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South Shields Council – 1973

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South Shields Council 1973

A better looking bunch

Click picture to enlarge

I bring you this from a very kindly lady from Cleadon Village, who I thank for lending me the publication “South Shields – A story of a town and its people who have lived up to their motto Always Ready” which was published by the old County Borough Council in 1974 by the then excellent Press and Communications Officer Peter Gillanders (who was virtually a one man press office). Not sure who the photograph was taken by, there are no credits shown in the booklet, but it was likely to be either Harrisons Photographers of South Shields, or the Shields Gazette.

Needless to say this 37 year old booklet is pretty worn and damaged but has survived reasonably well for a document which was sold to the public for the princely sum of 10p back then. The picture of the Council, which was incomplete as the names below show the absentees, was a fold out inside the back page and had a major fold and crease down the centre and small pieces of wear and tear around, however after making four separate scans I think I’ve stitched them together reasonably well and repaired most of the damage to bring you this looking as best as I can possibly achieve.

The first noticeable thing that will come to mind when comparing these people to the current South Tyneside Council is how well they are turned out, gentlemen all suited and booted, handkerchiefs neatly pressed and inserted into breast pockets too, and the ladies are at their smartest. Such a shame that our present bunch of councillors turn up to Town Hall meetings in scruffy anoraks, tieless, or in crumpled tee shirts looking as though they slept in them! The Mayor Cllr. Ken Srimger and the Town Clerk, Mr. R.S. Young, are looking resplendent in their official robes of office. Another point that I chuckled at as I scanned this picture was Harry Marshall’s white socks!

Our newest Freeman of the Borough, Cllr. Jim Capstick is four from the right in the second back row, the only councillor in this picture still serving today.

This is the group of councillors that I was mainly mixing with a few years later as I became Chairman of South Shield Young Conservatives, joined the Progressive Association and started out a brief political journey in South Shields and South South Tyneside. There are quite a few here who I never met or had any sort of relationship with, a few had a profound influence on a political newcomer.

Ken Charlton, in the back row, was a gentleman and a fierce combative debater who researched deeply to pin Labour down time and time again, a warm and charming man who worked his socks off for the Progressive, and later Conservative, causes. Also in the back row I remember fondly Mr. Reevel Alderson, an exemplary officer who had bags of time and patience for a new councillor. In the fourth row from the front I recall Jim Davison as a dour and seemingly humourless man inside the chamber, but outside he was entirely different and could cause many laughs with his caustic dislike of anything “Tory” , then there was Gerry Graham for many years Chairman of the Town Development Committee who worked tirelessly to improve the face of South Shields during the 70s and 80s, we still get on well now when I bump into him. You will also find in this row Dick Barry, another from the Laygate area who I found difficult to get along with, a young Bob Growcott who still has many friends down at Brigham’s Club, Jim Capstick, and the excellent Director of Education Ken Stringer.

In the third row I see Cllr. Alan Madsen before he became wheelchair bound, a colleague of mine in the Beacon and Bents ward, his wife Ann is missing from this picture, I remember Alan as having a particularly sharp mind in group meetings when at times we couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Next to him is Albert Elliott, another that I found difficult to deal with, he was a former miner (which didn’t help in the Thatcher years), and he later went on to be Leader of the South Tyneside Council. A little further along there is Lillian Jordison, who was in the same class at school as my late mother, a lovely lady who could talk the hind legs off a donkey if you let her, and next to old Bill the Mace Bearer stands Elizabeth Diamond who narrowly held her Brinkburn seat against me in the year when the Progressives came so close to gaining control from Labour. Elizabeth was very kindly  to me from then on and was often encouraging me to speak up a bit in the chamber on those few occasions that I had something to offer. A little further along I see the white haired Tom Collins, a robust figure who was a constant thorn in Labour’s side, although at times his broad vernacular must have been difficult for the Gazette reporters to decipher.

