Mosfets

Mosfet stands for metal oxide semi-conductor field effect transistor. MOSFETS can be n type or p type as for JFETS and each type is available in enhanced or depleted mode. The most popular is th n type enhanced mode version and we explain how this works below.

The diagram shows an n channel enhanced mode MOSFET as having four terminals. Most have just three terminals with the body connected to the source internally. The p type body material is very lightly doped whilst the n material is heavily doped.

The gate terminal is connected to a metal plate that has between it and the body a very thin layer of the insulator that is silicon oxide. The construction is such that electrons have moved across the n to p junctions to form energy stable depletion zones that are wider in the p region because of its light doping. So if we apply a voltage between drain and source no current will flow.

When we apply a voltage to the metal plate of the gate no current will flow because of the insulator but it does draw high numbers of electrons out of the plate creating many locations with desires for the energies that electrons can give them. Those desires are in the form of photon energy flows that reach through the insulator and into the source, drain and body materials encouraging electrons to move toward those energy desires.

The body p material also desires electrons and the source and drain have lots of them. The voltage produced desire at the gate means more electrons move from source and drain into the p material beneath the silicon oxide layer creating a widening and extending depletion area there. At what is termed the threshold gate voltage a depletion zone exists between drain and source and much of it has electrons in excess of its needs. Any further increase in gate voltage and the p material depletion zone has an excess of electrons throughout its length and as such is an effective conductor that will allow current to pass from drain to source.

As with the JFET, the drain to source current draws electrons out of the drain and pushes them into the source and so shapes the p depletion zones with their electron excesses as per the diagram. As for the JFET a saturation current results .

Though not as popular as enhanced mode MOSFETS, both p and n versions are available in depletion mode types. Such devices are doped at the time of manufacture so that a current flow channel exists between drain and source. Circuit symbols for the enhanced type are as in the diagram with a note explaining how they are changed to indicate a depletion mode mosfet.

The manufactured doping of the depletion mode type means that even with no voltage between gate and source a current will flow between drain and source if a voltage is applied between them. An increasing positive voltage on the gate will increases this current flow whilst a negative voltage on the gate will diminish that current and if sufficiently negative stop such flow.

Junction field effect transistors

As with bipolar junction transistors field effect transistors come in two types called n channel and p channel. The emitter, base and collector terms are replaced by source, gate and drain. The channel allows electron movements through it unhindered by any pn junction. For reasons that I will explain below the channel is of lightly doped material whilst the gate material is heavily doped.

An n channel JFET is illustrated below. In its no voltage state natural depletion zones exist at the pn junctions. They have been created by the movement of lightly bound electrons (they are not free as many describe) from n material into electron desiring locations in the p material. The light doping of the n channel material mens the width of the more energy stable depletion zone created is mainly resident in the n material.

If we now apply a voltage supply twixt gate and source with source positive we push electrons into the p material and pull electrons out of the n material. In doing so we extend the depletion zones in those materials but again, and for reasons explained above, the extensions are much into the n channel.

The more negative we make the gate relative to the source the more we increase the depletion zone and the narrower the channel becomes. It is important to note that these electron moves that build the depletion zone do not constitute a noticeable current flow. At a certain level of negative voltage on the gate the depletion zone will pinch off the channel and close it to any would be current flow. This voltage is called the “pinch off” voltage.

If we apply a voltage between drain and source with the channel open current flows along the channel whose value is largely determined by how open the channel is. Remember resistance to flow increases as area of flow increases. It means the device gate voltage controls the channel current.

The voltage between drain and source also influences depletion zone shape. The pulling of electrons into the drain is decreasing the lightly bound electron n channel density and the pushing of electrons into the source is increasing that density. The net effect is to cause the tapering of the depletion zone as in the above diagram.

The electrical symbols used for FET’s clearly distinguish them from bipolar junction transistors. They use less power and dissipate less heat than BJT’s and can be made more compact than them. As such their technology is much used in integrated circuits.

The p channel FET behavior is much the same. It requires different voltage connections and its channel is less conductive than that of a n channel FET.

Whilst in an n channel FET lightly bound electron movements happen because they come under pressure from electrons in motion in a p channel FET the loosely bound electrons have to be drawn into the more fixed structure points that are energy desiring holes. In so doing they vacate a point in space that has an energy desire and which can draw in other electrons. Others describe this as a movement of positive holes. I prefer to think in terms of energy desires and electron motions.

As with n channel FETS a sufficiently high but now positive gate voltage will produce a depletion zone that closes the channel and also as with n channel FETS the level of the current flow between drain and source adds to the depletion zone width.

It is now not unreasonable to ask if, when the gate voltage is less than “pinch off”, the drain current level can deliver a “pinch off” condition? The answer is no because the mere act of closing the channel diminishes the current flowing through it and so reduces the pressure to close the channel. The result is that this type of transistor has a controlled saturation current that varies with gate voltage.

The performance diagram above shows how for each gate to source voltage there is limited linear relationship between drain voltage and current. Any drain to source voltage increase after that causes a channel closure and increase resistance so as to hold the current at a saturation level. The performance diagram also shows how the transistor will fail and breakdown if the drain voltage continues to increase.

Bipolar junction transistors

Such transistors are much used as signal amplifiers, in oscillators and for switching. The bipolar part of the name was assigned to this class of transistor because it was seen as involving both the movement of electron charges and of electron holes. Junction was a reference to the junctions it has between n and p type materials and the word transistor was derived from its ability to change or transfer resistance. Bipolar junction transistors come in two types namely npn and pnp.

A diagram representative of an n p n transistor is shown right. The base material is essentially very thin but still keeping the collector and emitter separate. The transistor does not work as described below if the base is thick.

At the junctions depletion zones are created. As with diodes n material electrons move into p material holes to form the more energy stable depletion zones. The moves are particularly into the least doped p material, more so at its emitter junction because of its heavy doping and therefore bigger desire to give up electrons.

It is interesting to note that the more energy stable depletion zones have electron numbers greater than proton numbers whilst the n and p zones with equal electrons and protons are less stable. If we have been led to think that charge neutrality is a most desired state and ionised states desire change the above reveals the opposite can be true.

