LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #6

The continuing search for author, artist & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90)

For a number of years I’ve researched the life of Baron Avro Manhattan, who I first came across in 2012, he spent his last years in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. ‘Secrets & Lies’ documentary was produced in 2018, a link is at the end of the post.

Avro’s original name was Theophile Lucifer Gardini, the name change is looked at in post #2. This post focuses on Avro and the Second World War and includes research used to script a second documentary about this fascinating character.

In 1938 Gardini was in the UK listed as a Landscape painter living in Machynllech, Wales, and exhibiting his art in galleries including Bloomsbury Gallery in Mayfair, London.

On 10 June 1940 Italy declared war on Britain resulting in thousands of resident Italians being interned, and in Wales, the Aberystwyth police caught up with Gardini. Added to the prisoners of war, another 4,000 Italians were known to be members of the Fascist Party and this increase led to a problem within the UK.

Following offers from Canadian and Australian governments, more than 7,500 internees were shipped overseas aboard SS Ettrick, Duchess of York, Dunera and Arandora Star. Gardini left port on 3 July 1940 onboard the Ettrick bound for an internment camp in Canada.

Record of transfers overseas of aliens and prisoners of war.

Eight month after arriving he suddenly returned to the UK aboard the S.S. Georgic, then two month after that in May 1941 he was released as a ‘special case without restrictions’. A number of questions arise about this period.

Why did he return to the UK from Canada, where was he for the two month before release and why was an Italian who was looked upon as an enemy deemed ‘a special case’ four years before the war ended ?

There is a report that Gardini worked with British intelligence during the Second World War – was he recruited in the internment camp in Canada ? Was this the ‘special case without restrictions’?

Previously Gardini was imprisoned in Italy for refusing to swear to the Fascist oath, I imagine he would have rejected his Italian citizenship and was in hiding from any fascists still living in the UK, we can only speculate until concrete evidence turns up for this period.

During research there has been reports that have been misleading, especially the number of titles on his gravestone. But one he received was confirmed by a reputable organisation.

Listed on his headstone is the title Knight of Malta, reported to be awarded by the British Government for work during the war. To check whether he received this title, I got in touch with Debretts of London – if you’ve got a gong, you will be listed with them.

Friday 7 August 2015 email from Debretts.

I’ve been able to find very little about Baron Manhattan with only the Maltese decoration accredited and recorded – quite rightly too, given his admirable behaviour during WW2. Other than that I’m sorry not to be more help – I was hoping to discover something far more mysterious about him!’  

Debretts, 16 Charles Street, Mayfair, London.

After the war Avro didn’t return to Italy, he settled in the UK and on 3 October 1949 took an oath of allegiance and became a British National. The certificate read – Teofilo Lucifero Gardini, also added was Avro Manhattan, born in Milan, Italy, 6th April 1910 – although on his death certificate in 1990 he was 76. It wasn’t until December 1953 when he was living in Wimbledon, London that he officially changed his name by Deed Poll.

If you have information about Italian born artist, author & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Link to film:

South Shields, Italian born Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – doc.film (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

Check the other posts about Baron Avro Manhattan :

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #3 – Art for Sale. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER – The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  April 2021 & update April 2022

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #5

The continuing search for author, artist & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90)

For a number of years I’ve researched the life of Baron Manhattan, who I first came across in 2012, he spent his last years living in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. ‘Secrets & Lies’ documentary was produced in 2018, a link is at the end of the post.

Avro was originally named Theophile Lucifer Gardini, the name change is looked at in post #2. Looking for Lucifer #5 includes extracts from diary entries and notes taken when talking to his friends and neighbours which helped script the first documentary.

Avro & Ann Manhattan November 1986.

Friday 12 June 2015

I asked an auld fella who was walking near the house where Avro last lived in South Shields “You didn’t know The Baron did you”? He turned as he was shutting his gate, “Yes, Avro”. I introduced myself and told him what I was doing.

Mr H told me “We regularly talked with him. He was a good talker, friendly, interesting in conversation. We think he had money in Russia, he couldn’t bring it into Britain so spent it there, Ann came back with all these fur coats and hat’s. When he died he left money to put students through college in U.S.A.”