In the second row there is another future Labour Leader Vince Fitzpatrick, he too was a gentleman who had a great grasp of figures and handled his brief well, not for him the reading of a pre-prepared script as some of today’s councillors do (badly), then there is the giant figure of another former Freeman of the Borough Murtagh Diamond, again a man who was always warm and friendly irrespective of which party you represented, he was an educationalist and fiercely loyal to the Labour Party. Next is Billy Malcolm (one of three Malcolms pictured), father of the current Leader Iain Malcolm, fiercely combative and of a view “if you’re not with us, you’re agin us!”, I was Margaret Whinfield’s agent when she defeated him in a Tyne Wear County Council election for Rekendyke and Victoria, he was NOT happy at the outcome! Then there is Ernie Mackley, who I believe was Labour’s Leader back then, another ex miner, he surprised us all in the council chamber once in the middle of a speech a few years later by stopping mid sentence, apologising to the Mayor (Albert Elliott) and inserting his dentures! I kid you not. Along at the far right are old stalwarts and workhorses Harold Abey and Warden Newby, who I only met once or twice.

To the front row now, and I see Bill Owen, who had a sweet shop in Frederick Street and later somewhat blotted his copybook by joining the far right nationalists, I could never figure that out, a couple of places along is Harry Marshall one of the greatest raconteurs these parts have known, whether it be in political or sporting circles, in the chamber or at the bar! I don’t know how many times I’ve “chewed the cud” with Harry in his later years. Then Dr. John McKee who had his surgery in Tyne Dock and stood as Conservative candidate for South Shields in a couple of general elections, he was always statesmanlike, had a wonderful humour allied with immense charm and warmth, and finally Capt. George Bairnson a former seaman who was quiet and unassuming, but a lovely homely bloke.

I invite you to bring along any anecdotes and memories of this period as we saw huge changes in local government and the transformation from South Shields to South Tyneside, any stories you’d like to relate please leave them here. I’d also be interested in hearing what Cleadon, Boldon, Hebburn and Jarrow folks thought about the prospective joining up of the geographical areas back then.
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Written by curly

October 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

28 Responses

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  1. Very interesting photo Curly .I remember some of them but looking rather older than on here. How like his father does The present leader of the Council look?


    October 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

  2. Curly I think some of our present councillors are a scruffy mess too, didn’t their mothers teach them how to dress themselves?

    Simply Burke and Hair

    October 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

  3. A lot of men and women that you could have some confidence in there Curly lad. I doubt that any of the leaders back then would tolerate anything like the sort of personality disorder politics that we have (mainly) in South Shields these days.
    They wouldn’t tolerate malingerers either, those “no showers” who wanted to go “awol” for periods were quickly shown the door, do you remember Harry Richardson in Tyne Dock? No complaints from the Progs to the Town Clerk when he was shown the door. Compare that to the last Branley episode.

    Simply murk there

    October 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

  4. I Agree with simply muck there , personality disorders are rife in south tyneside , bring back the stocks say I

    simply no hair

    October 25, 2011 at 5:42 am

  5. This is a photo which brought back memories for me personally Curly. The photo and the brochure were two of the ways in which South Shields Council decided to mark the end of the County Borough (others included commemorative mugs / medals for schoolchildren and the making of 15 or so Freemen of the Borough) and it fell to me to organise these things.
    The photo was actually taken by an (expensive!) Newcastle photographer (whose name I can no longer recall) and they all trouped into the Town Hall, one Winter evening, specifically for the photo shoot. There was a little problem on the night, which made me chuckle when I saw the photo again.
    When we set up the chairs and staging for the photos we placed three of the old high backed committee room chairs in the middle of the second row. These were meant for Robert Young, theTown Clerk, Ken Scrimger, the Mayor and his wife and fellow Councillor Betty Scrimger, the Mayoress. However, when we asked people to take their places Alderman Margaret Sutton plonked herself on the Chair meant for the Mayoress. When I politely asked her to give it up for the Mayoress she steadfastly refused to budge. I thought she was joking at first but she wasn’t and no amount of cajoling could get her to change her view that she was the most senior person there after the Mayor and that seat was therefore for her. In the end the Mayoress graciously agreed to sit in another seat, which is why you get the unusual composition of the Mayoress sitting directly in front of the Mayor in the row in front, rather than by his side.
    Another early lesson for me that the Officer view of the world does not always coincide with the Member view and that where it doesn’t the Member view usually prevails!

    Malcolm Newman

    October 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

    • Good to hear from you Malcolm, doesn’t the time move quickly in one direction, it seems like just a few short years ago we were kicking balls around on the cobbled streets. Hope you and the family are well.
      Glad you explained the seating arrangement, I was wondering why Mayor and Mayoress were not together, come to think of it you cannot have been there too long back in 1973/4 almost fresh out of Grammar school, what a start to life in local government eh?
      Then the trip to the Queen to get the new Charter!


