Following on from a previous post featuring Historian & Photographer Amy C. Flagg and her book ‘The History of Shipbuilding’, further information has come from South Tyneside Libraries….

‘The book was printed in 1979 about the same time when Hodgson and the Boswell Whitaker trilogy of books were printed. A figure of 200 copies each of these books were printed’. (G.B. Hodgson – The Borough of South Shields and Boswell Whitaker –The Preservation of Life from Shipwreck Volumes 1-3).

A tributary of the Tyne called the River Branin cut into South Shields over 200 years ago and created the Mill Dam Valley. An Ordnance Survey map of 1895 has the valley clearly marked. Before that time, it possibly would have extended in an easterly direction towards the North Sea making the Lawe an island.

In his book ‘The Borough of South Shields’ Hodgson states that…

in 1748 the churchyard to the south of St Hilda’s was described as sloping down to the edge of the Mill Dam Creek or the river Branin, a fine sheet of water, up which the tide flowed as far as the modern St Catherine Street. The creek when filled with water at high tide formed a picturesque lake.

Miss Flagg describes the Mill Dam Valley in her Shipbuilding book….

’When the Chemical Works occupied most of the space near the Mill Dam Valley, then a large sheet of water at high tide, the shipbuilders were all clustered together nearer the sea because the ‘Narrows’ – the throat of the river, which led to the Harbour was shoaly and difficult to navigate’.

She talks about walking along the riverside…

‘Leaving Low Street, crossing the Market Place and over the Mill Dam bridge to the ‘High End’. Holborn, the main street, was of a much later date than the old, almost medieval Sheeles’. (I’ve come across a few different spellings of the town – Shiels, Schiels and todays Shields).

Further reading reveals…‘Filling in of the millpond or valley by Newcastle Corporation in 1816’. I think Miss Flagg was referring to the River Branin as she added ‘After the valley was filled in, the remains of the creek were used for a mooring place – it is given as Mill Dam Dock on one map. After an unsavoury history it was filled in and only a very small ‘gut’ of the river remained’.

What was the ‘unsavoury history’ ? The book reveals more about the industrial map of ‘Sheeles’.

Miss Flagg includes a section about The Holborn Landing and two shipbuilders, William Wright and John Clay. Her research found William Wright had five sons, all of whom were Master Mariners.

She adds that one son, William, left the sea and was manager for many years at both High Docks and West Docks.

Another son, Leonard, married a baker’s daughter and founded the well-known Wright’s Biscuit Factory, the bakery being somewhere near Holborn Landing.

A document stated that ‘During the Franco-Prussian war the biscuit firm worked day and night for over twelve months making 48 tons of biscuits from 400 sacks of flour every week for the French government’.

Her research on John Clay revealed in 1847 he constructed the first iron ships built in South Shields on premises where Wrights Bakery originally stood.

Clay was labelled ‘King of Shields’ as he was listed as having his finger in many pies: the son of a grocer in Nile Street, a brewer, farmer, publican and banker who ‘went down with the bank’ in 1857. Although doubt was cast on his career as a shipbuilder, Amy concludes ‘the whole question is a mystery and must be left at that’.

There are copies of ‘The History of Shipbuilding by Amy C. Flagg’ available to read in the Local and Family History section at The Word, South Shields.

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.

HARD UP in HOLBORN – South Shields photographer James Henry Cleet 1876-1959.

During the 1930’s James Cleet was commissioned by South Shields Public Health Department to make a photographic record of ‘slum housing’ in the riverside area of the town – Holborn and Laygate.

Side Photographic Gallery in Newcastle produced a booklet in 1979 of some of the photos. Not sure if the term ‘slum’ was first used by Side Gallery or Public Health Department?

First time I came across James Cleet was when I was doing some family and history research in the Local History section of South Tyneside Library in 2007.

It gave me the idea to make a documentary highlighting Cleet’s work, and Holborn, the area once known as the industrial heartland of South Shields, plus the digitization project.

The Local History section had been awarded funding to digitize thousands of photographs they had in their archive and load them onto a new website. Volunteers were needed for this process and as I was self employed I could give a couple of hours a week to a worthwhile cause.

Spending time looking through photographs, some from the early 1900’s, of people, places and events around South Tyneside was a great way to spend a couple of hours.

It wasn’t long till I dropped in more frequently. Photographs by Emmett, Flagg and Cleet were an excellent record of the times.