In the photo of Avro and Anne’s wedding in November 1986 at Kensington & Chelsea Registry Office, Anne is wearing furs – are these from Russia as Mr H said ?

After checking the American college link there was a Bob Jones University in Greenville where four scholarships in history, humanities or political science were available at $2,500 paid by the Baron Avro Manhattan Trust Fund.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Mr & Mrs M were Avro’s neighbours, they talked about how the couple loved entertaining and had champagne cocktails at their parties and barbecues.

“He was interested in what you were saying and would never try to belittle you. He wasn’t a name dropper, a gentleman through and through. He spoke good English with a little Italian accent, didn’t drink much, had a little wine, he did like the Broon Ale though” said Mr M.

Mrs M added “We think he liked it here because he could concentrate on work, go for walk’s and relax. But sadly he died in their home. We went to the funeral at St Aiden’s, there was a Princess there, she looked like Jackie Onassis, very glamourous.”

Lord Weymouth opening an art exhibition in South Shields by Avro Manhattan in 1983.

Saturday 27 June 2015

A phone call back from Mr C (who I contacted earlier in the week) he said he and his parents got to know him through various social gatherings.

“We got to know them around the 1980’s, they were an eccentric couple, she was well dressed and he always wore his suit and bow tie. We always enjoyed each other’s company, I found him very charming, charismatic and witty”.

Mr C recalls the death of Avro “He died in the passageway of the house, just dropped down with a heart attack. Although after reading some articles about his book about the underhand dealings of the Vatican I’m not sure”.

Mr C had a few calls from an Englishman living in France who was investigating Avro.

“He was very persistent, obsessed. This was after his book ‘The Vatican’s Billions’ was released, and apparently the Baron was going to release more revealing information about the Catholic Church. He was implying that there was a conspiracy against him. It was all very weird”.

Avro Manhattan & Northern Ireland’s loyalist politician Ian Paisley.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Mrs A, 91 years old, kindly gave me one of Avro’s paintings she had. The signed artwork is titled ‘Chelsea Embankment’. Mr and Mrs A knew the Manhattan’s socially. She recalls that Avro corresponded with Lord Weymouth and Ian Paisley from Northern Ireland

He didn’t brag about it, he was fairly modest really, but he was very anti-establishment”.

In 1983 Viscount Weymouth of Longleat opened an art exhibition by Avro at the Metal Art Precinct in South Shields, Ian Paisley and Avro had their photograph taken after discussing ‘Terror in Ireland’ authored by Manhattan in 1970.

Sadly Mrs A was at the Manhattan’s house the night he died, 26 November 1990, and added that sometime before this Avro had a stroke. “It’s like being imprisoned in your own body” he told her.

If you have information about Italian born artist & author Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Link to film:

South Shields, Italian born Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – doc.film (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

Check the other posts about Baron Avro Manhattan :

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #3 – Art for Sale. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER – The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  April 2021 & update April 2022

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LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #4 – The Scientist Marie Stopes & continuing search for Italian born author, artist & historian Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90)

For a number of years I’ve researched the life of Baron Manhattan, who I first came across in 2012, he spent his last years living in a terraced house in my hometown of South Shields. ‘Secrets & Lies’ documentary was produced in 2018, a link is at the end of the post.

Avro was originally named Theophile Lucifer Gardini, the name change is looked at in post #2 (June 2021). Looking for Lucifer #4 includes research used to script a second documentary about this fascinating character.

Lately I’ve come across some of his books and art being sold on EBay, Jonathan Frost Rare Books Limited of Liverpool had a book for sale ‘The Dollar & The Vatican’, inside it’s inscribed by the scientist Marie Stopes:

‘To Harry Stopes-Roe with love from his mother, Marie C. Stopes. To be published in September 1956’.

Rare Books added a description of the sale:

‘Marie Stopes formed a close friendship with Avro Manhattan during the last years of her life, and he scattered her ashes with Harry her son after she died in 1958. Tucked into the book is a promotional leaflet, a copy of ‘The Vigilant’ from December 1956, which contains a review of the book which has been annotated by Stopes, and a two page draft letter from Avro Manhattan to ‘The Editor of The Times’ on the subject of the U.S.A.’s military and colonial ambitions, which has also been corrected and annotated by Stopes’. 

