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My maternal grandfather, James Alfred Gray, was born in Beacham Street, South Bank (no longer in existence) in 1893. He married Florence Towse, also of South Bank. He worked for Dorman Long at Clay Lane as a boiler man until his retirement.

James's official retirement picture from Dorman Long (he is centre with glasses).

James was in one of the work's Home Guard units in World War Two. He later moved up to Lime Road in Teesville and had three children, Harold, Connie and Alice (my mum). He died in 1976.

My father, Edward Hall, was born in 1918 in Horden into a family of coal miners. He didn’t enjoy the mining life, and on the outbreak of war, he joined up. He went into the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) serving in East Africa and Burma and eventually becoming a staff sergeant.

At some point during the war he met my mother, Alice Maud Gray. She was born in 1921. During WW2, she joined the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) as a nurse, serving at an emergency medical hospital in Hexham.

They were married in 1946 and lived with my grandfather in Teesville. My father joined Dorman Long post war and worked at Clay Lane until his retirement in 1978 at the age of 60. He died of a heart attack in November 1981 whilst helping erect a security fence around the headquarters of my old Scout Group (I was away at sea in the Indian Ocean at the time and missed his funeral by three hours).

He was originally a locomotive fireman, then driver and finally a traffic foreman; originally it was steam engines but later he worked on Rolls Royce Sentinel diesel engines (I have just restored his last railwayman’s Bardic lamp to use modern batteries and an LED bulb). Of his brothers and brother-in-law, who remained in mining in Horden and Blackhall, one was badly injured in a mine accident and lost the use of his legs and a second died from lung disease. My mother was totally lost after he died and herself died of cancer only 9 months later in August 1982.

They were very a traditional family, for the day and my mother never worked again after the war ended, staying at home to keep house (I was never sure if it was what she wanted or what the males of the family wanted) and volunteering for the Scouts as a helper (as did my dad).

Certainly, they encouraged both my older sister and me to take advantage of education and avoid manual jobs. I can remember as a 14 year old joining him for a shift during the school holidays (never be allowed through the gate now…). I think his intention was to show me how dirty and unforgiving the work was, but it just fascinated me; I got to watch one of the blast furnaces being tapped, ride with engine crew both carrying slag for tipping and molten iron to the BOS steel plant, and even helping my dad shunt empty wagons. I eventually joined the merchant navy as an engineer officer cadet with Cunard Shipping Services (not the passenger ships) and my sister became a primary school teacher.

Steve Hall is a volunteer for the museum and has donated a series of Dorman Long documents relating to both his maternal grandfather and father.

James Alfred Gray's nomination of payment of funeral money.

Edward Hall's Union Contribution Cards.

Edward Hall's Tickets to the annual Dinner and Dance.

Edward Hall's Loco man's sick club booklet, record of contributions.