Some images had familiar street names of area’s where my ancestors lived, mainly Tyne Dock, Holborn and Jarrow. Finding a family of photographers called Downey who had a studio in Eldon Street next door to where my great grandmother lived was an added bonus.

There was a small team of volunteers who recorded details of the images, scanned the photos, and uploaded them onto the website, this process features in the documentary.

Street names, buildings, shops and people were researched, as much information as possible was added. On the back of the pictures was nearly always a date or name of the photographer.

But unfortunately, some photographs were left blank and didn’t have any recognizable signs but were still uploaded.

After a few sessions I could recognize the styles of certain photographers and two of them stood out. Amy Flagg added extensive details to a lot of her work and covered some powerful subjects like the Second World War – climbing over bombed houses to get the shot won’t have been easy.

Some of her images became instantly recognisable, in her darkroom she stamped a date in Roman numerals on the bottom of the photo.

There were a load of photographs that were taken in Holborn by James Cleet, his style and composition was of a very high quality with clean, sharp images. Most of the images are taken on overcast, grey rainy days – is that a coincidence ? I doubt it.

The lighting gives the pictures a uniform look and add to the bleak, grim atmosphere of the housing clearance.

In research I found Cleet had regular work at ship launches, plus The Shields Gazette and Daily Mirror. While Flagg’s technique was more handheld, Cleet used a tripod in most if not all of his very sharp pictures. Both were passionate about their work.

Around that time an old guy used to come to the local history section and tell me a few stories about Tyne Dock and Holborn as his family lived in those areas.

Next time he brought in a booklet which he gave to me, it featured a collection of the Cleet housing clearance photographs I’d been looking at.

The booklet also included reports by the South Shields Medical Officer for Health talking about ‘rat repression’ and ‘eradication of bed bugs’. They reported….

’The women had a very hard life. They polished their steps, and the pavement was scrubbed. The backyard was washed regular. There was a question of pride. They had to keep them clean or they’d be overrun with vermin. No getting away with it. It had to be kept down’.

The report also included complaints from residents…

’A’ve seen some hard up times. Families of nine in one room. I knew a family, the father and mother had to gan ootside to do their business. Yes they used to do their courtin’ ootside. The mother used to stand at the telegraph pole on Johnsons Hill and have her love with the husband and then gan yem to bed. You couldn’t do nowt with all the family livin’ in one room’.

In a previous post I wrote about the important historical archive that Amy Flagg had left to the town: her Second World War photo’s plus the book ‘The History of Shipbuilding in South Shields’, the James Cleet housing clearance booklet is just as important a document of South Shields.

To check out the South Tyneside photographs featuring Amy Flagg and James Cleet go to :

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.

JARROVIANS – Vince Rae’s photographic record of Jarrow in 1978.

For 30 years Vince Rae ran the Bede Gallery in Jarrow which featured paintings, sculpture and photographs reflecting the town’s history. Included was material relating to the 1936 Jarrow March and the execution of William Jobling, the last man to be gibbeted in the North.

I knew of Vince Rae’s work as I’d read a couple of books that he had published about old Jarrow and came across his photography through the 1990’s. But first talked to him around 2001 when I was running a Community Video Project in South Shields.

He was organising an exhibition about the Jarrow Crusade and was looking for a video projector. We didn’t have one, but I went along to the Viking shopping centre in Jarrow to see the exhibition.

Then in 2008 I called him up explaining that I was making a documentary in Jarrow called Little Ireland. The film was going to look at the Irish immigration into Jarrow and could I use some of his photographs.

He agreed straight away ‘Yeah no bother son just send me a copy when it’s done’.

If we go back to around 2002 I was filming in Jarrow and in a newsagents, I saw a book called ‘Jarrovians’. Inside were some amazing black & white documentary photographs of people and places around Jarrow, all taken by Vince during 1978. I handed my tenner over.

Packed with images of drinkers and barmaids from pubs like the Royal Oak, Prince of Wales, Tunnel Tavern and the Viking Bar. There are gadgies suppin’ pints and playing domino’s, kids on the streets setting up bonfires, homeless men in Simpsons Hostal, women’s darts team in The Western pub. Dogs, horses and Joblings gibbet – all life is here in its working-class glory.

With few exceptions, the overall feel of the collection of photographs is people simply enjoying themselves, being out of the house and among friends sharing their time together.

Most people are happy to get their photograph taken but looking at some of the images Vince might not have asked first.

The Jarrovians was first published in 2001 by Vince and Willa Rae at The Bede Gallery, Jarrow.

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.

