Appeal to solve mystery over South Shields grandmother’s box of old pictures

Frank Patterson and the mystery man
Frank Patterson and the mystery man

We all like a good mystery story, especially if there’s a satisfactory conclusion at the end.

And one reader is hoping to achieve just that after getting in touch with a family puzzle brought about by the discovery of some old photographs belonging to his grandmother.

Duchess of Montrose.

Duchess of Montrose.

Robert Newman, who is 80 in September, contacted the Gazette after puzzling over two pictures stored in one of the many boxes left behind by his gran, Emily Patterson (whose maiden name was Newman), and who lived in Ward Street, South Shields, as well as the Horsley Hill area of town, her last address.

The first picture that Mr Newman is keen to learn more about shows two soldiers (he believes they were members of the Durham Light Infantry) one of which is his grandfather, Frank Patterson.

“My grandfather is the one sitting down,” he said, “it is the other one that I am trying to identify.”

Mr Newman believes he may have the first or second name of Todd.

He is also keen to learn more about a postcard, showing a photo of the paddle steamer Duchess of Montrose.

“Quite a few of these paddle steamers were used as troop carriers, so I think there may be a link, though I don’t know.

“Even if it is not connected to the mystery man in the photo, I would like to learn more about it.”

But he is particularly keen to put a name to the soldier standing in the picture.

“If anyone does know who the mystery man is, if he has any relatives alive, I would like to get in touch with them.”

Meanwhile, family is very much on the mind of local historian Andrew Grant, who is continuing to research the lives of his ancestors.

As he delves into the past, he continues to unearth gems of information concerning relatives on both his mother and his father’s side of the family.

Today, he shares more of his findings.

“My uncle, William Thompson and his brother Ken, attended St John’s Church, in South Shields,” reveals Andrew.

“During his time in South Shields, my uncle taught, for a short time, in the engineering department at the former Marine and Technical College. He was good at maths and with computers.

“He was a qualified civil engineer, and together with another man (said to be an Inca prince), applied for and successfully gained jobs at the United Nations.

“His first posting was in Nyasaland, in South Africa, which became Malawi on independence, when Doctor Hastings Banda became president.

“Doctor Banda was educated at Christian schools in this country and was a qualified general practitioner. He had a practice in Tynemouth before moving back to his own country.

“On my father’s side of the family, I have discovered that I am related to Coun Edmund Hill.

“When he was Mayor of the town in 1935, he asked leading members of the Muslim world if they help the Arab community.

“As a result, they gave money to Coun Hill’s appeal, prompting the Arab community to thank him for his help and to offer prayers to him in their mosque.

“As far as I know, this is the only time this has happened,” added Andrew, who is a keen researcher, not only of his own family but also other people and events linked to South Shields.

Have you uncovered any interesting facts when digging into your family’s past? Please drop me a line if you have.