Author/Artist Avro Manhattan & the scientist Marie Stopes

Avro met Stopes in 1952 at an exhibition of his paintings in London and they got on well with strong rumours of a love affair. At the time Avro was thirty nine, Stopes was 72.

She wrote in her book…

“Truly I was afraid to see your pictures but the reality was so glorious. I’m looking forward to making a bonfire and dancing with you, could you arrive prepared for staying the night and for dancing in the house. My heart is still beating extra hard with the joyous excitement of all the beauty you showed me……you are a genius…..dearest, most precious one, all the gods and angels guard you”.

I contacted Rare Books on Merseyside and asked if they had more information to add about the sale of the book. Jonathan Frost replied…

‘He’s quite an elusive character. Stopes and Manhattan were close for quite some years I believe, which makes sense, there was plenty of crossover in their interests’.

If you have information about Italian born artist & author Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Link to film:

South Shields, Italian born Baron Avro Manhattan – SECRETS & LIES – doc.film (Alikivi,12 mins 2018). – YouTube

Check the other posts about Baron Avro Manhattan :

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #3 – Art for Sale. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER #2 – Ciao, Avro. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

LOOKING FOR LUCIFER – The continuing search for author & artist, Baron Avro Manhattan (1914-90) | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (garyalikivi.com)

Alikivi  April 2021 & updated April 2022

UNDER HER SPELL : Eileen O’Shaughnessy (1905-45)

Memories of events years ago can sometimes be sketchy but after checking my diaries and emails it was March 2012 when I was shown a South Shields birth certificate for Eileen O’Shaughnessy by the Local History Librarian Ann Sharp.

We bumped into each other near South Shields Registry Office where I was going to collect a family research certificate. The Orwell connection peaked my interest but was more intrigued when I noticed her birth address was Park Terrace, now re-named Lawe Road – just two minutes from where I live.

I wasn’t a fan of Orwell’s writing then, I heard about him – who hasn’t? Over 20 year ago I went to see a theatre production of 1984 at Newcastle Playhouse, and have since read 1984, Homage to Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London plus selected essays and journalism but it was more from a local history angle that I first approached this story.

In May 2012, May being Local History month in South Tyneside, a display appeared in South Shields Library and an earlier blog from October 2018 mentions this –

There were three large boards. On the left was a birth certificate and census records. To the right was a photo of George Orwell and a picture of a cemetery in Newcastle. In the middle was a large black and white photograph with about a dozen men standing near sandbags and a machine gun at the front, obviously a war image. Then I noticed a dark haired woman crouching behind the machine gun. I looked closer and got goose bumps’.

Who was this woman who was born in South Shields married to one of the most controversial writers of the 20th century, buried in Newcastle and had a photo taken on the front line of a war ?

Ann mentioned that Eileen had been to the Spanish Civil War explaining the photograph, also “an American lady has been in she is researching for a book about Eileen”. That was Sylvia Topp and she left note looking for any help searching locations where Eileen lived.

Sylvia Topp outside The Customs House, South Shields 10 May 2012 (pic Alikivi collection)

We arranged to meet and I took Sylvia down to South Shields riverside and The Customs House where Eileen’s father worked as a Customs Collector, then into the town centre where he had an office then onto her childhood home in Beach Road.

Afterwards we had a meal in the Italian Restaurant on Winchester Street and left it where I would look into Eileen’s North East life. This proved difficult because there wasn’t much information out there about Eileen.

As the months passed the research grew and in the blog Oct. 2018 –

There wasn’t much information out there just a few bits and pieces that had been mentioned in Orwell books. So there was extensive research over the next year or so. Phone calls, letters, checking and re-checking details.

Interviews on camera were arranged around the country. One led to another, and another. It felt like being gently nudged along to find more about her. I never came across any obstacles, everybody asked wanted to be part of the documentary and were only too happy to help’.

I remember the time I was filming in Sunderland Church High School where Eileen was a pupil. I phoned reception who passed on my number to former Head of English, Sylvia Minto. Next day she rang and we arranged to meet at the school.

We filmed in the main hall where the walls were full of honours boards with names of pupils who went onto higher education. Eileen read English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford and her name was on a board. That same board is now in a room in my house.

A couple of years ago the school was closing down and the receptionist remembered me and got in touch – “of course I’ll have it” not realising the sheer weight and size of the board at 5ft x 3ft !

