Arthur Edward George - The Man
Arthur was born on the 17th June 1875 at 29 Grove Buildings in Fordington, Dorset (near Dorchester). His father, Edward, was born around 1847 in Moreton, Dorset and is
described variously as a labourer, mason or (in one trade directory) a builder and shopkeeper around the time of Arthur's arrival in the world. Frances (nee Major),
Arthur's mother was born in 1852 in Lily Bridge, Dorset. In 1879 the family were resident in Milton Abbas. According to Census entries the family had moved to Newcastle
on Tyne by 1881 and a trade directory entry shows them to have been resident there in 1880. A Dorset trade directory for 1879 shows no trace of the George's, so I will
conclude they migrated in late 1879. Arthur's sister, Clara, was born in Newcastle in 1886. I do not know why the family should have upped sticks and moved from Dorset
to the North East but it is possible Edward spotted an opportunity to better the family life up North. Many farm workers and rural inhabitants were hit badly by an
agricultural recession and left the South to find better times in the Northern counties. Newcastle would have been on the crest of an industrial wave and Edward may have
taken his family there to better their lives. In fact, his brothers all moved at the same time. One came to Leicestershire, one to Canada and another to South Africa.
From what Arthur did later in his life, and the expense that must have been incurred, I assumed the family must have been quite well off financially, but census returns
showed Arthur's grandfather to have been a 'Labourer' and that his father did not seem to be a great earner until later in life when he became an estate agent and insurance
broker. I don't think Arthur could have earned enough money as a young man to accomplish what he did, talented as he turned out to be. However, information provided
by Parish records in Dorset show Arthur's father was more successful than I thought. In fact he employed several men in his building business and was also a sub-
postmaster in Milton Abbas. The family also had a live in servant, so money could not have been short.
The 1891 census tells us Arthur was an 'apprentice engineer' and by 1901 his occupation is given as 'engineer machine', indicating he was probably a practical engineer as
well as a successful businessman. Unfortunately, his practical skills have been brought into question. Several people have been quoted as saying he was hopeless with
tools but was a very clever 'ideas' man. At the time of the 1901 census, the George's again had a live in servant, Catherine Lofts, and his father was now described as being
an 'Auctioneer, Joiner & Electrician'. This business, on Westgate Street in Newcastle, also advertised as an Estate Agent but seems to have disappeared from trade
directories around 1906. The family had come up in the world.
Arthur was married on the 24th November 1903 at the Castle Ward Register Office in Newcastle to a widow, Mary Jane Robson of 16 Woolley Terrace, South Gosforth.
Mary's father, Edgar Robson, was described as 'living on his own means'. The couple went on to have a family of three daughters, Florence Eleanor born 1904, Clara May
(or Mary in some sources), born in 1911 and who was still alive in 2006 and appeared in the Channel 4 programme about the restoration of the 'Golden Ford', Nona, born in
1912 (with whom Arthur was staying at the time of his death) and a son, also Arthur Edward, born in 1906 and who studied at Durham School (appearing in the 1939 third
edition yearbook). After his marriage Arthur variously lived at 7 Dilston Terrace in Newcastle and The Gables on North Road in Gosforth, which would later become the
scene of his aviation exploits in the North East. His final address was 'The Haven' in Jesmond.
