Tales of a great track record

Morpeth and District U3A

BETWEEN the Lines was the double-edged title of the presentation at the last meeting of Morpeth U3A, an excellent audio visual presentation on the life of George Stephenson, produced by Ron Henry.

This was not the usual story of that great man of railways, but little known facts surrounding his life and times. Divided into two parts, the northern and southern, and reading between the lines, a very different view of George Stephenson emerged.

Born in 1781 in one room in a house in Wylam shared by 26 people, George grew up working on colliery engines while studying at night classes in Walbottle. By 19 years of age, he could read and write.

He made a pair of boots for his lady-love, but was not accepted so turned his attention to her older sister, marrying her in 1802.

From jobs in Killingworth and Montrose, his career progressed and he was given a licence to repair any engine used in the pits. At the time of the invention of the Davey Safety Lamp, Stephenson also invented a safety lamp. He also built the Blucher engine, which was a steam locomotive that could draw 30 tonnes of coal at 4mph.

George also worked in a factory in Newcastle making railway engines and, with his son Robert, built The Rocket in 1829, which carried passengers at a speed of 36mph. To take the engine south, Stephenson dismantled it, took it to Whitehaven in bits, sailed to Liverpool and re-assembled it there.

Although The Rocket performed perfectly, it was not well liked, but with the advent of metal railway lines, tracks soon appeared all over the country. Stephenson died in 1848, his greatest achievement being the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Four visitors and more than 100 members attended the meeting.

President Brian Stephenson gave a warm tribute to local author Linda McCullough Thew, who died on Christmas Day at the age of 95. Linda had been a founder member of the organisation.

Details of the Travel Group’s proposed visit to the Derbyshire Dales were also announced.

For more details about Morpeth U3A, visit www.u3asites.org.uk/morpeth