TYNE DOCK ON THE TELLY

The first post of 2023 looks at TV and Film productions using South Shields locations. The latest being TV cop drama series Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn with her fake Geordie accent. Gateshead born Jill Halfpenny shudda’ been a shoo-in for that role.

And not forgetting an episode of Inspector George Gently with Martin Shaw filmed in the Rose & Crown pub at Holborn docks. Back in the ‘90s Catherine Cookson films were shot along the riverside and scenes from an episode of Spender starring Jimmy Nail were set up on the South pier.

Rewind further to the 1970’s and BBC TV series When the Boat Comes In, created by local Shields lad James Mitchell, they used The Customs House building at the Mill Dam as a backdrop.

But I remember in 1982 when a convoy of film trucks landed in South Shields. To be precise, Devonshire and Porchester Street in the Tyne Dock area of the town, and there was not one, but two projects filmed there. Those days I lived just two minutes away so took the chance to see the action.

There was BBC TV series Machine Gunners and a film called Ascendancy starring Julie Covington, who alongside Rula Lenska, had featured in popular ITV series, Rock Follies.

In March 2021 I interviewed Punishment of Luxury vocalist & actor Brian Rapkin, where he talked about his music and acting career on North East productions. So I recently got in touch and asked him about it…

‘Yes it was 1982 when I had a part as a Polish officer in Machine Gunners for the BBC. I was acting in a speaking part for the first time ever, and I remember being very nervous and excited.’

Brian was in demand during the ‘90s, as well as the aforementioned Catherine Cookson films, he worked in Newcastle on the TV series Byker Grove with Jill Halfpenny and Ant and Dec ‘They were just kids then’. He also featured in Spender starring Amanda Redman and Jimmy Nail ‘Mr Nail knew the actors were on tenterhooks so he chivied the crew along, that helped my nerves’.

I remember a few nights nipping over to Porchy watching Ascendency being filmed. I have a hazy memory of huge lights shining on a scene where a family were dragged out of a house in pyjamas and nighties and put up against the wall by armed soldiers. I haven’t been able to find any copies of the film to check the scene, or if it made the final cut.

Unfortunately I was still at school so a bit busy during the day, but straight after the bell I went to Porchy to see what was happening in Machine Gunners. I remember where one scene a milkman with his horse and cart was delivering bottles, and shouting at a group of kids ‘Where you going now’. Funny what sticks isn’t it?

Other locations in South Shields were used in the Gunners, one of them was Westoe School. I can’t remember exact details – wey it was over 40 years ago – but at the time of filming half the houses in Porchy were empty, and not long after the crew left, the street was knocked down. Devonshire is still there today.

Alikivi   January 2023.

FIDDLERS GREEN – Ray Lonsdale’s North Shields Sculpture

For an interview in October this year with seventies rock band Fogg, I met North East musicians Dave Robson and Bob Porteous in North Shields Heritage Centre near the fish quay  – hey its al’ rock n roll my friends!

Afterwards I went over to see Fiddlers Green, the sculpture by Durham artist Ray Lonsdale which was unveiled in 2017. I was reminded of Seaham’s ‘Tommy’, who featured in the last blog, as Lonsdale again presents us with a lone figure deep in thought.

Fiddlers Green, North Shields by Ray Lonsdale (pic. Alikivi 2022)

The fisherman, at ten foot tall and weighing in at two ton of steel – have the locals named him yet? Sits guard over the entrance to the River Tyne and the fish quay with its fishing boats, row of cafes, restaurants, fresh fishmongers and the aforementioned Heritage Centre.

I was interested where the name Fiddlers Green came from, so got in touch with Joyce Marti who is team leader at Discover, the Local Studies Department, North Tyneside.

I first met Joyce in 2014 when researching a documentary I made looking at the connection between North and South Shields.

‘Shiels’ 14 min film, 2014

Joyce explained “The memorial site was given the name Fiddler’s Green, a term that originated in 19th century maritime folklore. It was a mythical afterlife location for sailors and mariners who served their time at sea. There is said to be a fiddle that never stops playing, dancers who never tire, and drink which flows freely”.

“The sculpture was funded by North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project and North Tyneside Council who wanted to see a permanent memorial to North Shields fishermen lost at sea”.

