Life on Rocky Island in Early 20th Century - Families

Some of the other families who lived on Rocky Island, in addition to Nancy’s family the Elders, were:

Mrs Foster: Her father, Mr Douglas, was a local builder and handyman. Her story was featured in the local press in 1961 (see left) when, as one of the last residents of Rocky Island, she refused to leave when Whitley Bay Council tried to ‘force’ her out.

Mrs. Taylor: Her son was a baker, and she would serve tea and cakes to visitors, who would often queue down the garden path!

Mrs. Heads and Miss Dorrie Park: Both these ladies sold hot water and tea from trays in their gardens. Miss Park was also a dressmaker, who made clothes for the children of the island, often made from worn out adult clothing. This was in addition to one of her other important duties, to carry a shovel of hot coals up to the Seaton Sluice Volunteer Life Saving Company (SSVLSC) Watch House to start the fire there whenever there was a meeting or a social!

Mr. Jimmy Dickinson was a joiner.


Mrs Watson: Mrs Watson, who was born on Rocky Island, returned in 1935, aged 101, to revisit her birthplace (see below)

Mr. Marley: He owned a horse and cart, selling hardware, and what were referred to as “piss pots” hanging around the cart, and he stabled his horse and stored his goods, including china etc. at his two storey house. His horse, Barney, would drink from the island’s communal tap, waiting around the tap for someone passing to stop and turn it on for him!

Mr T Ions: Thomas Ions’ house was the biggest on the island, and he was an accomplished pianist who had lived in Canada for a number of years. He was the son of Thomas and Hager Ions (both pictured below), who lived on the Island, and he continued to live there on his return from Canada, after his parents died.


Hager Ions was a Durrant before she was married, and she lived on the Island in 1861.

The house they lived in was double fronted (see picture below), with the staircase going up the middle of the house.
















Hager used to send Nancy to the co-op for a hapeth of yeast, and give her a penny for going.  When they died (all three of them), it was Nancy's mother who laid them out.  All three are buried in the Parish Church of Our Lady, Delaval.

Thomas and Hagar Ions

Nancy remembered Hager's daughter, Mary Salmon (nee Ions), who used to come once a year for her holidays with her children.  She was known to her and others as, 'Granny Salmon.'  She used to bring a big bag of sweets with her to give to all of the children on the Island. When Thomas, the son, lived there, he had a beautiful garden.  He used to take a bowl with rice, milk and sugar in it to Nancy's mum and say to her, “Sarah, will you put this in the oven and cook it for me please?” - apparently he didn't like spending money!

Thomas was the last Ions to live on Rocky Island. When he died, in January 1947, the house was empty for a while, then other families came and lived there.


Thanks to Jane Squires (great, great, granddaughter to Hager and Thomas Ions), who supplied the Ions’ family information and photographs.

Rocky Island Residents in the 1920s:
No.1: The Herdmans                                           No.8: Jimmy Dickinson
No.2: Mr & Mrs Birt (downstairs)                         No.9: Stephen Elder (Nancy’s father)
No.3: Mrs Foster (upstairs)                                 No.10: Mr & Mrs Todd
No.4: Mrs Heads                                                 No.11: Jim Ingram
No.5: Mr & Mrs Ions                                            No.12: Mr & Mrs Taylor
No.6: Miss Park                                                   No.13: Mr & Mrs Marley (and Barney the horse)
No.7: Tom Elder
Nos 6 and 7 were originally one house when occupied by Samuel Elder