|At the time of writing, Mrs Nancy Pickering is
the Deputy Mayoress of South Tyneside and lives in South Shields. On a
recent official visit to Seaham for the Mayor of Seaham's Civic Service
at Christchurch Church, she revealed the proud connection she has with
Seaham through her late mother, Annie Elliott.
Picture shows (right to left) Mayor of South Tyneside Counc. Bill Brady, Deputy Mayoress Mrs Nancy Pickering, Deputy Mayor Mrs Kathy Brown and Mayoress Mrs Mavis Brady.
|Annie Elliott ( shown
left at 73 years old) was born in South Shields in 1889, the eldest of
William and Mary Jane Elliott's eleven children.
Most of Annie's school days were spent at Stanhope Road School in South Shields. In those days children left school at fourteen and the school catered for "senior" pupils as well as Infants and Juniors.
Life in the late 1800s was hard. Annie's father, William, was a miner. Regular employment was difficult to find in those days and miners had to travel from colliery to colliery as work determined.
|Nancy recalls how her mother never tired of telling her about the old days. For a while, around 1901, the Elliotts lived in Spittal near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At that time Annie was about twelve years old and had found work at a theatrical boarding house.|
Annie was no stranger to work. At a very young age, she had been expected
to miss school to "tak' up the bread". This was a common expression used
in NE England at the turn of the century to describe the tedious task of
kneading the dough (to make bread for the whole family of thirteen). So
Nancy came to Seaham Harbour with only a few bare essentials.
It was here that Annie met the Germans who had come to Dawdon to sink
the new pit.
The sinking of the pit turned out to be a remarkable feat of engineering. The Dawdon Colliery site was atop of the cliffs about one mile south of Seaham Harbour. The major problem expected in sinking the shafts was the torrents of water which poured through the Magnesian Limestone and Yellow Sand layers. Provision had been made to pump out up to 7000 gallons of water a minute.
George Stevenson the "Father of Railways" had made his early reputation
by producing pumps which overcame the water problems of pit sinkers 80
years earlier. But even modern-day pumps were helpless against the endless
torrents which were experienced at Dawdon
Freezing began in May 1903. The ground was frozen to a depth of 484 feet by inserting a ring of tubes into the earth and filling them with a freezing mixture of lime, ammonia and magnesium chloride. The process was so successful that when sinking started again in October 1905 it was necessary to use dynamite to blast through the frozen quicksand and limestone. By the spring of 1907 the main coal had been reached at a depth of 1321 feet.
Annie Elliott must have heard some fascinating stories from the Germans she waited on. She always referred to them as "sinkers" but they might well have been highly skilled "technicians" in todays terms. She often talked about having to wash their filthy clothes when they returned from work though.
What we do know is that Annie thoroughly enjoyed her time in Seaham
Harbour. She quickly became a recognised figure in the local community
and regularly attended the Methodist Chapel in Church Street. She became
friendly with a miner called Billy Newcombe and his family (Let us know
if you know of any descendants). Unfortunately, Billy was tragically killed
at the pit.
Eventually Annie became Head Cook for the Maxwells, a prominent South Shields family. From there she married Alexander Clark of South Shields and settle down to give birth to a family of five.
When Annie died in 1974, she was 85 years old.
If you have a story to tell of life and times in Seaham, please contact us.
Support for this page was provided by the Seaham Project.
Design and hosting by Dalton Internet which is part of the Dalton Consultancy Services group