HISTORY LIVES – Amy C. Flagg: South Shields Historian & Photographer 1893 – 1965.

Currently in South Shields Museum there is a small exhibition featuring houses and residents of Westoe Village. One of the residents was local historian and photographer, Amy C. Flagg.

Amy was born in Chapel House, on the site of a former medieval chapel, the house dates back to 1808.

In previous blogs (July 19th 2018 & July 11th 2019) I’ve looked at her life and included a link to a 16min film I made about her local history and photographic work, an important historical archive for the town.

Amy documented the air raid damage on Shields during the Second World War and printed the photographs in her darkroom in the attic of Chapel House. These photographs and detailed records were just one part of the important historical archive that she left.

Another part of her legacy was a book printed in 1979 by South Tyneside Council Library Service which featured her detailed notes on The History of Shipbuilding in South Shields 1746-1946.

The book includes a comprehensive list of ships, shipyard owners and important people of the town like Fairles, Temple, Wallis and the Readheads.

Amy put together a section about the shipbuilder John Readhead and Sons…

In 1894 at his home, Southgarth in Westoe Village, he had been in failing health for some time but had visited the West Docks almost daily until the last few weeks’.

During the Second World War she noted… ‘The West Docks may not have suffered as many attacks from the air as some parts of the town but there is no doubt that in terms of material damage, they were hard hit in April 1941 when major fires were started by incendiaries, and several bombs fell in Readheads yard’.

Further research by Amy revealed that …’A ‘Satan’, one of the largest bombs dropped in England to date, fell on Newton & Nicholsons premises near the West Docks but failed to explode: many other bombs of sizeable calibre also fell in the river nearby’.

Her notes revealed what she called a ‘family’ feeling in the Readheads shipbuilding firm…

’Not only between directors and employees, but department with department, staff with staff. Generation after generation has been proud and anxious to ‘get in’ sons or nephews to the various trades’.

Amy realised the importance that Readheads played to South Shields especially during both world wars and recessions.

The book includes sections on place names like Pilot Street, Mill Dam, West Holborn and Coble Landing. At the bottom of The Lawe next to the River Tyne was Shadwell Street and Pilot Street which feature in the opening section of the book…

’It is very fitting that these two streets should be the first section in these notes: the eastern extremity of the old township of South Shields was the birthplace and for long the nursery of shipbuilding in our town’.

Copies occasionally appear on EBay, and the book is available for reference only in the Local History section at The Word, South Shields. Check for details.

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.



If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 musicians interviewed and also featured authors and artists….


On ‘Live & Acoustic’, Blues Siren Emma Wilson sings 4 favourites from her live set plus her original blues break up song ‘Wish Her Well’. With guitar accompaniment from Al Harrington, Emma’s raw and dynamic vocals shine through

‘I used to sing sweeter soul style but learned and developed a big voice. It was get big or get off’.

The 5 track EP reached no.12 in the Independent Blues Broadcasters charts and received rave reviews from Blues Matters magazine and several American Blues stations.

For a hard copy on CD email Emma at or contact the official website : or via Facebook.

bloody well everything icon bandcamp

Gary Miller from folk rockers The Whisky Priests….‘Leaving school in the mid-80’s, being in a band meant having a voice and a sense of hope and purpose during the dark era of Thatcherism. So, The Whisky Priests kind of evolved out of that and initially became a vehicle for expressing all my frustrations and passion at that time’.

Get yer copy of Whisky Priests – ‘Bloody Well Everything’ 12-disc CD Box Set contact:


The Steve Thompson band recorded an album earlier this year…’The Long Fade really is my life’s work. After 50 years of being a backroom boy writing songs for other people I finally recorded them in my own name with a fantastic group of musicians and singers. Making the album was a fantastic adventure with lots of laughs with old friends’.

You can download and stream links at http://www.thelongfade.xyx

Gary Alikivi    December 2019.

BILLY’S STORY -The artist formerly known as Meths.

A few weeks ago a story was sent in from a South Shields resident who signed out as Tinwhistler. After initial contact they didn’t offer anymore clues about their identity. Was this Shields version of the X-Files Deep Throat ? A big exclusive or just a wind-up.

But after reading the story I remember the old guy in the article – Billy Meths. I often saw Billy, real name Billy Roberts, in South Shields Town Centre during late ‘70s early ‘80s, most times sitting on a bench comforting a bottle of cider.

The story also brought back a reminder of another couple of characters that hung around Shields. During the ‘80s I often saw a guy known locally as ‘Cowboy’ cos of his boots. I wasn’t sure if he was homeless or staying in a hostel.

