The author is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Durham and the book is an academic combination of sociology and history but mostly easily readable. It is of interest here because it is all about the life of his maternal grandfather, James Brown, who was born in Heddon in 1872. He moved to Throckley when he married in 1900 and died there in 1965 at age 93.
He was a coal miner and spent his working life in three local pits: Heddon Margaret, Throckley Isabella and Throckley Maria, all owned by the Throckley Coal Company. He retired in 1935. Most of his family life was spent in a colliery house, 177 Mount Pleasant, Throckley (in the area of the Sainsbury, formerly Co-op, store) and he had seven children.
He describes how his great grand-parents came to Heddon from Norfolk in 1872 seeking a better life. The village was dominated by its main land-owners and major employers: John Clayton who held over 11,000 acres in 1883, Calverly Bewicke (Close House 2,500 acres) and the Bates family (colliery owners). The large family of 19 children lived in Quarry Cottage backing on to Heddon Common on the Hexham Road (now demolished).
The early chapters deal with James Browns childhood in Heddon, how they lived, their recreation, school and starting as a trapper boy at age 11 in Heddon Margaret pit.
A fair proportion of the book involves the role of wife in maintaining the family and household, bringing up several generations of children often under difficult financial conditions and worries of pit disaster. It was a world of continuous striving for self sufficiency and maintenance of independence through their gardens, animal rearing and seasonal work on local farms.
Interactions with their community was through the village institutions: Pubs, Co-operative store, Working Men's Club, Chapels and Union.
Heddon was never a typical colliery village but Throckley village was wholly constructed around its pits. That these communities were on the periphery of the Northumberland coalfield kept them independent of the politics of the main mining areas but never isolated from the social and economic changes that swept and eventually destroyed the industry.