Someone else who was also captivated by Eileen was South Shields born Professor Robert Colls who had just published his book George Orwell – English Rebel.

pic courtesy of The Shields Gazette

Then teaching cultural history at De Montfort University, Leicester, Colls featured in an article in The Shields Gazette (25 October 2013) by local journalist Terry Kelly.

Colls said “One of the pleasures of writing about Orwell was not only getting to know him, but getting to know Eileen. The evidence is sparse but I really like her and Orwell’s spirit was lifted after meeting her. Her letters show great fun and sharp wit. Getting to know Eileen was an unexpected treat”.

In the October 2018 blog I finished off with –

‘Who knew that a library visit in 2012 would take me and my camera, from South Shields to Sunderland, Newcastle, Stockton, Warwickshire, Oxford, London and finally Barcelona. I remember I had the camera in my backpack walking through Barcelona Airport thinking how did I get here. It seemed so effortless, the whole process just fell into place’.

Link to a short edit of the film ‘Wildflower’  

George Orwell’s first wife, South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy (Alikivi, 11mins edit) – YouTube

To find out more information or how to join the Orwell Society check the official website:  www.orwellsociety.com

Alikivi  March 2022.

LETTERS FROM JARROW (3) – Who Were the Marchers ?

‘We are fighting the Party of the Rich, the Party of the powerful, the Party of big business, the Party that controls the industries, the cartels and the Press. These are our enemies’ (Red Ellen Wilkinson, Jarrow MP 1935-47)

In 2016 I made a film to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Jarrow Crusade. (link below) The film highlights the importance of the Crusade within the town, and opened with a powerful speech by Jarrow MP, Ellen Wilkinson.

‘As I marched down that road with those men, all of whom I knew well, as I marched with them hour after hour, just talking, that I began to understand something of what it meant, day after day after day, to get up and not know what you were going to do, never having a copper in your pocket’.

Who Were the Marchers featured interviews with relatives of the marchers and those involved with an education project which included Historian Matt Perry, author of Jarrow Cusade: Protest & Legend, and Red Ellen Wilkinson MP…

We might think that everyone in the North East of England knows about the Jarrow Crusade. Two hundred unemployed men marched 300 miles to London in October 1936 against the plight their town found itself in. It is rightly a source of local pride and a symbol of the fight of ordinary people for justice. We cannot assume that everyone does know about it’.  

The schools project also featured Jarrow playwright, Tom Kelly ‘It’s really important that the children today know something about what it meant to Jarrow to walk to London, and why. Through creative writing the children write what it would be like if your Dad was leaving for the Crusade and how you’d feel’.

Also working with the school children was Communities Librarian Catrin Galt ‘We’re looking at the 1911 Census to find out where the Crusaders lived and their family backgrounds. How many people lived in the house and how many rooms there were, so you build up a picture of who the marchers were and what Jarrow was like’.

The marchers relatives also contributed to the film, Iris Walls had two members of her family on the march… ‘They were doing it for a cause and very brave for doing so. They weren’t asking for anything free they wanted paid employment to feed their families’.

Joan Lewis added…‘My grandfather was on the march. We were all very proud, cos they went on this march just for the right to have a decent job. Yes, very proud of him and the 200 men that went’.

What did the march achieve ? This report was in The Shields Gazette, November 1936…

Laughter, cheers, sobs and screams of fainting women when the town welcomed home the 200 marchers. Miss Wilkinson near being trampled, men seized her hands, women smothered her with kisses, children hugged her.

‘This march has put Jarrow on the map, do not think this is the end. It is only the beginning.

The beginning of the fight for our right to work. This is a great night for Jarrow’.

Next day the Unemployment Assistance Board reduced the marchers payments because they had not been available for work.

Link to ‘Who Were the Marchers ?’ (11mins, 2016): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIi3pAEECfs

Gary Alikivi  May 2020

LETTERS FROM JARROW (2) – Red Ellen & the ’36 Marchers

A significant event in Jarrow’s and my family and history research, was the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. This was the march to London to protest about mass unemployment and extreme poverty in the town.