On the back of the sculpture the plaque reads…

Fiddlers Green, North Shields by Ray Lonsdale (pic. Alikivi 2022)

Directly across the river, South Shields has its own sculptures connected to the sea with the Conversation Piece.

Placed near the Groyne pier at the entrance to the River, are a large group of ‘weebles’ – the local name for the 22 bronze figures, which are in small groups talking to each other and checking the time waiting for their men to return home from sea.

In the shade and snow, the Conversation Piece/Weebles in South Shields by Juan Munoz. The red Groyne in the background. (pic Alikivi 2022)

The figures were unveiled in 1999 from an idea by Spanish artist Juan Munoz. He must have created a number of these pieces as a couple of years ago I saw some fenced in behind a cage near the beach in Barcelona.

Word is, another sculpture is planned near Fiddlers Green, that’ll be one more pinned to Lonsdale’s map of the North.

Joyce Marti added “The group who raised the initial funds for Fiddlers Green have now commissioned Ray to start a ‘Herring Girl’ statue to be placed on the Western Fish Quay, North Shields”.

A list of locations can be seen on the official website at:  Two Red Rubber Things – Home   

Alikivi    December 2022

BYRON v TOMMY in THE GUNS OF SEAHAM

Seaham Hall (pic. Alikivi)

A visit to former industrial mining town Seaham revealed two contrasting stories separated by 100 years.

At the time there was a wedding reception being held in Seaham Hall so no chance of having a look around, but it’s another wedding that it’s noted for.

Lord Byron.

On 2nd January 1815 romantic poet and world traveller Lord Byron married Anne Millbanke. These passages taken from the book ‘The Life and Writings of Lord Byron’.

Anna, the daughter of Sir Ralph Millbanke was an attractive looking, learned, prim young lady. They were married in the drawing room at Seaham, Sir Ralph’s place. At first all went smoothly’.

‘But Byron’s money difficulties, drinking bouts, orgies, liver disease and now took laudanum habitually. Trembling in the balance between sanity and madness his conduct was very unkind. Lady Byron talked of him keeping loaded pistols in the room’.

‘Her husband’s resolve to travel either with or without her, she preferring to stay in England. He told her in a fit of rage, he never cared for her, and would free himself from the bondage of matrimony. The marriage barely lasted a year and shortly after he left England for good’.

In complete contrast just over a mile away on the seafront terrace is a nine foot tall statue of a First World War soldier I’ve visited a few times.

Tommy on Seaham seafront terrace green (pic Alikivi).

Originally created as a temporary display in 2014 by prolific North East artist Ray Lonsdale, the sculpture is officially named ‘1101’. Referring to the first minute of peace as armistice started 11am 11 November 1918 – now it’s known affectionately as ‘Tommy’.

Local residents and business’ felt strongly enough about Tommy they raised enough funds to buy the statue outright and make him a permanent fixture on the terrace green.

Made of rusty red steel Tommy is sitting with his helmet on, gun in hand and looking down. Has he just found out that war is over and is by himself catching his breath thinking about what he witnessed on the battlefield and all his marras who were killed?

Each time I’ve visited there’s been a quiet reverence shown by people of all ages paying respects laying a flower or small wooden cross, thinking about how wars have affected loved ones, relatives, and friends.

Tommy on Seaham seafront terrace green (pic. Alikivi).

The soul of the sculpture is its emotional heft. Placed in the middle of the terrace green with his back to the sea he looks inland and finally able to say ‘We’re comin’ home’.

Ray’s work featured on this blog in September this year.

GAN CANNY – created by North East sculptor, Ray Lonsdale | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi   2022

GEORDIE PLAYS book launch at Newcastle City Library

Held on Saturday November 26th by North East playwright & theatre producer Ed Waugh (Dirty Dusting, Hadaway Harry, Sunday for Sammy), the event in Bewick Hall will be a celebration of fantastic stories about working class heroes from Tyneside.

“I’m really excited about this. It’ll rock. There’ll be Geordie songs, stories, and a video link – it’ll be great crack” said Ed

The Harry Clasper, David & Glenn McCrory and The Great Joe Wilson stories were successful stage plays in their own right, now the scripts have been compiled together and released into one book – Geordie Plays.

