Appeal to trace descents of a miner turned mayor launched

Springhill Mine - scene of an explosion which killed 125 pitmen in 1891.
Springhill Mine - scene of an explosion which killed 125 pitmen in 1891.
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An appeal has been launched to track down relatives of a Wearside miner who was elected mayor of a Canadian town.

William Hall initially emigrated to America with toddler son George in 1854, following the death of his wife. He later moved to Springhill, Nova Scotia, where he found a new role in politics after years as a colliery manager.

William Hall.

William Hall.

In 1891, just months after 125 miners – some aged just 10 – were killed in an explosion at Springhill, William returned to his North East roots to view specialist safety measures pioneered at Ryhope Colliery.

Now his great-great-grandson Murray Scott is planning to follow in his footsteps by visiting Wearside next month – and today appeals for long-lost relatives to get in touch.

“We live in Springhill, the town William made his home in later life, and it would be the highlight of our trip to England if we could meet up with any of his descendants,” said Linda, Murray’s wife.

“William was extremely well-respected for his knowledge of mining procedures, and also in the political field too – being elected to the office of Mayor of Springhill for three terms.”

William was extremely well respected for his knowledge of mining procedures, and also in the political field too - being elected to the office of Mayor of Springhill for three terms.

Linda Scott - wife of William’s great-great-grandson.

Mystery surrounds the place of William’s birth, with possibilities including Southwick, Haswell and South Hetton – but his birth date of February 10, 1832, is believed to be accurate.

He married his first wife, Jane, in County Durham between 1848 and 1852. Their son, George, was born in the county in 1853 – possibly at Sunderland, Easington or Durham.

Some light can, perhaps, be shed on William’s background through an Echo article published during his visit ‘home’ in 1891, when it was reported that he met a relative, ‘an old miner of Ryhope’, called Mr Blackburn.

“There are several William Halls and George Halls who have birth dates at around the same time, so it makes it difficult – and rather confusing – trying to trace the correct ones,” said Linda.

George Hall - son of Canadian mayor William.

George Hall - son of Canadian mayor William.

“But, hopefully, someone will recognise the names - and the Canada link. Unfortunately, we don’t know the maiden name of William’s wife Jane either - but perhaps an Echo reader can help?”

Jane is believed to have been in her twenties when she passed away. William and George left England shortly afterwards, making a fresh start in Pennsylvania – an American state noted for its coal mining – in 1854.

Four years later, the pitman moved to Pictou County, Nova Scotia, where he worked his way up from roadman to under-manager of Albion Mines. Finally, in 1873, he was appointed as sole manager.

His fresh start brought fresh love. In 1864 William married Pictou County-born Catherine Matheson, and the couple went on to have seven children, though one died as a baby.

William’s son George also married a Canadian, Mary Lawson MacDonald from Albion Mines. Their union in 1872 resulted in nine children, including one called after William.

“William senior left Albion Mines in May 1873 to become a proprietor of Springhill Mine, in Cumberland County. He retired in 1889 and went into politics,” said Linda.

“In February 1891 he was elected Mayor of Springhill for the first time. Shortly afterwards the disaster occurred – the scale of which was unprecedented in Canadian mining history.”

William, by now in his late 50s, “acted a noble part” during rescue efforts following the explosion – and also helped provide relief for the “survivors and sufferers” of the disaster afterwards.

Six months later he travelled to Ryhope to discuss mining safety issues, before returning to Springhill; where he remained until his death in 1907.

His son George died in the same year.

“Our trip to County Durham next month would be made even more special if we were able to make contact with anyone whose family may be related to William Hall,” said Linda.

“I also belong to the Springhill Heritage Group, and I know the members would be interested in hearing any further information regarding our former mayor. If anyone has any information at all, we would love to hear it.”

l Are you related to William? Contact Linda via sarah.stoner@jpress.co.uk