On completing his apprenticeship Arthur went to South Africa, staying with his uncle John, and became their national cycling champion. From its beginnings in the late
1860's, cycling as a sport quickly became organised. Racing took place on oval tracks all over the country. Races were held on tracks surfaced variously with grass,
concrete, shale and wooden boards. The North-East of England was a hotbed with many good tracks and competitive racers. Arthur's cycle racing career started in 1892
when he was 17, racing on the tracks around his home County. He was a part of the District team that raced all over Britain and took the team prize for his hometown of
Newcastle. In 1897 he won the National Cyclists Union mile championship at North Durham. Cycling was to make Arthur a very well travelled man. Countries he competed
in included the USA, Canada and South Africa. At the World Championships held in Montreal in 1898, Arthur strangely represented South Africa. While in South Africa,
he served his country in the war against the Boers. In January 1901, Arthur joined the Cape Colony Cyclists Corps shortly after they were formed. Their purpose was,
mainly, one of reconnaissance and delivery of messages. He reached the rank of sergeant before leaving the corps in April only to rejoin in September. Interestingly, when
he rejoined he used his own bicycle. Service records have his next of kin down as his uncle, John George, who was resident in Cape Town. He also have spent some time
in America as it is reported he was quite successful on their tracks. Those tracks would probably have been the banked velodromes made of pine, later to become
infamous as the murderous motorcycle board tracks where speeds of over 100mph would be common in the early years of the 20th century. Arthur was reported as
saying, in a 1948 interview, that the Paris Velodrome was his favourite track due to its extreme banking that allowed high speeds making it technically more exacting than
the flatter, rougher British tracks. Arthur gave up cycle racing after a serious accident in South Africa around 1900, a photograph shows him swathed in bandages almost
from head to foot.
I had not thought Arthur had been involved with motorcycles but a couple of references have turned up. In the 1930's, he is said to have owned a Brough Superior SS100
that was 'well tuned, full of tuning parts made in his factory'. Arthur was renowned for his fondness for weight saving (the G & J biplane was the lightest of its time) and
the Brough had holes drilled in every conceivable component to save weight. It seems he was a bit of an enthusiast and he continued to take an occasional spin in his
later years in Newcastle. I believe the Brough was bought new from Jack Adams, a dealer in Dunn Street a stones throw from the G & J factory. They lasted in business
until about 2002.
On his return to Newcastle from his travels, he encountered Robert Lee Jobling. Jobling had an engineering business in the city and Arthur wanted some cycle parts
manufactured to his specification. The pair immediately hit it off and soon became business partners. In 1901 the pair went into business as engineers and coach builders,
with premises at the junction of Forth Street and South Street in Newcastle next to Burrell's iron foundry. In 1904 they moved to the former Stephenson locomotive works
at 20 South Street, home of the firm for over 60 years. Other partners came and went during the existence of the firm, with them often taking over branches of the firm as
the partnerships were dissolved.
In the early 20th century Arthur became quite a successful racing driver and later an aviator, designing and building his own aeroplane. It would seem that he certainly
mixed in the right circles. His racing cars were all top quality works cars, something not handed out lightly, and his aviation days were spent in very illustrious company
(the Wrights, Bleriot, Brabazon and Rolls to name but a few). In May 1909 he became a member of the Aero Club of Great Britain (later the Royal Aero Club). As the flying
grounds at Leysdown became established he donated four guineas toward the fitting out of their clubhouse. After the death of C S Rolls in a flying accident, Arthur
joined many aviators and friends in donating 10 shillings each toward a memorial. On 6th September 1910 he was granted RAeC Pilots License No.19 and in 1935 gained a
modern CAA Class A Pilots License at Woolsington (later Newcastle International Airport), one of few men to hold both. This was done under the auspices of Newcastle
Aero Club. Reputedly the oldest private flying school in the country, it was founded in November 1925 at Cramlington. Woolsington did not open as a civil aerodrome
until 1935 so he must have been quick off the mark. At the outbreak of WW2 it became RAF Woolsington but reverted to a civil airport on the cessation of hostilities and
is now a modern, busy provincial airport.
During the Great War (1914-18), Arthur served as a member of the Northumberland Motor Volunteer Corps, part of the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment. The London
Gazette has him down as a temporary Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion in July 1917 and later notes his retirement from the regiment in January 1919 with the rank of
temporary Major. The Motor Volunteer Corps was first formed in London in 1916, its purpose being to ferry troops around the capital at night when public transport had
ceased. In 1917 it became part of the Volunteer Training Corps, a nationwide organisation that was the Great War equivalent of the Home Guard. Its primary roles then
were to transport volunteer battalions around the country and to be prepared for the evacuation of hospitals and other prime targets in the event of an emergency or air
raid. By 1918 it had been reorganised to become the ASC Mechanical Transport (Volunteers). It was purely home defence and never served overseas.
