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Gertrude Bell: desert queen

Our talk in June will feature on of the BBC’s recent twentieth century ‘Icons‘. Born in Washington, Durham, Gertrude Bell was an adventurer, archaeologist, cartographer, historian, linguist, mountaineer, traveller and writer.

During the First World War, she became an Intelligence Officer and after the War played a major role in creating the modern Middle East. She was as vital to the history of that region as her friend and colleague, Lawrence of Arabia. It is interesting to note that the political and religious problems that Gertrude faced in the Middle East have changed very little in almost 100 years.

Gertrude Bell aged 26

Gertrude Bell, aged 26

Our speaker

Anthony Atkinson was born in Gateshead, attended St Cuthbert’s Grammar School, Newcastle and studied Economics at Clare College, Cambridge. He qualified as a chartered accountant and held various positions as financial director in industry before undertaking a management buyout acquiring 32 retail shops from Vaux Group Plc. After selling the business, Anthony reverted to his ‘first love’ of history. He is now a Newcastle City Guide, a volunteer for Friends of The Laing Art Gallery and also a volunteer guide at the Lit & Phil. This is one of his portfolio of ten talks.

Book now

Our talk will take place on Wednesday 26 June 2019 at The Corner House, Heaton NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.

 

Newcastle Hospitals: nine centuries of care

Our September talk will look at the development of hospitals in Newcastle from the 12th to 21st centuries, including the highly regarded and ground-breaking Freeman Hospital in High Heaton. The talk concludes with some observations on the past that should shape the future.

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St Mary the Virgin Hospital, 12th century

Our speaker

Reg Hall studied medicine at University College London and University College Hospital in London before spending a year at a mission hospital in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After completing surgical training, he was appointed as a consultant urologist in Newcastle. He went on to work with international cancer clinical trials organisations and established and directed the Northern Cancer Network. After retirement, he co-founded Cancer Connections, a cancer support charity in South Tyneside where he still volunteers.

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Newcastle Infirmary, 1753

Book now

Our talk will take place on Wednesday 25 September 2019 at The Corner House, Heaton NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.

Torn from Home: from Bosnia to Heaton

On 4 May 1980 a major news story broke. For all its importance, it probably didn’t have a huge resonance in Heaton, but it would nevertheless go on to have an impact on the life of that part of Newcastle.  It was on that day that President Tito of Yugoslavia died.  Tito and his authoritarian rule had helped to keep the former Yugoslavia together after the nightmares of WW2, yet in little over ten years after Tito’s death, Yugoslavia would be torn apart by ethnic conflict and Smajo Beso and his family would be torn from home only to find a safe place of refuge in Heaton. This is the story of Smajo and his family….and other Bosnians who fled the deadly war and horrific concentration camps of Bosnia and came to the sanctuary of Tyneside will have similar tales to tell.

Smajo Beso was born on 29 March 1985 in a little town in Bosnia called Stolac.  Although born in Stolac, which is a town of 18,000 people, he actually grew up in a small village called Barane. Smajo’s early childhood was pretty idyllic, living under a beautiful mountain, surrounded by nature. In the village there were only 44 homes and as a young boy this gave Smajo a great sense of freedom and adventure.

Smajo 5

Smajo is the little blond boy being held on the left

 

 

Smajo makes it clear now that while the conflict in Bosnia is often explained by using the argument that there were ancient hatreds, which just exploded like a deadly human volcano and there was an inevitability about it all, he doesn’t doesn’t agree.  He says that this is an outsiders’ explanation and simply not true. On the contrary, Bosnia was a country where people of different religions co-existed very peacefully. Jews, for example, were made to feel welcome in Bosnia when they were not welcome in other parts of Europe.

Smajo was brought up not to differentiate in anyway between people of different religions. Although from a Muslim family, he remembers going to a neighbouring Catholic family’s home at Christmas, while they bought Smajo’s family presents at Eid.  Smajo was raised to know that people celebrate different holidays at different times, but they were not different as people. In Bosnia the outward appearance of religion was not obvious, particularly from a child’s perspective; there were a lot of mixed marriages and people were not treated differently.

Signs of change

When asked how he noticed as a young boy that things were going wrong, Smajo replied that it was ‘not overnight’. However, he does remember one incident vividly.  Smajo was six years old and was living in a new home his family had just built. Smajo was playing outside but when he ran back in, he saw his mother crying, while watching television.