Harry Clasper’s story follows his journey from working class pitman in Jarrow to rowing Champion of the World.

North East singer and song writer Joe Wilson chronicled working class life in song including the Geordie classic Keep Yor Feet Still Geordie Hinny.

“North East actor Jamie Brown who starred in both plays Hadaway Harry and the Great Joe Wilson will be singing some Geordie songs at the event”.

“We have the top journalist and sportswriter John Gibson coming along, he will regale us with stories about Glenn McCrory’s rise to boxing world champion stardom and the inspiration he got from his severely disabled brother David”.

“We’ll also have a video link to the three plays’ director Russell Floyd” explained Ed.

Some may know of Russell from his time acting in UK theatres and TV shows including Eastenders and The Bill.

“There’s also a special 5-minute video by Canadian, Kas Wilson, talking about what it means to be Joe Wilson’s great-grand-daughter”.

“I would like to give my thanks for continued support to all audiences, supporters, organisers – everyone involved in making this happen”.

The launch is on Saturday, November 26th 6pm, Bewick Hall, Newcastle City Library.

Tickets only £4 available from:

Press tickets and scrawl down to the bottom.

 Alikivi   November 2022

MASTER OF PUPPETS with WAVIS O’SHAVE ON THE TUBE

Ground breaking ‘80s live music show The Tube was broadcast from Tyne Tees studios in Newcastle for Channel Four from 1982 to 1987. The last post featured Wavis O’Shave who appeared regularly on the programme.

For one of the shows some filming was scheduled at the South Marine Park, South Shields and Wavis asked his mate Phil Whale to accompany him. Phil was a miner who lived on the Whiteleas council estate, South Shields.

Wavis: ‘I took Phil with me because he was the leader of the Whiteleas Massive and as a miner pissed off being involved in the Miners Strike. Thought I’d cheer him up!’

Phil Whale: ‘If there is one thing having a mate like Wavis has taught me is to always expect the unexpected. I’ve had hilarious times in his presence and witnessed surreal bizarre events’.

‘At that time Wavis was a regular on the show with his character The Hard who in essence was a delightfully exaggerated alpha male tough guy who was on a quest to demonstrate that he was the hardest guy on the planet’.

The Hard in his Hard backyard, South Shields.

‘I remember feeling excited at the prospect of watching him undertake his TV work, yet also feeling nervous at what he may do to challenge the norms and expectations of those in attendance because that is one of the things that he’s about.

Funnily enough I do remember him having a glint in his eyes’.

‘We met a camera crew all wearing Barbour jackets and talking in middle class accents. Wavis politely explained to them that he was going to present new characters to the cameras such as Mr Ordinary Powder, Mr Starey Oot and a hand puppet scene called the Non Sweary Puppet Show’.

The Tube crew were expecting The Hard to turn up as that character was starting to make a big impression on their viewers. Even the staff in production meetings used to do impersonations of The Hard. But on the day Wavis had other ideas.

Filming Mr Ordinary Powder in the South Marine Park, South Shields.

Phil remembers ‘The director begged him to do The Hard and asked him if he would consider doing six episodes for Channel 4, but Wavey was having none of it stating that the Hard was now consigned to the past and as an artist he wanted to move on’. 

‘It was just mental watching Wavis perform these new surreal characters in a public park with Mr Ordinary Powder who was naked apart from a loin cloth, carrying a shopping basket containing a talking loaf of bread, and Mr Starey Oot just staring everyone and everything out – in a manner that the Hard would be proud of’.

‘Mind you the best part of the day had to go to the Non Sweary Puppet Show which involved Wavis hiding behind a wall then up popped glove puppets arguing and screaming at each other that included loud explicit references to sex and constant use of the F word – all in Geordie!

The crew and gathering members of the public stood in a stunned silence at what was happening.

‘Wavis maintained a rock steady face in between takes which added to the surreal nature. I remember experiencing a wide range of thoughts ranging from ‘what the feck this is brilliant’ to ‘Get in Wavis’. 

‘At the end of the day payment was discussed with the director, at first Wavis refused money but after haggling was pleased to get a brand new Scotland football strip.’