Off the back of the 2009 documentary Little Ireland, Tom Kelly (Jarrow playwright) and I put together Jarrow Voices, a short film highlighting the involvement of Ellen Wilkinson MP and the Jarrow Crusade. The film also featured the story of William Jobling who lived in the town. (Link at the bottom of the page)

The film was premiered on 10th December 2009 at the Human Rights Day in Newcastle City Library, and in October 2011 screened at the Films for Justice in the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle. Here is the script that Tom prepared for the film.

START:

Jarrow Voices looks at two iconic events associated with the town, the gibbeting of William Jobling in 1832 and the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. Voices that need to be heard.

It was in June 1832, that Jarrow pitmen William Jobling and Ralph Armstrong, attacked South Shields magistrate Nicholas Fairles. Jobling was arrested on South Shields beach, tried and found guilty at Durham Assizes and sentenced to be hung and publicly displayed upon a gibbet on Jarrow Slake.

Jobling being placed upon a seventeen foot high gibbet underlined the power of authority and sent a powerful message to the unions, their voice was virtually silenced.

Fairles, prior to his death, acknowledged that Jobling was with Armstrong but did not carry out the attack.

Isabella, Jobling’s wife, could see her husband clearly from their cottage near Jarrow Slake. Sadly she had no memory of her husband when she died in Harton Workhouse in 1891.

William Jobling was displayed on a gibbet that became known as ‘Jobling’s Post.’ He hung for three weeks until his friends stole the body. To this day we don’t know where his body lies.

The gibbet remained on Jarrow Slake until 1856 when it was taken down during the development of Tyne Dock. Today you can find the gibbet in South Shields Museum.

Jobling worked at Jarrow’s Alfred Colliery which closed in 1852. In that same year Palmers shipyard was opened by Charles Mark Palmer and his brother George. Palmers became one of the greatest shipyards in Europe. However when Palmers closed in 1933 the town’s fate was sealed. Jarrow was reliant on Palmers for work and almost 80% of the town became unemployed.

Jarrow’s Council decided to organise a Crusade and walk to London to make the government aware of the town’s plight. On Monday October 5th 1936 two hundred men left Jarrow and walked into immortality.

The Jarrow ‘March,’ as it’s known in the town, had leaders with Irish and Scottish connections: Symonds, Scullion, Hanlon and Riley. A trawl through the list of marchers underlines this: Connolly, Flynn, Flannery, Joyce, and my uncle Johnny, reflecting the immigration into the town.

Sadly none of the original marchers are alive today but one direct connection we do have are the letters written between Con Shields and his late father who was one of the cook’s on the march. The letters are one of the most heart- warming stories of the March and the late Con Shields re-tells his tale with passion and enthusiasm.

Matt Perry, writer and historian in his book, ‘The Jarrow Crusade: Protest and Legend’ gives a clear account of the Crusade and its impact at the time and to this day. He also looks at Ellen Wilkinson’s contribution to the crusade and her life and times.

The name we associate more than any other with the Crusade is that of the town’s MP, Ellen Wilkinson. ‘Fiery’, ‘firebrand’, ‘Wee Ellen’, all have been used to describe one of the twentieth century’s most charismatic female politicians.

Sometimes it seems that the past never leaves Jarrow but what I do know is that we need to remember two Jarrow voices: William Jobling and the Jarrow Crusade.

END

In the next ‘Letters from Jarrow’ post we look at the background of the people involved in the march and how it is still important to the town today.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAc4jiF4ReI

Gary Alikivi  May 2020

LETTERS FROM JARROW (1) – The IRA on Tyneside

Recently I completed a DNA ancestry test which came back 14% Scottish and 86% Irish, a bigger percentage than I thought but not a surprise as in 2008 I had already researched the family tree through census’, birth, marriage and death records, plus visiting Ireland a few times.

My Irish family came to Tyneside in the North East of England around the late 1880’s, and settled here – a long way from County Galway, Derry and Antrim.

Amongst old certificates, photo’s and letters, my Grandfather wrote down his memories describing where he used to live and play as a kid in Jarrow at the time of the First World War. He also talked about his mother and that the family were members of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

‘My mother’s family originated in Galway in the west of Ireland. She came from a big family, her brothers, uncles and cousins were all fishermen. I remember my mother as being a very hard working woman. She worked as a Stoker in the chemical works over the bridge in East Jarrow.  She worked there all through the 1914-18 war.

