On Sunday March 6, The Word in South Shields is holding an event for International Women’s Dayto celebrate women’s achievements.
Kicking off at 1pm the celebration will incorporate excerpts fromEd Waugh’snew play, Wor Bella, plus trailer films and talks by representatives of women’s groups in the region.
“Men were conscripted so women flocked into the workplaces to save the World War One effort. The heroic munitionettes worked a 60-hour week in dangerous conditions.”
Ed added “In 1917 football matches started to be organized for a bit of fun and to give people entertainment. Matches were played on Tyneside at Westoe while Palmers of Jarrow had a crack women’s football team based on the shipyards there.”
By the end of the war there were over 1 million working women, of these, 700,000 were employed in the munitions industry and 80 per cent of all weapons were produced by these working class women.
Things quickly became serious as women trained and dedicated their spare time to developing all-female teams that could compete against each other. Hundreds of teams formed spontaneously throughout the country – often 2,000-3,000 people paid their 6d (£1.50 today) to be entertained.
In the North East teams were formed in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Darlington, Hartlepool and County Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead
Blyth Spartans Ladies in Northumberland became local and regional heroes, playing in front of an average 4,000.
The Blyth women worked at Blyth docks in South East Northumberland unloading spent shells from France, and the biggest star was Bella Reay, their magnificent centre forward who notched 133 goals in 30 unbeaten games.
Wor Bella, who was ‘the Alan Shearer of her day’ and Blyth Spartans Ladies went on to win the 1918 Munitionettes Cup against Bolckow Vaughan of Middlesbrough in front of 22,000 people at Ayresome Park, then home ground of Middlesbrough FC.
The play Wor Bella is about women’s football as seen through the eyes of Bella Reay (played by Lauren Waine). The International Women’s Day Celebration takes place on Sunday March 6, at the Market Place venue in South Shields town centre from 1pm to 3pm.
The ep ‘A New Heartbeat’ is released this week is it a follow on in style from the last album ? The songs are classic Tygers and obviously new guitarist Franco has added a different dimension, but the Tygers are not looking to do a Jazz fusion reggae album – its Metal!
Did you listen to the Tygers when you were young and have you a favourite album ?
I loved the first three, production on ‘The Cage’ (1982) was a bit to “modern” for me with synth drums etc – but the songs were great. The last four albums have been incredible and that’s the reason I wanted to be part of the Tygers.
Unlike other bands of that era they aren’t living in the past, the newer albums are as good as, or arguably even better than their 80’s stuff.
I lived in Durham since I was 3 or 4 and the Tygers have a strong connection with Durham, their first gig was at the Coach and 8 in Durham.
I saw them at Dunelm House when I was maybe 11, my sister was a big Tygers fan so that was passed onto me. I can also remember watching them on music TV shows E.C.T and the Whistle Test.
The street where I lived was full of teenage rock fans and at weekends used to have camp fires on the field next to me and play rock metal stuff – mainly Motorhead, Hawkwind and Sabbath.
We also had Guardian Studio’s in Pity Me village where me and my fledgling musician mates used to get music lessons at the time when the Tygers were doing the Spellbound demos at the studio, although I never met them.
I still see Terry Gavaghan (former owner/producer) and chat to him about his recollections of the Tygers, Terry loved working with the Tygers and got on well with Robb.
Huw learnt his trade playing in the North East with a number of bands before joining metal outfits Avenger and Blitzkreig.
I was asked to join Avenger in 2006 then a few year ago Brian Ross (vocals) got in touch and asked if I was interested in playing on a Blitzkrieg album as bassist Bill Baxter had left and they were about to sign a record contract.
I agreed because at the time Avenger were not busy and it was my perception that Gary Young (drums) was doing a lot of work with his Death Metal project Repulsive Visions.
But Gary decided that my agreement with Blitzkrieg would limit Avenger’s opportunities so I was replaced. I have to say this was a business decision and there was no personal fall out, I’m still friends with all the Avenger boys.
In retrospect I’ve mixed feelings about my decision to join Blitzkrieg, but equally if I hadn’t joined I wouldn’t be with the Tygers now, and I wouldn’t have become good friends with Ken Johnson (guitar, Abaddon) he was ex-Blitzkrieg and principle song writer for the last 20 years, also Matthew Graham who is a great drummer and a fabulous chap, despite looking like a cheap tart.
After bassist Gav Grey left the Tygers last year to pursue other musical interests – then got the gig with NWOBHM band Tank – Huw stepped up to the plate.
I joined the band in August 2021, but on quite a few occasions before that I met the Tygers when I performed on the same bill at festivals when I was with Avenger or Blitzkrieg.
After submitting a demo I was invited for an audition on 31st July. I can remember the date because it was the day after my birthday, so instead of having a night out I stayed in to make sure I knew the tracks well.
