(10th March 1911  -  23rd July 1974)


(c. 1929)




Father of W.P. 'Bill' Richardson


Bill Richardson was the tenth child of William Pallister Richardson and his wife Esther (nee Howey). His father was a miner in Usworth Colliery in County Durham.

When Bill was born, the family of his parents and four daughters had moved from Railway Terrace, Usworth to 2 Manor View. His arrival was the completion of the family. In later life, he would often joke that he had been born in Washington DC - but it was in Durham County - not the District of Columbia.

He arrived just in time to be counted in the 1911 census. The census return, which was filled in by his father, stated that William Pallister Richardson was 'under one month' and that he resided, with his parents and sisters, at 2 Manor View, New Washington, County Durham. The household had a total of eight people, 2 males, baby William and his Dad and six females - William's Mum, his four sisters and a servant, Jemima Trueman, who was probably there to help during Esther's pregnancy and after the birth. This family had lost five babies and I imagine they were taking every precaution possible to ensure that the latest addition and his Mam were well looked after.

When still a small boy, Bill and his family moved away from Usworth to Durham. His father had long been an active trade unionist and the move was caused by WP taking up the post as an agent of the Durham Miners' Association. The family lived at number one, The Villas, Redhill - right next to the new Miners' Hall.

His schooling began at Nevilles Cross Primary School where he did well, particularly in mathematics, and gained certificates for good attendance. From there, he moved to the Durham Johnston School which, at that time, was situated on the banks of the River Wear, next to the Cathedral, so close in fact that the school simply used the Cathedral bells rather than those of a more mundane variety. He matriculated and went on to attend Armstrong College in Newcastle, the precursor of Newcastle University, but at that time a college of Durham University. Whilst attending the university, he did not live in Newcastle, he just took the train, to and fro.

Both his parents died around that time. Firstly his mother in April 1927 followed by his father in August 1930. These must have been grievous losses. As a consequence, shortly after the passing of WP, Bill and three sisters (Ena, Ettie and Peggy) had to move from Redhill Villas. By this time, their sister May had married and the remaining four youngsters lived at 9 Musgrave Gardens. In November 1933, Ettie married Jos Walton and, at some point, Ena set up on her own and, once her brother moved away, Peggy stayed on in Durham.

Bill gained his BSc in 1932. It is hard to imagine just how proud WP, having been working down the pit at the age of 12, would have been of his one surviving son. His degree was followed by a teacher training course and in 1933 he began his teaching career at Annfield Plain Intermediate School in Chester-le-Street.

Judging by family photographs, he was a sociable chap and quite sporting too. Many pictures were taken of tennis courts and some of the 'complete golfer', in later life he was a regular badminton player. In around 1928, he seems to have become attracted to Ada Gilliland who lived in Chester-le-Street. The Gilliland family clearly knew the Richardson family before romance blossomed. John Edward Gilliland had also started work as miner in south-west Durham but moved to Chester-le-Street in 1915 to take up a position as a political agent for the Labour party. Evidence of the family's friendship is provided by a photograph dated August 1925 of the Popping Stone at Gilsland. On the photo are WP and Esther Richardson, John Edward and Ada Isobel Gilliland and four of their daughters, Vera and Rena Gilliland and (probably) Ena and Ettie Richardson. It seems clear that the first teaching post in Chester-le-Street was no coincidence! Neither was the digs - 7 Third Avenue, barely a hundred yards from the Gillilands at 49 Bullion Lane. The next step was the marriage at Durham Road Chapel, Chester-le-Street on April 20th 1935.

