A TOP Cop Has Used His Sleuthing Skills to Learn the Identity[.]; Surprise in Store for Retired Detective Tracking His Family History

Article excerpt

A TOP cop has used his sleuthing skills to learn the identity of his father. Ray Tilly came up with a few surprises along the way.

He discovered his grandfather, Tommy Armstrong, is part of local folklore - known as The Pitman Poet of Tanfield Lea.

Tommy's songs and poems are still remembered in the mining communities of County Durham today, including Dorham Jail, Nanny's A Maisor and Trimdon Grange Explosion.

Using his 30 years as a police officer, Ray probed the life of his ancestor.

His findings can be found in the book Tommy Armstrong.

The Pitman Poet.

Ray said: "I hope the book will dispel some earlier misconceptions about Tommy and thereby set the record straight."

Tommy, who was born in 1848 and died in 1920, is remembered as a drunkard or thief who spent time in Durham Jail. However, Ray finds no evidence that these statements were true and, as a former Chief Superintendent in Thames Valley Police, his investigations were meticulous.

He says his grandfather was a "little man with a big heart" who spent all his life in coal mines.

From the age of 15 he wrote poetry and soon became renowned in the area for his humour and ability to entertain, performing in concerts to raise money for those injured or bereaved in mining accidents. …