Mary Jane Redican

This is an image of my maternal grandmother, Mary Jane Redican (1886-1912). She is also the grandmother of my cousin Jim McCurley, who is a regular contributor to this site. Mary Jane married Andrew McCurley, after whom I was named, in 1905. They had two other children apart from my mother and Jim’s father. Mary Jane died of rheumatic fever during 1912, aged just 25. Andrew McCurley died in 1916. The Evening Gazette of 26 December 1916 reported, “Fatal accident at Stockton”. A verdict of death caused by being run over by a cab, was returned at an inquest in Stockton today on Andrew McCurley, of 37 Waverley Street, who died at the hospital. It appears that on Friday night the deceased, when in Hartington Road, stepped off the pavement in front of an approaching cab, and before the driver could avoid the accident the wheel of the vehicle passed over Mr McCurley”. The cab was horse-drawn.
Folklore claims that Andrew had just left the Clarendon public house on Dovecot Street
As a consequence, all four children were orphaned, the eldest, Jim’s dad, was ten years of age and the youngest just five.
In those days there were only two options open to orphaned children, the workhouse/orphanage or be ‘taken in’ by the extended family. Fortunately, the latter was the choice for these four children. That did not mean that there were not hard times ahead, there were plenty, but it was far better than the alternative.

Photograph and details courtesy of Andrew Wood.

Stockton Amateur Stage Society

This is a picture of a Stockton Amateur Stage Society production, probably during the 1950s. While my mother-in-law Joyce Bullock (then Croft) was a member of the Society, we cannot see her among the cast. So, afraid we don’t know anything more about the image. Costumes are interesting to say the least, looking at the set and costumes I wonder whether this was a production of Heidi?

Photograph and details courtesy of Tony Meehan

Norton Cricket Club c1946

A team picture from Norton Cricket Club this time from 1946. The line up is as follows. Back Row (L-R: S Forster (scorer), Basil McQuillan, Tom Birtle, Harry Thompson, George Carter, Wilf Lawson

Front row (L-R): Dick Spooner, Freddie Harker, David Walford, David Townsend (captain), Jimmy Grigor, Edgar Manners.

David Townsend had played for England in the 1930s and Dick Spooner went on to play 7 test matches for England in the 1950s. A very strong team which won the league in 1946.

Photograph and details courtesy of Martin Birtle.

Billingham Football Club 1934/35

This photo is in an unusual format, it is a folded card the same as any greeting card with the image on the front and the players and officials names on the back, the inside is blank, possibly for a message.

It is titled Billingham Football Club but it doesn’t specify if it is The Synthonia or another Billingham Club. I remember the Synthonia and North End were the two teams in the 1950s and 1960s, the North End played on a pitch where the Forum now stands but in 1935 the ICI houses in the Pentland Avenue area were still under construction so that team were probably not yet formed. If anybody knows differently then please let me know.

Back Row L-R: Thompson (Secretary), Finlayson, Simpson (Captain), Redpath, Bains, Walker, Lowes, Ferguson (Trainer), Front Row L-R: Skeldon, Downs, McLean, Harforth (President), Thompson, Anderson. Unfortunately the name of the dog was omitted!

This picture is from 85 years ago and many of the people in it will have been born before the First World War. This card is one of a series all showing small town football teams such as Shildon and St. Helens, I wonder if they were for presentation to the players.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

Women Workers at Furness Shipyard

The first photograph from 1918 shows a group of women laying a rail track, I think this may be the track that ran from near to the fitting out basin along the river bank toward the perimeter fence near to the Transporter Bridge. The second is a photograph of that track with a steam crane on it, I remember seeing the same crane on the same track in the late 1960s, it was still working even then.

This photograph is from a newspaper cutting in my late fathers belongings, the text under the photo says “Dinah Carline and some of her mates, Furness Shipyard 1953”, unfortunately the article itself has been cut off. It may be possible that somebody will know Dinah Carline or even spot their mother, grandmother or great grandmother in this photograph. My father was a riveter and my mother was a burner in the Furness yard during the Second World War, my father never talked about his work but it must have had a great influence on his life as we found a number of books and photographs about the Furness Shipyard amongst his belongings.

Images and details courtesy Bruce Coleman.

Swimming Competition c1930

In 1930 The Northern Echo organised a swimming competition in the River Tees at Stockton, the competitors were marshalled on a barge moored alongside Victoria Bridge, I have no idea as to what sort of competition it was, a straight race or a marathon or what would now be called a Swim-A-Thon, but judging by the number of people on the barge and the bridge it was of some interest.

The building in the background interested me, I have seen it in a number of Stockton photos, it has an unusual arrangement of Oriel windows, I imagine it disappeared when the Clevo Mill was built.

Image and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

Peter Redican DCM, Stockton’s Forgotten Hero

The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) citation pictured here, belonged to my mother’s cousin, Peter Redican, who was born in Stockton on 16th April 1913. Peter served in The Gordon Highlanders during WWII.  I have not seen his official service record, so my knowledge of his military history before 22/08/1944 is very limited.

