Family hit by tragedy after they left South Shields

Putter boys working in the Durham coalfield in the 1920s.
Putter boys working in the Durham coalfield in the 1920s.

Reader John Bage contacted me recently to tell me how members of his family left South Shields in the not-too-distant past – only for several of them to suffer tragic death and heartache.

This is his story:

“In doing my family history, I found that my great grandfather’s brother, whose parents had originally come to South Shields from Kepier, in Durham, left Shields and settled in Brandon and Byshottles, while other branches went on to Easington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.

“Miners would move around the area to different pits once there was a decent rail network, so I would think a lot of people have links with other areas just like my ancestors.

“However, one miner who moved, William Gilbert Bage, went on to become the manager of the Crane Hotel, in High Street, Brandon and Byshottles, as noted in the 1901 Census, and then the Langley Moor Inn, Brandon and Byshottles, as recorded in the 1911 Census.

“How he made the transition from miner to pub manager I don’t know, but it would be a better life for him and his family.

“William Gilbert’s brother John George was also a pub manager at the Pineapple Hotel, in Sunderland.

“John George and his wife Jane both died in the same quarter in 1941. It is possible that they were killed in a bombing raid on the city.

“Their children went on to live in Wingate.

“Some of my ancestors may have regretted the move back to Durham, however, as they remained miners, and several lost their lives down the pit.

“William Gilbert Bage’s son Ralph, a stoneman, aged 27, was killed by a fall of stone on November 21, 1904, in Wingate Grange Colliery.

“He was holding a light for a workmate who was moving some stone to make a foundation when a stone fell from the pit roof and killed him.

“William Gilbert Bage’s brother, James Henry Bage, had been killed some time earlier on November 4, 1881, aged 15. A putter, he got his head stuck fast between a tub, and was crushed to death.

“My ancestors continued to move around the area, and some even returned to South Shields.

“What I have found out though is that I have lots of relatives throughout the Durham area, some of whom I have had contact with and swapped information.

“Many others moved on again to other parts of the UK, and also to many other countries where they settled. It really is a small world.”

John started his own website some years ago, charting the history of the South Shields shipyard of John Readhead & Sons Ltd.

The history of South Shields, from Roman times onwards, will be uncovered during a new course being held in the town, starting on Monday.

Local History of South Shields, with tutor Malcolm Grady, takes place at the South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, at 1.45pm.

Course organiser Susan Heptinstall of South Tyneside WEA said: “The course, one of several being arranged by the WEA adult education service, runs for 11 sessions and costs £55 or is free for those people on income-based benefits.

“This term, the course will look at South Shields through the ages – from Roman invasion, Norman conquest, Civil War, Georgian splendour, Victorian values and on to 20th century decadence, using artefacts and primary sources from the time.

“The course will be of interest to anyone interested in South Shields, social history or family history.

“Topics covered will be the Roman fort, Anglo Saxon monasteries, medieval fortresses, civil war battles, 17th Century sea defences, 18th Century town buildings, 19th Century values and more.

“The course usually includes a field trip, and students are encouraged to share personal memorabilia to enhance the course.”

Malcolm Grady has worked as a lecturer in continuing education for Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland Universities, and currently contributes to the education programme for the Joseph Cowan Centre for Lifelong Learning, in Newcastle.

“We are always looking for new people to join the courses,” added Susan.

• The photo in this week’s Gazette of the Queen opening the Tyne Tunnel in October, 1967, prompted me to dig out the following comments from former policeman Joe Todd.

He told me: “I am an old-time copper.

“I was the first copper to walk through and check the first Tyne Tunnel.

“I also remember listening to the factory buzzers sounding and work people running to work from the Jarrow bus station to get to work.”

• “I have just read the article on the Gaul. The story has fascinated me for many years.

Although much has been written about the vessel, I think that there are still questions to which we perhaps will never know the answers.

Please be assured that you are keeping up the good work of your predecessor, Janis.”

John T. Korn.

US Navy, Retired.