Jim Faley obituary

Other lives: Fireman on steam locomotives with the London and North Eastern Railway

​My father, Jim Faley, who has died aged 90, was a man who lived his life based on family, a strong work ethic and integrity. In the 1940s and 50s he was employed as a fireman on steam locomotives with the London and North Eastern Railway, and his tasks included firing the Mallard and the Flying Scotsman.

When he was nearly home, my mother and brother would stand on a bridge waiting for his train to pass underneath. He would blow the whistle and give an extra “toot” if he was going to make it back for tea.

Born in Lemington, Newcastle upon Tyne, Jim had a hard childhood. His mother, Emma (nee Baker) died while he was a boy, and shortly afterwards he went to live with his father’s sister, Carrie, and her husband, Ned. His family’s circumstances prevented him from taking up his place at grammar school. Instead, he started work aged 14 at Cramlington pit. There his maths and organisational skills saw him promoted quickly from coal sorter to wages cashier.

Following a succession of other jobs, he joined the LNER in 1944 as an apprentice, and then fireman. He longed to join the RAF during the second world war, but when the recruiting officer discovered he worked on the railway he was sent back to this “reserved occupation”.

The railway career ladder would have meant another 20 years’ service before becoming a train driver, and he needed a higher salary to provide for his growing family, so, after 12 years, he left for a better-paid job in insurance. He later worked in the construction industry, as a purchasing manager for Tilcon.

Jim retired in 1991. Major heart surgery allowed him to live a full and active life until relatively recently, attending the local church (where he often read the lesson at Sunday mass), playing golf and watching sport, and helping out friends and neighbours.

He died as he lived: patient, ready and supported by his wife, Joan (nee Welsh), whom he married in 1953. She survives him, as do his children, Andrew, Patricia and me.

Catherine Faley

The GuardianTramp

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