Whitehaven News Centenary Book

My Family…….. and …... The Whitehaven News
by Shiena Polehn (nee Carter)©

MY FATHER, George Gilkerson Carter Jr., was born in Maryport in 1897, in the family home on Senhouse Street. This building served as a newsgathering centre and selling point for The Whitehaven News, and later The West Cumberland News, and also a Sweet Shop, operated by Mrs. Carter. I remember the smell of “sweeties” and newsprint to this day !

After serving four years in Egypt and France in World War I, George came home to learn the journalism business from his father, George Gilkerson Carter, Senior, and also from attending night classes. As a young man of 25, he became the editor of The Whitehaven News, the youngest editor of a newspaper in Britain at that time. He served 50 years in that position, retiring in the 1970’s.

My Dad was passionate about sports, from cricket to hound trail racing. His favourite was Rugby League, and many a good game did we see from the local press boxes. He reported all the County Fairs, especially the Cumberland & Westmorland style wrestling and fell races.

During World War II, George rented a herd of sheep to keep the Whitehaven Cricket Ground in good shape for the first post-war game. Like many middle-aged men, he volunteered for a second job. He served as a special constable.

Dad was also an accomplished photographer. Many of his photos were used in the “News”, and some in national papers. He was also the local correspondent for Reuters News Agency.

His editorial comments covered many issues, but his happiest columns were his “Letters from America” which covered his visits to the States, trying to explain the many oddities to his Cumbrian readers !

My Dad died in August 1980, just eleven months after his wife, Ivy, had died.

MY MOTHER, Ivy Florence Weir, was born December 22, 1893 in Klip River, near Ladysmith, Natal, South Africa. She was a child during the Anglo-Boer War; she and her family were in one of the “camps”. Ivy came to Hensingham as a District Nurse and Midwife in 1921. She was a Queen’s nurse and a founding member of

the Royal College of Nursing. Many a night she went off on her bicycle to deliver a baby for some rural family.

Ivy died on September 19, 1979 in Whitehaven. The funeral service was attended by over 400 people at St. James Church, Whitehaven. The Directors of The Whitehaven News, plus many of the staff attended the service.

THEIR MARRIAGE. George Gilkerson Carter and Ivy Florence Weir were married on June 23, 1923 [I believe] in St. Nicholas Church, Whitehaven. They honeymooned in France and Switzerland.

THEIR FAMILY. Two daughters were born to this couple……my sister Kathleen and myself, Shiena.

My sister and I had a different sort of childhood, surrounded by 7 daily papers and weekend trips to disasters like the wreck of the “ Esbo “ on the Cumbrian coast, and climber’s deaths, and funerals in Wasdale.

I can remember the spic and span front office, the smiling people, the giant presses working away, spewing out the newspapers at great speed, the foreman Mr. Fuller, who ran a tight ship. And, I remember [if I’d been well behaved], there would be a visit to the board room with its severe looking directors staring down at me from the walls. The attraction there, of course, was the highly polished table which doubled as a table tennis table, IF I was lucky enough to find an opponent.

The always-friendly Owner/Directors were the McGowan family. I remember that their son, “Mac” Gradon (who was my “Uncle Mac”) brought home a university friend; his name was Alistair Cooke (later to be a famous radio/TV commentator). When told to kiss my Uncle Alistair, my one claim to fame was that I passed on my latent chicken pox !!!

We had so much fun after the war, when the welcome bus trips to Dumfriesshire to the McGowan home took place. The war years had been hard on everyone.

I remember the first woman reporter which my Dad had ever hired (at my sister’s urging); her name was Valerie Dodd; bright red hair; spunky and charming disposition; one of the best reporters the News had ever had. Ivor Nicholas, a gifted photographer; Bill Newall, Walter Thompson both of whom became editors after my Dad retired; Alan Sandwith, of Workington was another journalist; I remember them all.

Dad’s final article which he wrote after he retired was about a painting which I had done of the “Peter Iredale” (a Whitehaven built ship which went aground on the North Oregon coast). He asked for the News photographer to come and take a picture; that and the story appeared in the News the following week. Another U.S. and UK connection.

In my childhood I knew that my Dad had a responsible job. We received the 7 newspapers a day; there were lots of phone calls; and publishing nights took precedence over everything. I was the only kid in the school to have a bicycle ! I attended St. James’ Junior School, the C of E school attached to St. James’ Church.

My Mother was very tolerant about the poor kids I invited home to my birthday parties, and the orphans I befriended at the orphanage near the Loop Road. I realize now, that I probably embarrassed her, but I have always been for the underdog.

