Frank Robert Simpson was born at West House, Ryton-on-Tyne, on the 12th of April 1864, the eldest son of John Bell Simpson. He was educated at Rugby and also Durham Physical College, studying under Merivale, Lebour and Herschel. In 1883 he began his mining training at The Stella Coal Company’s collieries and also at Harton under George May and at Bedlington under John George Weeks. He obtained his Colliery Manager’s Certificate in 1888. In 1889 he obtained the post of Colliery Surveyor at Cannock Chase Colliery, Staffs., and was promoted to Colliery Manager at Pelsall Colliery, Staffs in 1893. In 1895 he returned to assist his father and became Assistant Mining Engineer and managing director of the Stella Coal Company, Ltd., in 1903. In 1903 he became a Partner in the firm of John Bell Simpson & Son, Mining Engineers.
Simpson joined the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers as a student in 1883, a member in 1891, and was Vice-President in 1910 to 1911. He was elected twice as President of the Institute, in 1919 to 1921 and 1935 to 1936. He was also President of the Institution of Mining Engineers in 1939. He was a pioneer of electrification of collieries and of adapting mechanized mining to thin seams.
Simpson was a Director of The Wallsend & Hebburn Coal Co., Ltd., The Throckley Coal Co., Ltd., the Elswick Coal Co., Ltd., The Carliol Investment trust, Ltd., and The Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company. He was a member of the Tyne Improvement Commission from 1921 to 1947 and Vice-Chairman from 1935 to 1945. In 1935 he was made a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Simpson was a prominent member of both the Durham and Northumberland Coal Owners’ Associations. He was on the Governing Body of Armstrong College and as it became King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne. He gave much help to the ambulance movement and The Order of St. John of Jerusalem made him a Knight of the Order in 1919.
As a politician Simpson served on Ryton Urban District for 50 years from 1897 and was a member of Durham County Council from 190 to 1928 and 1931 to 1937. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1902 and was High Sheriff of Durham County in 1935. He was Deputy Lieutenant of Durham County in April 1921. He stood as the Unionist candidate for Blaydon in the 1922 General Election.
Simpson also had a military career. He joined the 5th Volunteer Battalion Durham Light Infantry in 1887 and transferred to the 9th Battalion on the formation of the Territorial Force in 1911. He commanded this Battalion on the outbreak of War in 1914. He saw active service in the Balkans and Aegean. Simpson received the Territorial Decoration in 1916. From 1927 to 1931 he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the 9th Durham Light Infantry. He served on the Terrirorial Army and Air Force Association of Durham County and was both Vice-Chairman and Chairman of that body.
The most important honours conferred on him were a Baronetcy in 1935 as President of Blaydon Conservative Association for political and public services in Durham and Northumberland and CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath) in 1939 as Chairman, Territorial Army and Air Force Association of the County of Durham.
Sir Frank Robert Simpson died on the 29th of April 1949.