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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