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Ralph Speed Pallister [p.]

Ralph Speed Pallister was the fourth child of Ralph Speed Pallister & Eleanor McCree born at Gosforth Colliery in 1839 & christened December 29th, 1839 at Longbenton, Tynemouth.

In 1841 Ralph was living at Benton Grange, Longbenton with his parents & older brother Robert.

By 1851 they had moved to Castle Eden, Monk Hesleden, Co Durham where Ralph was now working as a miner as were his father & brother Robert. Also at home were brother William (8) & sister Sarah (3).

In 1861 Ralph was still living at home at Cargills Court, Wingate Grange Colliery, Co Durham. Ralph, & brothers Robert & William were all coal miners. Also at home were sister Sarah & brother John (10).

In 1871 Ralph was living with his brother John McCree (20), a labourer at the stone heap, at 66 Burdon St, Ryhope. Ralph was working as a fireman. Also living there was his widowed mother Ellen, his sister Sarah (21), a manglewoman & her son John, 3 months old. There was also a visitor – Charles Carney, a 25 year old screeman from Ireland.

Ralph moved some time in the 1870s to work at the Seaham coal mine. Fortunately Ralph escaped the Seaham pit disaster that occurred on September 8th, 1880 when 164 people died. He & 3 other men who were rescued had been working in the Hutton seam when they felt a shock but thought it was only a roof fall.  Soon however they realised it had been an explosion as the air deteriorated & they had difficulty breathing.  They immediately headed for the shaft where the air was clearer & from there they ascended to the surface.

However trouble was brewing at the colliery following the disaster. The miners went on strike in November 1880 because of the unfulfilled promises of increased pay & better conditions made by the employers.

The Durham Chronicle of Friday March 18th, 1881 had an article on the Seaham Harbour strike as follows:

A court took place at Seaham Harbour police court. ………. The following were also summoned to the last court for £2. 10 shillings each for compensation claimed by the Marquis of Londonderry for absenteeing themselves from their employment from the 7th to the 31st of December last. The list of names included Ralph Pallister.

The following information was extracted from Durham Records Online:

By the beginning of March 1881 the strikers were at the end of their tether. A ballot was taken and there was not the necessary two thirds majority to stay out, therefore they had to return to work. However the 10 leading trade unionists were not reengaged & made an example of.
The Durham Miners Association advised the Seaham Lodge to accept that the 10 men must become 'Sacrificed Members' who would give up their colliery houses within a month. Four of these - Thomas Banks (President of the Seaham Lodge), Thomas Brown, Thomas and Robert Newham stayed put in their homes and were duly evicted on April 29 1881. The police arrived suddenly
(60 police according to the Durham Chronicle of April 29th) and in force at 10 am. The rest of the villagers could only stand in silence and watch. The other Sacrificed Members (including Ralph) were given £50 each by the union to start up again elsewhere. They would of course be denied work at every other mine in the Great Northern Coalfield. Some of the men and their families left the village. Some of these are reported to have been obliged to emigrate to America.

The 1881 census was taken on April 3rd & at that time Ralph was unmarried & living at 29 Doctors St, Seaham, Co. Durham with his mother & his nephew John McCree Pallister, aged 10, the son of his sister Sarah.

Following his eviction & resulting unemployment, Ralph set sail from Liverpool for America in August 1881 on the ship ‘The British Queen’. The ship arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 8th, 1881.

Passenger list of 'The British Queen' with Ralph listed 2nd from bottom


Ralph eventually came to settle in Ohio. On September 28th, 1891 Ralph married Frances Knights at Jackson, Ohio.

Ralph’s nephew John McCree Pallister followed him to the USA in 1892. He emigrated from Liverpool on the ship ‘Teutonic’ which sailed to New York.

In the 1910 USA census Ralph was recorded at the Jackson County Infirmary, Lick Township, Jackson, Ohio. It was noted that he was widowed, & unable to read or write.

Ralph died at1pm on July 25 th , 1914 at Coal Township, Jackson County, Ohio. The cause of death was given as ‘paralysis' & the informant was his sister, Sarah McCree Simpson (nee Pallister p. of Glen Roy, Ohio. Ralph was buried on July 28 th , 1914 at Coalton Cemetery, Jackson, Ohio.


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