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Photo of Miss Ethel Isabella Hair

Miss Ethel Isabella Hair

Birthplace County Durham Durham EnglandPlace of Residence at HM Factory Gretna Collingwood, Melbourne Avenue Date of Birth: May 17, 1871 Date of Death: November 10, 1947




Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Ethel Isabella Hair

Gender: Female
Date and place of birth: 17th May 1871 Hebburn, Durham
Date and Place of Death: 10th November 1947
Nationality: English

Childhood: One of 6, moved from Durham to S Wales
Parents: N/A
Parents occupations: N/A
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: Church Training College, S Wales. 1893?
Occupation: Teacher . Matron at Gretna
Place of residence at Gretna: Collingwood, Melbourne Avenue, Eastriggs
Marital status: Single
Children: None
Travels: None
Awards/recognitions: None
Positions held: Matron at Gretna
Trivia / any other information: Yes

Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):


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Ethel Isabella Hair 1871-1947


Ethel Isabella Hair was born on 17th May 1871 at Hebburn , Durham. She was the fourth of six children although the 1911 census indicates that there had been a seventh. 

Her parents, Thomas Chicken Hair and Isabella nee Hallewell married in the third quarter of 1862. Thomas was a mechanical engineer working his way up from colliery blacksmith’s apprentice aged 13 ( 1851 census) his father being a “Master blacksmith – colliery”. Isabella’s father and brothers were all colliery workers. Thomas was named after his mother – Jane Chicken. 

The first child to be born was John Hallewell Hair in 1864. 

 In 1865, Thomas began work at Hebburn Colliery – The Jarrow Express of 27th December 1873 reports that he had worked there 8 years initially as” Foreman smith.”

A second son ,George  Michael James arrived in 1866 , a first daughter Mary Jane on 17th January 1869 and Ethel Isabella 0n 17th May 1871,whilst still living at Hebburn.

The 1871 census places the family at Quality Row, Hebburn Colliery. Thomas is described as a Colliery Blacksmith. His sister Sarah aged 22 is listed as a general domestic servant. 

In 1873 after 8 years of employment at Wallsend and Hebburn Collieries on leaving this employment , Thomas and Isabella were presented with numerous gifts , reported in detail in The Jarrow Express of Saturday 27th December 1873.

Mr. T. C. Hair. —On Saturday evening, large numbers of the workmen at Wallsend and Hebburn Collieries met together in the long room at the Ellison Arms to present Mr. Thomas Chicken Hair (who came to the above collieries eight years ago a foreman smith, and has his energy, perseverance, and industry raised himself to the position of cashier and engineer of the above collieries, and is leaving take the situation of engineer of the Shire Moor Coal ’ Company) with mark their esteem in the shape of a gold watch, guard, and appendages, a box of mathematical instruments; together with a chrome tea and coffee service and a  dress ring to Mrs. Hair, the value of the whole thing £46. The presentation to Mrs. Hair was made Mr. C. Smith, and that to Mr. T Hair by Mr. J. Fealonby. Jarrow Express “

Having moved house, a new baby is born, Thomas Alfred in 1874 followed by Elizabeth Catherine on 10th March 1876 born at Shire Moor Colliery. Within two years they suffered the loss of their first child John Hallewell aged 14.

The 1881 census places the family at Duke Street, Earsdon. Thomas is now described as a Colliery engineer and George  Michael at 15 is a colliery clerk. The rest are scholars. Ethel Isabella is now 9 and Sarah, Thomas’s sister  33  is still the domestic servant.

By at least 1887 they have moved to South Wales, the electoral registers for several years place them at 5 Cardiff Road, Glamorgan.

By the 1891 census for Wales  the family minus the two eldest boys are at” 27 Mary St. or Earsdon Villa “ , Merthyr Tydfil, Interestingly the family have named their modest terrace house( Google street view) after the place in Durham where they had lived. Thomas is now a Mechanical Engineer aged 53, Isabella is 56. Mary Jane 22 – household duties, Ethel Isabella , 19 a pupil teacher , Thomas Alfred 17 a Mechanical engineer’s apprentice and finally, Elizabeth Catherine, 15, a pupil teacher.

On 11th September 1893 it was reported in the local press that Ethel Isabella was one of the successful candidates to pass for the Church Training College , S Wales. She was 22.

In 1901 , the family are at 13 Quality Row, Hebburn. Mary and Ethel Isabella are the only offspring still at home. Thomas is still working aged 63 as a mechanical engineer. 

By 1904 the Hair’s are back in Hebburn living at Bede House. Thomas Chicken Hair is reported to be standing for election to the Rural District Council. Sunderland Daily News-12th October 1904 

Parish of Hebburn-Hebburn Colliery Ward ( one required). Thomas Chicken Hair, engineer, Bede House, Hebburn, proposed Rural District council elections.”

Whether elected or not, Thomas would not serve for more than two years as he died on 12th October 1906. Reported in the Shields Daily Gazette-Thursday 8th November 1906 

The will of Mr Thomas Chicken Hair of 11 Victoria Terrace, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland and late engineer of Hebburn and Wallsend Collieries who died Oct.12, age 67, has been proved by Mr George Short…at £3,975 10s 6d gross and £346 0s 5d net.”


By the time of the 1911 census Isabella is a 76 year old widow living in a house of 7 rooms at 11, Victoria Street, Sunderland .  The census details 7 children having been born , 5 surviving and 2 having died. Mary J is at home, 42, with no listed occupation. Ethel Isabella is at home 39, no listed occupation and Elizabeth Catherine is 35, a headteacher for Durham County Council. 

In 1911 George Michael James Hair, 45 was a colliery clerk boarding with the colliery undermanager and his family at Craghead, Durham. Thomas Alfred was an assistant colliery engineer, 37, married with 5 children living in a 6 room dwelling at Langley View, Annfield Plain, Durham and employing his sister in law from Whitehaven as  a servant. It is possible that Thomas had worked on the West Cumberland coal field and met his wife whilst there. However, the marriage registration for 1897 is for Venerable Bede Church, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland.

Ethel Isabella’s mother, Isabella died on 4th June 1911 just a couple of moths after the census was taken. This left the three unmarried sisters at home. 

We know that Ethel Isabella Hair was at H.M Factory Gretna in 1918-1919 as she appears on the valuation roll for that period as Matron of Collingwood , Melbourne Avenue. It is not clear what Elizabeth and Mary did during the war but Mary appears to have performed unpaid domestic or household duties for most of her adult life whilst the other two trained as pupil teachers. 

Matrons were responsible for around 80 ‘girls’ as reported in the Dumfries and Galloway Advertiser, May 1917 following the Royal visit. As such, they participated as hostels in bazaars, Red Cross fundraising events and pageants as well as the local produce shows. A professional , particularly teaching background appears to be a common thread as well as being ‘middle class’ and of mature years. Ethel Isabella was 47 in 1918.

George Michael James died in 1929.

The 1939 register places the three elderly sisters at 6 Sea View Gardens, Roker, Sunderland. Elizabeth at 76 very clearly listed as School mistress retired. Mary J now 69 still on unpaid domestic duties and Ethel Isabella  at 71, Private means. 

Elizabeth died in 1946 at Sea View Gardens – probate to her sisters. Ethel Isabella died just a year later aged 76, Probate to her sister Mary Jane of £330.

The two surviving siblings , Thomas and Mary both died in 1954.

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