George May was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, on the 12th of February 1839. He was educated at Bishop Auckland Grammar School and Hartforth School, Richmond (Yorkshire). In 1856, he served as an apprentice at Hetton Collieries. In 1872 May was appointed resident viewer to the North Hetton Collieries and later to the charge of Harton Collieries.
May married Fannie, daughter of Joseph Bourne (descendants of Henry Bourne, historian of Newcastle), and together they had two daughters.
May began connections with Harton Collieries at the age of 33. He held the position of agent of the Harton Coal Company for 35 years. For a short time May was a member of the South Shields Town Council and the Durham County Council. He was elected to North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in 1862 and was one of the oldest members at the time of death. May was appointed President of the Institute between 1896 and 1898. He also acted as chairman of the Haulage Committee and represented the Institute as director of the Institute and Coal Trade Chambers Ltd. May was active in the Durham Coal Owner’s Association, being a member of the Conciliation Board and Joint Committee.
In his own time, May was a member of the Horticultural Society and of the Northern Antiquarian Society.
George May died at Clervaux Castle.