CHAPLIN Sid (1916 – 1986)


Situated in the Consecrated/West Section of Jesmond Old Cemetery.

The son of a colliery electrician and the eldest of six children, Sid Chaplin was born in Shildon, County Durham. In mining areas, it was assumed that most boys would eventually work in the local pit and, in Sid’s case, he was employed at 14 in a local bakery until he began his apprenticeship as a colliery blacksmith. Fascinated by words, Sid wrote articles for the local newspaper between shifts in his early days at the pit but concealed his identity because literary leanings were not thought of as ‘manly’ at that time.

His first publication in 1946 was a collection of short stories, ‘The Leaping Lad’, which won an award of ¬£300 from the Rockefeller Trust. This enabled him to concentrate on writing for many months until his money ran out and he was forced back to the pit. in 1950, Sid joined the public relations department of the National Coal Board and moved to London as Chief Reporter for the mining magazine, ‘Coal’. Returning to Newcastle several years later, he wrote more books about working class life in the region, including ‘The Watchers’ and ‘The Day of the Sardine’. He became involved in the production of the musical play ‘Close the Coalhouse Door’ and writing scripts for the television series ‘When the Boat Comes In’.

Retiring early from the NCB to work on his writing, Sid suffered a major heart attack in 1973. Four years later, he was awarded the OBE for services to the Arts in the North East, where he had helped form Northern Arts in 1961.