Tony Blair Family History
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, better known as the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was born on May 6th, 1953 to Leo and Hazel Blair in Edinburgh. He was the second of their three children.
In 1954 the family moved to Australia where his father had taken up a teaching position. They then returned to England when Tony was eight and to Durham which he has considered his hometown.
His hero at school was Mick Jagger and he had more interest in rock music than in pursuing a career. But he studied law at Oxford and served his barrister pupillage at Lincoln’s Inn, which was where he met his future wife Cherie Booth.
Soon afterwards, Tony joined the Labour party. He was elected the MP for the Sedgefield constituency in 1983. The Labour party was in opposition at that time and continued to be as Tony rose in its ranks to become the party leader in 1994.
Now dubbed New Labour, the party won the 1997 general election in a landslide. Tony Blair became Prime Minister, the youngest to do so in the 20th century. He was Prime Minister for a period of ten years, winning three elections, and was initially very popular. But his approval ratings started to decline as a result of the Iraq war and he stepped down in 2007.
Post his premiership he has been involved in a number of endeavors – most notably his Institute for Global Change – and made some serious money as well. He was, for much of this time, out of favor with his Labour party. But the arrival of Keir Starmer as party leader in 2019 saw him being given a better reception.
Blair, Parsons and Bridson
Tony Blair’s ancestry is English but, in terms of the Blair name, only one generation deep. His father Leo, born in Yorkshire, was the illegitimate son of two travelling English actors, Charles Parsons and Gussie Bridson.
They gave up baby Leo and he was first fostered and then adopted by a working class couple – the Glasgow shipyard worker James Blair and his wife Mary. Leo would later take their Blair name.
Who then had the greater influence on the lives of Leo Blair and his son Tony?
- Leo’s biological parents Charles Parsons and Gussie Bridson
- or James and Mary Blair who raised him.
The Bridson Story
First, we can talk about his biological parents and, most importantly here, his maternal Bridson line.
Very little is known about the Parsons except that Charles Parsons the father had been born in London in 1887, the son of Tom and Mary Parsons. He was recorded as a music-hall artist, actor and escapologist and went by the stage-name of Jimmy Lynton.
The Bridsons by contrast had a notable line that began with Paul Bridson who was born in the Isle of Man in 1693. Bridson is a uniquely Manx name, being an abridgement of the earlier MacGiollaBrigide.
Captain Paul Bridson, the youngest son of John Bridson of Malew, was according to one observer “in the anomalous position of being the customs officer at Douglas while he was also both a merchant in his own right and an agent for others in the smuggling trades.” He was well documented as being one of the major merchants and players in supplying imported goods from the East Indies to slave ships operating out of Liverpool.
He was labelled by the Duke of Atholl as corrupt, but in those easy times must have gotten away with it.
Paul’s grandson, also named Paul, married Mary Ridgway at Deane near Bolton in Lancashire in 1793. Mary was the heiress of the bleach works that had been started by her family at Horwich in the 1770’s. The Bridsons took over the business.
Paul’s son Thomas Ridgway Bridson senior was a cotton bleaching manufacturer, Justice of the Peace, and the mayor of Bolton in 1847. And his son Thomas Ridgway Bridson junior became the proprietor in 1863 after his death.
Thomas’s son Augustus, born in Bolton in 1849, did not follow the family line, either in business or apparently in morals. He was for some time an army officer, a lieutenant in the 13th Regiment of Foot. Afterwards, as a well-to-do property owner, he lived in a number of different places – in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and in Kent where he died in 1933.
Augustus had married a woman fifteen years younger than him in 1885. They had one daughter. But the marriage did not work out. A newspaper report had him leaving his wife and daughter for a mistress. This looks likely.
That daughter was Augusta, otherwise known as Gussie or by her stage-name of Celia Ridgway.
Seemingly abandoned by her father, she ran away from home and her life was scandalous by Victorian standards. She started out as a child dancer in a pantomime at the Kings in Hammersmith and had a lengthy acting career. During that time she was married three times. But she strewed husbands and children after her.
Her affair with fellow actor Charles Parsons began in the early 1920’s and resulted in the birth of a son, Leo, in 1923 and Gussie’s second divorce (this with her photographer husband Hugh Wilson). At that time it seemed prudent to give the baby son away. They did so two months after his birth in Yorkshire when they were in rep in Glasgow.
Her relationship with Charles Parsons stuck and they married in 1927. She decided then that she wanted to have her baby Leo back. She wrote to him and encouraged her family to write. But Leo’s foster parents were adamant. They were not giving up the child.
Leo Blair, Tony’s Father
Leo Blair had an extremely complicated childhood and adolescence. His children later said that it did not damage him, but fueled his own desire to succeed.
But he was reluctant to speak about these difficult matters with his family. It was only when Tony reached political prominence that the new Labour party leader discovered that the reason for his two middle names, Charles and Lynton, was that these were names from Leo’s biological father.
