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Bedlington Pitman'S Diary

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Here is a brilliant story for the forum members. Enjoy

137 years ago two young East Northumberland brothers, worried because of the declining number of jobs in the coal mining industry, decided to start a new life in Australia.

Nowadays, the journey is comparatively safe and a comfortable one, but not so then. For they set out knowing that they were almost certainly leaving the land of their birth for-ever and heading to a country still largely unknown. Their trip was by sailing ship, horse and cab, train and foot. Diesels buses and cars were still inventions of the future. But they made it.

The two brothers were Isaac and Thomas Hetherington, who were to become two of the first to emigrate "Down-under,†from East Northumberland.

To tell his family back in Bedlington just what the journey was like, one of the brothers, Thomas, kept a diary of the passage from London to the thriving coalfield of New South Wales. It is an enthralling tale, written by the hand of a man with virtually no schooling and whose only way of putting across what he had to say was to write what he saw and felt in plain and simple language.

He sent the diary home where it lay forgotten for many years, but it has eventually turned up for the Sixtownships to digest how hard it was for them in tackling this journey and the group has given permission for me to share it with the forum members of Bedlington.co.uk Here are extracts from the diary of this young pitman.

London, January 5th, 1886.

Dear brothers and sisters. I write to let you know that we landed at King's Cross safely but very cold and they told us we would have to wait a good bit before we could get a train for Aldgate Street, so we took one of the Company cabs. After that we had our dinners then we down the main street from our lodgings at White Chapel Street to try to get to the end of it, but we had to turn back after about walking about two hours and a half. When we were coming back we met more funerals than there is coal sets goes past besides when they are all at work. It is astonishing how many people you see here and not know anyone.

January 6th:

We left Fenchurch at half past nine and reached Gravesend at eleven o'clock. Then we went straight on to the Austral. It snowed all the time till we got our luggage out. We had a cold time of it.

January 7th.

We sailed from Gravesend about ten o'clock. It was very thick with fog. We had to drop our anchor after we went a short distance. Then it cleared away a bit. We tried again but we did not go very far till we had to stop again for all night.

January 8th:

We drew our anchor and set off again. When we were passing Dover there was a man along with us belonging Shields, the name of Dixon. He comes to me and says he had a good mind to get out and take the train to Cardiff. After that he said he had lost his bunk and we had to take him to it. Then he picked up all his clothes and came on deck and came right along and said he must not lose the train and he was just going to jump overboard with them when they stopped him. The doctor got hold of him and took him away.

We had a grand concert in our cabin last night. There was a good few passengers sick after she started to rock a little. You can very nigh throw a stone into Dover you go that nigh to it.

January 9th:

We left Plymouth after staying about one hour. J. Todd had to go before the doctor and tell them about Dixon. When he was coming out Dixon asked him if he was not going to pack his luggage up and catch the train. They say on board that he is right off his chump. There is a lot of passengers sick today. Isaac and J. Todd had to go to bed. We entered the Bay of Biscay about seven o'clock.

January 10th:

We had sailed 331 miles from Plymouth by half past twelve o'clock. They say she is going about 14 or 15 miles an hour. We had a birth on board today, but it was dead. We have had a good passage through the Bay of Biscay. We got through about ten o'clock at night. We sighted the lights of Cape Finisterre, that is just after you pass out of the Bay.

January 11th:

We are in the Atlantic Ocean now, we have run about 350 miles since yesterday. They buried the child today.

January 12th:

We saw a shoal of porpoise pigs today. They were still diving about in the water. We have gone 320 miles today. We passed Gibraltar Rock about two o'clock. There is some very high mountains just after you pass by it. We are going through the Mediterranean now.

January 13th:

We have gone 342 miles and there is a good many passengers sick today.

January 14th:

We have run 332 miles. We are going past a place they call Sardinia.

January 15th:

Today we ran 320 miles and got to Naples about one o'clock. It is a nice place to look at. As you are coming into it we stopped close by the burning mountain of Mount Vesuvius. The smoke was coming right out the top of it. The flames were coming right out of the mountain at night when we were leaving.

January 16th:

Morning we are passing through the Straits of Messina. Italy is on one side and Sicily on the other. I think it is better scenery than Naples. There is a great high mountain right along and houses right along the bottom of them.

January 17th:

The sea is running very high and she is pitching up and down just like a sailing vessel. There is one young lad belonging to the ship got washed down on the deck and was hurt a little. We have gone 200 miles since yesterday, but we have just been going half speed for a good few hours/ Three parts of the passengers is sick. The times I am writing this the water is coming over the fore-end and some of it is coming down our cabin steps. Isaac and the other two were all sick today and it was very rough right up till about two or three o'clock in the morning. It was as good as a play in our cabin, the boxes and tins were rolling about in all directions.