For the demo I had to play along to Damn You from the last album ‘Ritual’ and Slave to Freedom from ‘Wildcat’ their debut.
At the audition we done a few songs, the two tracks from the demo plus Love Don’t Stay from ‘Crazy Nights’ and Take It from ‘Spellbound’, we also played Gangland which I already knew from my younger years.
How’s it going recording the new album ? The new album is going great. It’s been quite hard work because I had to learn the full 20 song set list while also working out bass lines for the songs.
The new songs had already been written before I joined so my contribution has only been to add to them. The band have been happy to include my favourites into the set list which was great.
As for the recording process I had to adapt to modern technology cos of Covid restrictions and play along to the demos using my home recording gear then email to the band members who say what they like or don’t like.
Once I got through quality control I then recorded the bass directly over the drums with a guide guitar from Franco. This is then sent to the studio who can ‘Re Amp’ my bass and Robb does his stuff.
Have you any live dates scheduled this year ? We had to reschedule dates that we had to cancel in late 2021 and early 2022, at the same time we need to keep time available for recording – yes we have a busy time ahead.
Bella Reay was ‘the Alan Shearer of her day’ scoring 133 goals in 30 matches between 1918/19, she also led Blyth Spartans Ladies football team to victory in the 1918 Munitionette’s Cup final in front of 22,000 people.
This is a remarkable story about brave, heroic women who worked 60 hours a week in dangerous occupations during World War One yet still found time to play football to raise money for injured soldiers, widows and orphans.
Brought to you by the team behind the hugely successful Hadaway Harry, Carrying David and The Great Joe Wilson, the play written by Ed Waugh, directed by Russell Floyd and starring Lauren Waine as Bella Reay, is an incredible story largely forgotten until now.
Ed talked about a special offer for ex-miners to come along to the show…
‘Thanks to support from the North East Area Miners’ Social Welfare Trust Fund, ex-miners, their spouses and partners are invited to attend the incredible story of Wor Bella, the Blyth miner’s daughter who rose to fame as the superstar of World War One’s women’s football’.
‘They’ll be asked to pay only £5 for a programme to reserve their seat. To take advantage of this fantastic offer they have until 5pm on Friday March 18 when it closes. Either contact me on 0191 4550608 – please speak slowly and repeat your number twice – or email at
The blog has featured highlights from the life of Tyneside born international musician Chas Chandler, little known South Shields born musicians Kathy Stobbart and Jack Brymer, a brave war story from North Shields hero Tommy Brown, also a profile of my Great Uncle, Richard Ewart MP, a committed socialist from the south of the Tyne. His story ‘From Coal Mine to the House of Commons’ is on the link below.
The latest story researched and put together from a number of print sources features the colourful life of South Shields Mayor James Dunlop, it also includes a crossover in my family research.
Glasgow born Dunlop spent a short time in Canada then returned to England where he worked in Barrow in Furness and Middlesbrough before moving to South Shields at the end of the nineteenth century finding employment in Tyneside shipyards.
Soon he was an active member of the Independent Labour Party but found their brand of politics a little tame so joined the Social Democratic Federation where he became a leading figure in the South Shields party.
Dunlop was quickly gaining a reputation as a fiery character who fought for what he thought was right for the working class people of the town.
Being successful at fighting local elections the Labour party took note and called him in, James agreed to become Tyne Dock ward councillor in 1906.
He retained strong links with the Social Democratic Federation party who were supported by the Russian Socialist Democratic Workers Party.
Through political and social gatherings Dunlop is likely to have met two Russian comrades – Tyneside shipyard worker Heinrich Fischer and my Great Uncle Alexander Alikivi who made the journey from Russia to the North East as a Merchant Seaman and settled in South Shields.
Family research is yet to point to a definite political affiliation for Alikivi but it was highly likely he was a member of the Russian Socialists, a party with someone speaking his mother tongue would be welcoming to someone so far from home.
Fischer was a confirmed member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party, useful reading about his life is an interview with author Vin Arthey who wrote an excellent book, The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy(link below).
Russia was in turmoil as a workers revolution raged across the country, to help the struggle in overthrowing the ruling Tsar regime and form a socialist government, arms were smuggled from the river Tyne to St Petersburg using established Baltic trade routes.
Along the riverside the boat building yards of Tyne Dock and Holborn would be suitable access points for smuggling. Was suspicious activity seen and reported ?
Upshot was a major police operation was launched on Tyneside leading to a number of arrests being made and Dunlop held on suspicion of gun running – this won’t look good for a recently elected councillor of Tyne Dock.
A search of his home revealed a box in the cellar which the police suspected had previously held guns and bullets. An Edinburgh address was on the box which led them to the ringleaders of the organisation.
