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John Robinson Chapman (2)

My Father

John Robinson CHAPMAN (2) was born on 21 Sep 1920 in Newcastle on Tyne, Northumberland, England. He died on 25 March 1997 in Hexham, Northumberland, England. The cause of his death was cancer of colon.

He married 1 Eleanor Vera MARR on 27 April 1946. The marriage ended by divorce in 1969. John served in the military in WW2 at Aldershott, Dunkirk, North Africa, Italy, Palestine, Normandy Landings, Germany 1939 - 1944. He was in the Royal Engineers. He was divorced in 1969 in Hexham, Northumberland, England. He was employed first as a refrigeration engineer for Trohldal Ltd., then later, as an electrical engineer for Parsons, Newcastle then by Rolls Royce at Spadeadam (working on the Blue Streak missile). Next he was works engineer for Cascelloid, Plenmeller, Haltwistle then an engineer at a dairy in Hexham. He resided first at 20 Julian Ave, Walkergate, Newcastle then in Jun 1958 at Thrush Hall Farm, Carrshield, Hexham, Northumberland.

After his separation from Eleanor Vera he moved to 2 Eilansville, Hexham, Northumberland. [Parents]

My father was a highly intelligent man who had a varied career.

He was the eldest of three children and was named after JRC age 2his grandfather, carrying on the family tradition of this name. At age two he posed for this picture which was sent to his grandparents in Wales and his grandmother in Australia.

A later photograph was taken with his sister Margaret Ann (Nancy) and his brother James William (Jim)
The Chapman Children
He left school at age 14 and served an apprentiship as a refrigeration engineer working for Trohldal Ltd.

He was in the Boys Brigade. He met my mother at evening classes and used to walk her home. My mother was 14 at the time he was 17.


John Robinson Chapman on joining the army - click for a larger picture

On reaching 18 he joined the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of World War 2. As was normal at that time he posed in his new uniform for a photograph for his parents

He saw a full range of the war and wrote to my mother from each location.
After training, where a second picture was taken, Training camphe was in the British expeditionary force and was evacuated from Dunkirk beach on a small boat and then taken to a bigger ship. All the time he was under fire and bombed.

He went to North Africa and was at Tobruck. On his first leave in Cairo, Egypt he visited the pyramids and had a picture taken of him riding a camel there. (far left). . He was not impressed with the Egyptians he met, describing them as "dirty, smelly, dishonest perverts".JRC at the pyramids - click for a larger image

Later pictures show him bronzed in CairoJRC in Cairo  and more mature looking, wearing glasses at a second pyramids visit.JRC at the pyramids again

He was at one time in Israel having photographs of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He was at Malta and Crete, Greece and Italy. He took part in the Normandy landings on D Day and made his way with the army to Germany. On the beach in Palestine - VE dayAt the end of the war he was in Palestine where on VE day he had a photograph taken at a beach which he sent to my mother. On the back of it he wrote "On the palestine coast on victory day. I was not prepared for this snap so don't blame me if you think Im standing like an amateur Tarzan".

He seldom talked about his war experiences other than saying "I didn't like the war - People kept trying to kill me". My mother later told me he had been very shaken when sheltering in an air raid under a truck in France his friends on either side had been killed.

My father married Eleanor Vera MARR daughter of Charles Gullon MARR and Margaret Isabella FOGGAN on 27 Apr 1946. At the time clothes rationing was still in force.

JRC EVM Marriage
From the left Frederick George Chapman (grooms father), Best man, Marion Bain Chapman (grooms mother), John Robinson Chapman (groom), Eleanor Vera Marr (bride), Nancy Chapman (groom's sister & bridesmaid) Margaret Isabella Marr (bride's mother), Jack Marr (bride's brother - gave away bride)

237 Chillingham Rd.On his return to civilian life he worked for Parsons Engineering in Newcastle on Tyne at Sheilds Road. The family lived at 237 Chillingham Road in a house rented from my mother's sister Dora. Also living in the house was my mother's mother. In the rooms downstairs Dora used to teach the piano. The house is now above a butcher's shop.

From Chillingham Rd. the family moved to 20 Julian Avenue, Walker Gate, Newcastle where they lived when I, his son, also named John Robinson Chapman was born. At first they rented the downstairs from the lady who lived upstairs. Later they bought the house.

They had the following children:

The family home was at 20 Julian Avenue, Walker Gate, Newcastle on Tyne. A two bedroom semi-detached house. The next door neighbour, at number 18, was George Ellis, a banker; on the other side at number 22 were the Hinkleys.

My father did not try to keep up with the Joneses - for our street - he was the Joneses. We had the first car, the first electric gramophone and the first television.

In June 1958 (when I was 8) my father followed his brother, Jim's example and purchased a hill farm. We moved to 'Thrush Hall Farm, Carrshield, Hexham, Northumberland, an 18 acre farm in the Pennines at Limestone Brae in the West Allen Valley. (It's now a Buddhist monastery 'Throstle Hole Priory').

Thrush Hall farm location

When we first moved our farm had no electricity and an earth closet (no flush toilet) We did have indoor hot and cold water and could take a bath by lifting a worktop in the kitchen revealing a bath underneath. The Chapmans at Thrush HallOur water supply came to the house via a ditch running down one of our fields. In wet weather the water turned brown with mud and when filling the bath occasionally it would gurgle and out would drop a large worm.