She was a very kind woman, strict but fair, and was very religious. The family were also involved with the IRA and Sinn Fein’.

These last remarks were very interesting because when researching my family history I came across Donmouth, a North East local history website by Patrick Brennan (link at the bottom of the page). In one of the sections he covers the IRA in Jarrow which I have condensed here.

After being cruelly treated by England over the centuries – for example the Great Famine 1845-50 – Irish people were looking to create an Independent Irish Republic.

Politically there was a massive growth in support for Sinn Fein who established a new assembly in Dublin and on the first day proposed a Declaration of Independence. The British Government wouldn’t support this and Sinn Fein would settle for nothing less. Battle lines had been drawn.

A Volunteer force, known as ‘Black and Tans’ landed in Dublin. The IRA operated a guerrilla campaign attacking small groups of Black and Tans and murdering informers. Reprisals on an innocent Irish population, involved out of control Tans on an orgy of looting and arson.

(If you are interested in this time of history why not check out the 2006 film ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ by Ken Loach, or ‘Michael Collins’ starring Liam Neeson released in 1996).

By 1919 the Irish Self Determination League (ISDL) was formed, the purpose was to raise funds for Sinn Fein but some members decided to take direct action. Mainland Britain had its first arson attack in Liverpool Docks, days later, a large explosion and fire near London Bridge.

On Tyneside, many men and women of Irish birth gave support to the Irish republican cause through membership of the ISDL or Irish Volunteers – better known as the IRA.

Since the 1880’s Jarrow had an active political organisation in the Irish National League, and held an important role in the ISDL. They held political meetings, fund raisers and ceilidhs in Lockharts Cocoa Rooms and the Co Op Guild Hall in Jarrow. 

More direct action was called for resulting in more volunteers being recruited and by the end of 1920 six companies with a total of 160 men had been established:

A Company – Jarrow. B Company – Hebburn. C Company – Newcastle.

D Company – Wallsend. E Company – Bedlington. F – Company – Consett.

Within a few month a further four companies were set up: Stockton, Chester-le-Street, Thornley and Sunderland bringing the total to 480 men.

Arms, guns and explosives were either stolen from Army Drill Halls or obtained from foreign sailors. In Jarrow, babies prams were used as cover to transport weapons to and from an arms dump in St Pauls Road in East Jarrow.

March 1921 saw the first incendiary attack at a Newcastle warehouse and oil refinery, plus a timber yard at Tyne Dock. Largely unsuccessful, the second attack was more ambitious, 38 fires at 20 different farms were co-ordinated to be lit at 8pm throughout Durham and Northumberland. This demonstrated the extent of the I.R.A throughout the region. (Reports from the Evening Chronicle 1921).

A number of operations were planned and executed around Tyneside. Farm fires and attacks on oil works in Kenton, Wallsend, South Shields, and an aircraft shed in Gosforth was destroyed.

Also the daring attack in Jarrow – a gas main blown up on the old Don Bridge. This story was featured in my documentary ‘Little Ireland’ (link at the bottom of the page).

Report from the Evening Chronicle 23rd May 1921.

THE SINN FEIN OUTRAGES: GAS MAIN BLOWN UP

At 11.15pm on Saturday night there was a heavy explosion at the west end of the town, and it was discovered that a hole 18 inches by 18 had been made in the lower of two gas mains carried across the Don bridge at East Jarrow. The gas company’s workmen were soon on the spot, and the main was temporarily repaired.

‘They were just trying to make a point, that’s all they were trying to do. Not harm anybody, just trying to make a point that they wanted home rule for Ireland’.

(Con Sheils speaking in the film ‘Little Ireland’ 2009).

The IRA on Tyneside were severely damaged when two of their top men were arrested in connection with the theft of explosives from a colliery in Blyth on the Northumberland coast. They were sentenced to prison but released in 1922 as part of Truce arrangements made a year earlier.

But more trouble was on the horizon with pit strikes, extreme poverty and mass unemployment meant the Irish had another fight on their hands – by 1936 Jarrow was about to march onto London.

