Despite its small size, Low Fell has been home to a select few famous individuals throughout its existence. Learn more about those people here!
Born in 1935, Alex Glasgow was a singer/songwriter from Low Fell. Educated at Gateshead Grammar School, it was there that he founded the Caprians, a choir that, 55 years on, is still going strong.
A traditional working class singer/songwriter, his work was very much created within the style of traditional British folk music. He became famous for his own style of Geordie folk songs that were often written about political issues – generally socialist and/or trade union focused.
A proud North Eastener all his life, Glasgow’s work often (but not always) spoke of the trials and tribulations of those living through the depression of the 1930s and the issues surrounding post-war Britain. He became famous for several pieces for the successful musical plays Close the Coal House Door and On Your Way, Riley! by Alan Plater , and his singing of the theme tune from the 1976 British television period-drama When the Boat Comes In.
In addition to his career as a singer/songwriter, Glasgow was also a writer and radio and television broadcaster; he presented the BBC 2 arts programme New Release in 1967, amongst other series.
Alex Glasgow died in 2001 in Australia, where he had moved for health reasons in 1981. He was honoured by his home town in 2006.
J. Thomas Looney:
J. Thomas Looney:
Born in 1870, John Thomas Looney was an English school teacher who is best know for having originated the Oxfordian theory. The Oxfordian theory claims that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.
Looney was born in South Shields and grew up in a strong evangelical environment. Because of this he had been determined to become at minister at the age of 16 however. He studied at the Chester Diocesan College but at some point during his time there, he lost his faith and instead embraced the theories of the positivist philosopher Auguste Comte.
Looney worked as a school teacher in Gateshead. He is listed in Ward’s Directory for 1899–1900 as a teacher living at 119 Rodsley Avenue, Gateshead. He later resided at 15 Laburnum Gardens, Low Fell.
After the failure of the Comtean church Looney spent much of his time researching the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. He published his work, Shakespeare Identified, in 1920 and gained many followers and supporters, including Sigmund Freud.
Forced to move away from his Gateshead home because of heavy German bombing in the area, J. Thomas Looney died at Swadlincote, near Burton-on-Trent in 1944.
Sir Joseph Wilson Swan:
Sir Joseph Wilson Swan:
Joseph Swan, born in 1828, was a British physicist and chemist and is most famous for inventing the incandescent light bulb (before Edison adapted the idea!). He was born at Pallion Hall in Bishopwearmouth (which is now a part of Sunderland).
Swan served an apprenticeship with a pharmacist in his hometown before moving on to become a partner in Mawson’s – a firm of manufacturing chemists located in Newcastle. The company changed it’s name to Mawson, Swan and Morgan and existed until 1973. It used to occupy the building now owned by H&M on Grey Street, very close to Grey’s Monument and the Monument Metro Station.
In 1850, Swan began working on the light bulb and, by 1860, he was able to demonstrate a working device. Not without it’s problems, Swan continued to work on the light bulb for another 19 years, making the necessary tweaks and changes required to improve its design. On the 3rd of February, 1879 he publicly demonstrated a working lamp to an audience of over 700 people in the lecture theatre of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle.
Swan continued to make more changes and from 1880 onwards, he began to install light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England (including his own house, Underhill, on Kells Lane. A year later, in 1881, he started his own company, The Swan lectric Lamp Company, and started commercial production.
In 1894 Swan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1904 he was knighted, awarded the Royal Society’s Hughes Medal, and made an honorary member of the Pharmaceutical Society.
Sir Joseph Wilson Swan passed away in 1914 at Warlingham, a large village on the south-eastern boundary of London, in Surrey. He had lived at Underhill, in Kell’s Lane, Low Fell, between 1869 and 1883.
Poet, teacher, business man and native of Low Fell, Thomas Wilson was born in 1774. He, like many from the North East, was born into a very poor family and began his working life down the mines at one of the many local pits. He would have been around 8 or 9 at the time.
However, he had the determination to better himself and wanted to improve his life, so he studied and managed to educate himself to a high standard. At the young age of 19, Thomas Wilson became a schoolmaster, but this job was shortlived.
After his short stay as a Schoolmaster, Thomas Wilson moved to a clerkship on Newcastle’s Quayside. After moving, in 1803, to another new job with a Tyneside engineering company, it didn’t take Thomas Wilson long to reach the status of partner in the company. Indeed the company changed its name to Losh, Wilson and Bell.
Of course, it is because of poetry that Thomas Wilson is best known. His most famous work, which is a fantastic example of Tyneside Dialect Literature, is The Pitman’s Pay, originally published between 1826 and 1830. Other beloved works are The Weshin’ Day and The Market Day.
Thomas Wilson never lost his love of the area, or its people. Towards the end of his life he was dedicated to helping children gain a better education with less difficulty than he had. He opened a reading room and school room for local children in Low Fell in 1841. Thomas Wilson died on 9 May 1858, in Low Fell, at the age of 85.