As the colliers form a distinct body of men and seldom associate with others, they entertain strong feelings of mutual attachment. When they combine or ‘stick’ for the purpose of raising their wages, they are said to spit upon a stone together, by way of cementing their confederacy. This appears to be a very old custom, the origin of which is lost in the remoteness of time.
The Colliers are at first put to work when seven or eight years old; and being confined in the most part, to their own society, they acquire distinguishing marks of character by which they are easily known from the rest of their countrymen; and the language, deportment and general behaviour of the different individuals are so nearly alike, that by an acquaintance of one them a tolerably correct judgement may be formed of the whole body.
They sounded a colourful bunch too and this is just the men!
In their dress they often affect to be gaudy , and are fond of clothes of flaring colours: their holiday waistcoats (called by them ‘posey jackets’) are frequently of very curious patterns, displaying flowers of various dyes; and their stockings mostly of blue, purple, pink or mixed colours. A great part of them have their hair very long, which on work days is either tied up in a queue, or rolled up in curls, but when drest [sic] in their best attire , it is commonly spread over their shoulders. Some of them wear two or three narrow ribbands around their hats, placed at equal distances, in which it is customary with them to insert one or more bunches of primroses or other flowers.
Malcom’s Grandfather Richard Spowart was the first generation of the family to be born in South Northumberland in 1880 at 70 Havelock Place, Backworth, and was still living there, this time at number 48 in 1901 before his marriage to Mary Jane Edith Hall, a miner’s daughter from Earsdon Square in 1905. It was to Havelock Place that the Spowart family moved in the 1870’s. In the 1881 census two of Richard’s uncles James & Mark were living with his widowed Grandmother Mary Spowart at number 37 Havelock Place.
The asylum account was charged to the parish of Berwick. A letter from Thomas G Dickson, manager of the Deaf & Dumb Asylum Edinburgh, proposed (on the suggestion of Mr Cook, Head Master of the institution) that the boy Robert Spowart should be retained in the asylum for one or two years longer, at a reduced rate of £6 per annum, so that he could benefit further from instruction by a local tailor. The Board assented.
The Board agreed to an application from the Deaf and Dumb Asylum Edinburgh on behalf of the Tweedmouth boy Robert Spowart that the reduced charge of £6 per annum should be paid for two more years so that he could learn the business of a tailor.
There are many, many other colourful characters in Malcom’s family tree, such as his 2x gt Grandfather, Alexander Turner, a Master Mariner and captain of the brig Eleanor of Blyth who lost his ‘papers’ when the ship foundered off the Jutland Coast on the 20th March 1884. In his application for replacements he simply states that as the ship took on water his papers simply “floated away”.
Some Useful Links
Whilst not open in time to benefit Robert Spowart, another point of interest that is worthy of note is the lasting legacy left by printer and philanthropist James Donaldson in 1830 to both the deaf children of the poor and the City of Edinburgh when the Donaldson School for the deaf opened its doors in 1850.