Looking back it was 1991 and Smajo thinks it was probably something bad happening around the area of Croatia and northern Bosnia. Smajo also remembers that,  ‘our Croatian friends disappeared overnight’.  They were worried about the Second World War and that some Croatians, working in tandem with the Nazis, had been involved in massacres of Serbs.  In the end only a few elderly Croatians stayed and then eventually only Smajo’s family was left in the village surrounded by the Serb army.

Smajo’s grandad and his brothers had helped to save Serb villages in the Second World War. Consequently, local people went into the street to say Smajo’s family should be protected. They were friends and still coming round – but now in uniforms. They were still friendly and Smajo’s dad knew the commander and he was able to reassure Smajo’s family that even though they were Muslim they would be alright.  However, local friendly soldiers started being replaced by others from further away, from Monetengro and Serbia and some locals changed. One person, who had been friendly, came round sharpening knives, saying that he was going to kill Smajo’s family.  He had been friendly just a week earlier.

Concentration camps

However. it was notable that other Serbs still came at night to bring food to Smajo and his family at great risk to their own lives, even when it came to really bad times.  There was still one local hospital open but when Smajo had to be taken there because he was ill, soldiers at roadblocks wouldn’t let Smajo and his father back in to the village.  The soldiers told them to go a nearby concentration camp.  Fortunately one soldier recognised the family and got into the car with them, so they were able to go to another house. The son of another friend got into his uniform and also got into the car.  Smajo and his family got back to safety. Smajo’s dad’s cousin not so lucky. He was taken to a camp and died a few days later after coming back. It was said to be a heart attack. Whatever the truth, it was surely brought on by torture.

Inevitably, there was a lot of propaganda, with rumours of massacres. By now Smajo and his family were completely cut off. Smajo’s dad  felt compelled to patrol with an old gun. His own father had fought with the Partisans against the Nazis in WW2 , but now Smajo’s dad was up against what was still then the Yugoslav army, then the fourth biggest in Europe. At one point a truck of Serbs came to torture and kill Smajo and his family, but were stopped by a Serbian friend.

Smajo’s family escaped from the isolated village of Barane and made it to Stolac, where there were other Muslims and there would be safety in numbers. Smajo’s dad joined with the Croatian army to fight against the Serbs but after a year all the Muslim men in Stolac were sent to a concentration camp – by the Croatians. Still a small child, Smajo escaped through a place of happy childhood memories from just a few years earlier. How different it all was now.  His first taste of war was playing behind his house and hearing shells. Smajo has noted that even when young you know when danger is around you. He understood then the panic he had seen earlier in the adults around him and what they had been talking about.

Smajo’s father and other men were arrested in July 1993 and put in a concentration camp by the name of Dretelj, which was to become known as the Camp of Death. Smajo’s father lost 27kg in his first few weeks there. He had been fighting the common enemy for the ideal of a multicultural Bosnia. Around the same time, Smajo and his friend had been outside playing in the town of Stolac, when they saw many trucks coming down the road. One of Smajo’s friends saw an uncle of his in the trucks. The men were being taken to be interrogated. Smajo’s dad went back to the front line to wait for inevitable capture while Smajo and the rest of the family remained at his uncle’s house in Stolac for over a month. The uncle was taken a few days later and they saw it happening. He had not been on the front line due to having an injury. One man who came to take him was his daughter’s boyfriend. He didn’t care who he took from Stolac. On 4 August, Smajo’s family were expelled from their old home and taken to a metal factory (Smajo’s uncle had been expelled from his home a month earlier and taken to the same metal factory to be searched and interrogated.) Smajo’s mother was forced to sign something to give away her earrings for ‘safe-keeping’.

Smajo 8

Document on which Smajo’s mum had to sign away her earrings ‘for safe keeping’

From there Smajo and his family were loaded onto trucks and driven until they were near Bosnian-controlled territory and then forced to march to safety. It was very hot and at one point Smajo stepped over a dead body. The elderly died on the side of the street and they were all shelled and shot at.

Escape to the UK

From August 1993 until July 1994 the family stayed in Mostar with Smajo’s mum’s sister. His dad was writing to the family through the Red Cross so they knew that at least he was alive. They had found out just before they left Stolac and then heard nothing for months. The camp he was in was eventually discovered by the Red Cross but by then Smajo’s dad had been there for four months, with nothing to eat but watery stew served in a tiny pot. The boiling hot stew was often so hot he passed it on without having any as it burnt his insides, so on many days he simply didn’t eat anything. In four months he lost 27 kg.  The Red Cross took out the 500 men in the worst condition to an island off Croatia where they were fed and treated. From there, Smajo’s father came to the UK, arriving on 19 January 1994. He was told he could go anywhere except Asia, Africa – or back to Bosnia.

