Wearside Echoes: Watch and Wonder

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A VICTORIAN timepiece with Wearside connections is clocking up interest in Canada.

The gold pocketwatch was presented to Richard Cummings as “a token of respect” by the workers and officials of Wear-based Blumer’s shipyard in 1882.

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“Our family has recently inherited the watch and we would love to find out more about it,” said Aron McIntyre, of Saskatchewan, Canada.

“My mother-in-law, Barb Wailing, has been tracing the family genealogy and we believe Richard Cummings may have been the great-great-great-great grandfather of my father-in-law, Larry.

“When Larry’s mother passed away last summer, the watch was found in her safety deposit box. It had been passed down from her mother, Olive Hill, nee Neasham, who had links by marriage to Durham.”

Olive, born in Wolverhampton in 1882, moved to the Yorkshire village of Hutton Rudby as a child. It was here, it is believed, she met her first husband, William Neasham.

William, originally from Osmotherley, was brought up by his dressmaker aunt, Margaret Richardson, in Hutton, along with his younger brother Joseph and younger sister Elizabeth.

“His parents, William and Nancy Neasham, were from Durham. We have tracked the Hill and Cummings families back for eight generations, but found the Neashams by pure luck,” said Aron.

“We are still trying to put everything together through marriages, but there are four generations of Richard Cummings – and every one of them had at least one daughter.”

Olive – the daughter of an engineman and sails cloth worker – later emigrated with William to Canada in 1908. William disappeared from all census reports, however, after this date.

“She remarried in 1917, to Robert J. Webb,” said Aron. “When she died on June 15, 1943, she left the watch to her daughter, Margaret Annie Roberta Webb – my father-in-law’s mother.

“We are now trying to connect Olive and the watch to Richard Cummings, and believe this will most likely be through her first husband, William Neasham. Any help would be appreciated.”

The inscription on the watch reads: “Presented to Mr Richard Cummings as a token of respect by the Workmen & Officials of Messrs J. Blumer & Co Shipbuilders, Sunderland Oct 23 1882.”

A search of local records and old newspapers has so far failed to shed any light on why Mr Cummings was presented with the watch – or if he even worked for the North Dock shipyard.

“A gift such as this would have been very expensive in 1882, and I would have thought it most likely an article would have been written about the presentation of it,” said Aron.

“But, so far, we have drawn a blank. We are still looking for any information on the watch, or any newspaper articles that may have been written about it at that time.”

Further investigations are due to be carried out into the origins of the watch later this week, when it will be opened by specialists and any internal crests or serial numbers photographed.

But Aron added: “We would very much like to have Sunderland’s assistance with this. We would appreciate any information that may come our way!

“The watch is still in pristine condition and works great for its age.”

l Do you have any information on Richard Cummings or the watch? Contact Aron by email at: atmcintyre@sasktel.net

WEARSIDE Echoes readers are being asked to bridge a gap in local history records and help solve a picture puzzle.

Roker reader Jack Needleman bought this mystery photo of a procession across Wearmouth Bridge from an internet auction site recently, and is keen to find out more about it.

“The photo was taken during the updating of the bridge in 1927/28,” he said. “At the head of the procession are half a dozen men carrying what seems to be a small bridge-shaped floral tribute.”

A search of local history books and the internet has so far drawn a blank on possible reasons for the procession.

“The crowds lining the route all appear to be removing their headgear as the men walk past, so I presume it has something to do with a bereavement. I would love to know what it was about,” said Jack.

l Can you help solve this puzzle? Email sarah.stoner@northeast-press.co.uk or write to Jack c/o: Sarah Stoner, Sunderland Echo, Pennywell, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.