Author Archives: Peter Nicklin

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:

New Issue of North East History, Number 51: 2020

Volume 51 of North East History is now available. Details from the NELHS Secretary.


  • 1931 Labour’s defeat and NE England
    • Back in ’83: A General Election Revisited
    • ‘Memory Lingers Here’: Are Newcastle’s Monuments Sites of Collective memory?
    • A Time of Heroes: How we will be remembering the International Brigaders from Stockton
    • ‘Socialists and the Drama’: The Dodds sisters and the Gateshead Progressive Players between the wars
    • The Scammells are coming, hoorah, hoorah
    • A passion for miners’ welfare: two generations of Ashington’s Minoughan family, 1872-1969
    • Crowley’s Crew: From Royalists to Radicals
    • Experiences of place and loss at Newcastle West End Foodbank
    • The Primrose League on Tyneside, 1883-1901
    • Schools & Labour History

Volume 50 (2019) can now be downloaded from the Journal Pages of this website.

Podcasts: Lives on the Left: A Labour History Project hosted by Paul Simpson, Academic Tutor in History at the University of Sunderland

Each episode features a guest discussing the life of a key figure in labour history and those of specific regional interest include: John Tomaney on Peter Lee, Lewis Mates on Will Lawther and Sarah Hellawell on Marion Phillips.

Other talks in the series are on: Clement Attlee, Fenner Brockway, Jennie Lee, Keir Hardie, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Sylvia Pankhurst, Mick McGahey, James Maxton, Will Thorne and Peter Kropotkin.

You can access these talks at – an excellent series, essential listening.

New Articles and Reports on This Site

We have recently added a couple of new articles on our Articles and Reports Page:

So Much has been Lost; Change and Continuity; the NUT in 1970 and the NEU in 2020. Peter Sagar contrasts the state of the education system in the 1970s to the current commodification and rigid control of the curriculum. He discusses the perversions caused by the league tables such as exclusions of weaker pupils to improve exam grade averages. The late 19th century serves as a benchmark for a narrow, arid view of the role of public education, a place we are being taken back to.

In The Newcastle Sailor Who Ended Up An American War Hero Thomas Bagnall tells the story of Sunderland born George H. Bell who served in the US Navy during the American Civil War and, injured in the line of duty, was awarded the United States of America’s highest military honour.

There are also reports on last year’s Peterloo commemorations,  John Charlton’s excellent pamphlet on the Great Newcastle demonstration that followed Peterloo and Dave Temple’s history of the miner’s struggles “From Jarrow to Orgreave”.

History For Change Network

The ‘History for Change’ conference took place in 2018 as part of the Heritage Lottery funded ‘Homeless History of Newcastle’ project. The event celebrated local history projects with a ‘radical’ aim or theme, bringing together speakers from a range of projects across the North East and beyond.

Many attendees expressed surprise about the breadth and diversity of projects happening across the region and the social relevance of many local history projects, as well as regret that they often had been unaware of other groups’ work.

Northern Cultural Projects has been active in the fields of community history and heritage in the North East for over a decade.

In 2020 we want to set up a network of like-minded groups, organisations and individuals with an interest in community-driven history/heritage projects that challenge existing perceptions and focus on ‘hidden’, contentious and diverse histories in the North East, including projects that use history to shed new light on current social issues and to gain a better understanding of the present.

Membership will be free, and meetings will take place in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The network wants to

• Act as a hub and offer regular meetings to share ideas and exchange knowledge.
• Foster new collaborations.
• Invite experts from universities, funding bodies etc. to provide advice.
• Provide mentoring for groups and organisations to develop project ideas and funding         applications.
• Encourage the use of unused public and private space for events and exhibitions.
• Share findings and stimulate exchange and dialogue through a conference.

At this stage we are trying to establish if there is enough interest to go forward.

Please let us know if you / your organisation would be interested in becoming involved by replying to this message or by emailing <>.

We have also put together a short survey at
to find out in more detail what people would expect from this network.

Please feel free to share this information.