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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on South Tyneside

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Queen Elizabeth ll

How will you remember it?

I have some pretty vague memories of the Queen’s visits to South Shields, way back in the 1960s I stood with my classmates from Barnes Road Junior School along with a clutch of parents and teachers as we waved our little flags watching the Queen and Prince Philip opening the Marine and Technical College in St. George’s Avenue. I think it was my earliest recollection of what our monarch looked like, later in life I had a similar vague encounter at Gypsies Green Stadium in 1977 when she visited as part of her Silver Jubilee tour, I cannot quite remember how I blagged my way into that event, something to do with someone who I knew in the Conservative party no doubt. It was the highlight of the day and after several pints in the Vigilant she was hailed as the talk of the town. Somehow a few of us managed to get down to the North Marine Park to witness our beacon being lit. Strangely I recall nothing at all of the day we celebrated the Golden Jubilee ten years ago, if indeed we did.

Yesterday was more of a family event almost in an Australian style as we joined the in laws for a “Royal Garden Party” barbecue and a few “tinnies” in the sun, the children found the pageant along the River Thames very interesting and it was quite fascinating to watch their faces as the afternoon unfolded on one of today’s gigantic flat screen TVs, and today we will hopefully join hundreds of other South Shields and South Tyneside folks sitting in the South Marine Park watching a giant screen and enjoying this evening’s concert in London before moving up the hill to see one of the beacons being lit. I must congratulate and thank South Tyneside Council for staging this event and the little afternoon tea dance in the park yesterday, it would have been wonderful if the 1977 visit could have been beamed back to a giant screen in the park if only they’d had today’s technology available then.

I’m hoping to photograph the beacon being lit in the Arbeia Roman Fort with the reconstructed west gate as a backdrop, I just hope this new beacon is in a good location, don’t fancy showing South Shields to the world with a collection of “Coronation Street” back yards as a backdrop.

I like these occasions, they help create unity and spread a little joy, they transcend the politics of the day, and bring people together. Queen Elizabeth has helped to modernise the monarchy and make the institution that little bit more accessible, she stands as a symbol of stability stretching over sixty years, she has also managed to transform our thinking about the old Germanic values of her ancestors and portray a family that seems to have endured some of the same marital and economic problems of many others. As the years of economic parsimony have passed through her reign she has adapted the Royal household to meet the needs of Parliament and the British economy without severing that thin golden thread that stitches the tapestry of this island’s history.

Personally I’m now looking forward to the Platinum Jubilee in ten years time!

How have you celebrated the Jubilee weekend readers? What will your memories be?


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Written by curly

June 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

Restored to glory!

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Brunswick War Memorial Plaque

Brunswick War Memorial restored and unveiled at South Shields Town Hall

This is a story which moved me, I’d come across a tiny part of it whilst watching one of Bill Clavery’s DVDs showing his collection of old pictures of the Laygate area of South Shields. Not long after the Armistice at the end of the Great War a group of families in the Brunswick Street and Wilson Street areas of South Shields started a collection to raise enough funds to erect a War Memorial to their young sons who had participated in and given their lives during the First World War , it has to be remembered that this area of the town, a strip of land running alongside the River Tyne from the Market PLace to Tyne Dock was the beating heart of South Shields. The area that we now call Rekendyke comprised then a multitude of packed terraced housing in “long streets” where the majority of South Shields folks lived, it was this area that South Shields grew in and developed after the industrial revolution took growth away from a small township huddled around its church and market. They were never anything but poorer people living here, they were mainly employed in chemical, mining, and shipbuilding industries prior to the Great War, but when the call came the young men of Laygate answered it in earnest and with valour. Many, not old enough yet to vote, were sacrificed and did not return to South Shields and this was the reason why their families and neighbours wanted a lasting memorial to them.

They raised sufficient funds to have a wonderful brass plate engraved with the names of all the 207 young soldiers and seamen of these few streets who had gone to war, and commemorating those who did not return or were taken as prisoners of war. The plaque was mounted on a wall at the end of Brunswick Street and unveiled by Lt. Col. Sir Robert Chapman on 21st. April 1919, it was looked upon with pride for many years until the demolition of most of the terraced streets in the Rekendyke area started in the 1960s, the plaque seemed to be lost forever until it was rediscovered in the Royal British Legion Club in Queen Street, South Shields many years later.

South Tyneside Council and the Royal British Legion ensured that this plaque attained Listed Monument status as an historical artefact of significant importance to the borough, and funding was sourced with the help of English Heritage to have the now blackened and heavily tarnished brass plate restored, cleaned, re-polished and mounted on a suitable backing. The aim was to give it a new home where borough residents can view it again.