Phil wraps up his feelings about the day… ‘To cap it all off Wavis asked if I would accompany him to the Tube Studio for the editing. Was he valuing my comedic opinion or was he sticking two fingers up to the producers expectations?’

‘I suppose I will never know but it didn’t matter to me as the experience was priceless. Oh and by the way you won’t be surprised to hear that The Non Sweary Puppet Show didn’t survive the cuts which was a shame but not unexpected’.

It’s reported on good authority that while the Non-Swearies Puppet Show was unsuitable for terrestrial TV broadcast it was a huge favourite in The Tube Office.

‘The Non-Swearies…even I’ve lost the original demo VHS performance’ remembers Wavis.

Alikivi   October 2022

GAN CANNY – created by North East sculptor, Ray Lonsdale

Gan Canny sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. pic Alikivi 2022

For non-Geordies reading this post ‘Gan Canny’ is a phrase meaning take it easy. It can be said after yakking with yer marra and putting the world to rights – which means talking to your friend and solving all our problems.

Av’ yer got that reet? Champion. I went into Sunderland city centre to check out the new Fire Station music and theatre venue and stayed for a canny bit o’ scran. If non Geordies are still following that means ‘some nice food’.

Also on my list was to see the new sculpture just around the corner in Keel Square.

I visit galleries and museums where fantastic paintings and great skill is on show like in Madrid’s Prado, Scotland’s National and Newcastle’s Laing, unlike the contemporary art in Gateshead’s Baltic which leaves me cold.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen good contemporary stuff in New York’s MOMA and the Pompidou in Paris but the Tracey Emin tent and unmade bed in Tate London some years ago looked like a sixth form art project.

An outside location is a different challenge, the position is all important. Gateshead got it spot on with The Angel of the North placed at the top of a hill on a former colliery next to the A1 motorway and seen by thousands of cars daily.

The artist Antony Gormley originally made small models of the design but it was Hartlepool Steel Fabrications who produced what you see now.

Gan Canny sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. pic Alikivi 2022

Gan Canny installed in December 2021,  is the latest work by Ray Lonsdale and is placed a stone’s throw away from where the Vaux Breweries were in Sunderland.

Gan Canny is a life sized sculpture of a driver and his assistant and two horses pulling a cart loaded with barrels and crates of Vaux beer. The detail is fantastic with a bucket and shovel for the horse muck – three balls of it – and the assistant feeding the horse lumps of sugar – no doubt the driver’s gesture is ‘gan canny with that sugar’.

Ray also produced 11.01 the nine foot tall soldier at Seaham, 11.01 refers to the first minute of peace, as the First World War armistice started at 11am on the 11th November 1918.

The red steel sculpture now known affectionately as Tommy, is sitting with his helmet on, holding his gun and looking down – is he weary from a day’s fighting and seeing some of his marras being injured or killed ? Or catching his breath and preparing himself to go over the top ?

11.01 – Tommy by Ray Lonsdale. pic Will Binks 2017.

Each time I’ve visited there’s been a quiet reverence shown by people of all ages, paying respects, laying a flower or small wooden cross, maybe reflecting on how wars have impacted the lives of friends, relatives, or their own lives.

I experienced a similar atmosphere the other week when I visited The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge in the Scottish Highlands.

Lonsdale also created Fiddlers Green at North Shields – a memorial to lost fishermen off the North East coast. Loss is a major theme running through here and the Gan Canny sculpture reminds me of the loss of a slower pace of life.

I’m old enough to remember a time when the rag an’ bone man with his horse and cart trotted down the back lane shouting ‘any ole rags’.

But this new sculpture by Ray is to celebrate Sunderland’s connection with Vaux Breweries, who for over 150 year were major employers in the city. Although not the emotional heft of Tommy, Gan Canny is worth going back for.

More works by Ray Lonsdale can be seen right across the North from Gretna Green in Dumfries down to Middlesborough on Teesside.

Alikivi   September 2022

ST BEDE’S JUNCTION RAIL DISASTER with researcher, John Caffery

John with a photo of his Grandfather Thomas Caffery.

The last post highlighted the work of the Hive Storytellers who are based in Jarrow. It featured a story that group member John Caffery came across when he was researching his family tree.

