Topics > People in History > George Stephenson (1781 - 1848) > Extracts from Biography of George and Robert Stephenson > Family History (George Stephenson)
Family History (George Stephenson)
Extract from: The Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson, by Samuel Smiles, 1881.
Robert Stephenson, or "Old Bob," as the neighbours familiarly called him, and his wife Mabel, were a respectable couple, careful and hard-working. Robert Stephenson's father was a Scotchman, who came into England in the capacity of a gentleman's servant. Mabel, his wife, was the second daughter of Robert Carr, a dyer at Ovingham. The Carrs were for several generations the owners of a house in that village adjoining the church-yard; and the family tomb-stone may still be seen standing against the east end of the chancel of the parish church, underneath the centre lancet window, as the tomb-stone of Thomas Bewick, the wood-engraver, occupies the western gable. Mabel Stephenson was a woman of somewhat delicate constitution, and troubled occasionally, as her neighbours said, with "the vapours." But those who remembered her concurred in describing her at "a real canny body;" and a woman of whom this is said by general consent in the Newcastle district may be pronounced a worthy person indeed, for it is about the highest praise of a woman which Northumbrians can express.
For some time after their marriage, Robert resided with his wife at Walbottle, a village situated between Wylam and Newcastle, where he was employed as a labourer at the colliery; after which the family removed to Wylam, where he found employment as a fireman of the old pumping-engine at that colliery.
George Stephenson was the second of a family of six children.
It does not appear that the birth of any of the children was registered in the parish books, the author having made an unsuccessful search in the registers of Ovingham and Heddon-on-the-Wall to ascertain the fact.
An old Wylam collier, who remembered George Stephenson's father, thus described him: "Geordie's faytlier war like a peer o' deals nailed thegither, an' a bit o' flesh i' th' inside; he war as queer as Dick's hatband—went thrice aboot, an' wudn't tie. His wife Mabel war a delicat' boddie, an' varry flighty. They war an honest family, but sair hadden doon i' th' world." Indeed, the earnings of old Robert did not amount to more than twelve shillings a week; and, as there were six children to maintain, the family, during their stay at Wylam, were necessarily in very straitened circumstances. The father's wages being barely sufficient even with the most rigid economy, for the sustenance of the household, there was little to spare for clothing, and nothing for education, so that none of the children were sent to school.