Tracing the diverse faiths of South Shields’ man

Edward Story.
Edward Story.

Regular reader and local historian Andrew Grant, is used to uncovering interesting facts about his ancestors when it comes to researching his family history.

But even he must have been surprised by the theme linking so many of them together – the many and diverse religions of the world.

Here Andrew shares with us the ecumenical and associated thread that runs through his family tree.

“John Glenn, like many of my other relatives, lived in Scotland in the 1930s,” reveals South Tynesider Andrew,” he said.

“There he was a Calvinist Church of Scotland minister. He realised how lucky he was to be in such a privileged position, a university graduate and a theological graduate. He was a man of deep religious faith, and was kind and tolerant towards other people, regardless of social class, religion, colour or race.”

John Evans, another relation of Andrew’s mother was a fully ordained Church of Wales minister.

“He was a university graduate and a theological college graduate, someone who helped people who needed assistance.

“John Macshane, who was another great uncle of mine from Hebburn, became a Roman Catholic priest at Ushaw College, one of Durham’s theological colleges.

“However, he failed his final exams and so became the manager of a furniture store instead – quite a change in career.

“John, whose parents owned a business in Hebburn, was a kind and thoughtful person like his mother and father.

“Another one of my mother’s relatives, Edward Story, was a coal miner. He was also a Methodist lay preacher at Brancepeth, in County Durham, where he was also a councillor and justice of the peace.

“He was a good man and a pillar of the community.”

“My grandfather, John Charlton, and the two aunts he lodged with before he married my grandmother, were Quakers, living somewhere in Durham.

“I have also discovered that my mother’s many relatives shared a mix of religions, being Methodists, Calvinists, Roman Catholics, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims as well as being members of the Church of England, Church of Wales and Ireland, as well as the Polynesian native religion.”

From religion to politics and Andrew made a discovery linking his family with the overthrow of the Shah of Iran.

He added: “My cousin Jayne Thompson, who is married to Hugh Welsh, a solicitor by profession, have a daughter called Emma.

“She married an Iranian, whose parents were forced to leave Iran in 1979 after the revolution which overthrew the Shah.”

As with his family’s beliefs, Andrew’s relatives were a politically diverse bunch, as he explains: “Politically they were Conservatives, Liberals, Labour supporters and independents.”

How diverse is your family tree? Do you have any famous or indeed infamous ancestors that you can tell us about?

What did you discover about the people you descended from? Were they from round here or did they live further afield?

Another reader got in touch, this time hoping to track down a photograph that appeared in the Gazette more than 40 years ago.

She is Mary Beaton, who wrote from Scotland.

She emailed: “My mum has dementia and I am looking for a photo that was taken on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

“My mum is standing with Ted Heath and Maggie Thatcher, and the date would have been June or July 1971.

“She was part of s group of ladies from South Shields who petitioned No 10, and mum was the one who handed in the petition.

“I am attempting to make a memory book for her, so any help would be much appreciated.”

If anyone can help Mary with her quest, could they please get in touch with me.