When we connect a supply voltage between collector and emitter with collector positive surplus electrons at the battery negative push into and apply pressure on the unwanted electrons in the emitter that seeking a location in which to better perform their role. They have no where to go because the base to emitter depletion zone wants to keep its energy stable state and presents a high resistance to such pressures. The electron shortage at the battery positive terminal pulls electrons from the collector but no circuit current flows because of the depletion zone resistance.

Now let us add a second voltage between base and emitter with base positive. This voltage is intent on pulling electrons out of the base and adds to emitter pressures. The thin depletion zone between these pressures releases electrons to the base because it can maintain its energy stability by getting electrons from the emitter and that is what it does.

The pressures in the highly doped emitter are large. For every electron leaving the base and heading for its supply there are about 100 emitter electrons trying to occupy its vacated location (hole). The inrush of electrons into the base put pressure on collector electrons that are also being subjected to the desires created by the supply terminal electron shortages. A continuous current flows.

Hopefully you can see why a junction transistor is regarded as a current amplifier. It is because the many electrons that reach the collector from the emitter are a multiple of the numbers of electrons going from emitter to base.

A diagram representative of an p n p transistor is shown right. It has a pnp sandwich instead of an npn sandwich; the doping levels and sizes of emitter, collector and base are much as before and depletion zones are created as for the npn. In the standard explanation the emitter is seen as emitting electron desiring holes.

A supply voltage between emitter and collector with emitter positive substantially adds to the pressures on the emitter to release electrons to the supply. The pressure brings limited change because the adjacent energy stable depletion zone highly resists change. At the negative terminal electron supply pressures satisfy the p material desires but I repeat no current flows.

Now if we add a voltage between base and emitter with base negative the thin base emitter depletion zone becomes subjected to pressures on both sides and it releases some electrons to the emitter which is already under serious pressure to release electrons to the supply.

The few base to emitter electron movements are sufficient to trigger a multiplicity of emitter electron releases to the supply line and the desires for electrons such releases create is met by the negative supply pressures pushing electrons into the collector.

In both npn and pnp transistors small electron movements flow between base and emitter enable and control much larger electron movements between emitter and collector. The action of an npn transistor is more to do with pressures between electrons whereas that of pnp transistors is more to do with structure energy desires for electrons. Both have their uses but npn’s are for this reason generally more responsive.

Electronics introduction

During the 19th century many experiments showed how electrical properties varied with material structures. But not until the 1930’s and 40’s did scientists start to see the rectification and amplification possibilities of semi conductor materials. Now millions of transistors reside on a computer processor and as many as 400 million transistors can be present on a thumbnail size integrated circuit chip.

The usual explanations of how semi conductors work involve moving charge carriers of negative electrons and positive holes. They are an extension of the idea that unlike charges attract whilst like charges repel. My explanations see all particles and thereby all particle structures as having energy desires. Structures desire the most energy efficient, stable state for their particles but they do not act in isolation and are influenced by changes in neighbor structures. Semi conductor technology is all about such energy desires and energy pressures for change.

Science explains how photon energies from sun particles will travel through space to earth; it explains how visible light photons from particles in a blade of grass will enable your eye and brain particles to collect and interpret its shape and colour. But for some reason it does not see photons of energy as passing across the relatively vast spaces between the particles of atoms and structures of atoms.

I view particles as energy machines; they move toward a photon source to absorb energy and move away from that source when their energy need is satisfied. Such a view explains why all particles vibrate and why they hold one another at a distance in structures. Particle structures like atoms and molecules will naturally bind to other structures but only if by combining they become more energy efficient.

In structures mobile electrons play the role of gathering and distributing photon energies to other particles. That role requires them to keep their distance from other electrons and they do so via energy exchanges. Their photon energy links to nuclear protons supply those protons and thereby neutrons with their energy desires. What we term a “hole” is a a sign that the energy desires of the nuclear particles could be better satisfied if an electron occupied that location. Photon streams to nuclear particles are trying to attract electron outputting photons into that location.

The outer electrons of structures are the least photon energy bound to them. Some are strongly held (electrical insulators) and others weakly held (good conductors). Photon energy pressures will try to dislodge them; they can be a push caused by an approaching electron or a pull provided by a photon stream to a “hole” in another structure, whose energy needs are not being efficiently met by its current electron numbers.

Outer valence electrons are also the means by which atom and molecule structures photon energy link to one another to make larger material structure. Semiconductor materials like silicon and germanium are themselves energy stable and not good conductors of electricity. However, by doping with other elements we can upset their stability and makes them into highly conductive materials that will allow outer electron movements (current flows) when external voltages are applied.

Voltage is usually provided by a two pole source that delivers a surplus of electrons at one pole and a deficit of electrons at the other pole. The surplus electrons put photon pressures on outer electrons to move. The deficit is in the form of locations (holes) that desire to be occupied by an electron. Each pole will act independently for a minuscule time producing its own local pressures and particle movements. If a circuit exists with low resistance to electron movements continuous current will flow.

A one amp current flow is equivalent to 6.25 billion, billion outer electrons passing through a cross section of a conductor every single second. That might sound a lot but it is a small number relative to the outer electrons in a tiny length of a conductor and most of these electrons progress along a conductor length at less than tortoise pace. What does switch our lights on instantly are the photon energy exchange between those electrons. They act at light speed and consequently any movement of electrons in an electric cable will rapidly set in motion electrons that are even miles away in that same cable. For historical reasons the movement of electrons is seen as a current flow in the opposite direction.

Some structures hold onto their outer electrons strongly, others like silver and copper easily part with their outer electrons. The photon energy pressure needed to displace an outer electron it carries with it. In most circumstances such energy is tiny relative to its inherent or mass energy. That or some of that carried energy is released as photon energy when it engages with another atomic particle structure. The copper cables taking energy to appliances mildly warm; nickel chromium elements in toasters output high numbers of infra-red heat photons; light bulbs output the higher photon energies of visible light.

Diodes and semiconductors

Understanding resistance, resistivity and conductivity

Electrical resistance is a measure of an objects opposition to the electron movements that constitute a current flow. It is related to the atomic particle structure of the object but also to its area and length. Resistivity and its inverse conductivity are measures of that part of resistance which is entirely related to particle structure and therefore are fixed for each type of structure.

