Professor Willie Thompson

From David Connolly, Secretary of the North East Labour History Society

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of Professor Willie Thompson, he was the author of numerous books on socialist history and edited the Society’s journal for several years. Our thoughts and sympathies go to his family and loved ones.

Willie’s funeral will take place at Sunderland Crematorium in Chester Road on Tuesday 18 July at 2.00pm.

An obituary published by the Society for the Study of Labour History can be read here

Unite Community Membership

From Unite Community

People can achieve so much more when they work together.

Unite’s mission is to organise people to strive for a society that places equality, dignity and respect above all else.

But our union recognises that we can only achieve this if we bring people together from all walks of life.

Even now in the 21st century, too many people in our country are being pushed to the margins of society. They deserve to be heard; they too deserve the support to organise collectively.

It is with this in mind that Unite has founded its community membership scheme, making us the leading community trade union in the UK and Ireland.

Unite’s community membership scheme brings together people from across our society.

Those not in employment are welcomed into the union family, adding another dimension to our strength in thousands of workplaces across the UK and Ireland.<

Membership form and more information here:

New Edition of North East History – Volume 53, 2022

  • Black-On-Tyne: the Black Presence on Tyneside in the 1860s
  • Their Lives are Our Lives. The Black presence in Gateshead in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  • Nigel Todd and the Greening Wingrove Project
  • Roses and Revolutionists: Nigel Todd’s History of the Clousden Hill Community
  • The Progressive Decade? Politics in 1950s Newcastle
  • The Tyneside Boy Orator: The Legend Examined
  • The Labour Party in Newcastle: the struggle for office, 1945-1960
  • Uncovering Women’s Industrial Past: the Newcastle upon Tyne Branch of the National Federation of Women Workers, 1912-13
  • Red Ellen, Destroyed Intelligence Files and the Pause Button of History: the Playwright, the Biographer and Public History
  • What mining families remember about the Miners’ Strike in County Durham
  • Workers and Wages at Hetton Colliery, County Durham

Details from the NELHS Secretary.

Glasgow University: Oral history project on picket lines between the late 1960s and 1980s

Diarmaid Kelliher is a researcher at the University of Glasgow undertaking an oral history project on picket lines between the late 1960s and 1980s. If you were involved with picketing in that time and interested in talking to him, please email

Hannah Kent, winner of the 2020 Sid Chaplin Labour History Trophy

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.

Radical Bookselling History Newsletters

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:

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.

Doreen Henderson, singer and socialist, new entry on our Oral History pages

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:

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.

Report on the Annual Chartism Day Conference, in honour of Professor Malcolm Chase

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

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


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