Memories of the McHugh family shop

FAMILY BUSINESS ... George McHugh's father's grocer's shop at Laygate.
FAMILY BUSINESS ... George McHugh's father's grocer's shop at Laygate.

WELL, you really do not know what paths some stories may go off on.

For out of a tragedy at sea comes this wonderful image of domestic and commercial calm.

This goes back to an appeal from a reader in Brisbane, Australia, Donald Wilson, for information on the sinking of the Thornaby in 1916. His grandfather, George McHugh, the ship’s chief engineer, was among those lost.

I’ve since been thrilled to hear from my friend in France, Dorothy Ramser, who had turned up quite a bit of information on the Thornaby, one of Ropner’s fleet, which struck a mine in the North Sea, which I’ll be passing on to Donald.

In between times, however, it’s been good to hear from him again.

George’s death hit the family hard. Says Donald: “I have a family memoir of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Hindmarsh (nee Craike), in which she states that a survivor of the sinking called at their home to offer his condolences. She said he was a donkeyman on the ship, possibly a Russian and a great big man, and who was so upset at George’s death that he ‘cried like a baby.’ He said he was a wonderful officer. It was very pleasing to read. My great-grandmother also wrote that George was a gifted musician and had a good singing voice.”

George’s father was James McHugh and I’m very obliged to Donald for this lovely picture of the family’s grocery shop in Laygate Lane in Shields.