I became aware of Peter’s D-Day heroism by the late Dora Redican, who was Mayor of Stockton during1995/6.  Dora was at that time the widow of Sydney (Sid) Redican who had also been Mayor of Stockton (1985/86).  Sid was Peter Redican’s cousin and died in 2000, Dora passed away ca. 2010.  It was Dora who was kind enough to give me the original citation.

While doing some genealogical research about 20 years ago, I discovered that Peter Redican had a son and a daughter, but I have not been able to trace them.   I was able to make contact with several of his female cousins and one niece.  The cousins were quite elderly and most have now been deceased for several years.  Peter’s niece kindly provided me with a couple of photographs of him.  I’ve now lost touch with her.

I’ve no idea what happened to the DCM medal and thought that the original citation would be better placed, where it would rightfully given the appreciation it deserved, rather than just languishing in my filing cabinet.  Consequently, I made contact with the Gordon Highlanders Museum.  The original citation is now in the museum’s good hands at Aberdeen, where I feel that  it belongs.  Hopefully, it will remain there in posterity, as a testament to Peter’s bravery that day in 1944.

Ruth Duncan, curator of the museum, kindly undertook to carry out further research in connection with the “5th/7th Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders and the events leading up to and beyond 22nd August 1944.  It was my intention to take details from the results of Ruth’s kind efforts on my behalf, but thought that her own words would give a greater emphasis than ever I could.   The following represents her findings:

“5th/7th Battalion sailed from Tilbury Docks, Essex, at 9am on 5 June, 1944.  The landing, on the western side of JUNO Beach on 6th June, was unopposed.  5th/7th Battalion was the first unit of 51st (Highland) Division to land in Normandy, landing around midday. 

While the fight for Caen was going on, both 1st and 5th/7th Battalions were fully occupied to the East and South-east of the city.  With occasional breaks in reserve at Douvres, they fought in this area against tenacious German resistance for 2 months.  Small hamlets – Touffréville, Bréville, Escoville, Herouvillette, Colombelles – all had to be cleared.  The Gordons and their fellow units may not have gained much ground in terms of distance, but they played a vital role in tying up – and defeating – German troops who would otherwise be fighting in Caen or further west. 

1st and 5th/7th Battalions were both involved in the crossing of the River Vie on 18 August. 5th/7th were resting after their exploits at St Maclou when they were ordered at half an hour’s notice to attack Grandchamp, on the east bank of the Vie.  After an unpleasant night advance in the wet, they managed to cross despite resistance and secure the bridge”.

The entry into Lisieux is covered in the Regimental history, and in fact Peter Redican is mentioned by name in reference to the events of 22nd:

“Entry into the near side of Lisieux on 22nd August was undisputed. The Brigadier and his intelligence officer drove in, followed by Major du Boulay and the officer commanding the attached tanks; then came a company of Gordons and a tank squadron.

The Gordons pressed forward and were soon across the river. In the houses on the further side, however, S.S. troops offered a determined resistance and progress was slow. It was here that Private Redican proved his worth. His platoon were in an awkward position and at a critical moment he opened covering fire with his Bren gun, keeping it in action after being wounded in both legs. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross and eventually received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Eventually the men moved as far as the central square and then barricaded themselves in for the night. The next day the Battalion was ordered to help clear the houses and then find a position on the Lisieux-Paris road. It was a difficult task as they were pinned down by fire from well hidden Spandaus and the tanks moving in support of them were taken out by the Panzerfauste, but after much hard fighting, Lisieux had been won.

The emphasis relating to the recommendation for the VC is purely my own and it makes me wonder why a recommendation, presumably by his commanding officer would be turned down.  I’ve made enquiries about this and I understand that the recommendation would have gone before an awards committee, which would have decided what award was to be given.

I understood from what I was told, that Peter lost one or both legs following his bravery on 22nd August 1944.  Ruth hasn’t mentioned this and I have no way of knowing whether it is factual or not.

Peter’s father, John Redican (1884-1918) was killed just before the end of WWI, when the minesweeper on which he was serving as a stoker, was torpedoed.  John’s father was Irish and John worked at Thornaby Ironworks, where he was a labourer in the rolling mills.  John Redican and his siblings had all lived in Stockton.  One of Peter’s lady cousins told me that the hostility directed to towards Irish ironworkers crossing the Victoria Bridge, leading from Stockton to Thornaby, was so fierce that John & his family had to move their home to Thornaby.

John’s commemorative reference at the Naval Memorial, at Chatham, gives his widow’s address as, 19, Lumsden St., Thornaby on Tees. Apparently, the term “Irish” also referred to those born in England, but of Irish parentage.  I was also told that their identity was not too difficult to determine.

Photograph and details courtesy of Andy Wood.