“Thomas Caffery my Grandfather was born in Hartlepool in 1886, and I came across his army service records. They revealed he suffered leg injuries in a serious train disaster at Jarrow.

I enquired more about this and searched through old copies of the Evening Chronicle to see if there were any reports”.

”I found there was a communal grave and headstone in Harton Cemetery, South Shields for the passengers of the train who were killed in the accident, but no names for them. They were buried with three named soldiers and remembered on a Commonwealth War Grave.

My curiosity got the better of me and I uncovered full details of the accident and confirmed the identity of 17 people killed.”

Disaster at St Bede’s Junction, Jarrow.

Reports tell us that the 17th December 1915 was a cold, damp, foggy morning and a coal train was pushed out of Tyne Dock and up the steep track by a banking engine joining the South Shields to Newcastle line at St Bede’s Junction, a signal box controlled the area.

As visibility was worsening with weather conditions and heavy industrial smog, the banking engine had finished assisting the coal train and waited for the signal to let him know he can return back to Tyne Dock.

A passenger train heading for South Shields passed by as the banking engine driver waited patiently for the signal.  After waiting five minutes he sent his fireman to the signal cabin to notify them of their position.

Sadly this delay proved disastrous as a Newcastle bound passenger train ploughed into the stationary banker train derailing them both, and damaging two carriages.

Shortly after, an empty goods train heading for South Shields also collided into them and was derailed. The carriage’s wooden construction and gas lighting fuelled horrific fires and damage.

Evening Chronicle newspaper report of St Bede’s Rail disaster.

John added “I found in the newspaper reports that the noise from one steam engine was deafening and carriages of the train were a mass of burning wreckage. One engine driver had a remarkable escape as he was thrown yards away from his engine which had overturned and rolled over the embankment into a field.

Men were lying on the ground receiving first aid, screaming was coming from the carriages as one train was on top of the other”.

“Despite heroic efforts of ambulance men from Palmers shipyards, soldiers from Durham Royal Engineers and Tyneside Irish, and a number of railway and policemen plus nearby residents, rescue was practically impossible”.

William Dunlop, the guard, and William Rowe, fireman of a train nearby, ran over and uncoupled the other carriages before the fire spread.

Another man who helped to recue injured passengers was Samson Tolliday. Samson was an off duty engine driver who lived near Tyne Dock station. He was travelling in the passenger train when the accident happened.

At the official enquiry in Newcastle he told the inspector that ‘the first outbreak of fire was from a gas jet. If I had been able to get saws I might have got more passengers out. All water tanks on the engine were broken and water was not available’.

The Chief Constable of South Shields made an official statement reported in the Evening Chronicle 18th December 1915 ‘It is impossible to identify the remains of any of the victims, and only a small proportion of the property found at the scene can be traced to the possession of any of the missing passengers’.

John talked about finding more newspapers reports

“There was over 200 people on the passenger train, that early in the morning they would have been going to work, among them there was an accountant, cabinet maker, a tripe preparer, and my Grandfather was going up to Newcastle for some army training.

The people that were tragically killed were buried on Christmas Eve 1915. I felt strongly that they should have their own headstone with all their names on”.

The new headstone in Harton Cemetery with the names inscribed, the original headstone on the left.

With a combined effort from local company HVR Electrics, who are based next to Bede metro station where the accident happened, A19 Model Railway Club, Bede Memorials and South Tyneside Council Cemeteries Department, John ensured that an appropriate memorial headstone was installed in Harton Cemetery.

Alikivi   September 2022

LISTEN IN with Lilly Moon from Tyneside’s Hive Storytellers

It was late 2012 when Hive community radio station started broadcasting on-line out of Tyneside’s Jarrow Hall.

Over the years they took on a number of projects including a new audio drama group who obtained Lottery funding and found a base in Jarrow’s Perth Green Community Centre – Hive Storytellers was born in September 2019.

But when the Covid 19 pandemic hit in 2020 the on line station lost all funding and community contracts, fortunately the group managed to survive the lockdowns by meeting on zoom once a week.

With the radio station closed the Hive Storytellers continued to create new projects and produce a number of audio plays for podcasts on Spotify, Apple and other feeds.

With over 2,500 listeners worldwide, the plays covered local Tyneside stories using a mix of fact and fiction.