The newly-weds set up in a brand new house, 39 Hadrian Avenue, Chester-le-Street. In 1936, Bill moved schools and took up post at Chester-le-Street Modern School. Life must have seemed good to them and there are photographs of holidays at Lyme Regis (with the Holiday Fellowship) and Butlins at Skegness. But war was looming and the future must have looked insecure. Given Bill's trade union background with an ethos of serving others, joining up must have seemed inevitable. So in September 1940, he enlisted in the RAF. He trained as a wireless operator though not as aircrew. He went to North Africa and eventually up into Italy. It was not all work, there are pictures of Jerusalem taken during a week's leave at the end of August 1942, and shots of the pyramids as well. Bill seemed to have been thoroughly conscientious. He gained promotion to become Flight Sergeant and was 'Mentioned in Dispatches' although the precise nature of this has still to be determined. But even bad things come to an end and, in 1944, he returned to Britain and his wife. On 1st September 1944, there was a short piece in the Durham Chronicle saying that he was home on leave, had been mentioned in despatches and was doing a specialised job in signalling. On May 31st 1945, Ada gave birth to their only child, a son William Pallister Richardson. Bill was still in the RAF and was summoned by telegram and joined his wife and son on June 1st.

His spell in the RAF ended in August 1945 and he resumed his teaching career. By then he was 35 and time was passing. For a while, he resumed teaching where he had been before the War but in the autumn of 1948 began a short spell as a teacher trainer at an emergency college at a wartime RAF base at Freckleton near Lytham St Annes. In 1950, the college closed and Bill moved south to become headmaster of Hill and Cakemore Secondary Boys School in Blackheath, just to the west of Birmingham. A post he held until retirement in the summer of 1971. During that time, he established very early on a series of school camps. Each summer an intrepid group of boys, accompanied by staff and spouses, set out to various locations for a week under canvas. The first one (in 1951) was literally in a field in Worcestershire and cooking was over open wood fires. The distances increased. For several years, the camp was on the shores on the Solent and on one occasion, had to be abandoned because of a massive storm. Later camps tended to be on the River Wye where canoeing was a favourite activity.

For three years, Ada, Bill and young Bill, lived in a huge, three-storey house, 5 Milford Road in Harborne. But, in 1953, the family moved to another brand new house, 7 Lutley Lane, Hayley Green, Halesowen right near to the Clent Hills and with superb views of open countryside.

Having achieved some professional status, Bill broadened his activities. He had, of course, joined the National Union of Teachers and became involved in the Worcestershire Branch being its President for the year 1959. The family often went to the Annual NUT conference. He was also invited to join the Rotarians. He enjoyed the fellowship and the weekly lunches. He became the local treasurer and joined in activities over a wider field. For several years, he took a major role in organising an International Rotary Boys Camp which was held at Nash Court in Shropshire. As if that wasn't enough, he and Ada were also active members of the Moose organisation and Bill was their local president for a year and there were many, many dinner dances and the like.
There seemed to have been regular summer holidays, often in caravan sites, such as one year when they all went to Cornwall and later there were holidays in Scotland and also in Ireland and, in due course Norway and Austria. Sometimes it was the whole family though sometimes just Ada and Bill.

In 1963, young Bill went off to take maths at Manchester University. Perhaps this was a testing time for Ada and Bill but they supported him generously in every possible way.

During the 1960s, they bought a touring caravan and were away frequently. In 1968, young Bill and his girlfriend Krys got married and this created the opportunity for a major family reunion. This was attended by three of Bill's sisters (May, Ena and Peggy, Ettie having died a few years earlier) as well as many of Ada's siblings and cousins galore. Krys and Bill set up home in Manchester so there were visits there, often combined with trips beyond. In March 1971, Bill was 60 and retired from his teaching career. Many tributes were paid and the 'away days' became more frequent.

In 1973, young Bill was appointed as Head of the Mathematics Department at Elgin Academy - way up north. So, this triggered a move of house as, in the spring of 1974, Ada and Bill shopped around and bought a small bungalow in the village of Lhanbryde which is a mile or two from Elgin. In typical fashion, Bill was full of ideas for modifying the cottage to suit his needs and joined the local Rotary Club. Whether it was the strain of moving or just that the Richardsons did not have long lives but Bill died, suddenly, on Tuesday July 23rd. He had not been ill and had been around and about earlier in the day and was just sitting in the lounge whilst Ada prepared some tea. His cremation took place in Aberdeen on Friday 26th.

So ended an extraordinary life. It began in a miner's cottage and progressed via a move to Durham, University, a teaching career - interrupted by five years of war service - which led to a headship and many extra-curricular activities, to eventual retirement, sadly a very short one.