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By David Nicoll


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A mix of facts photos and memories from David Nicoll


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     James Kerr was my maternal grandfather and  in 1922 he brought his wife Ada and their five children namely Jack, Sadie (Sarah Ann ), Mabel (my mother), Jim and Olive from Dipton in County Durham for a job as a colliery deputy at  Brierley colliery .Why Brierley? well according to my mother Mabel  his Uncle George was deputy manager there, and sure enough  George Richards was  deputy or  under manager  at that time. It was still who you know even then.

    They stayed with Uncle George for a short while in one of the large houses in Church St across from Brierley Hall. I believe it was the end one nearest Grange Farm and now next to Grange Road, before moving to number 24 Hodroyd Cottages, more fondly remembered as Pit Row. This was to be the family home until my grandmothers death in 1951.With mum and dad and five children it must have been a bit of a squeeze but not unusual at that time. I was obviously a regular visitor to no 24 but liked to travel independently on my three wheel bike but under strict instructions to wait on the pavement outside the church until an adult came along and saw me across Church St and the same on the return trip; if only then was now.

   James worked at Brierley Colliery until its closure and then transferred to Grimethorpe until he retired in 1950.

   The children all attended St Paul’s school or Billy Sharpe’s academy as my mother Mabel referred to it with only Jim gaining further education at Hemsworth Grammar School (Jim is named on the third photograph from the foot of the page).

   Jim sought work in Canada after leaving school but returned to work as a coal cutter at Brierley Colliery with his father He married Dorothy (Greenwood) and settled also in Pit Row at no 18,just two doors down the row from his mum and dad.. Dorothy was pregnant when Jim tragically died aged just 21 from burns received following an explosion at the colliery in December 1936 along with two of his workmates M C Lawton and P Nash. His pit lamp was hung in Brierley Church in his and his workmates memory. His son James was born posthumously the following may and now lives in retirement in Perth, West Australia, following service in both the English and Australian armies.

   Jack worked locally as a bus inspector but never married. He also sadly died following an epileptic fit aged just 28 in 1938 and less than a year after his brother Jim.

   Sadie worked “in service” and served in the army during the Second World War before marrying John Chislett and moving to Oulton, Leeds. She died age 67 in 1978. Her son Barry and eldest daughter Ann still live locally in Rothwell but her youngest daughter Eileen now lives in Tawa New Zealand.

   Olive also served in the army during the Second World War attaining the rank of sergeant. She married Jim Radford and they lived locally in Brierley along with daughter Sheila and latterly in Shafton .Olive died in 2005 aged 86 and a new eternal flame lamp was hung in Brierley Church in her memory. (The family connection with brother Jim’s pit lamp was only discovered when this piece was being put together). Jim now lives on the Isle of Wight in an apartment in the grounds of his daughter Sheila’s hotel Jim still has Olive’s sergeants  uniform from her time in the army.

   Mabel  worked ” in service “ before marrying Alec Nicoll and settling  in Brierley in Park Avenue soon to be joined by son David (that’s me). Mabel was a Brierley post lady for a number of years delivering to the park estate and the outlying farms on the road out towards Great Houghton .Mabel continued to live in Park Avenue until her death in 1992. She is probably best remembered for her passion for corgi dogs; one of whom was never far away. Her son David now lives in Pogmoor, Barnsley.



      Granddad Kerr came to live with us at Park Avenue when grandma died in 1951.He was a short stocky man which I always assumed as a child to be a good size for working in low pit tunnels. He had a wondrous collection of tattoos none of which had been professionally done but simply by him and his mates with assorted needles and inks. He also possessed two murderous knuckledusters complete with spikes which my mother insisted were disposed of when he died. His unusual possessions were completed by a silver topped walking stick which he convinced myself and cousin Jim (now in Australia) was a swordstick. We sneakily tried to find the catch or button to release the sword but to no avail. It seemed likely it was one as we had seen the knuckledusters. I still have the walking stick but no luck so far. James traveled to Switzerland in the 1950’s when Scarborough seemed a long way away and was therefore one of the few in Brierley to have a passport at that time. There was also a medal; a British Empire Medal which had been awarded to his brother John; which until I did this history I didn’t really know why he got the award.  I now discover it was for rescuing one of two men trapped following a roof fall at a colliery in Durham at the age of 61.

    James Kerr died aged 80 in 1965 and rests along with his wife Ada and two sons Jim and Jack in Brierley cemetery


I hope you have enjoyed the Kerr family history; now maybe one more try on that “swordstick”

DAVID NICOLL September 2008                                     



Information on local (South York’s) mining accidents can be found by visiting the Doncaster archives office at King Edward rd Balby Doncaster. Tel 01302 859811


Online information on colliery owners and managers can be found on the Coal mining resource centre run by Ian Winstanley


The story behind John Kerr’s BEM is detailed on Dipton and Burnopfield community history

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