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Firbank, Joseph (1819–1886), railway contractor, was born at Bishop Auckland on the south-western edge of the north-east coalfield, the son of Ralph Firbank (1788–1866), a Durham miner, and his wife, Barbara, née Thompson (1790–1874). At the age of seven he was sent to work in a colliery, and attended a night school. In 1833 he obtained employment on the permanent way, and in 1841 secured a sub-contract in connection with the ...