Smajo’s father had to take a ferry, then a bus to Zagreb, walking on enemy territory, when he could have been killed any time. Indeed at one point he had to move away from Muslim haters on the ferry. He was then taken to a meeting point in Zagreb and then flew to the UK on a charter flight for refugees. Eventually, he reached Newcastle.

While all this was going on what happened to the town of Stolac?  Stolac had for long been known as the ‘Bosnia Museum in the open’. It had the best conserved historic core of any town in Bosnia, with wonderful archives and museums. The Croatian troops who went there in August 1993 torched every sign of Muslim existence – with even the local mosque foundations dug up and archives burnt.

This was the dreadful situation Smajo and his family were fleeing from when they were torn from home to land in the Heaton area of Newcastle.  Smajo himself had just turned nine and on hearing that he was coming to the UK  he found it on a map. He says now that,  ‘it looked small!’ He was however excited to get out. A peace agreement with Croatians had been signed, but no agreement had been concluded with the Serbs and the nightmare of the genocide at Srebrenica was still to come a year later. However Smajo was also sad at leaving grandparents, family and friends behind.  It was particularly difficult for his mother; she was leaving her parents behind to see her husband in Newcastle. Thankfully they did survive.  But around the same time the dangers of staying were sadly brought home only too clearly, when Smajo’s aunt (his mother’s sister), was killed by Croatian bombs well away from the front line. It was a senseless killing.

Refugees in Newcastle

In June the Red Cross picked up Smajo and his immediate family  so that they could join Smajo’s father. On route, they were regularly stopped by Croatians at road blocks before reaching a refugee camp in northern Croatia. They were then driven to Zagreb, before flying to London and a short stay in a refugee centre there – all part of the agreement signed by John Major’s government – before finally flying north to Newcastle. Newcastle Central MP Jim Cousins was among those who helped them get to Newcastle.

 

Smajo 1

Smajo, his brother and father, Gosforth, 1994

Smajo 2

Smajo, his brother and sister, 1994

Smajo 3

Family photo, 1994

At first Smajo’s family lived in a refugee centre in Gosforth before moving to a house in Heaton, just off Heaton Park Road.  Coming from a war zone Smajo found Heaton very peaceful – there was no sound of shooting. At night however he found himself having nightmares about Bosnia as he began to process what had happened. One particular recurring dream was of waiting in line for food. On one occasion when doing this for real back in Bosnia, Smajo and his family had been shelled, but until now, he had blocked this from his memory.

Chillingham Road schooldays

Soon it was time for Smajo’s first day at Chilingham Road Primary School. He remembers that he was taken there with a Croatian interpreter.  However, the school had not been told that he was from a war zone. What with the bad memories and no English language, Smajo was very quiet in his early days at Chillingham Road.  Consequently, the school requested a meeting with his parents to discover why he wasn’t talking and subsequently things improved.

At this point the deputy head of Chillingham Road Primary School at the time, Claire Webster Saaramets takes up the story.  Claire remembers going to the school gates that first morning and that she had no real knowledge of what Smajo and other children from Bosnia had gone through. She had seen the news from Bosnia on the television, but that was all. Chillingham Road Primary School was already a mixed community and very integrated. However Smajo was so quiet, not saying very much at all and this lack of English language left teachers unaware of the trauma he had gone through.

After the horrors of Bosnia, living in Heaton and attending Chillingham Road Primary School was a very positive experience for Smajo and others. They were able to feel a sense that they could just come and be who they were.  Music was important and was one thing that could be shared. After Smajo’s parents went back in to school there was lot of additional help.

There was often a song at the end of class and Claire taught the children how to sing it in Bosnian.  So it was that a year 5 class in Heaton learnt to sing in Bosnian, their class song with the title of ‘Goodbye my Friends’, a poignant song about leaving friends behind at the end of the school day. Smajo remembers this as, ‘just the most incredible and biggest act of kindness ever.’  He goes on to comment that, ‘this was something so simple but something so incredibly huge for me. It was a piece of home. I remember that first day walking home from school with a smile on my face. That’s no exaggeration. It was incredible how welcomed I felt, how human and real I felt. What Claire did I will never forget for the rest of my life and we can all learn so much for that one act.’

Smajo also remembers drawing two soldiers with a flag of peace and as his English improved was able to produce an autobiography with a picture.

Schools in Heaton did a lot to help the Bosnian community and others fleeing the war in the former Yugoslavia. Chiilingham Road Primary School held a mini project around peace, helping pupils to feel safe. Meanwhile nearby Ravenswood Primary School initiated a campaign to try and stop the deportation of a pupil and their family back to Croatia. The project at Chillingham Road was about making sure it was safe place, while the school was also used a community centre for several years with the Bosnian flag in on the wall of the dining hall. Members of the Bosnian community met every Friday and they also received great help from the caretakers at the school.

