Biographical Entry: Harold Heslop, 1898-1983. – Writing Lives

Biographical Entry: Harold Heslop, 1898-1983.

Harold Heslop

Born 1 Oct 1898 in Rough Lea, Co. Durham. Died 10 Nov 1983. Father a pit deputy. 4 brothers. 3 sisters (one of whom died in infancy). Educated at council school and Sunday School. Won scholarship to Grammar School at Bishop Auckland but only stayed one year as family moved district (1911-12). Won a 2 year scholarship to the Labour College, London (1925-6). Married, 1926, with 1 daughter and 1 adopted son. Lived in Rough Lea; High Grange; Boulby, near Staithes (1913); Wylam-on-Tyne; South Shields (1914-28); London; Taunton.

Started underground work in 1913, becoming a coal-putter; enlisted in 1917 but never left the training camp; finally left the mining industry in 1928 when made unemployed; labourer in a bacon curing department and an engineering works (1928); in the statistical department of a Russian trading company; advertising manager for Intourist; civil servant.

Member of Durham Miners’ Association; member of Labour Party; minor novelist; interested in reading, gardening and classical music.

The memoirs cover three main themes, dealing in turn with life in an early twentieth century North East mining community, worklife in the mining industry, and a visit to the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. Among the many themes discussed are sanitation, housing, child-rearing, children’s games, leisure (quoits, tipcat, gambling, knurr and spell, angling), ancestry, domestic chores and gender roles, discipline in the home, death and funerals, education, local and national politics, moving home, midwifery, relations with stepmother, trade unionism, the (Central) Labour College, unemployment, the Minority Movement, Communist Party activity and activists, Methodism, the Soviet state trial of members of the Industrial Party, literary endeavours, the outbreak of World War II and air-raids, the dangers of underground working, coke ovens (‘the most fearsome and painful of all laborious jobs’), pollution, technological change in the mining industry, the Sankey Commission, strikes of 1911, 1921 and 1926. Dialogue is used fairly extensively.

3:0075  HESLOP, Harold, ‘From Tyne to Tone. A Journey’, TS, pp.293 (c.123,000 words). Brunel University Library.

Available From

‘Harold Heslop’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 3:0075.

Heslop, Harold. ‘From Tyne to Tone: A Journey’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 3:005, available at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.