George Thomas Dixon was born in Benwell, Northumberland (today, part of Newcastle-upon-Tyne) although the family moved across the Tyne soon after George’s birth to Gateshead, where his three siblings were born. George’s father was also George and his mother Mary Robson (giving us two of the most common surnames in north-east England!) The Dixon family, as traced thus far, originated from northern Northumberland, with occasional forays in both directions across the border into and from Scotland, and worked on the land.
Early Family Life
George’s family lived at three known addresses in Gateshead. His father worked as a railway porter, latterly being described as a parcel porter. The whole direction of the family appears to have changed in 1909 when his mother died shortly after giving birth to her fourth child Mary. In 1911 the family is found a short distance outside Newcastle-upon-Tyne where George’s father had given up his work with the railways and has returned to working on the land.
Beyond 1911 the family’s circumstances are unknown at this time. According to a story relayed by George to his youngest daughter Lillian, some years later, around 1920, George received communication from “his mother” (more on this later). Since we now know that his mother had died, the assumption is being made that his father remarried, although evidence of this has yet to be found.
Army records indicate that George found employment as a “Timber Haulier”. However, it appears that George may not be completely happy at home. According to George’s own story, he “ran away from home” and joined the Army “under age”. Unfortunately George’s army records were amongst the lost WW1 records, so we cannot confirm the “under age” statement.
Thankfully we do have George’s army discharge certificate and his Royal Tank Corps record. From these we know that George served in France with the Tank Corps during WW1 and was awarded the Victory and British medals. He re-enlisted at Le Treport, France on 14th February 1919. Subsequently he was posted to Limerick, Ireland, a move which shaped the rest of George’s life.
George’s Tank Corps service was in the 5th Armoured Car Company. The armoured car vehicles he would have served with are interesting in that they were based on a Rolls Royce chassis. After WW1 these vehicles were deployed in Ireland with many of them subsequently being handed over to the Army of the new Free State. Two of the vehicles still exist, one at the Tank Museum in England and the other in the Curragh Military Museum in Ireland.
Romance in Ireland
George’s military service in Ireland sometimes saw him on sentry duty at St John’s Castle in Limerick. It was there, on Sunday mornings, that a young lady would say good morning to him as she passed by on the way to church at St Mary’s Cathedral. That young lady, Lilian Black, was to become his wife, somewhat against the wishes of his father. This was a time of Irish uprising and, it seems, his father took it as an insult that his English son should think about marrying an Irish lass. It was at this time that “his mother” sent a message advising that his father was seriously ill and that he should return home. George took this to his commanding officer who advised him that, although it was probably a ploy, he could return home if he wished but was warned that the army would come looking for him if he failed to return. George chose not to return home and never did again, resulting in a family schism which was never healed such that, to this date, it is not known what happened to George’s father and siblings.
Married Life in Limerick
George went on to marry Lilian and raised a family of two boys (George and Alex) and two girls (Gladys and Lillian), remaining in Limerick for the rest of his life. The photograph shows George, still in uniform, his wife Lilian and his firstborn son George Thomas. After his discharge from the army George found employment in the flour mills of Limerick. Later he became Church Warden at St Mary’s Cathedral and lived in the house provided at the Cathedral. George died in 1972 and Lilian in 1976 and they are buried in the grounds of the Cathedral.