Smajo faced a number of initial problems at school at Chillingham Road Primary.   Most obviously there was the language barrier.  Consequently, at Chillingham Road it took quite a long time for him to make friends. He would stand forlornly looking and watching on the playground.  In his early days at Chillingham Road, Smajo would wait outside every morning, until it was time to come in. Fortunately it was a good Year 5 group and the teachers encouraged the playing of games, which Smajo could join in with. Ultimately it was the international language of football which helped, as playing football was the way he got friendly with people; Smajo had also played football in Bosnia.

At home in Heaton

As Smajo settled into his new life in Heaton, he found both good and bad things about it. On the down side, nearly all his family and friends were still in Bosnia and Smajo found himself feeling homesick. He and his family had a home, but it didn’t feel like a home at first. Happily, all that has changed and Heaton and Newcastle are very much home now.

Smajo  says that people in Heaton and the north east of England share a lot of similarities with Bosnians – they are friendly, with a lot of time for people, just like people in Bosnia. The Bosnian community helped each other, but there were so many other people who helped them. Consequently, they have integrated well, with many Bosnians becoming doctors or working in other professions. Smajo is proud to be Bosnian, but also proud that Newcastle is his home. Heaton is very much their home and most Bosnians in Newcastle live in Heaton and High Heaton.

Smajo sometimes thinks of what might have happened if he and his family hadn’t come to Heaton.   He states that they had no option but to flee. They escaped because of the agreement signed by the British government and that was what brought them here. They never knew how long they would stay here but are now glad that they did.

In terms of what people in Heaton and Newcastle can do to help those torn from home at time of war or other crisis, Smajo simply says to give them a warm welcome. It is a great credit to the people of Heaton and Newcastle that Smajo thinks that they should do whatever was done in the 1990s for the Bosnian community. Smajo notes that people here did that extra bit for them, acts of kindness from people in Heaton, such as having the class song translated into Bosnian.

And what is Smajo doing now?  He is busy completing his Phd in Architecture and teaching at Newcastle University.  He also spends a lot of time telling others of the experiences of himself and others in Bosnia in those dark days in the 1990s and helping people to understand what happened and how we must always be aware of the signs of impending genocide. The struggle against hatred and prejudice goes on.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Peter Sagar of Heaton History Group. Interviews with Smajo Beso and Claire Webster-Saaramets, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,  21 March 2019 with further comments from Smajo, April 2019.

Additional Source

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josip_Broz_Tito

 

 

Quarter Century of Women Priests in Heaton

On 12 March 1994, the first 32 women were ordained as Church of England priests in Bristol Cathedral. And just a few weeks later on 8 May 1994 , at Newcastle Cathedral, the first group of women from the Newcastle diocese were ordained.

Among them was Rev Joan Dotchin, a curate at St Gabriel’s Church, Heaton. Joan went on to be the vicar of the Church of St Mary The Virgin, Willington, followed by Willington Team Rector, honorary canon of Newcastle Cathedral and then vicar of St James and St Basil in Fenham.

A week later a further group of women were ordained including Rev Mary Chapman who had been a deacon at St Gabriel’s for several years. Formerly a teacher at Heaton Manor, Mary was chaplain to Wills Cigarette Factory and the John Lewis store.

St Gabriels women priests Joan & Mary

Joan (left) and Mary,  among the first Church of England women priests

In subsequent years several more women from St Gabriel’s became priests, Rev Sheila Auld, Rev Kath Batte and Rev Jenny Lancaster.

St Gabriel’s had been at the forefront of the discussions about the ordination of women for several years before this. The vicar at the time, Rev Michael Unwin was a member of General Synod (the Church of England’s parliament) and spoke of the essential and appreciated role that Joan and Mary had played in the parish before being ordained.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Robin Long, Heaton History Group.

Can you help?

If you know more about this story or have photographs or anecdotes you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

King of Swing: Heaton’s champion golfer

Asked to name the world’s greatest golfers and you’ll probably mention Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and perhaps, if you know your sporting history, Bobby Jones. But did you know that a young Heaton man coached the latter and, before his untimely death, was known as one of the great golfers of his age? In fact, James Douglas Edgar still has a place in the record books, as a century ago this year, he won the Canadian Open, by a record 16 strokes, a margin of victory still unsurpassed for any PGA Tournament.