Finally, yesterday evening in a re-dedication ceremony in South Shields Town Hall the Brunswick War Memorial Plaque was unveiled by the Mayor Cllr. JIm Sewell and the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne Wear Sir Nigel Sherlock, the event was also attended by Sir David Chapman (Bt) grandson of Sir Robert who originally performed the first unveiling on those Laygate Streets. A colour party from the Royal British Legion provided an escort for the gathered guests and a lone piper played as they made their way down from the reception room to view the ceremony. The plaque is mounted in the main entrance hallway of the Town Hall and looks magnificent.

The ceremony was performed in the entrance hallway with short speeches from the Lord Lt. Sir Nigel Sherlock, who admittedly did not know a huge amount about the Laygate area but was able to distinctly remember Allens dept. store on the corner of Laygate Lane, Iain Malcolm the Leader of South Tyneside Council, the Mayor Jim Sewell, and the Revd. Paul Kennedy Vicar of St. Michael and All the Angels, Westoe, performed the re-dedication.

I hope to have excerpts from their speeches in a short while.

It was fitting that this ceremony was held just as we are about to go into that period of remembrance close to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, the timing was perfect and we must pay tribute to those who have toiled to have the plaque ready and mounted just in time for these events. For those of us who consider ourselves “Shieldsmen” it would be almost impossible NOT to have had some forebears and relatives who were NOT born and brought up in the Laygate area of the town, it was where the vast majority of our families originated, so now you can pop into the Town Hall at any time and view the names on the plaque. Yesterday I was scouring for Coulsons, Nichols, and Raines, all names associated with my mother’s side of our family.

Please click on any photo to enlarge.

Adam Ellison, South Tyneside’s representative to the UK Youth Parliament read Rupert Brooke’s poem “The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

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Written by curly

November 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

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

South Shields playwrights’ Grace Darling appeal

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grace darlingDo you have a rare pamphlet?

Noted South Shields playwrights Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood are looking for your help in tracing a copy of a rare pamphlet written by the Bamburgh heroine’s sister Thomasin as they put the finishing touches to a play about the renowned north-east girl famous for her 19th. century wreck rescue at the Farne Islands.

Grace Darling was as much a victim of her own success as many modern day women who find fanciful stories written about them in today’s newspapers, the story of her short tragic life became somewhat twisted and over romanticised by poets and book writers of the period, hence sister Thomasin’s decision to write the pamphlet putting the family’s view of Grace’s achievements in plain simple factual English.

North East playwrights Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood are  appealing to anyone with a copy of a rare pamphlet written by her sister.
The pair have read all the known books on Grace and were delighted to have been given copies of letters written between Grace and her benefactor, The Duke of Northumberland, by the Duke’s estate but they particularly want to read the pamphlet, called Grace Darling: Her True Story produced by Grace’s older sister Thomasin in 1880.
Grace Darling and her lighthouse keeper father, William, achieved national and international status in September 1838 after rescuing nine people shipwrecked on the Farne Islands’ notorious Harcar Rock, situated four miles off the Northumberland coast between the fishing port of Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle.
Grace, who died of TB in 1842, aged 26, four years after her heroic deed, became a recluse in Longstone lighthouse within three months of the rescue. Numerous plays, books, poems, songs and stories were written about her short life that were grossly embellished with sentimentality, romance and other lies.
Trevor explained: “Grace became a Victorian superstar and in popularity terms she was the equivalent of, say, Victoria Beckham today, except Grace did something worthwhile; her bravery led directly to the creation of the modern Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in 1854.”
He continued: “Sadly, from the minute she became a national heroine her life was not her own. Here was a young, naïve lass from Northumberland whose societal role was to look after her parents and tend the lighthouse but she was thrust into the media spotlight.
“Thomasin and Grace were very close and Thomasin wrote the pamphlet to put the record straight about Grace’s humble life. It was initially posted around Bamburgh. Sadly, because it wasn’t a sensational read, it sold a lot less than the plethora of made up nonsense about Grace.
Trevor added: “We know there are copies of Thomasin’s pamphlet in existence and we’d love to read one.”

So, if you have a copy of Thomasin’s pamphlet, have seen a copy of it, know someone who has a copy, or have a good clue as to where Ed and Trevor can gain access to a copy, then please get in touch with them via their website.

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Written by curly

June 1, 2011 at 9:46 am

Electoral spin offs

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Non political benefits

One of the huge benefits of getting involved in a local election campaign in South Shields is the opportunity to meet new people, the chance to savour some new cultures, or to reacquaint with areas that you have perhaps pushed to the back of your mind a little. Having spent a few weeks in the Beacon and Bents ward helping the Conservative candidate Mr. Ali Hayder, I was struck, once again, by the warmth and hospitality of our Bangladeshi community, I was struck too by the amount of Scottish people who have made the move down South to live and work here on the banks of the Tyne.