      October 26, 2011 at 10:03 am

  6. Would be interesting to compare the jobs and professions of the 1973 councillors with those of today. Many years ago a then Newcastle Councillor wrote an article bemoaning the low esteem with which councillors were held, and the worrying paucity of recruits from what I would call the real world of business,as opposed to the purely personally enriching computer screen focused world, professional and real trades, particularly youthful recruits. Given the “Monkey” scandal and the taunting, abusive, fraudulent and personally abusive and intrusive world of certain local tweets and blogs what incentive is there for anyone to consider becoming a ST councillor.

    John Evans

    October 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

  7. I still have the mugs given to my children.
    Before we get too carried away looking back with rose tinted glasses let us remember that some of us don’t want our representatives to be drawn solely from the business community. Note the word ‘solely.’
    Do you really thing any youngsters seeing the personal abuse heaped upon Councillors from the likes of Monkey will be rushing forward to engage in local politics.
    On the main boards Councillors are denounced as venal and corrupt. When asked for examples all you get is hearsay and ancient history along the lines of ‘ I can remember getting a council house was down to whether you knew a Councillor.’


    October 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm

  8. I agree with paragraph 2, note that I added professional and real trades ie nurses,teachers, lawyers, plumbers, carpenters, builders etc to the mix, in other words people who are used to managing, organising, relating to and unselfishly caring for or about other people, as well as solving real world day to day problems, as opposed to staring at a computer screen and trying to make money as an end in itself , apparently with little or no idea of who works in the local authority public sector, what their work entails or who uses local public services and what their needs, problems and requirements are.

    John Evans

    October 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm

  9. I think a lot of people currently employed in the areas you mention are reluctant to take time out to be a Councillor. Worries about earnings, time off and career progression are very relevant.


    October 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm

  10. Recent research has established that councillors are motivated by an apolitical desire to have influence in the planning and development of their local environment and getting a better deal for their community and constituents. They value being close to the decision making processes concerning the quality of people’s lives. They appreciate the company of their fellow councillors and their shared experiences, interests, conversations and negotiations. Whilst a minority can and do get away with doing an absolute minimum, just attending occasional meetings and avoiding contact with constituents; evidence suggests that the majority spend a verifiable average of 22 hours per week on council related work and tend to seek maximum involvement in a proactive way.Hence you are correct in that for the majority of ” real councillors” it is a time consuming and demanding role to take on whilst pursuing a career, a profession or running a business.

    John Evans

    October 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

  11. Mr Evans

    You seem somewhat sceptical of those who you somewhat naively suggest spend their time “purely personally enriching” themselves in the “computer screen focused world”.

    Alas, time has moved on. There is of course a need for tradesmen, lawyers, accountants etc. but you must also recognise that, without the people you berate, there would be no mortgages, insurance policies, bonds, debt, credit or money flow. The Forex market alone trades on average in excess of $4 Trillion per day. Traders ensure liquidity. If we went on strike tomorrow, you’d notice the difference a darn site quicker than your refuse collector or social worker taking industrial action.



    David Potts

    October 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    • No berating, but if the cap fits…I was talking about suitable candidates for the office of councillor. There are tens of thousands of people who have very useful and productive career involvement and participation in the financial services and related professions and industries, but appear from what they tweet and blog to have little or no knowledge or experience of what I would describe the “real world” working lives led by public servants such as carpenters, social workers, teachers, fire service personnel, librarians etc and the lives of those of us who rely upon these public services. The thought of Forex traders taking industrial action is laughable, what could possibly provoke them to do so? They appear to lead working lives of self indulgence and motivation with hours to suit themselves.

      John Evans

      October 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm

  12. Mr Potts,
    There you go again. There are many people in this country who have no dealings with mortgages, bonds, debt, credit or money flow. There are even more in places like India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe etc., etc., etc.
    However, we all rely on our refuse collectors, policemen, firemen, ambulance drivers, paramedics, nurses, doctors. Need I go on? Get real man. If you think you are doing something in front of your computer screen that really affects the lives of the vast majority of people in the world, have another think.

