Stoker Wilson's Family History Page

The Wilsons of Bebside

The website for the Family History of Stoker & Lynn Wilson

The Wilson Family

I am very proud of my mining ancestors! At least five generations of Wilsons (possibly seven) before my time earned their living in the mining industry. The miners of the North-East (and no doubt other areas) were a very special breed. They were industrious in doing a difficult, dirty and often dangerous work. Their endeavours helped to fuel the industrial revolution of the 19th century and, as wind and water power gave way to steam, laid the foundation for modern prosperous Britain.

The miners tended to live-in close-knit communities, clustered around the mines, which despite the hardships were wonderful places in which to grow up. I've called my immediate ancestors the "Wilsons of Bebside" but in fact they did move about the north east mining area around Bedlington and Choppington, but Bebside Colliery seems to have been the place they associated with for most of their time. I have many happy memories of my childhood living in my grandfather's house in Bebside. (My father "Jack" was killed WW2 when I was aged just 18months and because my mother had to work I was looked after mid-week in my grandparents household.)

The earlier Wilsons seem to have come from around Chester Le Street and the earliest Wilson I have traced with some certainty is my 3xGt. Grandfather, Robert Wilson (c1796) from Chester Le Street who married a Margaret Wilson in c1818 in Chester Le Street.

Robert's parents may have been Wiliam Wilson (c1776) from Fatfield, and Susanna Smith (c1775) from Chester Le Street married at Chester Le Street in 1795. If William is my 4xGt. Grandfather I find that an interesting fact since I was Vicar of St. George's Fatfield from 1998-2004, though of course St.George's had not then been built and Fatfield would have been in Chester Le Street parish. And Margaret's parents may have been Richard Wilson and Mary.

Before that William's parents have not been found, but Susanna may be the daughter of Robert Smith (c1750) and Elizabeth (c1750) at Chester Le Street.

To return to more certain ground the earliest Wilson we know much about is my 2xGt. Grandfather, William Moore Young Wilson (1820-1900). The various census' record his occupation as that of a miner, but an aunt said that he was a "sinker" and helped create Bebside Colliery. She said he was nicknamed "Sinker Bill". Sinkers were the skilled men who actually created the mines, driving shafts into the earth hundreds of feet deep. If my identification of Bill with a 20-year-old William Wilson in the 1841 census at Gateshead is correct, his occupation is given as "engineer", and this would support his occupation as a Sinker. Born in Gateshead, he was just some 10 miles from Wylam, the birth place of George Stephenson. Stephenson was born in 1813 and would have been developing his steam inventions as Bill grew up. There would have been considerable interest in the new steam power and other inventions of the time. The modern Bebside Colliery dates from about 1855, so that also would fit in with Bill"s timescale.

His son Robert Wilson (1854-1944), was my Gt. Grandfather, nicknamed "Keg" . He too was a miner, and in particular he was a "Master Wasteman". The Master Wasteman was in charge of all the Wastemen. They were important people amongst the miners, amongst other things they were responsible for keeping all the ventilation of the mine up to scratch, without this the men would die. As the mines were extended further away from the mine head the need to keep a good supply of air flowing was paramount. Any build-up of gases like "Marsh Gas", another name for Methane, could threaten a major explosion and loss of life.

Keg was also much respected for his work in mine rescue and was honoured by his colleagues for his endeavours in this field. One story told of him by my aunt was how, when a mine rescue was in progress, someone informed a wife that her husband was in trouble. She asked who was in charge of the rescue and being told it was Keg quietly carried one what she was doing, remarking that he was in safe hands. In 1905 he featured in the report into the Bebside mine disaster for his work in pulling out an injured miner and this was reported in the Morpeth Herald. In 1908 he was presented with a gold watch chain and medallion for his rescue work. My Aunt claimed that he was a subject of one of a series in the Sunday Sun newspaper called "Heroes of the North", though I have not yet been able to unearth that article".

Keg was, it seems, a bit of a rough diamond, and stories were told to me of him by his step-grand-daughter Lil High (Nee Morgan). She recalls one occasion when on a walk up "The Lonnen" at Bebside he sat to rest on a seat with his cap on the ground. A friend passing by put a penny in the cap as a joke. He was very angry! On another occasion, he was carving a Christmas turkey, and stopped and swore loudly - the crop has not been taken from the bird before it was cooked and served.

John (Jack)Wilson. 1889-1964)
My paternal Grandfather.

Keg"s son John Wilson, (1889-1964), always called "Jack", was my Grandfather. He was a father figure in my childhood. My dad was killed in action in 1940, and I lived most of my childhood in my Grandfather"s house at Mansel Terrace, Bebside. He served in the mines from being a boy of 14 until he retired aged 65 years. When I remember him he was a Colliery Deputy, Fore-Overman and acting Under Manager. He took me underground on several occassions as a young teenager to see what it was like in the mine. As I remember it the work of the mine was divided between three shifts, "fore shift" being I believe from about 2am to 10am. The Fore-Overman was responsible for the whole working of the mine underground during the hours of his shift. Jack was a man of fixed habits. Rising soon after midnight to go to work, he would return mid morning and go to bed until mid afternoon. After a midday meal (dinner to us northerners) he would usually spend some time in the garden, then go around to the local pub for a drink, before retiring early to catch up with some sleep before the next work shift began.

He was a man who faced much tragedy in his life. His brother, Robert Stoker Wilson, my namesake, was killed in the 1st World War. His nephew, another Robert Stoker Wilson, ("Bobbie") was killed serving in the navy in the 2nd World War. And his son, my father, John George Davison Wilson, "Jack" was killed in the 2nd World War. His wife Julia Annie Davison, died when still relatively young in 1947.

Like many miners he was a keen gardener and grew many of the vegetables the house needed. I learned a great deal from him.

I've already said that my father, John George Davison Wilson, was killed while serving in the RAF/VR in the 2nd world war. He served his time as an electrician and worked as a Colliery Electrician before volunteering for active service just before the war began qualifying as a Wireless Op/Air Gunner in Wellington bombers in 37 Squadron. The death of my father was a great tragedy for my mum, Annie Wilson (Coxon). Sadly they enjoyed less than two years of marriage and my mum cherised his memory and never married again.

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