It was about two years before electricity was installed and at the same time we extended the house to make an additional bedroom and a bathroom.

My father tired of travelling 40 miles to work and got a new job working on the Blue Streak Ballistic rocket at Spadeadam near Haltwhistle. He worked for Rolls Royce who were developing the rocket engine. When the rocket project was cancelled by the government he got a job as works engineer at Cascelloid, Haltwhistle. The picture below was taken there in 1962.

Cascelloid Staff 1962
J.R. Chapman is shown seated (2nd row) third from left. Click for a larger image.

Cascelloid was a firm which produced plastic bottles for washing up liquid manufacturers. I remember being shown round the plant and having the drying ovens and conveyors which my father had designed and had built shown to me.

JRC in Hexham 1969He then worked for a laundry firm in Hexham. There he met Doreen and the relationship which developed lead to my mother divorcing him in 1968.

My father married Doreen and had a son, Ian, by her. He lived at 2 Eilensville, Hexham, Northumberland.

He next became a window cleaner until his retirement.

What sort of person was he?

There's no questioning his intelligence although he often 'made do' rather than completing a proper job. He was very strong. In the army he was part of a gymnastics display team.

He had a great sense of humour and an intolerance of any form of officialdom. I remember as a teenager watching him rub candle wax over the 'do not write in this space' areas of a tax form on the basis that if he couldn't write there no-one else was going to do so. He would have been delighted that the tax authorities got my name mixed up with his and chased me for tax they estimated he should have paid between 1998 and 2001. I was out of the UK and he had died the year before!

He was not a forgiving person and tolerated my sister's husband, Colin but the atmosphere when they were together was not pleasant. He would not have been amused the day I found my 3 year old sister painting his brand new light grey van with the brushes we had used to paint doors with green paint. My mother and I cleaned up the mess with turpentine while he slept in a chair in the kitchen. We never told him about it!

He later traded the van in for a new Triumph Vitesse saloon - a semi-sports car. My mother and I both contributed £100 which we received in the will of my Great Aunt Nellie Hall. (She was my Godmother) £100 seemed an awful lot of money then!

Dad was a good driver and enjoyed driving it fast. I remember him driving from Hexham to our farm and at one stage reaching 120mph going uphill on a road that today has a 60mph limit.

He liked savoury foods such as blue cheese, brown sauce, pickles and fry-ups. Each Sunday he would cook a traditional English breakfast for the family, I being sent to scour our top field for mushrooms.

Three generations of John Robinson Chapman
My father;John Robinson Chapman, my son; Matthew John Robinson
Chapman and I; John Robinson Chapman in 1981

His weaknesses were that he drank too heavily and smoked. His favourite bar was the Lion Inn in Allendale and later a pub in Hexham. In his latter years he quit smoking and seldom drank.

He died of cancer on 25 March 1997. A notice of his death appeared in the local newspaper, the Hexham Courant. He had refused to allow anyone to tell either my sisters or I of his illness.


John married (2) Doreen in 1969 in Hexham, Northumberland, England.

They had the following children:


3. Eleanor Vera MARR was born 1923 in Byker, Newcastle on Tyne, Northumberland, England. [Parents] She was the youngest of five children. her oldest sister, Dora, being 23 years older.

As a child she remembered her first job was to cut up the newspaper at home for the privy. She received 2d per week pocket money (about 1p today) for this. She was known as Nellie until she left school.'Nellie' Marr with her mother on the beach.

She has memories of visiting the Steel family in Jarrow with her mother, going there on the Jarrow ferry. Her brother Jack used to visit on Sundays and always brought a bag of sweets. She remembers her sister Dora teaching piano downstairs; she taught my mother but she didn't enjoy playing.

She went to school at North View School, Heaton. The teachers were 'nice but strict'. One day she got the strap for watching trains go past outside rather than doing schoolwork. The boys had asked her to get the train numbers.

She left school at 14 and got a job at Parishes. Five other girls started work there the same day. She worked in the shoe department.

She was in the girls brigade and took evening classes at night. It was there she began to go out with my father. She had photographs taken to send to him while he was in the army. In the picture where she is seated she wore her black confirmation dress.Vera marr with a friend from Parishes'Vera' Marr age 14


Her next job was as a window dresser at Timpsons. When she was 18 she was required to join the forces, work in munitions or go in the land army. She joined the WRAF and drove plane recovery trucks. While on leave at Leeds (Staying with her brother George) she had this photograph taken and was given the paper negative by a friend. She never saw the picture until the 1970s when I scanned it and made her a positive copy:EV Marr during WW2

At the end of WW2 my father was 'de-mobbed' and married my mother on 27th April 1946. At the time my mother was still in the WRAF and had been promoted to lance corporal (LACW). As a married woman my mother was discharged too on 13th May 1946.

As a child I remember my mother making children's toy outfits. I remember having cowboy and indian outfits and a tepee which she made while my sister had nurses playsets.

On moving to the farm in 1957 my mother became the farmer. My father being away at work during the day. She learned to make hay, look after cattle, sheep and pigs, repair drystone walls, erect fences and to drive a tractor.Eleanor Vera Chapman driving a tractor

In 1968 after her divorce my mother sold the farm and purchased Catton Post Office and village store.Catton Post Office

EV Chapman. Village Postmistress and shopkeeper

It was there that she remarried to John (Jack) Henderson, a builder. On her retirement Jack re-modelled the house, converting the shop into a house 'Greenvue'.

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