A voltage across an object provides a surplus of electrons at one pole on the object and a deficit of electrons at another. The surplus electrons produce photon pressures that encourage the least bound outer electrons of the object structure to move away. The deficit produces locations (holes) in the structure that desire electrons and their photon energy gathering capabilities. Energy stable structures have strong holds on their outer electrons and so have high resistivity. Energy structures that have little hold on their outer electrons have low resistivity and good conductivity. Silver, copper and aluminium are good conductors.

Resistance is related to structure length because the voltage pressures are trying to set in motion outer electrons and they in turn are trying to set in motion other outer electrons along the length of the object.

A conductor’s area provides a multitude of pathways along which outer electrons can move. For larger areas the voltage pressures on electrons are more spread and the least held outer electrons are the ones that move. To get the same current flow through a smaller conductor we have to increase voltage and push harder. Measured resistance is increased.

Harder and more concentrated pushes mean the displaced electrons leave with more speed. When those speeding electrons are attracted to new atom homes high photon energies are exchanged so as make their motions appropriate to their new environment. When these photon energy releases are high in relation to the particle numbers they might overcome those particle photon energy links and destroy the structure. We deliberately arrange for this to happen in fuses when its rating is exceeded.

Silicon and germanium as semi conductors

In the periodic table of elements both silicon and germanium atoms have four outer electrons.  Their atoms come together in energy saving arrangements in which they share their 4 outer valence electrons covalently with 4 neighbouring atom. Such structures are energy stable and will not easily part with their outer electrons. They have resistivity millions of times that of good conductors yet millions of times lower than insulating structures like rubber, air and quartz. They are semi conductors.

We can upset the energy linked structures by doping them with small quantities of other elements. The doping elements boron, aluminium and gallium have only 3 outer valence electrons and semi conductor material doped with them is termed p type material. Such material desires electrons to improve its energy stability. Doping with phosphorous, arsenic and antimony with their 5 outer valence electrons makes for an n type material willing to part with electrons to improve its energy state. In both cases the level of doping lowers the material making it much nearer that of good conductors.

Diodes and depletion zones.

When we bring together p type and n type materials as in the diagram the electron desiring p type materials take from the n type materials some of their surplus electrons creating a depletion zone. Structures created in that depletion zone are more energy efficient and highly preferred by the structure. They build a resistance to the changes that the doping levels are pushing for and so the established depletion zone width is a function of the doping levels.

Suppose we now apply a voltage across this p n diode junction as in the diagram left.  Our voltage is pressuring electrons to move into the n material and encouraging electrons to move out of the p material. However the depletion zone wants to stay as it is and it takes about 0.7 volts of pressure (the forward voltage) to get current to flow in a silicon diode from p to n.

There is a limit to the current a diode can pass. As with our fuse the heat produced by electron photon emissions can destroy a diode. However, unlike the fuse, the level of doping is what creates more electron pathways and increases the diodes current rating.

If we reverse the voltage supply on the above diode we push electrons into the p material and pull electrons out of the n type material. Both actions extend the energy saving depletion zone structures making for a larger and more highly resisting depletion zone seriously limiting any reverse current flow. However if this reverse voltage is higher than the manufacturer’s peak inverse voltage, a breakdown current will flow via limited pathways which is usually destructive of the diode.

Zener diodes have highly doped structures that are designed to breakdown at a specific reverse voltage. The high levels of doping provide many pathways for good conduction at and above this zener voltage and so avoid damage to its structure.  The breakdown voltage of zeners can be as low as 2.4 volts and as high as 200 volts. When source voltages are above the zener voltage, current flows. The flow lowers the source voltage and so the diode switches to off which raises the supply voltage.  This on/off switching of a zener at the zener voltage makes it a useful device in voltage regulation.

Light receiving photo diodes and light emitting diodes (LED’s).

We explained above how putting a reverse voltage on a diode extended its depletion zone and how the energy stability of that depletion zone offered a high resistance to any further current flow; it acted as a current blocker. Suppose we now make a diode so that photons of light energy can get through to its depletion zone materials and apply to that diode a reverse voltage .

The diode won’t conduct until many photons of light energy land on its depletion zone. Such photons remove electrons from their desired homes and being no longer firmly held by a specific atom they are influenced by the photon pressures of the diode supply voltage. The result is that these electrons drift in the p to n direction between atomic structures and in so doing influence other electrons in the circuit causing a current flow. We have a photo diode in which light causes a current flow.

LED lights generally use aluminium gallium arsenide as the doped semi conductor material. As for a forward biased silicon or germanium diode the depletion zone is overcome and current flows when the forward bias voltage is exceeded.  However outer electrons in the doped aluminium gallium arsenide are held onto more strongly than those of doped silicon or germanium. They require increased photon energies to set them in motion and carry higher energies which they release, on engaging with an atom, as the higher energy photons of visible light. By changing the characteristics of such diodes we can get them to emit specific colours of visible light, infra red light or ultra violet light.

Rubik group method

This method is born out of mathematical group theory. In it we first nominate top, front and left cube face colours and regard their opposite face colours as part of the same group. The solution is in stages and algorithms (move sequences) are provided for some stages.

In what follows TB is our reference to top and bottom faces, FK to front and back faces and LR to left and right faces. Clockwise turns to Front, Back, Right, Left, Top and Bottom faces use capital letters F, K, R, L, T and B and anti clockwise turns to those faces use non capitals f, k, r, l, t and b.

Stage 1: Prepare edge blocks : This stage seeks to have all TB edge block colours either on a TB face or on the mid layer of an LR face and all FK edge block colours on a FK face or on the top/bottom layers of the LR face.
One 90 degree turn of an LR face will correct 4 non complying edge blocks. So the objective is to move 4 such edge blocks to one LR face using no 90 degree turns of either of those faces and then to turn that face through 90 degrees.

