THE VAYRO ANCESTRY


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John William and Phoebe

John Rennison

JOHN WILLIAM VAYRO 1913 / 1982 Father of John Rennison

My father John William Vayro was born on the 1st August 1913 at 71 Commercial Street, Willington, in County Durham. His parents were Thomas Vayro 1883 / 1966 and Ethel Poole 1887 / 1954. According to his Baptism Certificate he was baptised on the 18th August 1913 at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Wesley Street, Willington, and was the second son of their 8 children. (details elsewhere)

Unfortunately I know very little about his childhood or teenage life, except for the fact that most of it was spent in Willington, and the Northern Counties of Durham, Northumberland and Yorkshire.

John William was married on 1st October 1938 at St Catherine’s Church, Crook to Phoebe Isabella Franks and at the time of their marriage he was living at 19 Gardner Avenue, Willington and Phoebe was living at 22 South End Villas, Crook, and both were aged 25.

My mother Phoebe was born on 23 rd April 1913 the daughter of George Franks and Hannah Potts. Before marrying my father she had spent some time “in-service” and delivering and selling cakes and other items made by her parents and her sister Jenny. Once married my father insisted that apart from doing the domestic chores as a housewife, Phoebe would never have to work again, it was “up to the male of the family to be the breadwinner”. My parents had four sons, including myself. Harold, Clifford Roy and Brian.

John William spent most of his working life in the mining industry, working at Oakenshaw, Sunny Brow and Brancepeth Collieries, as a Coal-Face Hewer, Shot-firer (1958), Pit Deputy (1960) and finally as the Safety Officer / Adviser (1962) for Brancepeth Colliery. He started work at the age of 14 in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1930 that he started to attend evening classes to gain his qualifications in mining at Durham and Sunderland Technical Colleges, which he continued intermittently until 1948. His National Coal Board I D number was 210/16358/2

I can remember many occasions when he would return from the mine, soaking wet, covered in cuts, bruises and coal dust, and jumping into the large tin bath in front of the roaring coal fire. He was a bit of a perfectionist in many ways, a little pedantic, but liked by one and all.


Family Network showing Further details


John William Vayro and Phoebe Isabella Franks
1913 / 1982 1913 / 1983
Wedding Day 1 st October 1938


John William and Phoebe Isabella Vayro 1973
Grandchildren Allison Jayne, Johnathan Paul and Jacqueline Anne



St John’s Ambulance Brigade
George Wilson, Bob Underwood and
John William Vayro (far right)


He was a member of the local branch of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade for many years, and represented his colliery team on numerous occasions at divisional competitions, with both photographs and certificates to prove it.

Even after retirement he continued his voluntary work for St John’s until his 65 th birthday. His favourite remedy was using pure surgical spirits on an open wound, and wow, didn’t it sting!. As a matter of respect colleagues from his Brigade carried his coffin and provided a guard of honour outside St Stephen’s church at his funeral. But of course like all funerals no-one took a photograph.

There was never a doubt that he loved my mother, for he would grant her every wish, and Saturday Nights they were regulars at the local Colliery Welfare Hall or other local dances. They were both very able at tripping the light fantastic, and being an extrovert and much to Mam’s annoyance and embarrassment Dad would dress up in fancy dress as Carmen Miranda or a French Onion Seller to enter the dancing competitions.

Like many miners, his other love was his allotment where he grew a wide range of flowers and vegetables as well as keeping a few chickens to supplement their income. I can still taste his tomatoes, fresh from the greenhouse, and remember the leek or onion puddings and carlins (black peas) that were fried in butter on special occasions. He was never a pigeon fancier, nor a smoker but would sit for hours nattering to friends, watching the fantails and flocks of pigeons and tumblers wheeling overhead outside a neighbour’s loft. We also had a small shed on the allotment with flight attached to breed canaries, budgerigars and some small foreign finches but a passing fox or ferret ended the hope that we would win “best bird in the show”.

At one point in his early twenties John had had a motorbike accident and broke his nose, which always had a slight twist to it and also damaged the big toe on his left foot to such an extent that he had to wear shoes that were one size too large for his right foot. I can remember him having a motorbike and side-car, and riding pillion behind him when mum and brother Clifford were in the sidecar itself. Our family holidays were often at seaside resorts such as Whitley Bay, South Shields or Blackpool, and when dad graduated from the motorbike to an Austin Seven we went further afield to the lake District or Scotland. Sheer luxury to us in the mid -1950s!.
The whole Vayro family took part in camping holidays, and would descend on Stobb’s Field at Harelaw Farm in Wolsingham with numerous aunts, uncles and relatives and as many as ten tents erected in an area half the size of a football pitch. With the River Wear running alongside, a supply of fresh milk from the farm, and only a short walk into the village for the pub and groceries, it was essentially escapism and paradise, except for the midges, sheep droppings and cow pats.

Unfortunately John was forced to take early retirement from the mines due to a severe Cerebral Stroke which occurred on 28 th February 1964 when he was aged 51, and co-incidentally my brother Clifford’s fourteenth Birthday. Initially it looked extremely serious, and for some three or four weeks it was very much “touch and go” but he gradually recovered his strength and lived an active life for many years after. It was his speech that was most affected and small phrases in particular such as a “fortly time” (fortnight) and “yoo-hoo” (hello) that can never be forgotten. Despite this disability, that meant that he could never drive again, his favourite saying used to be “I’m a happy man”.

In his retirement he spent time creating designs using a fretsaw, and showed considerable skills in making several model galleons. He played snooker and billiards in the Welfare Hall, and despite his stroke that left slight muscle problems in his back and legs, he could still beat my two brothers and I by a considerable margin.


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