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Biography of Stan Wilson

Stan Wilson

Born 12 April 1905 Stan was the fourth son of Thomas George and Ada Wilson.  He left school at the age of fourteen, working in the local steelworks prior to commencing his engineering apprenticeship as a fitter with Irvine’s Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. Ltd.  It had been his intention to go to sea as a deck officer in the mercantile marine, but this was precluded by colour-blindness.

November 1924: Apprenticeship suspended due to a dearth of orders.  Stan was taken on by Richardsons, Westgarth engine works at Hartlepool, building and fitting marine engines for the Furness shipyard at Haverton Hill.  He also attended an Artisan Course, held at Church Square School during the evenings, making such good progress that in 1922 he was awarded a free scholarship at West Hartlepool Technical College, studying there until the completion of his apprenticeship.

1926: Joined the Merchant Navy as a junior engineer-officer.

May 1926 – March 1928: Fifth Engineer aboard the “London Exchange” (Furness, Withy), an all-Hartlepool product built by Irvines at their Middleton yard as the “Parisiana” and engine by “Richies.”  Stan sailed from London to Philadelphia and New York, returning home via Halifax, Nova Scotia.

September 1928 – August 1930: Junior Fourth Engineer aboard the “Newfoundland” (Furness, Withy).  A larger vessel than his previous appointment, the twin-screw “Newfoundland” was fitted with quadruple expansion engines by her builders, Vickers of Barrow.  She carried 125 passengers and departed Liverpool’s Hornby Dock bound for Boston, U.S.A.

April 1931 – September 1932: Senior Fourth Engineer aboard the “Thurland Castle,” a twin-screw motor ship sailing from Liverpool to Singapore and the Far East.  Stan was badly hurt in an engine-room accident aboard this ship, slipping on an oily ladder and injuring his throat.  He was transferred to hospital at Port Said in order to recover.

May 1933 – April 1935: Third Engineer aboard the “British Officer.”  He joined ship at Liverpool, bound for the Persian Gulf.  The ship was owned by a subsidiary of British Petroleum, who in turn had established an oil terminal at Abadan in 1912 with a complementary oil refinery at Llandarcy near Swansea.

August 1935 – October 1936: Third Engineer aboard “British Workman,” joining ship at Swansea.  He then left the sea to take up a shore-side position as a boiler inspector visiting various works, factories, power stations etc.  This involved: (1) The internal and external visual examination of boilers, super-heaters, economisers and air heaters, together with their fittings: (2) Testing of boilers under steam: (3) Reporting and issue of certification.  His work took him away from home, usually for a week or two at a time.

November 1936 – October 1946: Engineer Surveyor with Ajax Engineering Policies, a division of Lloyd’s of London.  Stan was awarded a performance bonus during the Second World War in appreciation of his tireless services.  Stan was based at Wilmslow in Cheshire.

October 1946 – 1954: Engineer Surveyor with Cornhill Insurance, based in Welling, Kent.  He accepted this position, and a less hectic schedule, due to exhaustion and overwork.

1954 – 1966: Persuaded to return to Ajax.  Up to the age of fifty Stan travelled by rail until the demands of his job made it necessary for him to learn to drive.

Stan Wilson married Gladys Cowley, a confectioner’s assistant at a high-class baker’s shop in York Road, West Hartlepool, on 4 October 1934.  Gladys was the sister of Florence Cowley, wife of Stan’s older brother, Edgar.  Like Edgar and Flo the couple wed at West Hartlepool’s Westbourne Methodist Church.

Stan and Gladys Wilson had two sons.  The first, Stanley Cowley Wilson (born 1937), died in infancy.  The second, Ian Cowley Wilson, was born in 1939.  Tragically, Gladys Wilson died of tuberculosis in 1944.  Stan remarried, at Welling, in 1950.  His bride was the Surrey-born Edyth Marjorie Dalziel, a childless divorcee and a local government clerk.  The couple had twin sons, Roy Alexander Wilson and Edgar (Eddie) Dalziel Wilson.  Between 1954 and 1972 Stan and family lived variously in Wilmslow and at Padfield near Glossop, Derbyshire.  They moved to South Shields in 1972.

Stan Wilson was very close to his father and Thomas George Wilson died in the arms of his fourth son, at the family home in Tankerville Street, after a short illness in February 1931.  Stan’s hobbies comprised “do-it-yourself” home improvement, the “Western” genre and pen-and-ink sketching.  Both he and his wife Marjorie were members of South Shields Art Club.  He was also an avid Dickens fan, something he shared with his older sister, Ada.   

Described as extrovert and friendly, Stan Wilson talked to anybody and everybody and was known to be very proud of his seagoing past and family history.  He was a good mimic and a witty man, noted for his sense of humour.  One relative recalls that when Stan was a young man, the Wilsons’ home was always full of guests – most of which were young ladies!  On one occasion during the “Roaring Twenties,” when prohibition was in force in the States, Stan visited a “speakeasy,” being forced to take refuge under a table as rival mobsters engaged in a gun battle – as he said, “Just like in a gangster film!”

Stan was active well into old age.  Sadly he fell off a ladder and broke his hip, precipitating senile dementia.  He passed away on Boxing Day 1989.  His widow died in 1996.

Of his sons, Ian Wilson went to sea as a radio officer in the Merchant Navy, also serving in the Royal Air Force and maintaining ships’ radio-direction-finding equipment on Merseyside before joining the electronics industry.  A keen leisure-sailor and boat-owner, he now lives in Hampshire.  Eddie Wilson began his career as a deck-officer cadet in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary before going into banking, subsequently retraining to become a psychiatric nurse specialising in the elderly mentally ill.  He now lives at South Shields.  His twin, Roy Wilson, studied at Derby Art College and worked as a newspaper photographer (some of his work being published in “Tatler” magazine).  Roy moved to Stratford-on-Avon and Portsmouth, also living for a while in Ireland, near Donegal.  He also changed his career, gaining a first-class honours degree in social care and taking up a position in Croydon.

Source: “The Wilsons of Whitby and West Hartlepool,” Vol. 4 by Stuart James Wilson.  See also images.  






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