Google Edgar’s name and you’ll find plenty of information about this remarkable sportsman but what you won’t read is that he was a Heatonian. Now, thanks to the painstaking research of Heaton History Group’s Arthur Andrews, we can put that right.

Town Farm

The story of the Edgar family of Heaton Town Farm has already been published on this website. In 1871 two nephews, John and Thomas, described as agricultural labourers, were living at the farm. One of them, John, would later become the father of James Douglas Edgar, who was born on 30 September 1885.

In 1891, John Edgar (40), a foreman land drainer on Christopher Laycock’s Estate, his wife, Ann (38) and their four children, Margaret (17) a dressmaker’s apprentice, John (15) a cricket club assistant groundsman, James Douglas (6) a scholar and Edward, recently born, were living in an upstairs flat at 45 Seventh Avenue. All four children had been born at Heaton Town Farm, so the family may have moved to Seventh Avenue soon after Edward’s birth.

EdgarJDE45SeventhAvenue

The Edgar’s Seventh Avenue upstairs flat

James lived in Seventh Avenue until his mid teens when the family moved to Gosforth.

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1 Heathery Lane Cottages, the Edgars’ Gosforth home, 1901

Pro

From a young age Edgar had caddied and played golf on the Town Moor. By the age of 16, he was working at a golf club and a year later was winning competitions with the United Workmen’s Club. He caught the eye of J S Caird, the professional of the City of Newcastle Golf Club, based on the Town Moor. Caird saw potential in Edgar and took him under his wing, inviting him to be his assistant at the ‘City’ club. Part of the job would have been making and repairing the wooden golf clubs of the time.

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City of Newcastle Golf Club HQ

In 1907 Northumberland Golf Club were looking for a new professional and J S Caird put forward J Douglas Edgar’s name for the post and so, in his 20th year, he took on this important role. By all accounts Edgar settled in well and was the complete professional – a competent player with a good swing and a powerful drive, a good teacher, golf club maker and golf club repairer. It is said that he was well liked but had a taste for drink – and women.

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Northumberland Golf Club

Edgar’s first big win as a professional was the 1914 French Open, which he  won in style with a score of 244 after 72 holes, beating some notable players of the time, including six time (still a record) Open winner,  Harry Vardon.

It was reported in The Journal of 10 August 1914 that Northumberland Golf Club presented Edgar with a gold half hunter watch, suitably inscribed and also a cheque from the members. At another presentation by South Gosforth Golf Club, Edgar was presented with another gold watch and a brooch for his wife in appreciation for his great achievement.

 WWI

But by this time, Britain was at war. At first, Edgar’s involvement was confined to playing in charity tournaments to raise money for soldiers but the following year, aged 30, he enlisted as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He was based locally, attached to No 1 Ambulance section.

Later in the war, Edgar was released to carry out munitions work at William Dobson Ltd, the Walker shipbuilders. However, on 24 January 1918 in reply to a letter from the Regimental Paymaster, Dobson’s stated that, while J D Edgar was still employed at the firm, he had not been seen for over four weeks. Edgar had submitted a medical certificate stating he was unable to work suffering from adhesions of the tissues to his left hip. The doctor’s note also mentioned that he was developing arthritis of the left wrist. The following month, the RAMC enquired as to whether Edgar had been admitted to the military hospital at Newcastle Barracks but he appears not to have been. Finally, in March 1918, Edgar was discharged, having been deemed unfit to serve due to an arthritic left hip. At this time, he was living in Gosforth Park.

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School House, Sandy Lane, J Douglas Edgar’s home in 1918

On discharge, Edgar stated that he was a professional golfer but that his plan was to become a farmer at Brunton, Northumberland. At first, however, he returned to Northumberland Golf Club but after a dispute with members of the club’s committee following complaints about offensive behaviour, Edgar handed in his notice and he took the huge step of emigrating to America with his family.

USA

 J D Edgar, his wife and two children, Rhoda (10) and Douglas (9), emigrated to the United States of America on 16 December 1919. They sailed from Southampton on the SS Adriatic and in 1920 were lodging with the Morse family in Atlantic City, Georgia.

Edgar secured a job at the new Druids Hill Golf Club in Atlanta, where he settled in well, being popular and amenable with the men and women of the club. This was also a time of unprecedented tournament success. He won the Royal Canadian Golf Championship in both 1919 (by 16 strokes, still a PGA tournament record) and 1920 beating the great Bobby Jones. He also won the US Southern Open Championship and was runner-up in the American PGA Championship, losing only by one stroke (Jim Barnes had won in 1916 and 1919 but no Englishman has won it since).