If you have a situation where only two blocks do not comply position just one of them on an LR face and rotate it 90 degrees. That move will make that one block right but three others wrong. Replace the righted block on that face with the other non complying block and turn the LR face 90 degrees to correct the four wrong blocks.  As an example the cube shown has four blocks in need of correction. Two are opposite one another on the top face. If we turn the front face anti clockwise and the back face clockwise these two blocks are opposite one another on the vertical edges of the left face.

In doing the above we moved the white blue edge block to the back bottom position and therefore by turning the bottom face clockwise we can position it in the left bottom position. Now we turn the top face 180 degrees to place the yellow orange block at the left top position. We now have the situation illustrated and can correct all four blocks by turning the left face 90 degrees.

Stage 2: Position all TB edge blocks on TB faces: Doing this we must avoid 90 degree LR face turns.
First establish three TB edge faces on both of the TB faces. Maintain these triples whilst positioning the two other TB edge colours facing away from and opposite one another on the LR faces as shownas shown. Now do a 90 degree turn of the front face. on which the other 2 TB blocks are situated.

Important note: At stages 3, 4 and 5 below 90 degree turns are only allowed on TB faces except where using a stage algorithm

Stage 3: All TB face corner blocks to show a TB colour: Two algorithms are provided. To move TB corner colours facing front right bottom and facing left front top do algorithm r, B, L2, b, R. To move TB corner colours facing front left bottom and right front top do algorithm L, b, R2, B, l. If left with three corners to correct, locate two blocks as required but with one not facing as required.  Now do the appropriate algorithm. It will correct only one, leaving two blocks to correct as above. stage.

Stage 4:  Match TB corner colours with centre face colours: You can easily move pairs of corner blocks between top and bottom using 180 degree turns. If you are left with unpaired blocks top and bottom position the bottom block so that when you do a 180 degree turn of the face on which the lone top corner colour block resides it makes for a pair on the bottom face. Now you can manipulate that pair to the top face.  The illustration below shows TB faces at the end of this stage.       

Stage 5: Temporarily finalize all corner blocks: Two algorithms are provided. The first is r, F, r, K2, R, f, R. The second is R2, F2, R2.

Look at each of the FB and LR faces. You are looking to see if there are any corner block colour matches either on the top layer or on the bottom layer of those faces. The example shows 5 matches and e) below applies
a)  if no pairs match do the second algorithm.
b)  if one pair match position that pair top front and do the first algorithm.
c)  if two pairs match (one top layer, one bottom layer) put top pair at rear. Do the first algorithm and then proceed as for b) above.
d)  if all pairs match one layer and no pairs match on the other, turn the cube so that the matching  layer  is down and do the first algorithm. Now check the faces again and proceed as for a) or b) above.
e) If all pairs match one layer and one pair matches on the other layer. Put the one pair rear top and do the first algorithm then proceed as a).

You should now be able to turn faces so that all the corner blocks are in their final positions.

Important note: At stages 6, 7 and 8 avoid any 90 degree turns except when part of an algorithm

Stage 6: All FK and LR edge blocks to display their group colour: One algorithm is provided. b, L2, R2, T  will correct 4 bad edges at front top, back top, left bottom and right bottom. This algorithm will upset the corner situation achieved at stage 5 but they will be made correct again at stage 7.
Look for LR colours on a FK face and FK colours on a LR face. Correct four of them by first appropriately positioning them using 180 degree turns followed by the algorithm. When or if only two need correcting put them on the top layer and perform the algorithm. You now have four blocks in need of correction so proceed as for them. At the end of this stage all TB, FK and LR faces will have blocks that show their group colour.

Stage 7: All corners in final positions: Use 180 turns to finalize all corner blocks.

Stage 8: Finalize edges to complete the cube: At this stage any face can be identified as the front face, etc.

Two algorithms are provided. The first (F2, R2) x 3 (180 degree turns of front and right faces performed 3 times) will swap the positions of the front top and front bottom blocks as well as the positions of the right top and right bottom blocks. The second F2, L2, R2, K2, R2, L2  will swap the front top with the front bottom but also the back top with the back bottom. Note:  It may be necessary to do 180 degree or 90 degree turn(s) before doing an algorithm so as to suitably position blocks for the algorithm. If you do this you must reverse the order and direction of rotation of those turns as soon as you complete the algorithm.

If at some stage there are just 3 blocks to correct use the algorithm to swap a pair of them and correct one block whilst also swapping another pair that are correct. Now we have four blocks to correct and one algorithm should correct these if you do the appropriate preparatory move undoing it after performing the algorithm.

In the example shown it is best to first tackle the blocks that are doubly wrong. I would swap the green and blue faces along with another pair that need swapping. By turning the top face through 90 degrees and regarding it as the right face with the blue as the front face we can do the first algorithm and finalise one pair. Don’t forget to undo the 90 degree turn. Now we have four pair of blocks that want simple swaps. Use the algorithms as required doing and then undoing any preparatory turns required to enable the algorithms to work.

About our ancestors

My brothers and I were given the surname Simpson because my dad had become known as Albert Simpson. His marriage certificate to our mother records him as “Albert Simpson otherwise Littlefair”. But he did not officially become Simpson until 1967 when we were all in our twenties. 

An unmarried Margaret Littlefair, aged 19, had given birth to dad in the November of 1915. She registered the birth some three month later giving her address as 44, Anchor Yard, New Elvet and her occupation as a Domestic Servant. Number 44 was a large communal dwelling where the King’s Gate Bridge now is; the 1901 census shows it housed some 47 people in 10 families. Margaret gave dad the name Albert Brown Littlefair.

Less than a month after registering dad’s birth Margaret married a John George Gill.  Dad’s half sister Elsie, in later years, told me she believed Mr Gill was dad’s father but I still wonder about the Brown in dad’s name. An R. Brown had resided at 44 Anchor Yard in 1914, the year World War 1 started. Was he dad’s father?  I have not traced him and he may have volunteered, as did over two million, in response to the Kitchener “Your country needs you” campaign before conscription started. Soon John George Gill was in the Durham Light Infantry and killed in the war in its final year, 2018. His grave is in St. Oswald’s church yard.