A few of those Scottish folks were brought down to Tyneside during the traditional “Glasgow fortnight” each summer in the 1960s and 70s, enjoyed holiday romances which blossomed and they have enjoyed lifelong love and happiness with a wife from South Shields or Whitley Bay! I also met a couple of ladies who married our menfolk down here and never gave it a thought to return north of the border, needless to say they are as much part of our tight knit community as anyone else. I recalled the days when I worked in a five storey department store in Newcastle with Eddy Russell in the 1970s when our half price shoe sale seemed to be more famous in Glasgow than it was on Tyneside! To prove a point about how good it was I showed one gentleman the antelope skin shoes that I was wearing, I bought them in 1976 for around £30 (which was almost two weeks wages to me back then), they have been resoled twice but are still lasting the course after 35 years, that is one of the reasons why Glasgow men in particular loved visiting Newcastle during their holiday fortnight!

Our Bangladeshi community in South Shields is a sizeable minority and many of them are third or fourth generation inhabitants here, those younger than myself speak better “Geordie” than I do and like all youngsters have a wonderful grasp of new technologies. I met quite a few from all sections of their community and found their warmth  and hospitality to be second to none, and why should it not be? Despite having been here for around 60 years some feel they still need to integrate more and they are looking for ways to extend their links with other groups, associations, faiths, clubs, and communities throughout the borough. The want to play a greater part and want to feel more easily accepted, there are barriers of course, but over the years these are breaking down and allowing a greater two way conversation to take place.

I had a long such discussion with Rana Rahman, chairman of the Bangladeshi Welfare Association, who has very modern realistic aspirations about taking the next generation of Bangladeshis further into the wider community and inviting others to come and savour the flavours and delights of the cultures which they bring to us and add to our diversity. We touched upon faith and some of the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, we also ranged over community projects, education,  use of community facilities, and the general lack of knowledge amongst the indigenous population about the cultures and lifestyles of some of the most hard working and charitable members of our community here in South Shields.

I hope to meeting with him and others again soon, and hope through this blog, to extend a little more knowledge and interest about their cultures, history, and faith. I am hoping to pen an article shortly that explains the role of the Islamic faith and the abstinence of Ramadan and how it affects the lifestyle of a large part of our community, the thirty days of Ramadan will begin at sunset on 31st. July this year. I am looking forward to increasing my own understanding as well as helping others to accept more readily this important part of the life of many of our citizens.

I have always thought that differences ought to be understood, encouraged, and celebrated, they make South Tyneside what it is, a hospitable place where friendships flourish and even cross the political divide. Islam has been with us in South Shields since the late 1700s when the first Yemeni sailors arrived here and began to settle in larger numbers in the mid 1800s, and because we have two distinct groups settled in South Shields I will also be meeting with leading members of the Yemeni community to learn more about their roots and the strong tie in to the region.

My greatest desire is that we can encourage more and more people to take part in a wider and more diverse selection of community activities and to partake in the political process and representation of our people. This theme applies equally to all of us who want to continue to see change and evolution in South Tyneside, I believe that our political parties (all of them) are under represented by members of minority groups and that efforts need to be increased to encourage membership generally across the demographic spectrum and to assimilate more cultures into our community politics.

In this respect, volunteering to help out in an election was worthwhile, fruitful, and educational as a result I found a spin off which left me feeling richer than I was before it started.

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South Shields Town Hall Centenary

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Town Hall 100 years old on Tuesday October 19th.

These videos are worth sharing, particularly for ex-pats wanting to show their children or grandchildren something of their home town, produced by South Tyneside Council and presented by John Grundy.

An interesting look behind the scenes for those who haven’t been inside, I’ve seen most of it in my time, but I’ve never been up that Clock Tower and I don’t suppose you would get me up there for a King’s ransom!

A great evening event is planned for next Tuesday and you can also take the chance of booking for a guided tour, more details on the council’s website here

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Written by curly

October 8, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Did “The Mariners” throw a match?

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Did South Shields take a bribe from opposing striker?

I’ve never come across this one before, so thought it was worth sharing, especially as it involves a former Sunderland player.

Barney Travers, the Fulham centre-forward, was banned for life for allegedly being involved in the fixing of the  South Shields v Fulham match. He had joined Fulham in 1921 from Sunderland having in three seasons he had scored 52 goals in 104 matches for Sunderland.  His transfer to Fulham was for £3,000, equalling the British record transfer fee at the time.

Travers scored 28 goals in 45 appearances for Fulham, but was banned for life by the FA in April 1922 after it was alleged that he had offered a bribe to a South Shields player to ’throw’ a Second Division match at Horsley Hill.

I don’t suppose any of my readers will be old enough to go back that far, but some historian of The Mariners, now playing at Filtrona Park, South Shields, may be able to shed a little more light on this.

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Written by curly

May 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm