Many biographies have been written of successful men who began life under the poorest conditions and while this sketch, which consists of more facts than fiction, might appear like repeating an old story ...
From Pit to Palace: A Romantic Autobiography by James J Lawler. The Palace Publishing Company, New York (1906).
Just came across this strange book. It can be read or downloaded on the Internet Archive website. It's subtitle is 'A Romantic Autobiography' and is set in Wylam and Heddon on the Wall. It may well be an autobiography of the author, James J Lawler, but then why is the hero of the story called James Raymond? I can find neither of these named individuals in local records. The author's preface only provides this clue (the emphasis is mine):
Although many recognisable events, descriptions and named people do occur in the book there are also many errors. They could of course be put down to a poor memory of past events and places. There is also much that smacks of fabrication and a huge desire to set the hero in the best possible light. If it is an autobiography it is certainly high on the big-headed side and there is little modesty.
William Maxon Collingwood Wilson was born in Tynemouth, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1897.
The 1901 Census shows that he was living with his family at Heddon Hall in 1901.
His father was William Robert Wilson (43), a Solicitor from Bolton, Lancashire. He was born on 18th May 1857 in Bolton-le-Moors and died on 23rd November 1903 in Heddon Hall. He played cricket for Newcastle and Northumberland between 1879-80.
His mother was Mary Fenwick Wilson (31, born Newcastle).
William MC Wilson was the youngest of three children, having two sisters, Dorothy Foster Wilson (9, born Durham) and Phylis Fenwick Wilson (6, born Dinnington). In Heddon Hall in 1901 they were tended by 7 servants: Emma Ann Graf (19, governess from Switzerland), Mary Doughty (47, widowed uphostress, born North Shields), Euphemia Willey (25, cook, born Ovingham), Jane Maxwell (27, waiting maid, born Wigton, Cumberland), Elenor Ames (20, house maid, born Hylton Castle, Durham), Hannah Clewes (19, nurse, born Jarrow), Sarah Frances Story (9, kitchen maid, born Wigton, Cumberland).
There were two neighbouring cottages to Heddon Hall. One was occupied by Sarah Ames (51, born Newcastle) working as laundress, her son, James Ames (18, born Hylton Castle, Durham), working as a gardener, and two daughters. George Moore (33, born Benwell) was also a gardener, living in the other cottage with his wife and two young daughters.
The Wilson family cannot be traced in the 1911 Census and had clearly left Heddon Hall some time before. As we have already recorded in our account of the 1911 Census, William Robert Wilson was found shot dead in the grounds of Heddon Hall in 1903.
His death was recorded in The Shields Daily Gazette on Tuesday 24 November 1903, page 4, col 6.
NEWCASTLE SOLICITOR'S TRAGIC DEATH. The death took place yesterday under very tragic circumstances of William Robert Wilson, solicitor, of Newcastle. Mr Wilson resided at Heddon Hall, near Heddon-on-the-Wall, seven miles from Newcastle, and had lately suffered from sleeplessness, taking drugs to alleviate the trouble. Yesterday he left his residence in the morning with the apparent intention of going to business at Newcastle, and later in the day his dead body was found in a wood near the hall, shot wounds having caused the death. His body was found by his daughter, and a double-barrelled shot gun and a loaded rook gun lay by his side, one barrel of the former being discharged. The deceased was a member of the firm of Wilson and Wilson solicitors, Newcastle, having been admitted solicitor in 1881, and he had a considerable practice in the city. He leaves a widow and family of three. He was a keen sportsman, chiefly known as a dog fancier, and was a well-known member of the Kennel Club, his favourite breed being fox terriers.
William MC Wilson, aged just 3 in 1901, became Lieutenant Colonel William Wilson, and now occupies a Commonwealth War Grave at El Alamein, where he died on 25 July 1942.
A recent email contact from Sean Smart, Head of History at Shrewsbury House School, provided more information about his later life from a project on former pupils.
The family moved from Heddon sometime before the First World War and William attended Shrewsbury House School in Surbiton, Surrey. From there he went to Dover College and then, perhaps because of his North East connections, served in the Northumberland Fusiliers in WW1 as a junior officer.
He served in France and Italy, and was awarded an Italian medal for bravery (White Cross of the Order of Savoy)
and was mentioned in dispatches
After the war he served in the Indian Army and was eventually in the 1st Bn Punjab Regiment. Sean found out that he represented the regiment at George VI’s coronation in 1936.
A William M C Wilson is recorded on the ship Ranpura from London to Bombay on 24th June 1927, his occupation listed as the Indian Army.
By 1939 he was the Regiments CO and was serving with them on the NW Frontier of India. The regiment was moved to North Africa via Iraq and sadly he was killed by enemy shell fire at El Alamein on 25th July 1942. He is mentioned briefly in a very rare book called – The First Punjabis: A History of the First Punjab Regiment (Mohammed Ibrahim Qureshi 1958).
On 20th March 1924 William married Barbara Campbell Baldwin (b. 1903, Tateley, Hampshire) in Rawal Pindi, Bengal, India.
On 5th March 1949, Deirdre M.P. Wilson, the only daughter of the late Lt.Col. W.M.C. Wilson, and Mrs B. Campbell Wilson, of Yately, Camberley, Surrey, married Hugh Desmond Campbell Wilson, an officer in Royal Navy (retired 1953), at St Peter's, Yately, Surrey.
Sean finished off his email correspondence with:
PS – One more thing, if you do update his entry on your website, maybe you could mention we did add him to our School’s War Memorial this year since previous to our research project his death was unknown here.
Shrewsbury House School students managed to uncover the names of three forgotten soldiers missing from the school's First World War Memorial and are currently researching the names on their Memorial from the Second World War, including William Wilson.
Surbiton pupils uncover missing World War One soldiers' names - Surrey Comet,11th October 2013
Following on from the previous blog, The Waggoner, a Traditional Tyneside Song, research has now revealed, Heddon-on-the-Wall, a poem/song by James Anderson in his book, Blyth and Tyneside Poems & Songs, published in 1898 by J Fraser, Scribe Office, Blyth.
I must apologise for having tracked down a copy of this rare publication (at Cornell University Library in the USA) but now find there is also a copy a little closer, at the Old Jail in Hexham (Border History Museum). The book cover and several pages of the 126 page book (although not p59 where this poem can be found) are reproduced on FARNE.
It was clearly something we needed on this website and I have transcribed it in full below. Enjoy!
A lady called Jo-Anne Sunbeam got in touch asking the following question:
I am researching my Irish ancestors and find in one of the books written by Rev. Douglas Frazer Hurst (Presbyterian Minister) he states around the time of 1904 - 1915 he went to stay with relatives at Heddon Hall, Heddon on the Wall. He however does not state the name of these relatives and I wondered if you had the name of the people who rented it after 1903 and again in 1910.
As usual I had no answers but did put together a partial list of people I could find at Heddon Hall after it was sold by the Bates family in 1895.
Jo-Anne sent me some further information:
I have attached the relevant pages from the book "The Bridge of Life" by the Rev. Douglas Frazer-Hurst, who was born of Irish extraction in Walker on Tyne, Northumberland, his father being the local doctor there. I think he was there [Heddon Hall] between 1904 and 1910.
If anyone knows the names of Jo-Anne's relatives who lived in Heddon Hall between 1904 and 1915 please let us know.