    Mr Micawber

    October 26, 2011 at 8:31 pm

  13. Mr Micawber

    Okay. You state that “There are many people in this country who have no dealings with mortgages, bonds, debt, credit or money flow”.

    Name one person? Just one, who is not affected by any or all of these factors.



    David Potts

    October 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm

  14. I am a supporter of the proposition that councillors should publish an online diary giving details of how they spend their time upon council and ward related business.Regularly attending CAF and PACT meetings can be a time consuming exercise in respect of preparation, travelling to meetings, sitting through meeting, then post meeting related work,and this is just one aspect of council work that a conscientous councillor carries out. Given that an average of 22 hours per week is spent upon council work, then someone, whom I would characterise as a real councillor, committed to his/her ward and constituents, would, subject to rules of confidentiality, have plenty to put in such a diary. Once again a comparison with the 1973 average councillor workloads would be an interesting exercise for the student of politics.

    John Evans

    October 27, 2011 at 7:26 am

  15. “Working lives of self indulgence and motivation with hours to suit themselves.” Yes indeed. I finished work at 2am and started again at 630am. Regular 14-16 hour days. Our profession is just one big party, Mr Evans.

    David Potts

    October 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

    • Apparently and allegedly leaving little or no time to deal with council related work; “res ipsa loquitur”…

      John Evans

      October 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

  16. Mr Potts, Mr Micawber is not one jot or tittle concerned about what happens in the make-believe, gambling world of the so called “financial wizard” or whether or not they go on strike. At 81 you have a different outlook on life. On another note, it is interesting to see that working hours starting at 6.30am and finishing at 2.00am with blogging posts at 7.58pm, 9.33pm, 7.48am would have resulted in the sack in my day.

    Mr Micawber

    October 27, 2011 at 9:07 am

    • Mr M go online and read the Local Government Association publication “People Like You Are Councillors” that gives case studies of people who have been elected, and are what you or I would describe as effective, committed and proactive councillors, as well as setting out concisely criteria against which you can asses/judge the performance of a councillor irrespective of their political or non political allegiance.

      John Evans

      October 27, 2011 at 6:58 pm

  17. I’m sensing hostility there, Mr M.

    Try not to get so stressed. Chillax.

    David Potts

    October 27, 2011 at 10:35 am

  18. Think I’d be ‘chillaxing’ if I lived down south and drew expenses for ‘representing ‘ the people of Cleadon and East Boldon several hundred miles away. Where do they fit into your 19 hour working day?
    Nice work if you can get it.


    October 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm

  19. “Big Chief I Spy” would reward you for spotting that anomaly; chronology and itinerary are important aspects of any investigation; even the laid back near soporific DCI Barnaby would not be fooled by that story. The” Nomad of the Boldons” seems to spend a fair amount of his time enjoying crinkled sandwiches in “First Class” or watching the affluent of the UK pass by in the Home Counties, near to Midsomer territory, whilst drinking a coffee… Michael Portillo, armed with his “Bradshaws”, seemed to appreciate and enjoy rail travel far more, and, correct me if I am mistaken, he travelled in “Standard Class” .

    Ian Allan

    October 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  20. Standard!? I don’t believe it!

    David Potts

    October 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

  21. “Freeloaders”, “gold plated” zzzzzzzz….play another track. A care worker on 12k per annum, what a pension he/she has to look forward to.


    November 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm

  22. Intersting photograph and comments. As the son of one of the council workers there, I knew many of the ladies and gentleman in the photograph as they became family friends. Particular memories of Dr McKee – although I don’t live in South Shields anymore – I always look at his old doctors surgery at the top of Stanhope Rd! The waiting room was so small! Vernon Robinson was a gent and I always liked visiting the Scrimgers in Belgrave Terrace – A lovely house at the top of Beach Rd – Oh Happy days!


    July 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm

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    November 19, 2014 at 2:36 am

  24. Second row down and second from the right is my late father councillor Ronald Ramsey. I remember as a child being roped into helping him deliver election leaflets! I believe he was also treasurer for the progressive party.
    I never shared his interest in politics and still don’t know how he had the patience to deal with the irate people who used to ring and call at our house. He was also a man of principle and would not claim for the meetings he attended..This often resulted in him having to work late to make his time up, much to my mothers annoyance!

    Malcolm Ramsey

    June 11, 2018 at 7:20 pm

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