Margaret, Dad and Scotty

Margaret Gill, a widow became Margaret Simpson when she married Alfred Simpson (Scotty) in 1920. Dad, at this time aged 5 came to be known as Albert Simpson. I believe he attended St Margaret’s School in Crossgate because he spoke of a teacher called Tommy Bar there who meted out much punishment.

In the August of 1938 when dad was 22 and a barman he married our mother, Ruby Gladys Wells, a Gown Store Assistant aged 23 and living at Nova Lima, Moor Edge. Earlier, in this same year, dad’s mother Margaret had died aged 42 at 87 Elvet Bridge. Dad had been there in 1937 but his marriage certificate of 1938 shows him as residing on the market place end of Elvet Bridge at number 47.

Though we have none of Scotty’s genes we do bear his name. He had been born in 1897 at Partick in Lanarkshire, soon to become part of the growing Glasgow. His father worked in a Clyde shipyard and he also but was then conscripted into the army as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. They operated lighter more mobile guns, like howitsers and mortars and moved in close support of infantry and Scotty would drive the transport that kept the guns and their operators in such close positions. Later when we were boys, Scotty was a bookies runner operating in Durham Market Place and always on the look out for police because such activities were illegal.

Dad’s mother”s parents were a Ralph Littlefair and an American Mary Ann Turnbull, known as Polly. They resided at Daisy Hill, near Sacriston and later had a small holding at Nettlesworth. Ralph, like his father Ralph, had worked as a miner but became a cartman and horse dealer. His oldest brother William had been a cartman but then bought a Wheatley Green Farm and later a second and larger East Edmondsley Farm. Farmer William and his wife, also Margaret, had given birth to their fourth son Albert in 1895, the year before dad’s mother Margaret was born. My guess is Margaret and Albert, at near the same age spent a lot of their growing years together. It is almost certainly why Margaret named dad Albert.

Mam’s mother and father were Jessie Pook and William Maurice Wells. My mother was their second child and born in London’s Hammersmith, near Shepherd’s Bush. They moved to the North East and had three more children but were not married and did not get married until 1934, two years before William died. That marriage was at the Durham Registry office and witnessed by strangers. It is most likely that mother and her siblings never knew they were born out of wedlock.

Maurice William Wells had been a telegraphist before the age of 18. He then signed on for 12 years with the Household Cavalry at their Hyde Park Barracks where he was assigned to the Royal Horse Guards, otherwise known as the “Blues”. His rank was that of Trooper which unlike lowest ranks in other services was seen as that of a a gentleman. No rank of sergeant (servant) in the “blues”.

Nearly three years later Queen Victoria granted permission for members of her Cavalry to fight in the Boer War. So, for 14 months Maurice was fighting in South Africa against the Boers (descendants of Dutch settlers). The Boers were non uniformed farmers resisting British control of their Transvaal state. They had grown up with rifles and horses and so were proficient marksmen and horsemen and did not use conventional war tactics. Not only were the troops fighting the Boers but they were poorly fed and in conditions where high numbers succumbed to disease.

After the war and back in London Trooper Wells would have been on parade at Queen Victoria’s funeral early 1901. Later that same year he was discharged from the Horse Guards and we can only guess that he worked in the electrical industry because 12 to 13 years later he is describing himself as an electrician.

Back in the 1861 census, Jessie Pook’s father to be John Francis Pook, was at 13 years of age and apprenticed to a green grocer. He was a lodger at the green grocers. His father was a Butler in a house at Bath and his mother was a resident in the Bath Workhouse. At 22 years of age John Francis is in London and working as a green grocer assistant when he marries a grocer’s daughter Eliza Dennis. At the time of Jessie’s birth he is an oilman, selling lamp oils, etc and employing others. When Jessie is 7 he dies aged a mere 37.

Though left with children Eliza would manage because her father and brothers were nearby to give support. Eliza’s dad Reuben Dennis had kept cows near Marylebone, now at the heart of London. The Dennis family later owned multiple properties including green grocers, master butchers, an oil business, tailors, a fruiterers for the gentry and several top class hotels including the Rose at Hatton Garden that they rebuilt. One of Eliza’s brothers was Mayor of Marylebone, another a building society director.

When Jessie was 11 her mother married a tailor’s shop-man and widower James Hemming, who had children of his own to support. A tailoring business followed in which the older children participated. Later the now Hemmings owned a 12 bedroom “Prince of Wales” pub in St Pancras,
shown in the photograph as a Japanese restaurant. Jessie at the age of 23 worked as a barmaid in that pub.

Jessie and her two older sisters moved in high society. Her oldest sister married a barrister to be. Her slightly older sister Nora married a Septimus Sydney Wilkins Horncastle and had three children by him Harold, Sydney and John. Jessie must have been close to Nora because two of Jessie’s later family were named after these boys.

Septimus, aided by family, seems to have done a runner to America under the name of Jack Williams. Nora followed by boat giving her name as a Mrs Jack Williams. She gave incorrect ages for her sons but correctly listed her mother Eliza as her next of kin. She says she is bound for Elmendorf Farm racing stables at Lexington in Kentucky. I speculate that they were not going there and that Septimus is being threatened as a result of gambling debts. At this time Jessie is 32, has left the pub and is at Bexhill on sea, near Hastings, where other Pooks reside. Here she is working in a care home for the well off.

When nearly 37 years old Jessie has a son to Maurice William Wells at Kensington. They call him John William (Jack) and just over a year later in the April of 1915 they have a daughter and our mother to be Ruby Gladys at North Hammersmith, London.

In 1916 war conscription started and although William was a low priority at 37 years of age and married he knew both the realities of war. He knew he could be called up and I suspect his move north to Gateshead and his becoming an electrician in William Armstrong’s Elswick armaments factory was his way of avoiding conscription.

Maurice William, with Ruby (left) and Maude (right) at Office Street, Browney Colliery.

When Jessie is nearly 40 Sydney is born near Lobley Hill, Gateshead. A year later Maude is born near the Swallwell Road and a year after that a James is born at Newcastle

At Newcastle, William probably no longer worked in armaments and he and Jessie would have 5 children, the oldest of which (Jack) would be just over 5 years old.

Next the family moved to Browney Colliery near Durham where they resided in Office Street and where William worked as a Foreman Electrician. There, when mother was 17 and in 1932 her youngest brother James died. He was just 13.

