From David Connolly, Secretary of the North East Labour History Society
It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of Professor Willie Thompson, he was the author of numerous books on socialist history and edited the Society’s journal for several years. Our thoughts and sympathies go to his family and loved ones.
Willie’s funeral will take place at Sunderland Crematorium in Chester Road on Tuesday 18 July at 2.00pm.
Hannah Kent, winner of the 2020 Sid Chaplin Labour History Trophy
In 2020, Hannah Kent won our Sid Chaplin Labour History Trophy – a miner’s lamp – for her brilliant dissertation on the Colonial Office hostels on Tyneside for African and Caribbean sailors and students, 1939-52. Because of the pandemic not only were we prevented from presenting the lamp in the usual way, at our AGM, but we were unable to award it at all last year. Hannah got to keep the trophy for two years, but now we have a winner for 2022, we arranged to collect it from her at the Discovery Museum on the evening of 10 August. This was an exciting occasion because it was the official opening of the museum’s exhibition, Stories of Service, which explores lesser known stories of the home front on Tyneside in WW2, and Hannah’s research contributed to its development! The exhibition is on until 25 September, and the article based on her dissertation (‘One Aim, One God, One Destiny’: an investigation of Black lives In Tyneside, 1939-1952) can be found in our 2021 journal.
In 2020 the Alliance of Radical Booksellers began producing a series of fascinating newsletters about the history of radical bookselling, publishing and journalism. The latest newsletter includes a history of John Cobbett.
Issue number 2has an article on Days of Hope, Newcastle’s Left-Wing bookshop between 1975 and 1986. The article is by Martin Spence who was one of those running it for a number of years.
Doreen Henderson, singer and socialist, new entry on our Oral History pages
In March this year we sadly lost the absolutely wonderful, kind, energetic, politically passionate spirit that was Doreen Henderson. Here, in an interview conducted for North East Labour History Society, we hear Doreen and her husband Bryan perform a song (A Miner’s Life, aka The Miner’s Lifeguard) that was a particular lodestone for them and their extended family, the internationally recognised Elliotts of Birtley. The images on the YouTube video show Doreen and Bryan at Doreen’s 90th birthday party, at the Newcastle Mining Institute, and at Durham Miners’ Gala in front of the ‘Cotia Banner that features both Jock Purdon and Doreen’s dad, Jack Elliott.
These words are from Doreen’s nephew, also a fine folk singer – Bill Elliott:-
Doreen Henderson, my “Auntie Dot”, has sadly but peacefully passed away aged 94. Anyone who ever met her, spent time with her or became friends with her, I’m sure will never forget her. A remarkable person, whose beliefs and values were never a mystery, but always evident and authentic. Her “Words” were always matched with “Deeds”.There is a wonderful Mining song, which she loved from the Kentucky Coalfields, called “Which side are you on?”. This is not a question needed to be asked of my Auntie Dot. She also had a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh. Her indomitable spirit and drive are encapsulated by her proudly marching with her “Walker” for 4 hours with the Cotia Banner at the Big Meeting in 2018 aged 90 years. She was a very proud Durham Miner’s daughter, who was passionate about the preservation and promotion of our Mining Heritage.
Report on the Annual Chartism Day Conference, in honour of Professor Malcolm Chase
In our Articles and reports pages now, see Mike Greatbach’s excellent Report on the Annual Chartism Day Conference Leeds 19 March 2022. This conference was held in honour of Professor Malcolm Chase
Blue Plaque Unveiled to William Parker, Ouseburn Chartist
On Friday 13 August 2021 the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor Habib Rahman unveiled a blue plaque to William Parker; Labourer, Chelsea pensioner and leading Newcastle Chartist. The plaque is situated at the Cumberland Arms on James Street, the site of the Byker Buildngs where the Ouseburn Charter Association used to meet in 1840-42. Parker was self educated, not only learning to read and write, but to display in his writings a wide reading and grasp of history.
Much of the work done to discover Parker’s life and work was done by Mike Greatbatch a researcher and writer who has contributed a number of valuable papers to the North East Labour History Society’s Journal. Mike, an active member of the Society, who has also edited a number of our Journals gave a fascinating talk about William Parker after the unveiling.
Among the crowd of about fifty people who attended the unveiling were a number of William Parker’s descendants. One of them, Councillor Erin Parker-Leonard gave a short talk.
Councillor Erin Parker-Leonard speaking at the unveiling of the blue plaque to her ancestor, William Parker
YouTube Performance: Learning about Local History at St Matthew’ RC Voluntary Aided Primary School in Jarrow
Year 6 at St Matthew’s have just completed a two-day workshop with the Bella Reay School Project. The children have worked with local teacher Peter Sagar, to learn more about their Geordie heritage.
They have learnt about many local stories including the story of Bella Reay – a famous female footballer; the Jarrow Crusade and what it was like during the Victorian days in the North East.
The project culminated in a Music Hall style production, which we have had to film due to Covid restrictions.
Archie Potts 1932-2021: Founding member and latterly President of NELHS
From Brian Bennison
It is with sadness that I pass on the news of the death of my colleague, friend and comrade, Archie Potts. Archie was a founder of the NELHS in 1966 and latterly its president.
Born in Sunderland, Archie left school without any formal qualifications and became a railway clerk, before doing national service. He took advantage of the education facilities in the RAF to pick up the equivalent of seven ‘o’ levels. When he returned to the railways, he began to take an active part in the Labour party and his trade union. Like many labour movement activists of his generation, Archie enrolled at Ruskin in 1956.
After Ruskin, Archie embarked on a career in tertiary and then higher education. He joined Rutherford College, soon to become Newcastle Polytechnic, in 1965. I came to know Archie when I joined the Poly in 1974. As an academic, Archie wrote many articles for labour history and socialist history journals and directories. In 1981 he co-authored for the Library Association a bibliography of Northern Labour History.
Away from the Poly, Archie was very active in the Labour Party. He stood as a Labour & Cooperative Party candidate in a parliamentary election and had a distinguished career on the old Tyne & Wear County Council.
Archie was something of an expert on North East boxing and boxers and wrote several books on the subject and another on wrestling.
Archie took a keen interest in politics to the end and was equally enthusiastic about debating the fortunes of Sunderland FC. Phone calls or visits to his flat on NELHS business soon moved on to more important matters. On many occasions I would tell my wife I was nipping out for a paper, only to return almost one hour later. She learned not to panic. She knew I’d bumped into Archie and we would be involved in serious and exhaustive discussion about the state of the region’s football teams.
Archie, an old school labour man, will be missed by many.