Understandably Edgar was also in great demand as a coach. He was credited by the great Bobby Jones as a key reason for his own success. He was also mentor and coach to Tommy Armour, who later won 3 majors and Alexa Stirling, arguably America’s greatest female amateur golfer.

EdgarCoaching

James Douglas Edgar

And Edgar’s influence went far beyond those he was able to coach in person. His book ‘The Gate to Golf’, privately printed by Edgar & Co in St Albans in 1920,  had a big impact on golf instruction right up to the present day. In particular the abbreviated golf swing Edgar had perfected because he was restricted by his arthritic hip, became the norm.

Ever innovative, Edgar had invented a device that he called the ‘Gate’, consisting of two pieces of shaped wood, placed on the ground, one piece being a modified tee. The idea was to get the golfer’s swing ‘Movement’ to address the golf ball without hitting either side of the ‘Gate’. As the golfer’s swing and accuracy through the ‘Gate’ improved, the two pieces could be moved closer to each other so that the golfer’s swing was finely tuned and perfected.

EdgarGate (1)

Edgar’s ‘Gate’ invention

Unfortunately, despite Edgar’s success, his wife and children did not settle in the USA. After less than a year they returned to Newcastle while he stayed in America.

Early Death

Sadly, within a few weeks of winning his second Canadian championship and before he could have another shot at the PGA he had so narrowly missed out on the previous year, the golfing world was shocked to hear that James Douglas Edgar was dead at the height of his golfing career, aged only 36.

He was found near the steps of his boarding house late one night by his room mate, golf caddie and assistant, Thomas Mark Wilson (also from Newcastle). Edgar had blood gushing from a severed femoral artery in his leg, (probably by a knife wound). He died on 9 August 1921 before reaching hospital. It was reported that Wilson had said that Edgar had tried to tell him something before dying but he could not make out the words.

At first it seemed that the golfer had been involved in a car accident but there was no impact bruising on his body. It was surmised that he had been involved with a woman, possibly married, and some person or persons sought revenge. Nobody was ever charged with the murder.

J Douglas Edgar is buried in Westview Cemetery, Atlanta. His epitaph was quite an accolade from his peers in the world of professional golf.

EdgarGravestone

J Douglas Edgar’s grave, Atlanta

Had he not died in his prime and overseas, J Douglas Edgar would surely have been widely remembered as yet another Newcastle, indeed Heaton, sporting great.

Can you help?

If you know more about James Douglas Edgar or have photographs or anecdotes you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Arthur Andrews of Heaton History Group. Thank you too to Jordan Cook, City of Newcastle assistant golf professional, for being so helpful on Arthur’s visit to City of Newcastle Club and arranging a meeting with David Moffat, winner of International and County Honours, as well as being five times Northumberland Champion. Also to the office staff of Northumberland Golf Club.

Sources

  • The Northumberland Golf Club Story’ / George Harbottle, 1978
  • The ‘City’ Centenary 1891-1991’ – 100 years of Golf at the City of Newcastle Golf Club’ / John Sleight,1991.
  • To Win and Die in Dixie: the birth of the modern golf swing and the mysterious death of its creator’ / Steve Eubanks, 2010
  • British Newspaper Archive
  • FindMyPast
  • Ancestry
  • https://archive.org/details/gatetogolf00edgagoog/page/n7

 

 

Windows Shopping: 111 years of Tyneside music

We’re all familiar with JG Windows’ music store in the fabulous Edwardian Central Arcade.

Windows2019

J G Windows, 2019

Heaton History Group’s Michael Proctor first knew it from searching for records on teenage trips to Newcastle and later from drooling over impossibly expensive hi-fi systems. Others may remember it as the place to buy tickets for almost any conceivable concert or event, from Shakespeare at the Theatre Royal to rock music at the City Hall and even the circus on the Town Moor, but when it first opened its doors it was to sell musical instruments and sheet music. The shop was opened by James Gale Windows, a long term resident of Heaton, so Michael decided to delve a little deeper.

Beginnings

James Gale Windows was born in October 1870 in Headington, Oxfordshire. He was the fourth son of Joseph Windows, a police sergeant and his wife, Fanny. The 1881 census shows the family still living in Cowley, with two more children, a fifth son and a daughter, with Joseph having been promoted to inspector. James’ eldest brother, Alfie, had left home by this time, but William, 18, was a tailor’s apprentice and Herbert, 14, a carpenter’s apprentice.

In his late teens, James moved to Newcastle, where he started work as a music seller’s assistant. The 1891 census shows him boarding with Annie Turnbull in Elswick.

