Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Should Have Our Say on Every Part of Devolution

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Should Have Our Say on Every Part of Devolution

Article excerpt


SOMETIMES spine tingling moments arise out of the most mundane circumstances. Peter Main is a retired scientist, living in York, who not only travels to our monthly meetings to share reminiscence of his childhood spent in Newbiggin by the Sea but is also undertaking some meticulous research of his own. Last week he sent me some of the records he has discovered of an 1863 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Northumberland fishing industry; amongst them is the transcript of an interview with one, William Renner.

William Renner (1800-1871) is my Great, Great, Great Grandfather. Too young to have been with his father on the day Richard Renner drowned in the 1808 Newbiggin fishing disaster, William was himself a fisherman throughout his long life.

However, in later years he became a fish merchant, helping my twotimes Great Grandfather establish what was, for a short time, a successful business. Thanks to various records, we know where and how long he lived and where he is buried, although the grave itself is unmarked.

Suddenly, on Friday afternoon, I could hear his voice, strong and con-fident, giving direct answers to the distinguished gentlemen of the Fisheries Committee. 'I am a buyer of fish and I catch them too. I send them to different markets in Manchester, London, Birmingham. I began not more than three or four years ago.' Therein lies a slice of North East economic history. William had clearly seized an opportunity with the Blyth and Tyne railway coming to nearby Seaton Hirst when he began buying up the entire catch of his fellow Newbiggin fishermen to sell to new markets in major cities. One example of entrepreneurial initiative based on infrastructure investment.

Some 152 years later amidst some of the sweeping generalisations of the 'Devolution Agreement' recently signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the members of the North East Combined Authority we can read where the leader of Northumberland County Council apparently took a hammer and nails to make his point.

'The Combined Authority and Government will consider a business case for the re-establishment of passenger services on the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line.' Good for Councillor Grant Davey, he clearly has history on his side. Double plus good for Councillor Simon Henig, the Chair of the Combined Authority and leader of Durham County Council who has announced that his authority, at least, will hold a postal ballot of the Durham electorate on the 'devolution' deal.

I hope that Coun Henig is not 'left out on a limb.' .' I said as much on Saturday, speaking at the first annual conference of Yorkshire First, our neighbouring band of sisters and brothers, committed to regional government and the historic identity of a county with a population greater than Scotland. …

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