I also realize now what an excellent education we received at the Whitehaven County Secondary School [now, sadly, torn down]. This was despite a war-time schedule of school on mornings only. Also, most of the men teachers were off serving in the army. Later, when I returned to University in Fresno, California, as a 33 year-old mother of two children, I was granted two years’ “credit” for my Secondary School Education. Our beloved Miss Poulton helped me get over my fear of maths -- I even ended up teaching it later in my life !.

My sister, Kathleen [now Katie], was a Barts nurse in London, contending with “doodlebugs” in the last stages of the war, and she assisted in plastic surgery, mostly on badly injured airmen. In 1950 she emigrated to Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A. Within 6 months, she was married to one of the doctors there, a widower with three children, so that was the end of her nursing career.

Kathleen and her husband invited me to stay with them in the U.S.A., and so, off I went in 1952. It was a great relief to me, as I was not very good at elementary school teaching. I arrived in New York with the permitted maximum of 10 English Pounds, and a lucky 5 Dollar bill, my one-way railroad ticket, and….scared to death.

In Rochester, I was rejected as a teacher of young children, because of my British accent !!! I had not known that I had an accent !! I then became a medical technician, and after a few months, moved to Portland, Oregon, on the West Coast. The plan was to eventually move to New Zealand, and then back to the U.K., but I met my husband, and, that was that ! Off we went to California, arriving in the Central Valley in sizzling hot conditions (110F), shedding clothes all the way down. No air conditioning in those days.

My husband, Culley, and I led busy lives in California, with his career as a City Planner and mine in Adult Education (even a stint teaching in a jail); lots of volunteer work on my part; some in English and some in Spanish. My highest honour, apart from academic ones, was being nominated for “Volunteer of the Year” for California, but I was beaten by better qualified people….including ex-President, Jimmy Carter !!

Through my connection with The Whitehaven News, I met Tom Murray and his charming wife, Vera. Tom was born in Whitehaven too (with relatives in Bransty). He emigrated to the U.S.A., got a PhD and was teaching in the local college. He was a great admirer of Bill Newall, who wrote a weekly column about local events, all written in broad Cumbrian dialect. Tom understood EVERY word, but I was lost. Tom and Vera became godparents of our second son, Neil Scott.

Now, as a parent, I realize how hard it must have been on my parents to have both daughters gone. But my parents visited the States three times for fairly long periods, seeing Minnesota, Oregon, and California. My Mother would arrive with her 7 hats; My Dad with his notepad . Each time my Dad wrote a weekly column for the “News”, called “American Journey”; it was eagerly awaited by his readers. I still have the yellowed copies -- He was a good writer !

Fortunately for me, I had summers off from teaching, and was able to make 6 or 7 trips home. I always included Whitehaven, where I had many school friends, as well as my parents. My last time there was in June, 2003, and I arrived on the long distance bus, full of tourists all excited at going to stay in Whitehaven. Quite a switch from my day, when everyone wanted to get out and find jobs elsewhere.

Our oldest son, John, visited Whitehaven with me in 1961. I remember, Walter Thompson (one of Dad’s successors at the newspaper) bringing over an English castle which belonged to his sons; it had toy soldiers from the different British Regiments; John was fascinated. It may have influenced him into becoming a career soldier !!!

Neil Scott, our youngest son, visited Whitehaven with me in 1971. We woke up one summer morning to find St. Nicholas Church still smoking from the disastrous fire. And, no, he didn’t become a fireman, but a computer whiz.

In 1977 we were back for a family reunion at the Trout Hotel in Cockermouth; family from five different countries attended !!

I’ve seen Whitehaven improve over the years, with the pit chimneys being demolished, and the harbour enlarged and made attractive. Painting the Georgian houses added a lot too. I was thrilled with the Marine Fair, or whatever that celebration was. I was told a US battleship was in port, and I did see some sailors (men and women) strolling around in and outside the harbour. The whole affair was great – I even got a suntan.

With a husband who understands my itchy feet, I’ve been able to travel a lot, even round the world on my own, to celebrate my 70th Birthday !! In January 2006, I’m off to Antarctica – my last Continent.

So, I’ve not done badly for a plain Whitehaven girl.


MY UNCLE, WALTER SCOTT CARTER, was the youngest of the Carter sons, and again followed his father’s example and became a journalist. He was very popular in Maryport, where he worked in the Senhouse Office, and succeeded his father, George Gilkerson Carter who died in 1938.

Walter was the local correspondent for The Whitehaven News, and editor of the West Cumberland News, which was printed in Whitehaven at that time.

