Wilson, Thomas

WM layman, born on 14 November 1773 at Gateshead. He began life as a coalminer, but was sufficiently well educated at 19 to become a teacher and later a partner in a counting-house. After some years in Newcastle he returned to Gateshead, where he was elected as one of the first town councillors. His poem The Pitman's Pay (1826), perhaps semi-autobiographical, shows a working-man's struggle for decency, self-sufficiency and respectability accomplished through thrift, frugality and co-operation between employer and employed, in contrast to the prevailing ideas of militant confrontation. He used working-class patois where appropriate to the characters. The enduring popularity of the poem was responsible for a dramatized version which toured Tyneside in the early twentieth century. His poems, some of which show the influence of Burns, were published in the Newcastle Magazine and the Tyne Mercury and his collected works appeared in 1843 (second edition, 1872). He died at Gateshead on 9 May 1858.

  • Northern Tribune, January-March 1855 pp.52-54
  • Richard Welford, Men of Mark twixt Tyne and Tweed (1895) vol. 3 pp.650-53
  • Martha Vicinus, The Industrial Muse (1974)
  • Oxford DNB


Entry written by: CJS
Category: Person
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