Frank Renner's Bairns

Frank Renner's Bairns

Looking at the world through the eyes of a Northumbrian Family.

Launched on March 13th 2013
at Mary Joicey Room at Newbiggin Maritime Centre,
Newbiggin by the Sea.

Written by Hilton Dawson and published by Powdene Publicity.

Frank Renner's Bairns' uncovers the rise, tragic fall and ultimate resilience of a 19th Century Northumbrian entrepreneur and his family.

Rising from humble roots in the Newbiggin by the Sea fishing community and spurred on by an ambitious mistress and famed business associate Frank takes every opportunity presented by the herring boom and the coming of the railway to become the local 'kipper king'.

Social success seems assured as he marries off one of his older daughters 'the three most handsome women in Northumberland' to a Tyneside industrial magnate. However 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.

Published by:
Powdene Publicity
tel: 0191 265 0040


Purchase the book locally:
Al's Superstore, Ashington
Appleby's, Morpeth


And in Newbiggin by the Sea:
Cafe Indulgence
Linda's News
Newbiggin Maritime Centre
Trinkets, Treats & Treasures
and St. Bartholomew's coffee morning


Or on Amazon

The following decade and more takes us between the stately home and the workhouse form a 'whip round for the orphans' in Newbiggin to Hollywood as Frank's 13 bairns and their families range from distinguished success to horrifying incident to leaving it all behind and starting again.

This is a true and very human tale which ultimately shows the strength of the human spirit present in everyone's family - if we care to explore it.

BBC Radio Newcastle Interview on the Jon and Anne Show - 13/03/2013

Visit the BBC Radio Newcastle Website.

Hilton a Frank Renner's Bairns also fetured in The Journal on March 14th 2013.

Why not order your copy now for £7.99 from Powdene Publicity?

Contact Powdene Publicity on 0191 265 0040 or email:


Another tale from Northumberland

Now at the draft stage, find out the latest on Facebook.

A very political social worker

Published in January 2013 as a chapter in 'Becoming a Social Worker' - global narratives - ed Vivienne E Cree published by Routledge

Click here to read the essay.

A town starts telling its tales

Cobles at Newbiggin by the Sea

The organiser of the first Newbiggin by the Sea Tale Trail has hailed it an 'enormous success' with 27 people 'aged from 8 to 80' taking part in reading and story telling at 9 venues over 8 hours on Wednesday August 21st.

Director of Northumbria People and Chair of Newbiggin by the Sea Genealogy Project, Hilton Dawson says:

'Newbiggin by the Sea is 'the town of tales' and our first 'Tale Trail' attracted local people and visitors, young and slightly older to take part in telling some of them.

Some people stayed with us throughout the whole day, others dipped in and out. We had original poetry performed for the first time, a newly written children's work rated by four young participants, a story from the 1st World War accompanied by a display of medals , a very proud grandfather telling us of the world karate champion and international model who hail from the town and a superb session of story telling from Stan Green, Chairman of the local lifeboat committee.

Tales of Engelbert Humperdinck and Jack Charlton's involvement with Newbiggin by the Sea in the '50's were mixed with readings from the work of author John Braine and playwright David Mercer who both lived in the town, the latter setting one TV play there in 1963.

One lady newly arrived in Newbiggin by the Sea told us of her remarkable discovery that it was the Newbiggin lifeboat which had come to the rescue of her Jewish grandfather when the ship taking him from persecution in Poland had foundered in the North Sea in 1909. Closer to home we had wonderful examples of the camerarderie and solidarity of the mining community at Newbiggin Pit.

Old and new newspapers and magazines, guides, the documents produced by the Co-op and local churches to commemorate centenaries as well as works of family record were all used to produce an excellent reading and listening event.

At the end of a long and very rewarding day the group enjoyed some moments of quiet reflection amongst the peace and calm of St Bartholmews Church finally being enjoined by Rev. Peter Sinclair to go out and talk to others, gather more tales and learn from each other.

The very first person who spoke to me at the end wanted to know 'when's the next one ? ' My response was that it's already started. Newbiggin by the Sea Writer's Group is thriving, open to all and meets every 4th Tuesday at 7pm at the Arts Centre, Newbiggin by the Sea Genealogy Project has just appointed its development worker and is collating a massive amount of information developing publications, events, displays, Newbiggin Maritime Centre is developing enormously both in terms of the quality of its displays and in the range of activities it puts on. In November it will be hosting the 'Cap a Pie' theatre comapny working together with the Genealogy Project to produce a unique event - a workshop, theatre production and post show discussion.

Newbiggin by the Sea really has started telling its tales and a big 'thank-you' to the excellent people from Cafe Indulgence, Newbiggin Library, Bank House Club, White House Cafe, The Coble, Restaurant Due Fratelli, Newbiggin Lifeboat, Newbiggin Maritime Centre and St Bartholomew's Church and Creeful of Coals for their support.'