How much involvement Dunlop had isn’t known, but fortunately for him he escaped any charges.
During the next decade Dunlop’s political career took off – employed as a boilermaker at Readheads shipyard his rallying calls for socialism won a strong following, he was promoted to Chairman of the Housing and Town Planning committee and made Alderman of the town.
James became a senior member of the Labour council with one of his proudest moments in 1928 becoming South Shields Mayor.
Sadly, after a 32 year membership and service to the Council, James passed away aged 73.A full council meeting was held to remember a valued colleague, Mayor Harris, councillor Gompertz, and my Great Uncle and brother in law of Alexander Alikivi, Councillor Richard Ewart, also attended. After the Second World War Ewart was elected MP for Sunderland.
Local newspaper The Shields Gazette featured the story –
“One could not but admire his courage, persistency and unshakeable belief in what he thought was right. I am sure the working class people of this town will remember with gratitude his fight for better housing conditions” said the Mayor.
Councillor Gompertz added “Alderman Dunlop’s work had a standing monument in the Cleadon Park Estate. People who had travelled the country looked upon Cleadon Park as the finest homes for working people in the whole country”.
“A pronounced Socialist, he laid the foundations of the party and we thank him for the enormous amount of spade work he did. In this Council chamber we miss his voice, which at times was raised against injustice and always in the cause of freedom”.
The Shields Gazette, South Shields Corporation minutes of proceedings July – Dec 1938.
‘We Do Not Want the Earth’ – The History of South Shields Labour Party by David Clark.
Jarrow is affectionately known as ‘Little Ireland’, it’s also the title of a documentary about the Irish immigration into Jarrow which had its premier at The Customs House, South Shields on St Patricks Day 2009.
The film is planned to be screened on one of the local history themed nights at The Albion Gin & Ale House in Jarrow.
In a recent interview manager Jess McConnell told me he is looking forward to screening the film because of his connection to Ireland and also his life in entertainment and pubs.
Jess was born in 1952 and brought up on Jarrow’s Scotch Estate. His mother named him Gerard but at school there were three Gerard’s, so somebody gave him the name Jess which has stuck to this day.
My family came from Mahon, County Cork, Paddy my Grandfather came over for work in the shipyards in the early 1900’s. I remember when I was 5 or 6 my mother used to take me to my Irish granny’s house where she had hens and chickens in the backyard.
My Dad was a bricklayer who travelled on the train from Jarrow to work in Newcastle, he was also a drunk so he was still worse for wear and missed his stop regularly – the end was North Allerton which is miles away.
Some nights me and my mother would be woken up by a taxi driver wanting a week’s wages.
But one day my Dad was coming home from work and again fell asleep on the train. He was nudged by the guard “Wake up Charlie you’ve missed your stop, you’re at East Boldon”.
Luckily he was only one stop away from Jarrow so he thought he would walk back along the lines. He did – and walked straight into an oncoming train. We were devastated.
After leaving St Joseph’s school in Hebburn I served my time as a plater in the shipyards and when I was old enough I started drinking in the local pubs in Jarrow.
There was no jukebox’s then so we would sing-a-long with piano players tinkering in the corner. That’s how we began entertaining, getting up and ad-libbing.
By 1970 I joined the Mel Unsworth Agency in Jarrow and started as a solo singer and played with a number of groups on the clubland circuit. There was so much work then, the clubs were packed – it was booming.
I was still a plater during the day working down Teeside during the ‘70s oil and chemical boom, that’s where I met Hebburn born welder Terry Joyce. Terry was also a performer and we got along great so decided to join forces and went out as the Jarrow Lads from 1979-84.
As a double act we sang and performed comedy in North East clubs, to keep the act fresh we loaded the van with our P.A. and done ten day runs in Scotland and Yorkshire.
We enjoyed it and got very popular on the circuit but being away a lot the missus wasn’t happy.
We were regularly playing ten shows a week and in 1980 won a North East Comedy Act of the Year at Newcastle Mayfair – yes you could say we took North East clubland by storm (laughs).
One day in 1983 I saw The Queens Hotel opposite Jarrow Steelworks up for sale so I said to Terry why don’t we buy this pub it’s going for a snip – or so I thought. The trade wasn’t too hot, it had run down a bit but there was thirteen bedrooms upstairs.
The idea was to run the pub and hotel and be able to hand pick our stage work, no more trips to Birmingham or Yorkshire but Terry didn’t fancy that and we called it a day for our duo – I jumped head first into the pub game, he went on to a successful solo career. There was no falling out, we parted as friends.
We renamed the pub The Jarrow Lad and it started going well, upstairs we had rooms for travelling entertainers just like me and Terry used to do. We got in touch with the agency’s and told them about our set up here for accommodation.