Rule 55 is a play based on a rail disaster at St Bede’s Junction, Jarrow in 1915. It was written by Lilly Moon from South Shields and Jarrow born Lorna Windham.

Lilly talked about the inspiration for the story

“I was talking to fellow Hive Storyteller John Caffery one day when he mentioned that his Grandfather was involved in a train disaster at Jarrow. It peaked my interest so I done a bit of research then talked to Lorna about it and we agreed to do something about this hidden story”.

“The project gathered momentum and not only did we write an audio drama, we also put together an exhibition for Bede’s World in Jarrow.

We also spoke to A19, the local railway club about this tragic accident who ended up making a diorama model of the train crash, we were very grateful, it was totally unexpected”.

“On the opening night of the exhibition we invited the South Tyneside Mayor and Reverend of the local church St Pauls, she done a blessing. Newspapers and TV crews came and some family members of people who died in the train crash. It was lovely as they met for the first time.

We’ve worked on a number of projects now and the local history stories go down really well with the audience”.

The St Bede’s Junction Rail Disaster story will be covered in the next post.

What are you working on now?

“Lorna and I are working on a new series of stories of mystical characters, she has created the characters and we’ve recorded them. They are put on the Woodland Audio Trail at the Lady of the North, Northumberlandia in Cramlington”.

“As people go round the trail they scan a QR code onto their phones that are on the listening posts and hear the stories we’ve recorded. It’s done really well over the summer holidays and we are producing another in November. We’ve had some fantastic feedback”.

For more information contact:

hive_radio_storytellers@outlook.com

Hive Radio Storytellers – Home | Facebook

Alikivi  September 2022

SEARCH FOR THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER – South Shields connection to the Boer War

Ladysmith St, South Shields.

Stories are worked on for days or weeks, and some films took months. To knock it into shape there’s always a lot of pushing and pulling, but when they drag on you know it’s time to think about letting go and finding something new.

But sometimes a story just lands in your lap and quickly comes together without too much work, this is one of those rare moments.

Walking along Ocean Road I was stopped outside The Marine pub by a good friend of mine who told me an interesting story about a connection between a South Shields street and a British soldier from the town who fought in the Boer war 1899-1902.

“He is buried in Westoe Cemetery near Ladysmith Street and there’s an inscription on the headstone. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name, it was a while ago when I saw the grave, but I think it was near the main gates” said 60 year old Sand dancer (native of South Shields) and musician Rob Atkinson.

Rob had just come out of the pub and had a few sherbets so I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my chain but it was a story that peaked my interest as I didn’t know much about the Boer war.

After a quick search the name Ladysmith was revealed as a city in South Africa that was a bloody battleground between British and Boer forces, it was reported thousands of British soldiers were killed there. Also as Rob mentioned, Ladysmith Street runs parallel with Westoe Cemetery.

In further research I found Devonshire – a street in the Tyne Dock area of South Shields – is another name of an infantry regiment who not only served in the First and Second World War but also in the Boer War.

I contacted award winning journalist and local history author Janis Blower and asked if she heard about the South African connection to a soldier from the town?

“The siege of Ladysmith between late 1899 and early 1900 was one of the key events of the war.

A number of South Shields men served, mainly in the Imperial Yeomanry and Durham Light Infantry, with some 107 eventually awarded Freedom of the Borough. It’s likely veterans are buried at Westoe and Harton. Do you know his name?”

Westoe Cemetery, South Shields.

To find the headstone of the unknown soldier I took a walk over to the old Westoe Cemetery with its weather beaten headstones, many buried under a mountain of ivy and some toppled over.

Among the resting, lie famous industrial and political people from the town including Dr Thomas Winterbottom, Robert Ingham MP and members of the Readhead shipbuilding family.

Initially Rob had indicated the area where the grave was and luckily after only a few minutes searching where the headstones were still standing, I found it, as I said earlier this story just fell into place.

The grave was a family plot with substantial headstone including our man’s details –

George Shepherd died 6th March 1900 through wounds received Feb 27th at the relief of Ladysmith, South Africa aged 29 years.

The search for the unknown soldier ended there but when researching in the local history library I heard of someone who had been looking into his relations involvement in the Boer war, it sounded interesting so I left a contact.

