113 years ago today

My granda, Jonathan Doleman Webb, was born 9 July 1899 at Radcliffe in Northumberland. I never heard anyone call him Jonathan. It was always Jont or Jonty. Jonty was an intelligent man, but growing up in a mining family in the early 1900s he had little opportunity for education and spent his working life down the pit. This photo shows him ready for work. Take a look at the kneepads for crawling through the pit and the carbide lamp hanging from his pocket. I scanned it in situ in the album because the caption underneath is written by my granny. I remember this bike. He used to call it “Sputnik”.

He never talked much about his childhood and now, knowing what my genealogy research has taught me, I realise it must have been a tough one. His Dad Robert Webb was a pitman, and from the few family tales that have survived was clearly not an easy man to live with. Jonty was only two and a half when his Mam, Mary Davis, died of surgical shock after suffering a brain tumour for 8 months. I can only assume that big sister Annetta, who was about 9 at the time, had to roll up her sleeves and help out with toddler Jonty and four year old Edmund. Five years later their Dad married a widow Isabella Sharp and by the time of the 1911 census father, stepmother and the two boys were together but Annetta had left home to live with other relatives. At 14 Jonty started his working life down the pit which continued until he retired from Hauxley Colliery. I suppose I can be thankful that his young age and his occupation in the mines spared him from WWI in which he lost his big brother Edmund.

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