On tour you would sometimes have a free night so the performers would stay here and put a show on and get free bed and board – Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown played on two consecutive nights, one for the ladies and one for the gents.
We put on a ‘free and easy’ night with a keyboard player, drummer and anyone that could get up and sing. This one night a guy called Joseph Allan came in off the street, had a few pints, got up, sung a few songs, and I gave him the name Jarra’ Elvis – for the next few year he ended up being a huge attraction.
Another opportunity came along to take up a Vaux tenancy of the Robin Hood pub in Jarrow. We ended up running both pubs simultaneously putting on entertainment six nights a week.
In 1987 I noticed Hebburn Trades and Labour Club was boarded up so we stepped in and renamed it The Victoria Park. National acts appeared on the bill like Bernard Manning, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds – we were upgrading the entertainment, plus we had a regular four piece band.
A few year later we sold The Victoria Park for a tidy sum and bought The High Pit Social Club in Cramlington. It already had a reputation for booking big acts for their 450 seater concert room with lamps on the tables – like a large cabaret room.
We booked American singer Jack Jones, Tony Christie, Ken Dodd, Norman Wisdom, The Drifters – packing it out every time. The club was doing well and looking forward to more national acts coming through and more opportunities.
We had acquired another two social clubs – The Percy Main, North Shields and Battle Hill, Wallsend. We were giving them a bit of life by revitalising them – but unfortunately through all this my marriage suffered and we split.
A few year later I remarried and my second wife and I shared a love for real ale. After a brewing course we bought the derelict Robin Hood pub from Vaux and reopened it in 2002 with a micro-brewery inside.
We could brew ten barrels of beer that’s 360 gallon at a time and one of our main beers called Rivet Catcher (a shipyard trade) became a champion beer of the North East and runner up in the Great British beer championship.
The pub was voted the CAMRA pub of the year a number of times, we had beers with local names like Joblings Gibbet, Red Ellen (Wilkinson Jarrow MP) and Jarrow Bitter.
We needed outlets for our beer so over the next few year we acquired, refurbished and put our beers on the counters of The Robin Hood, Magnesia Bank in North Shields, The Maltings in South Shields, The Isis in Sunderland and finally The Old Albion Hotel in Jarrow.
Now we had a 40 barrel plant, everybody was after out beer even Newcastle United wanted Rivet Catcher on their shelves.
We expanded our brewing capabilities by getting a space on the Bede Industrial Estate and the Jarrow brewing plant became the biggest in the North East.
That might sound outrageous but this was a time when Newcastle brewery had moved to Yorkshire, Federation in Gateshead and Vaux in Sunderland had both closed down.
Now we needed a bottling plant which would cost upwards of half a million pound, for the first time we needed outside investment. A financial consultant read our story in the Journal in 2015, got in touch and set up a few meetings to discuss it and plans were made.
Within a week I’m down in London meeting potential investors and listening to all the patter but I was gullible and soon put a deposit on a bottling plant, the contract tied in the pubs and our house.
A few times I was told the money is coming but the money didn’t come, the upshot was we lost everything, our house the lot – we were bankrupt. The financial consultant and his cronies picked up our assets from the receivers.
I’ve thought this through and I’m not saying they came into this to get me hook, line and sinker – was that the plan all along ? I think somewhere along the line they recognised I was desperate for the money and without it they thought they could pick up a few assets. It was a hard time.
So what do I do ? Well it’s time to pick myself back up again, go back to the beginning put a stage act together and perform in pubs, clubs, old folks homes anywhere that will give me a spot – I wanted, needed to have a bit of fun again.
I done that for about five year then one night in Hartlepool I was struggling up some icy stairs with huge speakers to entertain about 40 people in a 300 seater club. How much longer can I do this ?
Then I got the opportunity to take on the Albion in Jarrow – yes another pub again. I signed up for a three year tenancy agreement but unfortunately I couldn’t have taken over at a worse time because the covid virus had just started to spread.
We had the pub going for a couple of weeks then it all crashed in – lockdown.
It’s only a small pub indoors so we’ve had a few months of nothing happening but we’re finally getting there, with relaxed rules about using outside space we got busy in the summer.
We had so much free time on our hands that we made a few short videos, they are humorous but with a serious message one for the NHS and their magnificent work. Another tackles the problem of only four pubs left in Jarrow as one time there was fifty four.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy in the pub trade because they are open then they are shut and people are not coming out because they are petrified of covid. Who knows what’s round the corner – another virus next winter ?
But at the end of the day and at my age I thoroughly enjoy running just the one pub and we were lucky to get a really nice rented house in Boldon near the river Don.
The Albion Gin & Ale House, 76 Walter Street, Jarrow. 0191 489 7222