Then during the noughties hanging around the Mill Dam and river area of the town was ‘Wavey Davey’, he got that label from waving at passing ships.

Where are they now ? There will be many Shields folk that can offer stories about characters from the town like Billy Meths – this is Tinwhistlers…..

    Billy Meths cracking pic.

Billy’s home was South Shields. Most of us exist in a finite amount of square feet on one or two floors that come with restraints known as mortgage, freehold or tenancy and all the rules and regulations that go with them.

That is what we call our home. Billy viewed the town as his home, picking random points that could serve as a base when it suited.

Back in the early ‘70s society enjoyed virtual full employment and homelessness was not a national issue. But there was always going to be those in society that seemed displaced and show a preference for living outside the parameters of a normal existence, preferring a much harsher alternative.

Constantly battling the elements, hunger, alcohol – or lack of it – and the occasional assistance of passers-by. Billy Roberts was one of them. But I want to go back in time to the era where I first heard of and met Billy Roberts, the artist formerly known as Meths.

He was one of several who sought cover in the Town Centre particularly in the Market Place. Someone your parents might tell you to avoid, someone that was barred from every public house in the town yet with his singing, dancing and playing of music either with harmonica or his ‘bones’, would entertain the pub’s punters on the streets.

He had a nickname ‘Billy Meths’ a name that was maybe bestowed in the previous decade by cruel kids that saw a loner drinking from a bottle in the street. His demeanour and mood would fluctuate depending on alcohol intake.

Some of the older workers in the licensing business referred to him as ‘Gypsy Roberts’, perhaps because of his nomadic lifestyle and no set official residence.

Nor would he likely have had his lobes pierced though I came across him once wearing a clipped-on hoop that was so big a dolphin could’ve jumped through it.

Perhaps Billy considered the whole of South Shields his home, setting down at various locations depending upon the season. As I grew a bit older, I’d venture into town and would often see him around as I’d be visiting record shops.

Sheltering from the elements he’d sometimes be in a bus stop with a bottle of cider, causing anxiety to those waiting for a bus. He might not be seen for a while but then when least expected, he’d appear pushing a barrow of scrap and rags that he’s moving on to turn into cash for cider in order to attain his preferred state of consciousness.

Leaving school and entering a life of work afforded me the dubious pleasure of sampling the weekend night life and I’d see Billy more often. At the junction of Mile End Road, Ocean Road and King Street there would be stationed a police vehicle and officers with dogs to attend any possible outbreaks of Saturday night violence.

Billy would be drawn to the Ship & Royal pub, peering in through large windows, the pub had floor to ceiling glass windows that gave the customer a great view of the outside world. He would be weighing up the paying customers, also wondering what mischief might be achieved.

He might begin with a knock on the glass then maybe lewd hand gestures, face pulling, a sparring routine. Of course, if you knew him, you’d maybe laugh, smile and wave him on.

But there was always one who was not aware of this growing legend in our midst who would remonstrate, return the hand jiving and on Billy pushing his face right up to the glass his target would then bolt for the door in order to deal with Billy in a pugilistic fashion.

Billy’s timing was impeccable and his walk away followed by his collaring by a drunken assailant takes place in full view of the police. Those watching through the big windows see a police response to an older gentleman being harassed by a young drunken bully. They’d spring into action and Billy had another ‘kill’.

Summer ‘76 I was working in the family’s retail business and my father was a beer drinker. I suppose out of family loyalty I would accompany him for a sup.

Again, in the Ship & Royal, as usual the bar was busy with workers and shoppers relaxing before returning home. On this occasion Billy entered the pub resplendent in a three piece navy suit that looked a remarkable fit, he had an open necked white shirt and a cigar in one hand, the other hand behind his back.

A barmaid was fulfilling a large order and loaded drinks onto a tray ready to carry them over. ‘Large brandy please’ was Billy’s request. ‘Out Billy, you know you’re not served in here’. She then began to walk toward her customers carrying a full tray.

His response was something like ‘Ok love no problem’ and went toward the door to exit. He was now behind the barmaid and his other hand came from behind his back revealing a fully inflated balloon. He held it out and brought the lit cigar to touch it. I saw this so didn’t jump, but the barmaid shrieked, dropped the tray and drinks went all over both table and punters.

Another occasion I was on Ocean Road and Billy was in the bus shelter. He had his companion of Gaymers or Bulmers cider with him and seemed fairly lucid when I sat talking with him.