Tale Trail Programme

Fishermen at Newbiggin by the Sea

NB – this is the basic programme. It leaves plenty of room for ad hoc contributions, off the cuff interventions and anything that anyone wants to say.

10am – Cafι Indulgence

'Delving into the past can however, reveal much more than architectural gems. I have found a village which for many years was an 'island' in that poor roads made it self-supporting and that it contained people who were hardy, courageous and above all had a good sense of humour.' – Bill Harrison

'Strange death at Newbiggin – Morpeth Herald Jan 29th 1887'

'The Newbiggin Couple' – by Heather Peel

'Eventide' – Mike Kirkup

'The Journal' – August 19th, 20th, 21.

Pieces from The journal

Times August 21st

News Post Leader –

11am Newbiggin Library

Report from Church of England Infants School

Bill Harrison plate 7 – 'Very few infants are being admitted while several of the older children attend very badly in fine weather owing to their parents finding something for them to do in the shape of sorting their lines or seeking worms.''

Inspector's Report

Bill Harrison plate 8

'They (parents of the children at school) are the most ignorant and extravagant people I have come across. The father can always find money to spend in the public house and the children can be indulged in coffee and bacon in the morning besides a penny to come to school and a promise that they may stay away from school on Friday and yet they are constantly pleading poverty.

Children's writing


Hettie Hepple

12 noon Bank House Club

Simon Frazer – owner of Cowpen Coal Company

1938 Secretary of Bank House Club

Leo Mckinstry

Excerpts from 'Jack and Bobby' Read by Jackie Lowthian

Dr Reid on 5 Newbiggins

David Mercer – 12 Buteland Terrace 1950-53

'Where the difference begins' 1961

'A way of living' – Armchair Theatre December 29th 1963

- Conflict of generations and mining and fishing communities.

White House Cafι 1pm

John Braine – Room at the Top

Few writers have scored such a sensational overnight success with their debut novel, but that was John Braine's achievement with Room at the Top.

Initially rejected by several publishers. When it finally appeared in March 1957, Braine was working as a 13-a-week librarian at Darton, near Barnsley, and living with his wife and two-week-old son on Doncaster Road, Wakefield. Within a year his earnings were said to be 1,000 a week and he had bought a large house in Bingley for cash.

The book's genius was to tap into the mood of 1950s' Britain, when old attitudes were disappearing and working-class people – more than ever before – aspired to join the middle-classes.

Braine's central character, Joe Lampton, comes from a humble background and is bent on ruthless social climbing when he moves to a new job in a town that's clearly based on Bingley. He joins an amateur theatrical group where a young woman is attracted to him. She thinks he'd get ahead in the world a bit quicker if he was to become the son-in-law of a local millionaire (her father).

Reviewers lavished praise on Braine, the Sunday Times saying: "Remember the name... you'll be hearing quite a lot about him. Room at the Top is his first novel, and it is a remarkable one."

Within a month BBC's Panorama had sent the journalist Woodrow Wyatt to interview Braine in Yorkshire and hail Room at the Top as the most significant novel for a generation. Braine told Wyatt he had no plans to relocate to London "because it has ruined many potentially good writers". (Braine would move south nine years later and begin the process of self-destruction). He was quickly crowned one of the "Angry Young Men", the movement of radical 1950s' playwrights and novelists whose work criticised society's traditional values. They included John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, Harold Pinter, Alan Sillitoe and Colin Wilson.

Room sold 35,000 hardback copies in the UK in its first year – then unknown for a debut novel – and was made into a film starring matine idol Laurence Harvey and French screen goddess Simone Signoret, shot almost entirely on location in Bradford and Bingley. It was a huge box office success, won two Oscars, and helped the paperback edition of Room become one of Penguin's few million-selling titles in the 1960s.

Bill Harrison plate 5 – well on Woodhorn Lane

Coble Inn - 1.45

Dr Reid on publicans

1897 – Ann Jane Heslop nee Cowell

1828 paper from Parson and White

Fishing Coble – James Brown (and dealer in lobsters)

'Character of the Northumbrians' – Newbiggin's Democracy 1913

Billy the Whaler – Bill Harrison

Due Fratelli 2.30

'A Transatlantic Tale'

Between 1860 and 1890 four cables were laid between Newbiggin and Scandinavia.

Page 7 – Frank Renner's Bairns

Benny Bertorelli – plate 59 Bill Harrison

The U boat tale - Mike Kirkup

Lifeboat House 3.15

1851 and other disasters

January 14th 1808

The Anglia

Newbiggin Maritime Centre

Cooke – 1823 –

Newbiggin – Latimer Room

Ward Lock

1940's Newbiggin

Cretewheel – Mike Kirkup

'A grisly Newbiggin Tale' – Mike Kirkup

St Bartholomew’s Church

John Robinson – Trouble with a vicar

Tomlinson 1888


Vicars of Newbiggin by the Sea

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