We can trace our Pook ancestry back to 1822 at Tiverton in Devon, our Dennis/Pook ancestry back to 1799 at St. Pancras, our Wells ancestry back to 1815 at East Meon in Hampshire and our Gibson (William Wells mother) ancestry back to 1816 at Mortlake in Surrey. We can trace our Littlefair ancestry back to 1641.

Littlefair as a surname originated in Durham and spread from there. Like all worldwide Littlefair ancesties we trace ours back to a marriage in 1641 of a Thomas Littlefaire to a Dorathie Sigsworth at Gateshead. We know not why but some 12 years later Dorathie took her sons Ralph Littlefair aged 3 and Edward aged 1 to an area at Hamsterley/Cockfield in County Durham. Here she had relatives and here in 1655 she married a John Mayer. In 1658 she inherited a farm at nearby Woodland from her uncle and further inherited from her husband on his death in 1678.

Elsewhere in the north east the Littlefair name died out and for a time it was lost at Cockfield where the names of the two sons of Dorathie Littlefair were written down as Littleforth’s. When the mistake came to light their Littlefair name was restored and the worldwide Littlefair tree grew from there.

We are descended from Dorathie’s son Ralph and his “wife” Margaret Elstob who did not christen their early children Rachel and Ralph in the Church of England. When the travelling Bishop’s Court visited the area in 1675, Margaret was charged by the court with being a Papist and clandestinely married.  Two years later both Margaret and Ralph were charged by the same court with cohabiting in fornication or being clandestinely married. Thereafter their subsequent children were christened in the Church of England but Margaret remained a non conformist Quaker until her burial in 1716 at a Raby church where there were monthly meetings of the Society of Friends (Quakers). 

Ralph died in 1696, aged 46, some 20 years before his mother. His will, below, is about leaving his land and a share of a Colliery he owned, but also about how his inheritance upon his mother’s death was to be distributed.

My interpretation of the above is
In ye name of god Amen. I Ralph Littlefare of ye High Rowe in ye pish of Cockfield and in ye County of Durham, being visited of the sickness, but notwithstanding of good ——– (praised be god therefore) doe make this my will as hereafter follows.
First I do give unto my son Ralph Littlefare all my land after ye death of my mother and alsoe halfe of ye Colleyry after her death, and ye other halfe after my mothers death to my wife for her life and after her death to my son Ralph and his Heires, and ye pt of yeColleyry wch I have in my possession I do also give unto my wife until ye death of my mother.
I do give unto my son Thomas Twenty pounds to be pd by my son Ralph within four years after he enter upon this land if he be then living.I do alsoe give unto each of my Three Daughters Ten pounds to be pd by my son Ralph. Ten pounds to be pd to my daughter Rachell within six years after he enter upon ye land (if she be then living) Ten pounds in ye next year after to my daughter Mary (if she be then living) and Tenn pounds in ye next year following to my daughter Elizabeth (if she be then living)
I do give unto my son WillTenn Pounds to be pd by my son Ralph within Twelve years after he Enter upon the land (if he be then living) and Tenn Pounds to my son Daniel to be pd by him in ye year next following.
All ye Rest of my goods I doe give unto my wife Margret whome I do make my E –ecutaix of this my last will and testament, and hereto I have set my hand and seal this 13
th day of July in ye year of our Lord god 1696.


The sealed will was witnessed by an Antony Hodgshon jur and  a John Ward jur. It bears the name Ralph Littlefaire with a large B in the middle which will have been his mark and noted by an mk above it. The Cockfield Parish records show Ralph’s burial on the following day 14th of July 1696.

Ralph’s son Ralph also had a son Ralph from whom we are descended. His son John had left Cockfield and had married at Bishopwearmouth (now part of Sunderland) an Elizabeth Foreman. Their son John married at Washington a Mary Teasdale and they and their family lived at nearby Biddick, where a son Ralph was born, before moving to Ryton and then Edmondsley, where John died aged about 49.

Ralph (Margaret Littlefairs grandfather to be) was about 15 when his dad died He went on to marry a Margaret Proud at Chester le Street in 1955. They had all their family at Edmondsley, christening them at St Mary and St. Cuthbert Church, Chester le Street until 1866 when St Peter’s at Sacriston was consecrated. Their family included Margaret’s father Ralph and her uncle William, the farmer.

Galactic scale

Distances in our solar system are hard to imagine. At its heart is our sun, some 864,938 miles in diameter. But if we imagine it as a 15 cm (6 inch) ball then on the same scale the following would be the size of the planets and their distances from the sun.

Mercury would be a tiny grain of sand 6.4 metres away away, Venus and Earth would be grains of sand 12 and 16.5 metres away and Mars a slightly smaler grain of sand 24 metres away. The gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would have diameters of about 1.75, 1.43, 0.63 and 0.63 centimetres and be at distances in metres from that scaled sun of 84, 155, 311 and 487.

In 1977 we launched the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 Spacecrafts with missions to explore the outer gas giant planets of our Solar System. In August 2012 Voyager 1 which is travelling at 17 kilometres a second made an historic entry into interstellar space. Voyager 2 travelling at 15 km, a sec. did likewise in November 2018. They are both now out of our solar system and in the region between stars where scattered material remnants of stars that died millions of years ago reside. Both spacecrafts continue to emit data that takes hours to reach us on earth.

The stars of the milky way are all stars in our “Milky Way” galaxy

Our sun is one of about 200 billion linked stars in our galaxy, that we call the Milky Way. Our nearest neighbour star is Proxima Centauri. It is often referred to as Alpha Centauri C because it has links with a pair of binary stars (Alpha Centauri A and B) that rotate about one another. Light from that near neighbour takes 4.24 earth years to reach us. Light from its binary neighbours take 4.44 years to reach us. Such distances mean that even if we travelled at 20 km per second (faster than Voyager 1 and 2) it would take 15,000 earth years to get to that closest neighbour star.

The Milky Way is a Spiral Galaxy

The Milky Way galaxy is a pancake shaped galaxy with spiral arms and a bulge in the centre that includes a black hole whose mass is two million times that of our sun. The solar system is sited on an edge of one of its spiral arms and is located about two thirds of the way from the centre of the galaxy and just slightly above the equatorial or, if you prefer, pancake plane of the galaxy.

Our ancestors were more familiar with the night sky than we are. Very few of us now see the milky road of dense stars crossing the heavens. Only those living in or visiting remote areas get to see it. It is our view along the plane of our pancake like galaxy. The less dense stars we see are the one’s above and below us in that pancake formation.

On the scale we used for our solar system our pancake like galaxy would be about 68 million miles across and over 600 miles thick. Some pancake. The solar system is on this same scale located about 20 million miles from the centre of the pancake and about 9 miles above the pancake equatorial plane. The milky way galaxy rotates about its centre. It is estimated that the time our solar system takes to orbit the galaxy centre is between 200 and 250 million earth years. Toward the edge of our galaxy and diametrically opposite the solar system our galaxy is merging with one or perhaps two dwarf galaxies. I use the word merging because the vast distances between galactic stars mean collisions are improbable

The Andromeda Galaxy as photographed in our back garden using a 6 inch Newtonian Telescope. The light travelling at 300, 000 km per second had taken 2.537 million years to reach us.
We can clearly see a lot further than the horizon.

Let’s now change scale and consider our Milky Way galaxy as being just 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter. The Milky Way galaxy is one of about 30 in the “Local Group”. This group includes the well known Andromeda Galaxy (another spiral galaxy and on this new scale 20 cm in diameter and 4.9 metres away) and two galaxies that are clearly visible in the southern hemisphere namely the Large Magellanic Cloud (a tennis ball 30 cm away) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (a ping pong ball 35 cm away). These latter two galaxies are regarded as satellites of the Milky Way Galaxy.

A group of over 1000 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster is on this same scale about 55 metres away. This cluster is no bigger in size than the local group but with many more galaxies it has much more mass. This additional mass is pulling the “Local Group” toward it. The Virgo Cluster and Local Group together form part of what is called The Local Super Cluster covering 183 yards long on our scale.

The universe has many super clusters in all directions. The entire visible universe, on our galactic scale would be a large sphere about 28 miles in diameter and containing over 200 billion galaxies. Surely our earth and its life forms cannot be unique in such an extensive distribution of energy and matter.

Most of the smaller distances in space are measured in light years. Light in a vacuum travels at 299,792,458 metres per second. A Light year is the distance light travels in one earth year. It is just less than 6 trillion miles or just less than 10 trillion kilometres in metric. A parsec, the preferred unit in Astronomy, is about 3.26 Light Years. Hans Solo made reference to it in star wars.

You have to realise that when looking at the stars you are viewing objects as they were years ago, many of the millions of years ago. They are not a picture of what is but of many as was situations. Many of those stars seen will no longer be where we see them or even exist.

Away Days

This blog is about the days out we had as a family, the trips the chapel organised, about camping with the scouts and the expeditions we ourselves organised. My earliest memory of a day out was when dad took us to Butterby Wood near Croxdale, through which the river Wear flows toward Durham City. The area was one he knew well from his youth and he quickly found a spot where we could safely take a dip. I remember dad doing breast stroke in the river with Derrick on his broad back.

Meal time at Billy Butlin’s Holiday Camp Filey.
Bill and I in foreground. George, Ed, Brian and Peter behind.

Family trips to relatives were minimum expense. Mother’s sister Maude lived at Willington Quay, north of and above Howdon and Wallsend. The skyline was quite different to that at Durham and dominated by shipyard cranes. Uncle Ernie worked in the shipyards. Not far away was a foot tunnel under the Tyne to Jarrow and we would go through it with cousin Ernie. Once Bill and I bought ice creams with pocket money mam had given us but did not get young Ernie one. We rightly got a scolding by our aunt. They had a budgie called “Beauty” and Maude talked to it a lot. Years later when we had a budgie I realised they could be taught to repeat phrases. Ours had quite a repertoire and was comfortable walking on the floor in front of our dog’s nose. Later still my dad bred budgies and canaries in our back garden. Any poor quality birds, skemmies he called them, he would dunk in a barrel of water.

Kelloe was where mother’s brother Sydney, a miner, lived with his wife Olive. They had a son Kenneth, whom I must have played with but I have no memories of doing so. Unlike our house at Durham they had outside earth closet toilets with bench seats.Nearby Sid kept pigs. I loved aunt Olive’s apple pies. They were about an inch thick and with very little pastry edging. Mam’s apple pies were not even half as thick and always had at least an inch of pastry edging.

Uncle Sid was in later life committed to Winterton Hospital, Sedgefield. We knew it as the lunatic assylum and had been given that name by the authorities when built. I saw him there once and though he must have had problems he seemed fine to me. I have to concede that not all things in the past are better than they are now.

Brimham Rocks near Harrogate, North Yorks.

A Betty and Tommy Nichol at Thorne, near Doncaster had accommodated dad in the early war years. We knew them as aunt and uncle. Tommy had a car and would take us to places in Yorkshire like Brimham Rocks. I remember him showing Bill and I how to adjust his car distributor points. It was our first introduction to car maintenance.

The Methodist chapel we attended would organise away trips, mostly to the sea side at Sunderland’s Roker and Seaburn. Many of the neighbourhood kids attended that chapel and so these were days out when the families in our street came together and linked up with known neighbourhood families.

On the left, left to right Elaine Rickerby, Eric Lumley, Dorothy Mede Keith Mawson, Jennifer Rickerby, Bill, David Mede, Derrick and Merle Mawson.
On the right there are also left to right Mrs Mawson, Mrs Rickerby, Mrs Lumley and Mrs Mede.

Our first experience of camping was as Cub Scouts. We pitched our tents next to the River Swale between Reeth and Gunnerside in Yorkshire. Whilst sat round a blazing camp fire one evening the local farmer told tales of tidal waves on the river and explained how it would rapidly fill up the land on which we were camping. Off to bed and I was at the door end of a tent of six boys. My friend George at the other end had a distressed night and the following day when several mother’s came to visit he went home with them.