In 1927, Arthur's marriage to Mary ended in divorce. The grounds cited were adultery by Arthur with an unnamed woman from Luton. I believe this woman to be Monica
Shmid, his long time lover and later to become his second wife. An interesting fact from the divorce papers is that Arthur and Mary had a fifth child, Lena. Lena was born
in 1902, out of wedlock, and carried her mother's surname of Robson until 1926 when she was legitimised and took the surname of George. At the time of the divorce,
Arthur was resident on his motor boat 'Eydiss', moored in Blyth Harbour. A substantial financial settlement was granted in Mary's favour along with custody of the two
youngest children. Around this time Arthur's address changed to 'The Haven' in Jesmond and Mary is noted as living at 'Crossley' in Seahouses. It must be said that
Arthur had a massive ego, and this led to him being a womaniser throughout his life and a dedicated party goer.
Following his divorce in 1927, Arthur remarried. On 28th September 1928 he married Monica Dorothy Shmid in Newcastle. The marriage lasted until 7th January 1951 when
In 1937 Arthur joined the Newcastle Gliding Club, based at Cramlington Aerodrome during the 1920's and 30's, and on his first day as a member attained such a level of
ability he got his Class "A" glider pilots certificate. Cramlington was originally a First World War aerodrome. Built to form part of the coastal defence system to combat
German air raids, unusually it was run not by the RNAS but the RFC and 36 Home Defence Squadron was based there. Afterwards it became part of the Airship
Development Corporation as well as being home to the gliding club.
Before, and during, the Second World War he became heavily involved in the organisation and training of the 131 Tyneside Squadron of the Air Cadets (later the Air
Training Corp) and made part of his Newcastle factory available to them for training purposes and to allow them to work on their own aircraft. From 1935 until the outbreak
of WW2, Arthur served as a member of the Newcastle Aero Club Executive Council when they managed the affairs of Newcastle (Woolsington) Airport. Arthur was
described as a big man with a big voice. He spoke authoritatively, honestly and concisely and did not suffer fools gladly. Whatever he undertook during his life, he was
successful at it whether business or pleasure.
By the time of the Great War came along he seems to have given up motor racing and flying except as hobbies. Had he decided to devote more time to his family and
business? Not a chance. It seems Arthur was a well-travelled and sporting man in the 20's and 30's. Amongst his accomplishments were lawn tennis, skating and skiing,
the latter two taking him frequently to Switzerland and Norway. It appears he was a very skilled figure skater and took many honours in International competitions, often
competing against people less than half his age. He must have been in at the beginning of organised figure skating but I cannot find any references to him having
competed in the Olympics as has been claimed. One holiday took him to Morocco, in 1926, where he cycled across the country (during a war!) and then crossed the Great
Atlas Mountains. He later said the bicycle was the only form of wheeled transport that could cope with the narrow and rough mule paths through the mountains.
Another of his 'toys' was his 30ft speedboat 'Eydiss', with which he would delight in terrifying his friends and employees when he took them out in the roughest possible
seas at high speed. A form of punishment, I wonder?
In 1920 it was decided to hold a celebration and reunion of the survivors of the first 100 men to have been granted aviators licenses in the United Kingdom. This was held
at the Connaught Rooms in London on the 12th July and the guest of honour was HRH The Duke of York (later King George VI). Arthur was one of the 46 out of a total of
75 survivors able to attend.
In 1937, Arthur is reported in the Newcastle press as having been in a nursing home in Newcastle for a minor operation, yet the previous Sunday he had gained his glider
pilot's license at the first attempt. That was a pretty tough thing to do, for someone waiting for an operation.
