Former MP Hilton Dawson tells story of Newbiggin families

A FORMER MP from Northumberland has written a book on the life of his great great grandfather.

Hilton Dawson from Warkworth who has wriitten a book about his family who were from Newbiggin
Hilton Dawson from Warkworth who has wriitten a book about his family who were from Newbiggin

A FORMER MP from Northumberland has written a book on the life of his great great grandfather.

Hilton Dawson, who spent eight years in the House of Commons and has lived much of his life in the county, has penned an account of Frank Renner in Newbiggin by the Sea in the 19th century.

Mr Dawson, who has also set up a pioneering project which aims to record the history of every family to have lived in Newbiggin, launched Frank Renner’s Bairns in the town yesterday.

The book uncovers the rise, tragic fall and ultimate resilience of the entrepreneur and his family.

Rising from humble roots in the fishing community, Frank takes every opportunity presented by the herring boom and the coming of the railway to become the local “kipper king”. He marries off one of his older daughters to a Tyneside industrial magnate but the collapse of the family business begins when Frank is found mysteriously dead on Newbiggin Moor on the very morning in 1887 when he is due to appear in court in Newcastle.

At the launch, at Newbiggin Maritime Centre, Mr Dawson said: “I have been researching it for some time.

“I think it is the inspiration a lot of people feel about wanting to find out where they came from and who they are and to follow up and properly research the stories I heard at my granny’s knee.

“It has turned into this book. It is a Catherine Cookson-style tale!”

Mr Dawson, who was born at a Stannington maternity home and lived at Newbiggin until he went to university, was inspired by his efforts writing the book to set up the Newbiggin Genealogy Project. While carrying out research at Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland archives and online, he has discovered 1,000 relatives living in the town. Mr Dawson is hoping the project will be able to record the history of every family to have lived in Newbiggin.

Around 100 people from the community are involved and a management committee has been set up, of which Mr Dawson is chairman.

Heritage Lottery funding is being sought towards appointment of volunteers who would help people develop their family histories.

Mr Dawson said: “My family have lived here for hundreds of years. This is one lot of really interesting stories which have come out of Newbiggin.

“But there are hundreds more to come yet and hopefully over the coming years we will tell a lot more about Newbiggin, about people living their lives and where they have shown enormous courage and resilience and intelligence. I think the book will stimulate that sort of interest and hopefully encourage other people to tell their family tales as well.

“We believe this is the first time anybody has done this in any community.

“It is a very ambitious task to try and include every single person who has ever lived in Newbiggin in a massive family tree.”

Mr Dawson, 59, who lives at Morwick Road in Warkworth, was Labour MP for Lancaster from 1997 to 2005. He is a former chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers and now runs Northumbria People, a company which provides advocacy, writing and publishing and funeral celebrancy, something Mr Dawson has recently qualified in.

Frank Renner’s Bairns is priced £7.99 from shops in Newbiggin, the Maritime Centre, Powdene Publicity and online at Amazon or www.northumbriapeople.com

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