Labour of love researching family’s dale links
A BOOKLET retelling the story of the Tees Valley Beagles’ history has been put together by a Darlington resident who has spent the past 20 years researching his own family history.
John Whitfield, with the help of wife Wendy, began after coming across a newspaper cutting among his father’s belongings. Mr Whitfield, who has lived in Darlington all his life, said: “I was clearing out my dad’s belongings and I came across the cutting. At first I thought he’d kept it because of the bus timetable, but when I turned it over and read the article it mentioned my grandfather, John Whitfield.”
The cutting didn’t have a date, or any indication of which publication is was from. However, Mr Whitfield said he recognised the typeface. He then began the daunting task to trawling through the Teesdale Mercury’s archives. This was long before the internet so Mr and Mrs Whitfield spent many afternoons leafing through more than 130 years of historic papers.
Their endeavours paid off, however, and they found not one article mentioning Mr Whitfield’s grandfather, but a series printed in the 1920s.
The article, titled “hunting in Teesdale”, alluded to the history of the Tees Valley Beagles, a hunt which ran out of Romaldkirk.
In the article it states Mr Whitfield’s grandfather was passionate about his job as a huntsman, something he would not give up despite his age and the problems he endured with varicose veins.
The writer, Kenneth Hutchinson, tells how Mr Whitfield’s grandfather began hunting in his childhood until his “end” and would carry a florin and bandage late in his life during hunts in case one of his veins burst while out on the moors.
The article was only one of a series of four printed, although Mr Whitfield believes there may be more somewhere as the last ended with “to be continued”.
Mr Whitfield said he has always felt connected with Romaldkirk and remembers fondly visiting the village with his father.
He said: “My dad only lived in Romaldkirk until he was 12, but he used to bring us up every year to the village fete.
“He had friends in Cotherstone and I remember we would get the train there and walk up from there. It was a shame when I was a child. My father was always trying to tell me about the family and where we came from, but I wasn’t interested back them.”
Mr Whitfield continued to visit the village fete when he married and had children of his own and now takes his grandchildren. He is now hoping local knowledge will help him identify where a photograph of his grandfather with members of the Tees Valley Beagles’, was taken.
Anyone with any information can email at j.whit