He volunteered the fact that he originally hailed from Blaydon and that at one time he had been a keen amateur boxer. ‘No trophies son, no trophies, just memories’.

I did partake of a drink from his bottle on the assurance that there was no added substance and stayed for a little while. But unfortunately, I can’t remember other pearls of wisdom he volunteered that night.

There was a time when a friend of a friend was sufficiently displaced to need to share accommodation with Mr Roberts. Luckily it was summer, but he stated how cold it had been that night. He slept underneath the Waltzer at the Fairground which was Billy’s summer residence.

There was a previous summer residence, the Tyne lifeboat, a landmark at the pier end of Ocean Road. I believe he put in for an exchange when he alleged that he was being harassed by police and on one occasion two cadet officers did urinate on him.

My father told me he bumped into him whilst on his way for a pint or three. ‘Good evening, Mr Roberts and where are we off to this fine evening ? ‘Good evening, sir. I’m now moving to my winter residence as it’s starting to get a little bit cold during the evening. Mulligans Mansions, top floor, is where I’ll be for the coming winter’. Where he meant was the multi-story car park situated just off Mile End Road.

Some weeks later my dad bumped into Billy and asked how he was settling in. Now below the car park at ground level there was a night club originally known as Banwells… ‘I’ve got noisy bloody neighbours’ he stated. ‘I’ve been down several times to complain and ask them to keep it quiet as I cannot get a night’s sleep’.

Trying to visualize the scenario where two burly doormen respond to rapping on the door and seeing a bedraggled gentleman of the road type, possibly holding a blanket and complaining, had me in fits.

When his spirits were high he’d often break into song, do a jig and bring out a harmonica or his ‘bones’ to entertain. When low he could be found somewhere with a bottle going through some sparring routines, beating the pulp out of his invisible opponent.

Billy’s musical talents had not gone unnoticed as another of the town’s characters, Brian Batey, would invite him to gigs to sing on stage with the band Brian sang with, The Letters. He was recorded at Bolingbroke Hall in 1981 and is on You Tube.

Billy’s lifestyle eventually took its toll and his health deteriorated. He was cared for at the Ingham Infirmary and afforded a private room by the then casualty consultant, Miss Seymour.

Seymour was an eccentric born again Christian who had spent the earlier years of her medical career attending to the sick and dying in the Congo. She now attended to the needs of Billy Roberts and may well have assisted financially with his funeral.

He died I think circa November 1984. I’m sure there will be many Shields folk that can offer stories about characters from the town. Thanks Billy.

Is there another Tinwhistler out there ?

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.


If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 musicians interviewed and also featured authors, artists and poets.

In his new poetry collection, Jarrow-born Tom Kelly examines the history of the town as he tries to make sense of the past…. This Small Patch is my eighth collection published by Red Squirrel Press and will have its South Tyneside launch on 11th January at 1.30pm in The Word, South Shields’.

To buy a copy contact the official website:

The 10 track album ‘Square One’ by former Tygers of Pan Tang, Fred Purser and Jon Deverill is out on the shelves, where does it stand with your Tygers output ?…. Jon Deverill ‘I’m very proud of it. It’s by far my best work. I’m so delighted it’s been released. We never lost faith that one day it would be’.

Square One by Purser/Deverill available to buy at HMV, Newcastle or on-line via EBay or Discogs.

In 1979 Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and South Shields band Mythra released records making them one of the original NWOBHM bands. Guitarist John Roach…’Yes we never said we were the best, just one of the first. We’ve released a 40th Anniversary Edition of Death and Destiny, we are very proud of it’. 

Order now from:

Gary Alikivi    December 2019


If yer lookin’ for a Chrissy present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians and also featured authors, artists, poets and TV presenters….

Gary James from The Tube, spills the beans on the groundbreaking ‘80s TV music show in his autobiography ‘Spangles, Glam, Gaywaves & Tubes’….

‘It’s a fabulous main present for ‘70s & ‘80s music and fashion fans you love, or a stocking filler for those you don’t. All for a paltry £12.99 (or cheaper if you can be arsed to shop around). Some bad language (he says ‘sod’ in it)’.


Lowfeye are musician/producer Alan Rowland and song writer Carol Nichol…

’Some songs on our album POW can be political or critical of society. I find the mainstream music scene along with TV celebrities really awful. It’s bland, it’s beige, it’s plastic and unfortunately we are spoon fed this crap by radio and TV’.