The 4th Durham Scouts were based at the Vane Tempest Hall and we would play games there like British Bulldog and make twist (pastry twirled on a stick baked over a fire) in the nearby Pelaw Wood. They organised a camp near Easby Abbey just outside Richmond in Yorkshire and we travelled there on the back of a lorry. We had great fun building a dam across the river using stones from the river bed and there were also rope walks and pulley rides between trees. I was one of the younger ones and left to stir a cauldron of rice on a really hot fire that was cooking me. The rice did not get stirred as much as it should have been and was burnt. I don’t remember one word of complaint.

One Easter weekend several of us went by train to Richmond. With rucksacks on our backs and under-slung tents we set off walking toward Reeth. It was snowing and getting dark when we spotted a small clearing by the roadside near Hag’s Wood. With a struggle we pitched our tents there and slept well but next morning we realised we were in a roadside lay-by. The snow was high on the tent sides and we upped sticks and retired to a local barn, Their we ate tins of cold beans and creamed rice and decided to abandon the trip.We later tried hitch hiking/camping in that area. Only Peter and one other, I forget who it was, were successful. They managed to get to the lake district and back but then amazingly ended up at the same camp site at Barnard Castle that we others had come to.

George and Bill front, Ed and I rear. To the left our chalets. To the right more upmarket chalets.
John, Bill, Ed, George Peter and Brian at Butlins. Brian must have been standing at a lower level because he was taller than Ed, George and Peter.

By this time a lad called John Earwaker had joined our group. He was in Brian’s class at Whinney Hill but had become a particular friend of Bill. As a group we went to Butlins Holiday camp, Filey occupying two chalets that each slept four persons.

Chalets may sound posh but they were just sheds suitably partitioned. Each partition had an entry door with a window each side of it. Inside and behind each window were two bunk beds. Opposite the door and between the beds was a wash basin. Toilets were nearby for “lads” and “lasses”. It was a luxury form of camping with many events organised by “red coats”. You could take part in them if you so wished. The tv program hi – de -hi is not far from how it was

When we were at or near 18 in age Scotland became the place for trips and Loch Lomond was our destination. We assembled at Durham Station for our first trip but John was not there and we left without him. At the southern end of Loch Lomond was Balloch Pier station. You couldn’t have got nearer to the loch and as it was a beautiful sunny day the scene of numerous bright coloured small pleasure boats, some with sails, remains in my memory.

We had not planned any walking route and set off up the east side of the Loch, going via a wood and the village of Drymen to Balmaha. Here we pitched our tents on the top of a hill and experienced a night time downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning. Unknown to us John had got a later train to Balloch Pier but had there decided to walk up the west side of the Loch toward Luss. We never met up with him but can I say a belated well done to John.

Next stop for us was Rowardennan and its Inn where we asked for halves, What we got was a Scotland hauf n hauf, a wee whisky and a half pint beer chaser. We didn’t argue but on hindsight I think the Scottish landlord was taking us for a ride. A paddle steamer service operated on the loch and called at Rowardennan and we took it to Tarbet, on the other side of the loch, and then were back on foot to Arochar near the top of Loch Long, a sea loch. We walked around the top of the loch and camped at the base of Ben Arthur, otherwise known as the Cobbler. From here we could see Arochar on the other side of the loch and the West Highland Railway line above it that ran on the hill side. We weren’t far from and could see the submarine base on our side of the loch, in later years the scene of protests when its submarines became carriers of Trident missiles. Whilst camping there we climbed the 900 metres to the top of the Cobbler and discovered coming down was worse than going up. The much slipping and sliding removed a heel of my boot. How I repaired it I remember not.

Lochgoilhead Church – an 18th century church

From Arochar we trecked up the long steady roadway climb to the appropriately named “Rest and be thankfull” and then took a mostly downward route to Lochgoilhead. where enquiries led us to camp in its church field. Here we visited the local pub and got “our” halves. However, when the landlord learnt from us that we were staying in the minister’s field, he decided we would be limited to that one drink.

At Lochgoilhead our camping ended and we took the steamer service down to Dunoon, and then the Ferry Service across to Gourock and trains home.

Walking and Camping in Scotland.

A second trip to Scotland quickly followed, with reduced numbers but I do not remember who they were. This time we took the “Maid of the Loch” steamer from Balloch that criss crossed the lock before arriving at Inversnaid with its loch side hotel. We walked via Loch Arklet and visited Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine where the “Lady of the Lake” steamer was anchored. Signs told us it was Glasgow’s water supply. What we did not know was that we were in the area of the outlaw Rob Roy McGregor made famous by one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels and that “Lady of the Lake” steamer bore the name of one of his poems.

There were no inns en route for “refreshment” as we walked the roads between wooded hills and past Loch Chan to an overnight roadside camp before proceeding via Loch Ard to Aberfoyle, which was busy with tourists. From here we headed north and saw the colours and beauty of the Trossacs before passing via Loch Achray and Loch Venachar, beneath Ben Ledi to Callander.

Never again did I look so cool

At Callander we took time out to visit the spectacular falls of the river Leny as it descends from the hills. The only photograph I have of this whole trip is of me by the falls acting cool. From Callander we went north via Lochearnhead to Loch Tay.

Approaching Killin on Loch Tay we must have been getting walk weary because I remember us debating and deciding to take the longer (on the map) but less winding road along the north side of the loch to get to Kenmore where we camped. From there it was to Aberfeldy and trains home.

Later, dad bought a family car under pressure from Bill and he and then I learnt to drive. Scotland became a place where we would go and camp as a family. I remember us camping in Glen Coe and taking a morning dip in a mountain stream there. Brrrr. On a later camping trip the site was a farmer’s field near Comrie. That trip led to my youngest brother Derrick making many subsequent motor bike trips there and marrying the farmer’s daughter.

As lads, our numbers were now being depleted by girl friend and work involvements and so the last trip I mention involved just George, Ed, myself and a friend of George, one Geoff Winter. We flew from Newcastle to Jersey, stayed in a hotel there and did some serious drinking around the Island. George must have said something on our arrival back at Newcastle airport because the bus was kept waiting for him whilst he underwent a strip search.

My advice to all youths would be to enjoy it while you can because you can never return to it.