A newspaper article in 1944 tells that Arthur had, at the age of 69, served in World War 2. From July 1939 until November 1940, he had been commanding officer of 131
Tyneside Squadron, Air Defence Corps. He retired with the rank of Wing Commander and promptly joined the Home Guard as an anti-aircraft gunner. Next, he joined the
Royal Navy, as a volunteer engineer in the navy's small ships pool. On returning from a particularly arduous voyage he was asked by a journalist on the quayside for a
quote for the paper. Arthur initially refused and walked away, but then turned and said to the reporter 'Before the war I used to go for a cruise nearly every year. I have
not had a holiday for some time: the opportunity came to take a cruise, and I took it.'
Arthur's flamboyant character was seen with a friendly rivalry with the point duty policemen at Gray's Monument in Newcastle. When the officer saw Arthur approaching
he would wait until the last possible second to stop him. In turn, Arthur would leave his braking to the last moment in an attempt to run over the officer's feet.
One of the many tributes to Arthur after his death was from someone who had been a fellow officer in the Air Defence Corps. It gives us a tale of his life during the
General Strike of 1926. The Newcastle Aero Club was asked to deliver daily newspapers to London. At the outbreak of the strike, printing of some London's newspapers
had been moved to the provinces. Unfortunately, the club's aeroplanes could not take all the print run. Arthur owned a very fast Vauxhall 30/98 saloon car and he
volunteered to deliver the remaining newspapers to London. His fastest journey was done in 6 hours 13 minutes! The journey was done at night in torrential rain. That
would be pretty good going on today's roads with a modern car. Just for good luck, he drove back to Newcastle the same day.
Arthur's birthdays were action packed, right up to the end. On his 72nd birthday he went ice skating, cycled, rode a motorcycle, drove a car and flew a plane. In between
he found time to take in an organ recital at Durham Cathedral. Bad weather, it is said, prevented him from swimming and rowing on his big day. Even on his last birthday
he is known to have driven to Woolsington and flown a Tiger Moth. The last car driven by Arthur was an expensive and rare pre-war Mercedes sports car. This was
owned by George & Jobling and remained in the firms ownership until their demise.
Some months before his death, Arthur was nursed by Robert Lee Jobling's daughter at their family home of Higham Dykes. He died on the 8th September 1951 at the Duke
of York nursing home in Bingley, Yorkshire, where he had been staying with his daughter Nona at her home, Tanfield House, Cottingley Bridge. The causes of death were
given as cachesia, bone and prostate cancer and anaemia from haematuria. The obituary printed in the North Mail for the 10th September 1951 makes it clear he did not
take up an easy life after giving up motor racing and flying. It mentions him having been a racing cyclist, skater, swimmer and yachtsman. He was as successful in these
activities as he was in motor racing and flying. His funeral was held in Newcastle and was attended by a crowd of over 300 that included local dignitaries, notables from
the aviation world and employees from George and Jobling. A flypast had been organised by the Newcastle Air Cadets and the RAF to commemorate his aviation past. A
pair of Tiger Moths, based at Woolsington, flew over the cemetery and tipped their wings. Chief Flying Instructor Flt. Lt. Detiviar and Sqd. Ldr. Hepple flew them.
Posthumously, he was awarded a Silver Medal by the Royal Aero Club 'in recognition of his flying record 1901 - 1951'. There is in existence, reputedly, a cine film made of
him taking part in his many activities, which was shown on his 72nd birthday.
Recollections by Clara Howard, his last living child, give the briefest of details of family life, such as the children being paid to clear stones from Gosforth Park before
flying commenced and her sister learning to drive in the 'Golden Ford', stripped of its body. Clara appeared rightly proud of her father's achievements. In his will, he left a
total of £32125-13-8, a significant sum in 1951. The only surprise in the Will was the existence of substantial properties in Cullercoats which had perhaps been inherited
from his father. Despite his divorce in 1927, Arthur made a settlement in first wife Mary's favour from his estate. The rest of his estate was divided between his sister,
Clara, and his children Lena, Arthur, Clara and Nona.