20/2/1907 - 25/9/1986Author Index
Contributed by his daughter
Born into a poor working class family with strong political Labour persuasion. Mother (my grandmother) was the driving force of that family. A high spirited, sharp tempered woman, always in debt. She must be obeyed! Nevertheless she sent all her children to Sunday School and she herself attended the evening service at the Baptist Church. Granddad was the absolute opposite of Grandma, very quiet ruled by Herself!
Father grew up a bright lad at school but was unable to follow any higher education because of the lack of funds. When he left school he was offered a job as a Dental technician. Apparently in those days this was a profitable career, but because he had to work for no money for a few months his Mother said he must earn his living and he commenced an apprenticeship to become a fitter and turner in an engineering business.
Father continued going to the Bible Class at the Baptist Church after he left school and was working, but he was an unruly member of the class and was eventually turned out and banned from coming due to his disruptive behaviour. This, apparently "made him think". He would be around 16 years of age at this time. He went back to the evening service at the Baptist Church on Sunday. He would go each Saturday evening to Cowan´s Monument in the centre of Newcastle where the Gospel was faithfully preached as well as to the Bigg Market on Sunday evenings where not only Gospel preaching took place but also political meetings. Father was very interested in the latter and "spouted" at union meetings and the like. (He often said if the Lord had not laid His hand upon him he would undoubtedly have gone in very seriously for the politics of this world. (I can see him standing on a soap box!!)
I am not sure when he actually trusted the Lord but it was obvious that for a time the Lord was working in his heart. He began to go to the Baptist Church on a regular basis and taking part in the Prayer meeting and Bible study. He began to read his Bible and ask questions of the Pastor. His questions became so difficult that the Pastor said he ought to be with the Brethren because they went in for this. Dad had never heard of these people.
One day he was walking home from the town centre and he passed a notice board giving details of the Beech Grove Hall meetings. An elderly gentleman asked him if he was interested in coming along to the meetings and invited him to come to the Bible Reading on the Thursday evening. (This was dear Mr. Lowry a much loved and able brother, his daughter still attends the Denmark Street meeting.) There is no doubt that the Bible Readings were just what Dad wanted and needed and he reported back to the Baptist Minister. They had many discussions together on the ways of the Lord and how Christians ought to meet as written in the Bible etc. etc. This went on for some time until the Baptist Minister told him he ought to go with the brethren! Which he did!!
Dad was overjoyed to find a company of people whose interest was in pleasing the Lord. He still continued to go to the open air meetings at Cowan´s Monument. One evening (Dad would be about 18 years old then) he went to the meeting and there was a young lady there singing a gospel hymn, and Dad was captivated by her -- my dear Mother of course, she had a lovely voice and loved to sing, she had recently been converted from an ungodly home at some Tent Meetings which Mr. Sinclair and a Mr. Stewart had arranged. Mother also began to go along to Beech Grove together with her friend May Bradfield. They too eventually were received into fellowship.
Dad and Mum had a long courtship (four years). Dad was having a terrible time at home as he was always going to the meetings and his Mother thought he was "getting too big for his boots". He had saved up and bought himself a suit to go to the meeting on Lord´s Days and had also bought a trunk with a lock and placed the suit in there for safety. Why? Because each Monday morning the "Sunday best" clothes all went to the pawn shop. His Mother was incensed and threw the trunk and Norman out into the street!! He found lodgings and was still courting Mum at the time. After four years when he had finished his apprenticeship, they decided to get married and set up home for the Lord. They found two rooms to rent and plans went forward for the wedding at the meeting. Two weeks before the wedding Dad became redundant (December 1930) and against the brethren´s wishes they decided to go ahead with the wedding. The brother who had agreed to "marry" them thought there must "be a reason" for their continued marriage!!! He wouldn´t take the wedding. They married in the Registry Office very quietly. So began their long life together.
Things were very difficult. Dad was out of work for four years. Pauline was born towards the end of 1931. No Welfare State then and they were often hungry. Pauline, growing up during those years, would ask what was for dinner or tea and they would tell her that Jesus would send something. All would kneel down and ask the Lord for help and always He would supply the need. Sometimes before they rose from their knees there would be a knock on the door and someone would call bringing some eggs, or a loaf of bread, etc. Dad was continually going after work and being disappointed.
During this time Dad would spend a lot of time studying the Bible, taking Pauline for walks and cycling to meetings in the evenings. Together with George Davison they would cycle to Alnwick for a Bible Reading -- 40 miles there and return another 40 miles, in the dark! They were both in the same position of being out of work. During this time of severe recession he used his spare time of enforced joblessness to gain a deep grounding in the Scriptures of truth which gave him the Bible knowledge and application for which he became recognised.
It was soon apparent to all who met him that he was a brother of really exceptional gift, in both the preaching of the gospel and the ministry of the truth of scripture. His particular gift was in the exposition and presentation of divine truth in precise, succinct, telling phrases which went straight to the heart of the matter and right to the conscience of his hearer. Perhaps the most significant feature of his ministry was the moral power with which he spoke. Of him, as of his beloved Master, it can be said, "His word was with power" (Luke 4:32), the fruit of "clean hands and a pure heart" (Ps. 24:5).
To those who knew him well, Norman was also a most sensitive brother, with a great care for the Lord´s people, and one who gave real encouragement to those, particularly the young, who desired to make real progress in the deep things of God. He gathered about him the young men he knew on Tyneside who desired to really study the Word of God and so fulfilled Paul´s injunction to Timothy "the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). We can be thankful that, through the ministry which was recorded, it may be said, "He being dead, yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4).
Eventually Dad found a job and things looked up financially. He went on with Mum and the family (four of us) — the Lord´s things were always first. He spent a lot of time away from home preaching etc. while Mum ´tarried by the stuff´ so to speak.
They had a happy, married life together, and their home was open for any who loved the Lord and even for those who did not. I remember once coming home from school after standing with a crowd of other children watching a man singing in the street for pennies. I ran home a little late and rushed in to tell Mum about the man in the street and she said "Hush! He´s having tea here!" This happened often, the man that day disappeared into the outside toilet and out he came in one of Dad´s old suits!!!
Our home was always full of the Lord´s people, dropping in at any time, they were always welcome. There was much talking about the Lord´s things, a lot of listening and lots of singing around the organ and later, the piano. Dad was very much the Head of the House and Mum was a very quiet person. But she was the power behind him, if I may say so. He was lost without her.
The tape recorder was a wonderful invention as far as Dad was concerned. (Tony, Pauline´s husband, fixed him up with his first reel to reel machine and later the cassette machine). When Dad was unable to get to the meetings he would make tapes and send these to the brethren. He was a prolific letter writer too. After Mum´s home call; she was 66 years old; we never anticipated Mum going before Dad as she had always cared for him through his many illnesses, Dad was later given a measure of health and extended his service for the Lord to USA, Caribbean, and Canada. He continued rather feebly because his voice was not so good, but he remained active in the Lord´s work. After five years alone in Newcastle, he came to live with us. Then about six years later when Tony was dreadfully ill, Dad went to Haddington and ended his days very happily and peacefully there being cared for and enjoying the fellowship of the believers at Port Seton. He died very peacefully without long illness being called suddenly to be with the Lord after having his morning coffee.
His hymn in 'Spiritual Songs' is no. 494, "Lord, in Thy grace and truth our souls delight" which is a beautiful wedding hymn.
His wife Esther is well-known for her spiritual poetry which is also featured here.