In 1896 James returned home to Cowley to marry Maud Frances Hind, with the couple returning to Newcastle to set up home in Heaton. Maud, born in 1873, was the youngest daughter of Jonathon, a monumental mason, and his wife, Thirza. It seems likely that the families were close and James and Maud knew each other as children, as Jonathon’s death in 1910 shows his address as 17 Princes Street, the former home of Joseph and Fanny Windows.

Heaton

James and Maud’s early family life seems to have involved a lot of movement between houses, but always in Heaton. In 1899, they were living at 57 King John Street; in 1902, they’d moved to 124 Warton Terrace; in 1905 it was 21 Stratford Grove; 1908 saw them at 69 Cardigan Terrace and 1914 has the family living at 8 Norwood Avenue, where they stayed until at least 1927.

The couple’s first son, Maurice James, was born in July 1897 and their second son, Hedley Arnold, was born nine years later on 13 February 1906.

But it was in 1908 when the family’s fortunes really changed and the family name became synonymous with music on Tyneside. That was the date when James opened his own store in the highly prestigious, newly opened Central Arcade.

Exchange

The building itself had had a troubled history. The Central Exchange was intended to be the flagship of the Grainger town development. An unusual triangular shaped building it had facades on Grainger Street, Grey Street and Market Street and was intended to be the visual and commercial centrepiece of Newcastle’s Neo-Classical streets. It was built by Richard Grainger and designed as a Corn Exchange, but by the time it was completed in 1838, there was no need for an exchange. Instead, it opened as a subscription newsroom, where the wealthy gentlemen of the day could come to read newspapers gathered from around the world. Coffee rooms occupied space in the corner drums and the building became a focal point for Newcastle’s social elite.

017196:Central Exchange News Room Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown c.

Central Exchange newsroom

The fact that the building was not proving to be a great commercial success became apparent in March 1846 when a hand written share prospectus from Richard Grainger proposed to raise additional funds by selling 1,700 shares at £50 each. The prospectus notes that the news room had 1,300 subscribers paying 1 guinea each and produced an annual rent of £674 per annum. It then goes on to propose that a small increase in subscriptions of ½ guinea (50%) would allow the rent to increase to £1356. Grainger then set out the rent from shops, offices and coffee rooms as £1,340. However the premises were not fully occupied. As the additional rent he estimated would come from having the building fully occupied was £2,416, that suggests only about a third were occupied.

In the event, the share scheme was also a failure. Two years later, on 7 April 1848, the Durham County Advertiser reported that shareholders called a meeting with Grainger to hear the findings of a committee appointed to investigate the scheme. The committee recommended the immediate reimbursement of the shareholders. In the event, only 536 shares had actually been sold, with Grainger holding the remainder.

The first incarnation of the Central Exchange ended on Sunday 11 August 1867 when the building was ravaged by fire. When it reopened in 1870 the bulk of the building was occupied by the Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts and included an art gallery, concert hall and theatre.

055870:Central Exchange News Room Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown c.

Art gallery, Central Exchange, 1880

WindowsCentralexchangesign 2019

Central Exchange sign, 2019

This appears to have been more successful, but was again brought abruptly to an end by another major fire in 1901. This time, the building was completely redesigned to form an elegant shopping arcade with a barrel vaulted glazed roof, decorated using the full arsenal of Edwardian techniques with lustrous faience tiling, double arched entrances and a mosaic floor.

Arcade

Towards the end of the 19th century, public concerns were raised about the safety, hygiene and moral integrity of the city. One response was to build shopping arcades exclusively to display luxury and novelty goods to the city’s elite customers. The peak of arcade building was around 1890, so the new Central Arcade, which opened to the public in 1906, was unusual in being Edwardian rather than Victorian.

046892:Central Arcade Newcastle upon Tyne unknown December 1906

Central Arcade, 1906

This early photograph shows the arcade lavishly decorated for Christmas with an advert for a cafe on the balcony and even the latest technological advance, a public telephone.

It was into this luxury shopping arcade that James Windows opened the doors of his new business in 1908, just two years after the arcade opened. Originally, he appears to have had only the middle one of the three shopping units that the shop now occupies. Even so, this seems like a massive leap for a music seller’s assistant to open his first shop in such an environment. It’s not clear where he got the funding to do this as there doesn’t appear to have been wealth on either his or his wife’s side of the family that he may have inherited.  By 1911, it is obvious that the shop was doing well as the census shows the family had acquired that most essential of Edwardian middle class assets, a servant, Maggie Calder. The census identifies James as a seller of music and musical instruments and an employer. In 1909, James joined the Novocastrian lodge of the Freemasons, further establishing his position within the middle class elite of Newcastle.