**A word of explanation about The West Cumberland News – this was the sister paper to The Whitehaven News, and was written in Maryport. The big competitor in my Father’s day, was The West Cumberland Times, which covered the same area. The editor at that time was a man called Ogilvy. Today, it looks like the ‘Times’ won out !! **

Walter never had a car, and he gathered his news by phone or by visiting people personally. He was a cheerful man, with a good memory for names, and locals were glad to bring news into the office. Walter Scott Carter always seemed to know everything that was going on. !

My Uncle’s hobby was stamp collecting, and he had a huge collection by the time he died in the 1970’s. I swear he was glad when I emigrated, so that he could receive U.S. First Day Issue Stamps !!!

Walter was the second Walter Scott Carter in the family

Supposedly, the Walter Scott name came about because of the family’s love of reading, and from my Grandmother’s sincere belief that we were descended from Sir Walter Scott, but I have found no evidence of it.

Strangely enough, there is definitely writing in the family !!

It has been reported that Walter could write shorthand with one hand and his copy with the other hand. I do believe he was ambidextrous. His shorthand was very fast, and of course, he attended so many court cases and town council meetings, he probably knew how they were going to come out way ahead of time. He had the reputation of being a fast copy writer, finishing the article by the time he left magistrate’s court, or wherever he was reporting.

Since my uncle was a chain smoker, he could probably smoke with both hands too !!! That cost him a leg in later life, but he still got around Maryport with great enthusiasm.

WALTER SCOTT CARTER’s MARRIAGE….I do not know my Aunt Betty’s maiden name – she came from a large local family from Grasslot, Maryport. Walter and Betty’s marriage took place at the large Church of England church in Maryport, on the Northern crossroads going out of town. I remember being there, about 6 yrs. old at the time, so it must have been in 1933 or 1934. She was a trained pastry cook, and made the best Scottish shortbreads that I’ve ever tasted. There were no children born to this couple.


Kathleen (Katie) Carter McBean

Kathleen (Katie) Carter McBean ROCHESTER -- Kathleen (Katie) Carter McBean, 83, of Silver Spring, Md., formerly of Rochester, and Lake Ozark, Mo., died on June 9, 2009, at Holy Cross Hospital, Silver Spring. She was born July 16, 1925, in Whitehaven, Cumbria, England, to George G. and Ivy F. Carter. Mrs. McBean graduated from St. Bartholomew's School of Nursing, London, England, in April 1948. During her four years of training, she endured German V1 and V2 rocket attacks on London and helped evacuate some of the patients to safer outlying areas. Following graduation, she trained as a midwife before returning to St. Bartholomew's to work in surgery. Being venturesome, in 1950 she was sponsored by Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester to come to the United States and work as a surgical nurse. She married Dr. James B McBean, a physician at Mayo Clinic and a widower with three daughters, in 1950. While pregnant with her first child, Dr. and Mrs. McBean planned a trip to England so her English relatives could meet her husband and new family. The ticket reservation made for their unborn child became national news, as it was the first time an undelivered child was booked on a transatlantic flight. The result was photo coverage of the family's departure in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

She became a United States citizen in 1953.

Mrs. McBean was an active volunteer throughout her life. In Rochester, she was proactive in establishing the pre-school vision and hearing screening, along with her husband, an ENT surgeon. During the 1960s and '70s, she served as the area representative for American Field Service student exchange for southeastern Minnesota. Many AFS students were the beneficiaries of her hospitality and her counseling. She was a committed member of the Saint Marys Hospital Auxiliary and was instrumental in establishing the first gift shop in the hospital. As a result of her endeavor, she was asked to serve on the hospital's Board of Trustees from 1975 to 1979. When her husband retired from Mayo Clinic in 1979, they moved to the Four Seasons community in Lake Ozark, Mo. There, she continued her volunteer work serving on the Board of the Lake Regional Hospital Foundation, assisting with fundraising. She also pursued her two favorite hobbies as a member of the Arrowhead Garden Club and the Newtimers/Oldtimers book club. In 2005, she moved to Riderwood, a senior living community in Silver Spring, Md., where she enjoyed taking classes offered on campus by Prince Georges Community College. Her husband preceded her in death in 1991. She is survived by her children, Anne Rosseisen of Houston, Texas, Liz Lostumbo of Potomac, Md., Margaret Thompson of Oklahoma City and James McBean of Cockeysville, Md.; 11 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; and a sister, Shiena Polehn of Medford, Ore. A daughter, Dorothy Jean Moore, preceded her in death in 1981. Memorial contributions can be made to Mayo Clinic for use at Saint Marys Hospital, or the AFS-USA (American Field Service student exchange) Office of Development, One Whitehall St., Second floor, New York, NY 10004.

© Shiena (Carter) Polehn, October 29, 2005

© Barb Baker