Walter Widdas was born in Cockfield, Co. Durham in 1907 into a mining family. His father Percy (1877-1957) was manager at the local Gordon House Colliery; his grandfather Cornelius (1845-1911) was an engineer with North Beechburn Coal Co; and Percy’s brothers Frank (1872-1931) and Henry (1879-1957) were also engineers and managers. Walter’s brother Cornelius Graham became an engineer, as did his son Michael, who was NEIMME President in 1981-82.
Walter began work at Gordon House Colliery in 1925 and then in 1926, as an apprentice at Pease and Partners, went to Armstrong College, Durham University to study mining. After graduating he worked at Blackhall and Dawdon collieries, gaining his manager’s certificate in 1930, before joining the Mines Inspectorate in 1937 as a junior inspector in the Midlands. After promotion there he became Divisional Inspector in Scotland in 1953, transferring to the Durham Division in 1958. He retired in 1971 as Northern Divisional Inspector.
He was awarded the Silver Medal of the Midland Counties Institute of Engineers in 1952 and in 1956 shared the Alexander Gillespie Prize of the Mining Institute of Scotland. In 1981 he was awarded NEIMME’s Stanley Walton-Brown award as someone who had served the Institute in ways other than the presentation of technical papers.
He received the CBE in the 1965 New Year Honours.
In 1935 he married Susan Curry, daughter of Michael Curry, Manager at Cornsay Colliery, Durham.
Walter Widdas died in 1991 aged 84.
Widdas, W & Brass, J Jun Recovery of the sealed off district of the Creswell Colliery Transactions – Institution of Mining Engineers 112 1952-53, 179-198 discussion 198-203
Widdas, W. Presidential address [NEIMME] Integrity and integration Mining Engineer 124 1964-65 421-423
Widdas, W. Improvements in mine safety since 1871 (Extended abstract) Mining Engineer 131, 1971-72, 255-259
(Given at the Centenary event for Newcastle University 11 Nov 1971)