January 18th:

It is a good deal calmer today but she is rolling from one side to the other, but we are going a great deal faster. It is a grand sight to see the water running so high but it makes you feel rather queer.

January 19th:

We have had a good run today, 352 miles. We arrived at Port Said about ten o'clock at night. We are there. It is a nice little place to look at but I think it is about as bad a place as anybody could go into. The public houses is all like concert halls. There was two fiddle bands there half of them were women.

You should see them carrying the coals onboard. They are just like a lot of black devils. They carried about 1,300 tons on in about 13 hours. It was just like being on the pit heap everything was that black. Nearly all the men are dressed like women some of them like a priest. All the women that I saw going about the street you could not see anything but their eyes they had something like a net hanging down from their mouth.

January 20th:

It is just like a summer day here. I hardly know that I have been born till now. We left Port Said about one o'clock but we did not get very far up the canal till we had to stop and let two ships past.

We had to go very slow up. It is just like going up the river at the Furnace it is so narrow.

Note: The Furnace he refers too is Bedlington Furnace.

January 21st:

We passed through the Ismailia Lakes this morning. We had a lot of little Arabs running alongside of us. We were throwing them biscuits. It is a pleasant sail up the canal. We reached Suez about five o'clock at night. We left about one o'clock in the morning again. I have heard often about the sandy deserts but I have seen none of them till now.

January 22nd:

We are in the Red Sea now. We passed Mount Sinai. We are close into shore at both ends.

January 23rd:

The sun is that hot today they have put a canvas right over the deck to shade it off. We are right out of sight of land.

January 24th:

I saw a good sight at night looking over the side of the ship. The porpoises in the water was shining just like stars. The water was that smooth you could hardly know you were going.

January 26th:

We passed through the Straits into the Gulf of Aden sometime in the night. We reached Aden about half past nine in the morning.

January 27th:

They were trying what depth of water there was. They got to 80 fathoms and they were not at the bottom. We passed Cape Guardaful at night. They say it is about 300 miles from Aden then you enter the Indian Ocean.

January 29th:

We saw a lot of flying fish this morning. They are very small but some of them fly 30 or 40 yards. We get boiled rice and condensed milk twice in a week now. Anyone coming out should fetch a sheet with them the blankets are too warm and the straw beds are beginning to smell.

January 30th:

We had a bit of a disturbance in our cabin today. There was a few not satisfied with the meat we are getting and they are trying to get a paper signed to send to the chief steward but they failed. Taken on the whole I think it is very fair and they try to keep you as clean as possible. You can eat your meat off the boards.

You have got to alter your language a good deal or they cannot make out what you say. There is about eight of us from Northumberland.

January 31st:

We crossed the line today.

February 1st:

We had to sleep on deck last night. You could not stop down below it was that hot but they waken you at four o'clock on deck to get them washed. There was two or three men saying that they dare not leave the

port holes open in the fine weather that she was not fit to carry passengers.

February 2nd:

We passed five island this morning. They were all full of coconut trees. We arrived at Diego Garica aboot two o'clock.

February 5th:

We had another death onboard last night. An old woman about 70. It would have been something fearful if it had been hot this time because you cannot get them to keep the port holes open.

February 6th:

We are beginning to get rather weary of it now. You think it is a long time before you get across the Indian Ocean because you cannot see anything but water on all sides.

February 7th:

They say we are through the hottest of it now what they call the Tropics. There is very few onboard knows what part we belong to. Some of them asks us if we have come from Ireland and others Wales so we are highly honoured.

February 8th:

I was up in the morning soon on and I saw the seven stars - what we call Charlie and his waggon. I had a dream one night and thought the ship was coming down the Hathery Lane and we got into Swan's field and was going sailing about it. It has been a good deal cooler this past day or two. We passed a sailing vessel today, the first we have seen in the Indian Ocean. The heat was too much for brother Isaac's fiddle, it made the tail piece give way.

February 11th:

We had J. Dawn on shaving us. He did very well for the ship to be going. I was looking to be getting my throat cut. It is the whole talk now how long it will be before we get to Adelaide.

February 12th:

We sighted the shores of Australia today. Everyone was looking out. You would well nigh say we had never seen land before and everybody seemed that pleased.

February 13th:

We are out of sight of land again today. We have made a mistake in not bringing a few books to read on our journey.

February 16th:

We passed the Kangaroo Islands in the morning. They say it is about 108 miles from the starting of them to Adelaide. We reached Adelaide about 12' o'clock. I saw in the papers here that there had been some rioting in London and that there was going to be a meeting with the Socialists. I hear that Gladstone got into Parliament again.

February 17th:

All along the coast here you can see the smoke rising. You should have seen me and J. Todd on patching his trousers. We made a grand job of them. There was a shirt hung on deck today after it had been washed and you could see the great big lice running on it.

February 18th:

We put into Melbourne Bay.

February 19th:

We were up at Melbourne. It is something like Newcastle in England but the streets are a great deal wider.

February 20th:

We left Williamstown Pier at two o'clock in the afternoon. This is nothing like the same country here today it is that much colder.

February 21st:

The sea is rather roughish today but we are going very well. With her pitching many a time when we are eating our meals our plates would be sliding up and down and you just had to get a bite when they were going past.

The following day Thomas and Isaac Hetherington arrived at Sydney and on Thursday February 25th they landed at Newcastle. They found Australia far from being the promised land but despite hearing of unemployment and poor pay soon found work at nearby Wallsend Colliery.

Thomas ends his tale: "This is the country for young men. If I keep my health I think I will bide here altogether.â€

Yes a tale from long ago and so interesting as its from our neck of the woods.

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Great story John, no one on the trip seemed to realize how dangerous it could have been for them, I made the trip via Cape town many times and it took about 30 days to Sydney, via the Suez it took almost 2 months, any guesss how the town of Newcastle up the coast from Sydney got its name??? aal bet a few geordies put a word in.

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Great story John, no one on the trip seemed to realize how dangerous it could have been for them, I made the trip via Cape town many times and it took about 30 days to Sydney, via the Suez it took almost 2 months, any guesss how the town of Newcastle up the coast from Sydney got its name??? aal bet a few geordies put a word in.

i got no idea Micky how it got it name. Maybe someone will know and give us the details.

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Driving around the Newcastle area is just like being in the U.K. The towns were often named after coal mining towns in England, Scotland and Wales, my relies were in Kurri Kurri. I'm sure our down-under friend Brian can shed some light on it!

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This historical diary is brilliant, a World away from life today.

My maternal Grandmother was born in the 1870s in Tynemouth and my Great Grandfather was a mariner.

The pages give us an insight into life for ordinary folk and how they prove to be extra ordinary.

Have we any recollections of the family left behind.

Thank you for being a local historian who makes a difference in so many many ways.

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thank you Maggie for your comment.

It is nice to share interesting historical facts with forum members.

I will check out what else there is and get back to you.

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The new settlement, comprising convicts and a military guard, arrived at the Hunter River on 27 March 1804 in three ships: HMS Lady Nelson, the Resource and the James.[9][12] The convicts were rebels from the 1804 Castle Hill convict rebellion.

The link with Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, its namesake and also whence many of the 19th century coal miners came, is still obvious in some of the place-names – such as Jesmond, Hexham, Wickham, Wallsend and Gateshead. Morpeth, New South Wales is a similar distance north of Newcastle as Morpeth, Northumberland is north of Newcastle upon Tyne.


magnify-clip.pngChrist Church Cathedral dominates the skyline of Newcastle.

Under Captain James Wallis, commandant from 1815 to 1818, the convicts' conditions improved, and a building boom began. Captain Wallis laid out the streets of the town, built the first church of the site of the present Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, erected the old gaol on the seashore, and began work on the breakwater which now joins Nobbys Head to the mainland. The quality of these first buildings was poor, and only (a much reinforced) breakwater survives. During this period, in 1816, the oldest public school in Australia was built in East Newcastle.[10]

Newcastle remained a penal settlement until 1822, when the settlement was opened up to farming.[13] As a penal colony, the military rule was harsh, especially at Limeburners' Bay, on the inner side of Stockton peninsula. There, convicts were sent to burn oyster shells for making lime.[9]

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the geordie pitmen seem to have named the town

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There are some marvellous insights into Australia's Newcastle in Robert Shore's THE FATAL SHORE. Well worth a read.

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      A. A preposition - on. A this side - on this side.
      A. A verb. Aa wad a thowt se - I would have thought so.
      AA. Pronoun of the first person. Aa divvin'knaa - I do not know. In local works it is usually spelt aw.
      AA. All. Thor aa' gyen - They are all gone. l(s aa ower-It's all over.
      AA. To owe. Aa aa nowt - I owe nothing.
      ABACKA BEYONT. Far away. He lives abacka beyont.
      AABUT. Almost - ailbut.
      AAD. Old. An aad wife - an old woman. Canny aad soul - nice old soul. OwId is another form of the word.
      AA'D. I had. Aa'd better gan canny - I had better be careful. AA'D. I would. Aa'd a been there mesel - I would have been there myself.
      AAD-FASHINT. Old fashioned. AAFUL. Awful. She set off the aafulest shrieks.
      AAKWAAD. Awkward.
      AAL. All. Aal reet - all right.
      AAN. Own. Me aan fireside.
      AA WARND. I suppose. Aa-warnd ye think yorsel' clivvor?. I suppose you think yourself clever.
      ABLEEZE. On fire.
      ADIT. Horizontal gallery for draining a mine.
      AFEARD. Afraid. Thor's nowt to be afeared on. There's nothing to be afraid of.
      AGYEN. Again.
      AHAD. Hold. Get ahad on 't. Get a hold on it.
      AHINT. Behind. "There was a man following ahint to pick up the fish that were killed". S. Oliver's Rambles in Northumberland, 1835. Come in ahint was the drover's cry to his dog.
      AMANG. Among.
      AMAIN. Without check. When a set of waggons breaks loose they are said to run amain.
      ARGIE. To argue. Divvent argie. Don't argue. Also the phrase argyin' the toss. Till, sae ill? and sae tast as ye gae, ae man, I drawn twae."
      ARSE. Backside. An arse-loop was a wide loop in the rope by which a man was supported when repairing a pit-shaft.
      ASSAY. I say. Assay, what are ye dein there?
      ATWIX. Between.
      Ax. Ask. Ax wor lass. Ask my wife.
      AYE. Yes. A word continually used - why aye - Of course.
      AYONT. Behind. See Hexham proverb "He comes from Hexham Green, and that's ten miles ayont Hell."

      BAAD. Ill.
      BAAL. A ball. A stottin-baal - a bouncing ball. A clooty ball -a ball made of rags.
      BACK END. A term for autumn.
      BACK-SHIFT. There are two shifts normally worked down the pit. The first is the fore-shift, the second is the back-shift.
      BASTE. To thrash. Aa'll gie ye sk a byestin' as ye nivver got i' yor life. A baster ball was one made of paper. It was attached to string and could be used to attack other children.
      BAT. A blow. A bat i' the feyce. A blow in the face. BATTER. A drinking bout. He's on the batter agyen. In recent years it refers to prostitution. She's on the batter.
      BAY. An enclosure in outdoor children's games. Usually a place of safety. Thoo canna catch me. noo aa's in the bay.
      BEAK. The nose.
      BECK. A small stream, The name occurs sixty-three times in Durham but not in Northumberland (Wansbeck is not an exception.)
      BED-GOON. A bed gown and also a loose jacket worn by women in the harvest field. Later applied to any loose working garment worn by women. Hor bedgoon is laelock. - Her jacket is lilac in colour. (Cushie Butterfield).
      BEGOX. By God.
      BEHINT. Behind (but ahint is commoner).
      BELAA. Below.
      BELLYFLAPPER. A blow on the stomach by landing flat when diving into the water.
      BELLY-TIMMER. Food. This was the kind 0'belly-timmer, For myeken pitmen strang and tuiff Pitman's Pay.
      BET. Bruised by heavy walking. A bet foot.
      BEUK. A book.
      BEYUT. To boot. Something additional paid in a case of barter. For instance in bartering horses one will say "I will give you a pound te beyut" i.e. a pound extra.
      BID. To invite or command. Usually applied to a funeral or wedding so that a refusal was considered an insult. Dee as yer bid - Do what your told. Those who went round with the invitations were called bidders.
      BIDE. Wait. Bide heor. Wait here. Abide. Aa canna bide yon chap. Stay. Bide a bit.
      BIGG. Barley. Barley was once sold in Newcastle Bigg Market. BIGGIN. A building. Hence the place called Newbiggin. Also used in pits for a built up pillar of stones.
      BILE. A boil. Me bile's borst.
      BILLY. A companion. Ye silly billy is a friendly term.
      BIN. Hoo bin ye the day. How are you today.
      BINDIN. A term used when keelmen or pitmen contracted to work for a long period. usually a year.
      BING. A measure for lead. 8 cwts.
      BIRKIE. A smart fellow. Usually not an offensive term
      BITCH. To spoil some work. Ye've myed a bitch on't. You have spoilt it.
      BLAA. Breath. Get yor blaa. Rest till your breath comes back.
      BLAA. To blow. Blaa the leet oot Blow out the light.
      BLAA OOT. A "blow out", a drinking bout.
      BLABB. To talk loosely. He'll blabber and taak all neet. Hence the term blabber.
      BLACK-DAM. Carbonic acid gas sometimes encountered in pits.
      BLACKEY. The blackbird.
      BLACK PUDDEN. A food made of blood, suet, and herbs stuffed into the intestines of a pig or sheep. Brockett (1846) tells us, "This savoury and piquant delicacy is a standing dish among~ the people of the North."
      BLAIR. The bairns were blain'n'.
      BLASH. Any weak drink. Clarty Blash tea - weak tea. Their streets are like wors - brave and blashy. T. Thompson, Canny Newcastle.
      BLATHER. To talk nonsense. He jawed a heap of blather. He talked a load of nonsense.
      BLATHER SKITE. One who talks aimlessly.
      BLEB. A blister.
      BLEEZER. A metal sheet, to blow up a fire by increasing the draught.
      BLOGGED. Blocked. Refers to spouts and pipes.
      BLOOD ALLEY. A boy's marble, with blue or red lines.
      BODY. A person. She's a canny aad body.
      BOGIE. A small, low, four-wheeled cart. Often used by children for play. "In Dean Street, when carts or bogies came down, the noise made one's heart glad, one's lugs fit to strain," Gilchrist. 1835.
      BOILEY. Milk and bread boiled.
      BONDAGER. A Northumbrian word to describe a female field-worker whom the "hind" had to supply when he contracted to work for a farmer.
      BONE. To interrogate.
      BONNY. Good looking. But is usually used like "canny" to describe character as well as looks. A bonny bairn, a good looking child. A bonny singer, an accomplished singer. Sometimes it is used ironically to describe the opposite, a bonny mess; thor's a bonny game gaan on. The old song says: "My bonny keel laddie. my canny keel laddie."
      BOODY. A piece of broken pot. Bus 0' boodies.
      BOOL. Bowl. To play at boolin, a game popular in the north also means to bowl along as in bool your hoop.
      BOOZE. Drink. He's on the booze - he's on a drinking bout.
      BORD. A bird. Today it is slang for a girl.
      BORN. In Northumberland means a burn or large stream. See Ouseburn, Newcastle.
      BORST. Burst.
      BOWK. To belch.
      BOWLD. Bold.
      BRAN NEW. Brand new, quite new.
      BRANKS. A bridle to gag nagging women especially used in Newcastle. "The branks, a kind of brake is here, Wor faithers when a' else was vain, compelled the noisy jades to weer. Where're their clappers rain amain." Thomas Wilson.
      BRASS. Money.
      BRAT. A disagreeable child.
      BRAY. To beat.
      BRAZEN. Impudent, shameless. She's a brazen hussy.
      BREED. Bread.
      BREEKS. Trousers. A bran new coat, but aad breeks. A new coat but old trousers.
      BREWSTER. Brewer. Hence the Brewster Sessions where publicans apply for their licenses.
      BROCK. Badger.
      BROON. Brown.
      BUBBLE. To weep. Give ower bubblin' - Stop crying.
      BUBBLY JOCK. Turkey cock. Probably so called from the wattles hanging down his neck.
      BUFF. The bare skin. Stripped to the buff.
      BUGGER. A rough term of affection in the North. A canny aad bugger.
      BULLETS. Sweets. So called from the shape of a bullet. The best known were black bullets. still manufactured. Sells bullets and claggum for bairns. Wilson's Songs, 1890.
      BULLY. A brother, comrade. The crew of a keel were called bullies.
      BUM. Buttocks.
      BUMMLER BOX. A small house.
      BUMMLER. A bee.
      BUMS. Bailiffs who distrain. Some times called a bum bailiff from the practice of touching the debtor on the back.
      BUSS. A kiss.
      BUT AND BEN. Outside and inside. Refers to two-roomed houses with an outer and inner room.
      BUZZEMS. Besoms or brooms made of twigs. The song Buy Broom Buzzems was made famous by William Pui'vis (Blind Willie) born in Newcastle about 1752.
      BYEUT. Boot. A byeut i' the hint-end. A kick in the backside.
      BUM. Buttocks.
      BUMMLER BOX. A small house.
      BUMMLER. A bee.
      BUMS. Bailiffs who distrain. Some times called a bum bailiff from the practice of touching the debtor on the back.
      BUSS. A kiss.
      BUT AND BEN. Outside and inside. Refers to two-roomed houses with an outer and inner room.
      BUZZEMS. Besoms or brooms made of twigs. The song Buy Broom Buzzems was made famous by William Pui'vis (Blind Willie) born in Newcastle about 1752.
      BYEUT. Boot. A byeut i' the hint-end. A kick in the backside.
      Will continue with the letter C
      Just waiting on Mark typing it up.

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