Features highlight town’s rich history

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A man who built a boat and sailed it on a voyage of discovery to the Antarctic is just one of the many fasciniating features in a new book on Blyth’s history.

There is also a piece on a skilled potter, also from Blyth, who found himself building statues and a huge monster for major Hollywood silent black and white pictures, and a Cambois miner’s First World War memories written in pencil in a small pocket book discovered by his grandson.

Blyth Memories Part Five, by retired journalist Jim Harland, is being launched at Wetherspoons public house, the former Wallaw Cinema, on Saturday, October 18, from 10am.

Jim said: “We usually launch in Blyth Library but on this occasion there is a chapter in the book on the pubs of Blyth and it seemed appropriate, as the Wallaw is featured, to hold it there.

In researching the book, Jim came across Captain William Smith who early in the 17th century built a boat in Blyth and sailed it to the Antarctic, where he was thought to have discovered the Antarctic Continent.

The discovery was not confirmed but he was certainly the first to find a series of islands to be named the New Shetland Islands, one of them now known as Smith Island.

George Skee was born in Blyth and trained as a potter launching a pottery in Newsham prior to the First World War.

After enlisting he returned to Blyth but his business failed and he emigrated to America.

There he found himself in Hollywood making a prehistoric skeleton for The Lost World and life-size models of kings and queens for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Tom Houliston was a miner at Cambois Colliery when the Great War broke out.

He enlisted in the army and fought in France and Belgium with a gun battery.

Throughout his time he kept a small brown-clothed pocket book in which he recorded his memories.

On his return to England he returned to his job at the colliery where in 1927 he was killed by a fall of stone.

His book lay in a wardrobe until it was found and given to his grandson Bill Henderson, who lives in Crown Street, Blyth.

Because of its age and the fact it was written in small letters by pencil it took him several Sundays to decipher it.

Blyth Memories Part Five can be purchased at WH Smith in Blyth, Celebrations in Havelock Street and newsagents throughout the town and Seaton Delaval.