William Turnbull

A family man also from the North East:

William Turnbull was the eldest son of Thomas Turnbull and Barbara Natrass who had married in Newcastle upon Tyne early in 1870. Thomas was a colliery labourer, and when the census was taken the following year the young couple were living at Cooks Buildings in Whickham with their infant daughter, Margaret.  William was born in Swalwell on 16 January 1873 and taken for baptism in Gateshead on 12 February.

The family had grown considerably by the time Wiliam first appeared on a census return; in 1881 they were living at Waterside, Whickham. William had a younger brother and sister, and his father was working as a waterman.   Over the next few years another three children were born into the family and when the next census was taken in 1891 both William and his younger brother George had left school and were working as labourers. No doubt their wages would help to support the household. The family was living at Cowens House, White Row, Winlaton.

Wlliam stayed in the family home until 1901, by then aged 28, and continued to work as a labourer. On 8 November the following year William married Martha Jane Potter at Gateshead Register Office, and was then working as a coke drawer. The young couple soon began a family of their own, and by 1911 had four daughters. They were living at Brewery Lane, Swalwell, and William was, by then, working as a shifter at the colliery. A son had been born in 1909, but sadly died in infancy; when their next child, born in 1912 was a son, he was named William like his father.

With the outbreak of war in 1914 William was quick to volunteer, he attested in Newcastle, probably on 9 November 1914, and was posted to the newly formed 24th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers. This was one of the ‘Pals’ battalions, and was known as the 1st Tyneside Irish. The men who joined this battalion were issued with service numbers in order of when they joined, so William’s service number 24/3 tells us he was the third man to join the battalion.He was in 4th Company, 16th Platoon.  Before being sent to the field of battle the soldiers were given initial training in the UK. 25th Battalion was sent to Woolsington in March 1915. 

It is not known when William first became ill, but he died at home of pulmonary tuberculosis, at Brewer’s Bank on 18 May, aged 42.  He was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, and honoured with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. Martha paid for the inscription ‘Abide with me’ on William’s headstone. His £3 War Gratuity payment was made to Martha, left to bring up five children alone.

Martha didn’t remarry, and in 1939 was living at 43 Whickham Bank, Whickham. She died in 1971 aged 90. 

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