War

With the coming of the First World War, James and Maud’s elder son, Maurice, signed up and fought as a private with the Cyclist Battalion. A vital part of the army that subsequently became the Signal Corps, cyclist battalions passed messages to and from the front line. His medal card also shows him having fought with the Northumberland Fusiliers. JG Windows’ own website records that both sons also fought in the Second World War, but no details have emerged. Obviously by the time of the war, the business had branched out into selling gramophones (and presumably records), as the Newcastle Daily Journal of 29 September 1915 records the donation of a gramophone from JG Windows for the use of the troops. It continued to expand to include radios in the 1930s and even provided for music and singing lessons. (The Newcastle Journal on 1 November 1940 records the success of a child prodigy, Maurice Aitcheson aged 14, passing the LRAM Performer exam at the Sigmund Oppenheimer Pianoforte School at JG Windows.)

After the war, Maurice Windows joined his father in the family business, as did Hedley when he was old enough and, later, Hedley and his wife Marjorie’s son, James Bowen Windows, who joined the business in 1961.

Legacy

James Gale Windows died on the 21 June 1933 aged 63. His address is given as 43 Oaklands, Gosforth, having finally moved on from Heaton. He left £7,997 16s 4d (around £380,000 in today’s money) to his widow, Maud, and to Percival Frederick Barras, Accountant. It’s not clear who Mr Barras was, but as he clearly had a call on James’ estate, it’s possible that he may have provided some of the financial backing to set up the business.

WindowsJGW memorial Gosforth parish church

James Gale and Maud Frances Windows’ memorial at Gosforth Parish Church

The business continued to thrive, led by Maurice, Hedley and James Bowen, expanding ultimately to three shop units in Central Arcade over three floors. At one point, they also had stores in Darlington, York and the Metro Centre, although Darlington and York are now closed.

Maurice died on 12 February 1962 and Hedley on 13 February 1996. In 2006 the company was purchased from the Windows family by three current and former employees and long-time associates. Although the Windows family are no longer involved in the day to day running of the company, J G Windows Ltd has stuck to the principles which have kept the company central to musical life in the North East for more than a hundred years.

Can You Help?

If you know any more about James Gale Windows or the Windows family and especially if you can help us find photographs of any of the people mentioned in this article,  we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Michael Proctor of Heaton History Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wor Woolies

Our May talk will elicit fond memories for many. In his richly illustrated and entertaining talk, featuring historic images and his own photographs, retail consultant Graham Soult will tell the story of Woolworths through its buildings.

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Can you spot Woolworths on the left?

Starting with the retailer’s UK launch in 1909, he will take us through all the highs and lows, including its first stores in the North East, its spectacular growth from the 1920s to the 1960s, and its subsequent decline and closure. Having visited and photographed all the former Woolworths stores in the North East, Graham’s talk ends with a reveal of what they have all now become.

Book now

Our talk will take place on Wednesday 22 May 2019 at St Gabriel’s Church, Heaton Road NE6 5QN at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). All welcome. FREE for Heaton History Group members. £2 for non-members. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154.

Parsons Memorabilia and Memories

You may have seen an appeal on BBC’s ‘Look North’ recently and from Peter Dillon at our last talk for anyone with Parsons’ works connections to look out objects from any of the Heaton works as well as photos and stories or memories.

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Turbinia, designed by Sir Charles Parsons and staff

Charles Parsons

Sir Charles Parsons

 

An exhibition is being planned in Birr, Ireland (where Charles Parsons was born and grew up) to commemorate 130 years since the Heaton works were opened and the organisers are looking for help from Heaton. Ruth Baldasera from Siemens says:

Did you, or one of your relatives work at C A Parsons or Parsons Marine or Grubb Parsons? Do you know anyone who knew a member of the Parsons family and do you have any anecdotes? Do you have any photographs, documents, brochures, newspaper cuttings or letters? Were you awarded with any objects at retirement perhaps which you are now happy to part with? Was there anything you made for an ornament, a bespoke item perhaps that contains part of a Parsons machine?

For example –

Pressure gauges from the test house which we know people took home and made into clocks etc

C A Parsons identification plates which people made into signs and coffee tables etc

100 year commemoration plates and booklets

Old bits of blades / blade roots used for example to make desk ornaments

Anything about the restoration of Turbinia

In particular we are desperately seeking a photo of Sir Charles son Algernon George, and the icing on the cake would be to find his war medals.

And we’d like your photos and stories.

Please email Parsonsheritageproject@gmail.com