When it comes to tracing your family roots and learning about the lives of your ancestors, local historian Andrew Grant is a fine example of just exactly what you can uncover.
For in his research he has come up with lots of interesting and quirky facts, including how his father witnessed Oswald Mosley’s black-shirted supporters selling their Fascist propaganda on the streets of South Streets.
In another piece of research he discovered how his uncle learned to ski – while serving with an Italian mountain regiment during the Second World War.
Andrew, who lives in Biddick Hall, has been researching his family’s history for a little while now.
These are some of the findings that he has come up with so far.
“My late grandfather, Lewis Grant, who my father was named after, fought in the trenches in the First World War in France,” explains Andrew.
“He won several medals for bravery while serving with the Royal Engineers.
“Further research showed that while he was defending with the French, alongside his fellow English soldiers, he was nearly killed.
“The Germans fired at them and killed men on both sides of him, but he, by some fluke of nature, survived.”
But another of Andrew’s relatives was not so lucky.
“My uncle, James Grant, was only 19 when he was killed at Ypres,” he said.
“A member of my father’s family has visited his grave in Belgium. Sadly this is something I have not been able to achieve.”
As with most families, many of Andrew’s descendants fought in the Great War, as his research uncovered.
“My grandfather, Lewis Grant, also fought in the First World War, and despite much hard fighting, he survived to come home.”
And talking of home: “Other great uncles, such as James Hall, joined the Home Guard during the First World War,” added Andrew.
From one worldwide conflict to another, and Andrew’s research took him to the Second World War.
“My uncle, James Grant, my father’s brother, fought in the Second World War and he won several medals, such as the Africa Star.
“He not only served in Africa but also in Europe where he fought with an Italian mountain regiment.
“The army is where my uncle learned to ski.
“I’m happy to say I have a photograph of him with some of his army friends.”
When James returned to South Shields, he took charge of his own business in town.
“My research has also shown that one of my father’s relations was a director of the Stag Line shipping company.
“Further studies into my father’s family discovered that my father saw the black shirts selling their paper on the one side of the road in King Street in South Shields while the communists sold their paper on the other side of the street.
“Researching further still, I found out that my father led a lady to safety when Sir Oswald Mosley came to speak in South Shields” (no doubt due to the trouble that generally followed any black shirt gathering).
“Another interesting fact that I discovered was that some of my father’s relatives went to live in America in the early 1800s.
“I still have relatives living in New York today, as well as Australia after another of my father’s relations went to live there, and ended up running hotels in the country.”
Finally, Andrew was delighted to learn that he has royal blood flowing through his veins, saying: “Apparently I am descended from King Kenneth and his grandson King Constantine.”