Kentucky Coalfields, called “Which side are you on?”. This is not a question needed to be asked of my Auntie Dot. She also had a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh. Her indomitable spirit and drive are encapsulated by her proudly marching with her “Walker” for 4 hours with the Cotia Banner at the Big Meeting in 2018 aged 90 years. She was a very proud Durham Miner’s daughter, who was passionate about the preservation and promotion of our Mining Heritage.
In our Articles and reports pages now, see Mike Greatbach’s excellent Report on the Annual Chartism Day Conference Leeds 19 March 2022. This conference was held in honour of Professor Malcolm Chase
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
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.
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?
- if you use on-line banking, you can amend your regular payment. Please email me to let me know you have done this
- complete a new standing order form (attached) and return it to me
- send a cheque
12 Whitfield Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
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!
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.
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
Joan Allen, The Society for the Study of Labour History
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.