Leo’s foster parents in Glasgow were James Blair, a Govan shipyard rigger, and his wife Mary who had suffered two miscarriages and was desperate for a child.
In 1936, when Leo was thirteen and his biological parents sought to reclaim their child, Mary was so distraught that she shut herself in at home and threatened to take her own life. At that time Leo chose to remain with the only mother that he had known and in a Glasgow tenement where five or six families would share a lavatory.
Mary was a committed communist and would take young Leo on marches. As a boy Leo worked as a copy boy on The Daily Worker and became Secretary of the Scottish Young Communist League.
After the War Mary cut Leo off from all links with his natural parents and even told them that he had died. Thinking that they no longer cared, Leo changed his surname by deed poll from Parsons to Blair. It was only much later that contact was re-established and Leo met his older half-sister Pauline from that side of the family.
In 1949 Leo joined the Inland Revenue, working as a tax inspector, and studied at night for a law degree at Edinburgh University. In the years that followed he was able to transform his impoverished childhood into a highly successful career as a lawyer. In the process he became a Conservative and an activist in Conservative politics.
In 1965 at the age of forty-two, Leo suffered a crippling stroke which dashed his hopes of becoming a Conservative MP. He was nursed back to health by his wife Hazel. However, Hazel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer five years later and she died in 1975.
After these losses Leo’s attention shifted to his son Tony. Tony followed his father by studying law. He then had the political career that Leo never had.
Tony Blair’s Family Tree
- The Bridson Line
- Captain Paul Bridson (1693-1772) from Isle of Man m. Alice Joyner (1710-1755)
- – Thomas Bridson (1733-1766)
- – William Bridson (1735-1799)
- – Paul Bridson (died in 1790) m. Martha Kidd
- – Elizabeth Bridson m. William Boates
- – Catharine Bridson m. Lewis Geneste
- William Bridson (1735-1799) from Isle of Man m. Ann Cosnahan (1731-1812) in Braddan in 1764
- – Paul Bridson (1766-1820)
- – William Bridson (1768-1799)
- Paul Bridson (1766-1820) from Isle of Man m. Mary Ridgway (1772-1817) in Deane by Bolton, Lancashire in 1793
- – Thomas Bridson (1795-1863)
- – Mary Ann Bridson (1797-1872)
- – Elizabeth Bridson (1801-1866)
- – Alice Bridson (1807-1890) m. John Armstrong
- – John Bridson (1817-1875)
- Thomas Bridson from Lancashire m. Sarah Matthews (1795-1866) in Deane, Lancashire in 1819
- – Thomas Bridson (1823-1904)
- – Henry Bridson (1825-1881) m. Mary Cunningham
- – Louisa Bridson (1830-1911) m. Edward Bolling
- – Joseph Bridson (1831-1901) m. Margaret Woodhouse
- – Emily Bridson (1832-1907)
- – William Bridson (1838-1900)
- Major Thomas Bridson from Lancashire m. Mary Smith (1828-1856) in Lancashire in 1848; rem. Charlotte Lowe in 1859
- – Augustus Bridson (1849-1933)
- – Henry (Harry) Bridson (1849-1922) m. Katharine Fletcher
- Augustus Bridson from Bolton, Lancashire m. Maria Montford (1864-1944) from the Isle of Man in Edinburgh in 1885 (they had apparently separated by 1911 but did not divorce)
- – Augusta (Gussie) Bridson (1886-1969), born in Gloucestershire
- Augusta (Gussie) Bridson aka Celia Ridgway m. Cyril Tordiffe (1886-1968) in 1905, divorced; rem. Hugh Wilson in 1915, divorced; rem. Charles Parsons aka Jimmy Lynton (1887-1970) in 1927
- – Pauline Tordiffe (1906-2000) m. Richard Harding, with Cyril
- – Jenefee Tordiffe (1910-1995) with Cyril
- – Charles Leo Parsons aka Leo Blair (1923-2012) with Charles
- The Blair Line
- James Blair, Govan shipyard worker and his wife Mary in Glasgow
- – Leo Blair (1923-2012), adopted
- Leo Blair m. Hazel Corscadden (1923-1975) from Ireland in Glasgow in 1948; rem. Olwyn from Shropshire (died in 2012) in 1980
- – Sir William (Bill) Blair (b. 1950), high court judge, m. Katy Tse
- – Sir Tony Blair (b. 1953)
- – Sarah Blair (b. 1957), in publishing
- Tony Blair m. Cherie Booth (b. 1954) in 1980
- – Euan Blair (b. 1984) m. Suzanne Ashman
- – Nicholas (Nicky) Blair (b. 1985) m. Alexandra Bevir
- – Kathryn Blair (b. 1988) m. James Haslam
- – Leo Blair (b. 2000)
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