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William Armstrong Ramsay - a Durham miner

A cup with a name AND a date (of birth?) on it!? How could I resist!

Let’s see what we can find out about William Armstrong Ramsay, probably born on October 26 1862.

On the 1939 National Registration Survey he was living at 4 College Terrace, Brandon Colliery in County Durham. This survey provides his date of birth which matches the cup – always nice when that happens! His wife, Margaret was born on 14 August 1869. There were two young men living with them, presumably their sons: Robert Ramsay born 9 July 1893 and Edward W Ramsay born 4 November 1903. There is also a Margaret E Poulton, a 5 year old born on 5 November 1933. At this moment, I don’t know what relation she is to William.[1] A quick search of the birth register reveals that Margaret’s mother’s maiden name was Ramsay.[2] This leads me to the marriage of Eleanor J Ramsay and William Poulton in the spring of 1933.[3] Eleanor Ramsay was William Armstrong’s daughter and appears on the 1921 census with them living in Brandon Colliery. So little Margaret Poulton was their grandchild.[4]

Tracing further back, in 1921 William and his wife Margaret were at the same place as in 1939: 4 College Terrace, Brandon Colliery. William was 58 years and 8 months old, born in Chester le Street, working as a hewer for Strakers & Love who owned Brandon Colliery. Margaret was 51 years and 10 months old and born in Old Shildon in County Durham. Their son Edward, aged 17 years and 7 months was living with them and also working at the Colliery, as a screener. Elenor was 15 years and 2 months, had been born in Brandon and was attending school. William’s sister Isabella was living with them.

The 1911 census shows that William and Margaret had only been married for 8 years, it also says that they had five children who were all still alive. As the children are aged 25, 20, 17, 7 and 4 we can therefore assume that the eldest 3 were from an earlier marriage of William’s and the two youngest: Edward and Ellen are his children with Margaret. William was working down the pit, as were his eldest 3 children: William, Joseph and Robert.[5]

William married Margaret Ann Wilson in the summer of 1904.[6]

In 1901 William was a widower living at 13 Park Street, Brandon Colliery with his three sons aged 15 to 7.[7]

Going back another 10 years to 1891 William was living in the same house with his wife Anne (aged 26) and two sons William and Joseph.[8]

So Anne was born in around 1865 and died between the 1891 and 1901 census, so a search of the deaths index shows a possible entry for her in 1895.[9] This was confirmed by an announcement in the local newspaper on 26 April: “19th inst, Ann, wife of William Armstrong Ramsay, miner aged 30 years."[10]

The birth registrations of their sons shows that Anne’s maiden name was Tyson.[11] William Armstrong Ramsay married Annie Tyson in late 1885.[12]

In 1881 William was living in Pelaw in Pelton, County Durham. He was 18 years old, living with his parents Joseph and Ellenor and working down the pit.[13] Joseph was an overman in the pit, a position of responsibility: “An overman is almost invariably a man who has passed through all the graduations of pit work, from the trapper upwards, and who has been raised to his situation on account of his ability and steadiness.”[14] William’s future wife, Annie Tyson, was living just a couple of miles away in Waldridge.[15]

William was 8 years old when he appeared on his first census in 1871 census in Pelaw, attending school, obviously living at home with his parents and siblings.[16] Joseph and Ellenor had 7 children after William was born, I wonder if each one had a mug like this one of William’s, how nice that must have looked all lined up on a shelf or dresser: William Armstrong, Mary Ellen, Edward, John, Joseph, Annie, Jane Isobel and Dorothy.

William Armstrong Ramsay was born on 26 October 1862 and baptised on Christmas Day that year at Tanfield, County Durham.[17]

William died in the winter of 1944 meaning he lived until the grand age of 82 – quite an age for someone who worked down the pit all his adult life.

Many thanks to William’s great granddaughter for giving me permission to use this photograph of William. I imagine that somewhere in the house behind him he has this cup.


[1] National Registration Survey. Brandon, County Durham. 29 September 1939. RAMSAY, William A. Ref: RG101/2758J/002/14 Letter Code: FFHH. accessed 5 October 2023. [2] Births index (CR) England. Darlington Registration District, Durham. 4th quarter, 1933. POULTON, Margaret E. Vol 10a, Page 37. accessed 5 October 2023. [3] Marriages index (CR) England. Durham Registration District, Durham. 2nd quarter, 1933. POULTON, William and RAMSAY, Eleanor J. Vol 10a, Page 803. accessed 5 October 2023. [4] Census records England. Brandon Colliery, Durham. 19 June 1921. RAMSAY, William. RG15/24605 SN57 RD 551 RS 1 ED 13. accessed 5 October 2023 [5] Census records England. Brandon Colliery, Durham. 2 April 1911. RAMSAY, William. RG14PN29935 RG78PN1732 RD551 SD1 ED13 SN268. accessed 5 October 2023 [6] Marriages index (CR) England. Durham registration district. 3rd quarter 1904. RAMSAY, William Armstrong and WILSON, Margaret Ann. accessed 5 October 2023 [7] Census records England. Brandon Colliery, Durham. 31 March 1901. RAMSAY, William. Class: RG13; Piece: 4678; Folio: 111; Page: 7. accessed 5 October 2023 [8] Census records England. Brandon Colliery, Durham. 5 April 1891. RAMSAY, William. Class: RG12; Piece: 4097; Folio: 142; Page: 26; GSU roll: 6099207. accessed 5 October 2023 [9] Deaths index (CR) England. Durham Registration District, Co Durham. 2nd quarter, 1895. RAMSAY, Ann. Vol 10a, Page 205. accessed 5 October 2023 [10] Death announcement (1895) Durham County Advertiser. 26 April. Page 8, col h. British Newspaper Archive. accessed 5 October 2023 [11] Births index (CR) England. Chester le Street Registration District, Co Durham. 1st quarter, 1886. RAMSAY, William Armstrong. Vol 10a, Page 506. accessed 5 October 2023 [12] Marriages index (CR) England. Chester le Street Registration District, Co Durham. 4th quarter, 1885. RAMSAY, William Armstrong. Vol 10a, Page 653. accessed 5 October 2023 [13] Census records England. Pelton, Co Durham. 3 April 1881. RAMSAY, William. Class: RG11; Piece: 4981; Folio: 143; Page: 2; GSU roll: 1342198. accessed 5 October 2023 [14] Durham Mining Museum. Mining Occupations. ‘Overman’ accessed 5 October 2023. [15] Census records England. Waldridge, Co Durham. 3 April 1881. TYSON, Robert. Class: RG11; Piece: 4980; Folio: 12; Page: 20; GSU roll: 1342198. accessed 5 October 2023 [16] Census records England. Pelton, Co Durham. 2 April 1871. RAMSAY, William. Class: RG10; Piece: 4991; Folio: 99; Page: 53; GSU roll: 847375. accessed 5 October 2023 [17] Baptisms (PR) England. Tanfield, Co Durham. 25 December 1862. RAMSAY, William Armstrong. Collection: England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. accessed 5 October 2023

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