A day later John Caffery got in touch and we arranged to meet. He has been researching his family tree for nearly 20 years,

“I started after our parents died, my wife Veronica also searches her side. My brother in law showed me a photo of a family member called John Robertson.

I went to the library and searched through their archives and found a few pieces of information – he was born on 28 August 1883 and lived in the Laygate area of South Shields – then it just spiralled”.

“In a loft we found a box of certificates, medals and photographs from the First World War and the Boer War, all for John, with me being interested in military stuff this was great.

I don’t think many people know about the Boer War which was a disaster for the British army. Through more research I found the Boers were backed by German artillery and officers”.

John Caffery with a framed photo of Private John Robertson who served in the 161st company of the 36th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry.

“Then we found something special, searching through old copies of The Shields Gazette we got to 1902 and found that he was awarded the Freedom of the Borough along with the rest of the Battalion. We’re proud of what he done”. 

Returning to South Shields from South Africa, John married in 1906, lived in South Palmerston Street and found work in the coal pits. But by 1914 the First World War began and he signed up to the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

In 1918 he was wounded and discharged, and after returning home resumed pit work until retirement. Sadly in 1959 John Robertson passed away at 75 year old.

John Robertson’s medals from the First World War.

As John Caffery told me this moving story he expressed only pride and respect for a brave young man who after fighting in one war, signed up to serve in another.

John has worked on a few Tyneside history stories which he will be sharing in the coming weeks plus he told me what he is working on next.

“I’ve been looking into the rest of the soldiers who received the Freedom of the Borough, there was over one hundred, and as always you go off on a tangent and taken down another path where I’ve come across some letters from soldiers and their families from the Northumberland Fusiliers who survived the First World War – some of them break your heart to read”.

“They’ve never been published or displayed and with me being involved with Hive Radio storytellers on Tyneside, we are looking to read them out on a podcast on Remembrance Sunday, November 11, 2022. I think they would like that”.

For more info contact:

Hive Radio :

Hive Radio Storytellers Share Love by Hive Radio Storytellers Podcast (anchor.fm)

Readheads shipbuilders contact:

Tyne Built Ships & Shipbuilders

Alikivi   September 2022.

IT’S GRIM UP NORTH

Newcastle’s Lit & Phil Celebrate Anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall

Lit & Phil, Newcastle, built 1825.

Just two mins from Central Station, Newcastle’s prestigious Lit & Phil historical library are hosting an evening of comedy fun as part of their celebrations to mark the 1900th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall upon which the library stands.

A radio sitcom pilot written by Ed Waugh (Sunday for Sammy, Christmas in the Cathedral) and Trevor Wood, which was first broadcast on BBC Cumbria in 2011, will have a script-in-hand read through in October.

Kay Easson, Lit & Phil Librarian, is responsible for bringing the laughter to the library on Westgate Road.

“Ed and Trevor have contributed to our cultural heritage with their impressive canon of professionally produced plays that include international comedy hits Dirty Dusting and Waiting for Gateaux, as well as more serious national successes Maggie’s End and The Revengers.”

Kay added “Hadrian’s Wall is an incredible part of North East history and culture so it was a no brainer staging a read-through of their excellent, irreverent but funny radio play about Hadrian cutting the tape to officially open the wall -it’s really daft!”

Jamie Brown, who recently completed a hugely successful tour as Harry Clasper in the one-man show Hadaway Harry – written by Ed – will direct the 40-minute piece that is set in AD 126 as the wall is being constructed.

“Ed and Trev have always had a distinctive voice and perspective on things and it’s wonderful they are collaborating again on this project. Their observations and humour strike a chord with audiences young and old, so I can’t wait to get It’s Grim Up North on its feet”.

“Having read the script and started to assemble an hilarious cast – audiences are in for a proper belly laugh or two”.

Tickets for It’s Grim Up North, which starts 7pm on Friday, October 28, 2022 cost £6/£8.

Visit  https://www.litandphil.org.uk/events/it-s-grim-up-north-a-script-in-hand-performance-of-a-classic-north-east-sitcom or telephone the Lit & Phil on (0191) 232 0192.

Alikivi   September 2022