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Five strange tales from Tyne and Weird!

WHO knows how many strange tales and remarkable people have been lost to the turning pages of North East history? Tyne and Weird is a collective of filmmakers, artists and animators based in the region dedicated to unearthing forgotten historical facts.

"One area we focus on in particular is local lore, history and culture by sharing stories of people from the area who have made an impact in the world," says Rob Kilburn who runs the group's Facebook page.

He added: "The North East, and Tyne and Wear in particular, has produced and continued to produce inventors, artists and notable people from almost every field whose influence have been felt globally. " Here are five examples of some unusual titbits of local history Rob's Tyne and Weird group have uncovered.

|Timothy Dexter: The man who sold coals to Newcastle Timothy Dexter was born in 1747 in Malden, Massachusetts into a family of colonial farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

His quick rise to success and lack of education saw him disliked by the elite community who often tried to give him bad financial advice in an attempt to bankrupt him.

He actually went on to sell coals to Newcastle, an idiom still commonly used today to refer to a pointless action.

In the event, Dexter did make money as he sold the coal to Newcastle at the time of a coal strike on Tyneside.

Another strange chapter of his life saw him fake his own death to see how people would mourn him. He later caned his wife for not grieving enough!

|'Clark, the Devil': A strange case in North Shields: Born in 1787, Clark was a well-known character in the mid-Victorian period in North Shields.

He kept a public house at the Cottage of Industry and Economy in Coble Dene.

Strangely, in one room the coffins of his wife and children, who were still living at the time, were exhibited!

The coffins contained a coin slot where people could donate money in case the family funerals suddenly became necessary.

In return for a donation, people would receive a piece of paper containing facts about the Clark family such as how Clark's second wife had been buried in a coffin which had once been used as a cabinet for a cuckoo clock.

Many members of the Clark family preceded him to the grave, making his novel form of life insurance very handy.

|The Gateshead cat-eater: Ann Little was 54 when, in 1885, she was charged with theft. While in police custody, other charges were brought against her and her house was searched.

Police made a disturbing discovery. A large number of dead cats were found buried in the garden and around the property.

Interestingly, large numbers of local people had been buying "Scotch hares" for food from the same woman.

Ann had reassured curious buyers about the difference in taste to regular hare soup, saying it was due to the animals' nationality.

Over 50 people turned up at the police station to look for their pets, and many people began digging in Ann's back garden.

When charged with the offences she remarked: "I have sold several, and we have eaten several ourselves; they are very like a rabbit when cooked."

She was sentenced to three months' imprisonment.

|Tom Taylor - and an infamous assassination Tom Taylor was born in Sunderland in 1817. He was a famous playwright during his lifetime, one of his works being Our American Cousin. It was this play which President Abraham Lincoln was watching at the time of his assassination in Washington DC in 1865.

|Ships for convicts Some of the first ships to transport convicts to Australia were built in the North East - in Sunderland.

Ships included The Borrowdale, built at Hylton in 1785, which was among the first fleet of 11 ships to set sail for Down Under with convicts on board.

Other vessels included the William Hammond built in 1853; the HMS Investigator built in 1795, the first ship used to circumnavigate Australia; and the Dunbar which ran aground near Sydney Harbour when all but one passengers perished.

When convict transportation to Australia finally ended in January 1868, around 164,000 convicts had been transported to the colonies on board 806 ships since 1788.

|To read more strange and forgotten North East tales, follow Tyne and Weird on Facebook.


Gateshead, where one woman sold cats for food in the late 1800s

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865

Timothy Dexter - the man who sold coals to Newcastle
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 3, 2018
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