Contact Carol via Facebook and get yer copy at only £5 from

The Fauves punk band formed in South Shields in 1978 and got back together 2016, bassist Bri Smith…

I’ve got the perfect stocking filler for xmas for all you punks out there – The Fauves latest cd album ‘Back off World’. Most of the songs were written between 1978-81. There is a couple of new tracks and we think it has come out really well. Have a wonderful xmas you won’t be disappointed’.

Get yer copy from Goldies opposite South Shields Town Hall or contact The Fauves on their official website

The Attention Seekers have a regional feel about some of their songs which gain’s regular play on local radio and at St James’ Park. Guitarist, Alan Fish…

If you’re looking for a chilled Xmas why not relax to the sounds of the latest CD from The Attention Seekers ‘A Song for Tomorrow’. Or if you’re looking for something more action-packed why not start Xmas Day singing along with ‘The Fans’ version of ‘The Blaydon Races’. Physical copy of ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ available from 

or download from the iTunes store.

‘The Blaydon Races’ at 

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.


2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians, but also featured artists, poets and authors. If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not take a butchers at these books that featured on the blog this year.

It’s not often that anyone has a visual record of their life – but Sheila Graber from Shields has done it in a book that is packed with illustrations created of our area since 1951. ‘The book is packed with anecdotes of my life as a Sandancer, it’s ideal for sending to folks abroad as a memento of Canny Shields’.

‘My Tyneside’ is available from The Word in South Shields and on Amazon. Check Sheila’s website

When doing some local history research I came across a new book about Westoe written by Dorothy Fleet…

This book tells the story of each of the houses and the families who lived there from the mid-1700s. More recently the Village has undergone a revival and many houses have been restored as cherished family homes. Although now totally surrounded by our busy town, Westoe Village remains a place apart’.

For further information about ‘Westoe, a History of the Village and it’s Residents’ contact

Burglary, prostitution and gambling all appear in ‘Five Stone Steps’ a fictional account of life in South Shields Police Force during the 1920’s. The book is written by former Shields lad John Orton

‘I needed some info about the police in Shields and my very good friend Tommy Gordon helped. His father served in Shields police and he told me some of his stories’.

The book is available to order at The Word, South Shields and on kindle plus paperback via Amazon.

Gary Alikivi  December 2019.


If yer lookin’ for a Christmas present to buy why not have a butchers at these books that featured on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians but also featured authors and poets like Keith Armstrong

I was interested in people like Dylan Thomas, the rhythm of his poetry. Actors like Richard Harris, hell raisers like Oliver Reed – all good role models! Yeah in my early days I loved the old bohemian lifestyle of reading poetry and getting tanked up.

Order direct from Northern Voices Community Projects, 35 Hillsden Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE25 9XF.

More than four decades after the BBC’s iconic TV series ‘When the Boat Comes In’ was first screened, ‘Jack High’ a novel by Peter Mitchell tells the story of Jack Ford’s missing years. ‘

This is a man who has found a family in war. He interacts with union men, upper crusts, politicians….all he knows is how to survive and when he see’s a chance he takes the opportunity’. ‘Jack High’ is available through Amazon.

Some authors talked about growing up in the North East, like former White Heat front man now music documentary director Bob Smeaton

I was working as a welder at Swan Hunter Shipyards at the time. When punk and new wave happened around 76/77 that’s when I started thinking I could possibly make a career out of music. The doors had been kicked wide open’.

‘From Benwell Boy to 46th Beatle & Beyond’ available on Amazon or can be ordered in Waterstones, Newcastle.

Earlier this year I read a great book ‘The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy’ and got in touch with the author Vin Arthey…

Newcastle born William Fisher turned out to be a KGB spy, he used the name Rudolf Abel and was jailed for espionage in the United States in 1957. He was exchanged across Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge for the American U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers. The Tom Hanks film ‘Bridge of Spies’ tells the story of how it happened.

Contact Vin at ‘I have a few pristine copies on my shelf but with p&p, it would come out at £10 more than the Amazon price’.

A big influence on my life was watching and being in the audience of ‘80s live music show The Tube, so when I got the chance to talk to former music TV producer Chris Phipps about the program, I didn’t miss the opportunity

‘As an ex-BBC producer, I initially only signed up for 3 months on this unknown program and it became 5 years! I was mainly hired because of my track record for producing rock and reggae shows in the Midlands’. Chris released ‘Namedropper’ revealing backstage stories from the groundbreaking show.

The book is available at Newcastle City Library or through Amazon.

 Gary Alikivi   December 2019.