Thomas Starr 1890-1957: A Hard Life for an Intelligent Man

This pictures shows my grandad, Thomas Barrow Starr, and my grandma, Florence Starr, when they got married in 1919. My grandmother’s previous husband had disappeared in the First World War.

My grandad himself survived the war, quite by accident. In 1914, every man jack wanted to be in the war “that would be over by Christmas”. To join up meant going down Middlesbrough. On hearing that grandad had walked from Portrack to Middlesbrough to get recruited, the recruiting sergeant asked “don’t your feet hurt”. On being told “just a bit” my grandad was marked down as “flat feet”, unsuitable for soldering, as the recruiting station was overwhelmed. This kept him safe, even when, later on, conscription came in.

My grandad had wanted to get into technical education in Stockton, and although he passed the entrance exams his family could not afford the fees. Accordingly, the rest of his life was spent labouring. For a time, he worked on a cogging steel mill at the Malleable, which must have been the reason he became quite deaf.

I only knew him in his last ten years, when his lungs were so bad, he was permanently on the sick. The last job he had was with lime kilns at the Malleable works, which must have been deadly. His working days finished when one day he arrived home at 17 St Anne’s Terrace, Portrack, only to hang over the garden gate, absolutely exhausted. Each day of the rest of his life, he would walk to the end of the street and stand in the alcove of the Portrack Pub, with his cap and long overcoat, out of the wind. What a waste.

Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

6 thoughts on “Thomas Starr 1890-1957: A Hard Life for an Intelligent Man

  1. Hi Fred
    Derek here, your grandad probably knew my uncle Dave who worked as a tool maker and lived in Dugdale Street where my grandad Arthur Metcalfe ran the Royal pub.


  2. I was wondering if Thomas Starr was related to my uncle, through marriage, Wilfred Starr. He married my Aunt, Aline Williams. Wilf emigrated to Benoni, South Africa in 1938, and died in Somerset West in 2006


  3. Sad that his parents couldn’t afford his future longing. He was very intelligent and life could have very different for his health, that would go for many I’m sure.


    • Yes, very sad, and probably not untypical. (It’s not really the same but mother was bright, passed the written exam for grammar school but was shy so failed the interview and ended up going into service as a housemaid, whereas her gobby younger sister did get in.)


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