For further information:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/08/22/little-ireland-documentary-on-irish-immigration-into-jarrow-uk/

http://www.donmouth.co.uk/

 Gary Alikivi   May 2020 

HUMANITY & COURAGE – South Shields Historian & Photographer Amy Flagg (1893–1965)

The previous post was a snapshot of the life of Victorian photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. Another photographer featured on the blog is South Shields Historian Amy Flagg (links below).

This post highlights the photograph’s Amy produced during the Second World War. She took some of the most devastating images of South Shields in the 20th century. When the bombs dropped, she captured the scars with her camera.

IMG_0979

Page from inside the pamphlet.

When researching a documentary about Amy (Westoe Rose, 2016) I came across detailed records that she had made of German air raids that revealed the amount of suffering the town endured. 

The Ministry of Information and the Chief Press Officer gave permission to produce Humanity & Courage, pamphlets featuring some photographs that Flagg had taken of war damage to her town.

IMG_0760

Detailed record of air raids over South Shields.

More images are available on the South Tyneside Library website

https://southtynesidehistory.co.uk/

Included here is a picture story from The Shields Gazette showing her friend and Librarian Rose Mary Farrell standing next to a display of Amy’s photographs.

They were shown in an exhibition at South Shields Library. The report is dated August 1968, three years after Amy died.

IMG_0693

Links to previous Amy Flagg posts:

https://garyalikivi.com/2018/07/19/westoe-rose-making-the-documentary-about-historian-and-photographer-amy-flagg/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/07/11/westoe-rose-the-story-of-amy-flagg-south-shields-historian-photographer-1893-1965/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/12/21/history-lives-amy-c-flagg-south-shields-historian-photographer-1893-1965/

https://garyalikivi.com/2019/12/28/amy-flagg-holborn-the-mill-dam-valley/

Alikivi   March 2020

SOUTH SHIELDS 1977 – THE KING, THE QUEEN & THE PUNK – film stories & soundbites.

1977 saw three big events happen in the small seaside town of South Shields in the North East of England. The boxer Muhammad Ali had his wedding blessed, the Queen visited on her Royal Silver Jubilee and three lads from a working-class housing estate formed a punk band – the Angelic Upstarts.

Why not put them together in a film ?

Some projects take a lot of digging around to get made but on this one each person contacted about contributing to the film lead to another and another – making the whole process easier. 

This blog features stories and soundbites from contributors to the documentary made in 2013. 

Start.

Narration: 1977 was an extraordinary year of royalty and revolution. It was the storm that followed the calm. We’d had the long hot summer of ’76 and the high-water mark of disco and glam rock.

Trevor Cajiao: The glam thing happened when I was 12/13 year old and I loved all that stuff Slade, Sweet and Mud.

Neil Newton: I remember Wizzard coming on and the bloke with the big hair his face all painted and being mesmerized by that.

Narration: Many 1970’s teenagers were enjoying their first live gigs from such established and diverse acts as Chuck Berry and Black Sabbath.

Richard Barber: My first gig was February 1977 I went to see Black Sabbath at Newcastle City Hall on the Technical Ecstasy tour. We were second row from the back and as soon as Ozzy came on he went ‘Everyone go fuckin’ wild’ and everyone piled down the front. One kid had a big wooden cross and that just got chucked somewhere.

Trevor Cajiao: When I heard rock n roll that’s what I realised that I wanted to get into. I saw Chuck Berry at the City Hall in 1976, it was fantastic, blew me away.

Narration: 1977 was a sad time for fans of Marc Bolan and Elvis Presley. Both stars died young.

Colin Smoult: The death of Elvis was a big impact on everybody, even if you were into Elvis or not because he was such an iconic figure.

Neil Newton: My mam was a big fan of Elvis I remember the day he died it didn’t really have much of an impact on us cos I wasn’t particularly a fan – but he had some canny tunes.

Narration: In the North East we saw a visit from the American president Jimmy Carter and in the same year the Queen came to South Shields on Friday 15th July as part of her Silver Jubilee. The very next day a King came to town.

Derek Cajiao: I’d been given a camera for my birthday I hadn’t had much experience using the camera, but I went down to take some photographs and I managed to catch Ali as he passed the fairground and the Sea Hotel. I got some great shots of him on the bus, and it was fairly apparent he was playing the crowd, pointing at people, threatening to jump out of the bus and chin somebody, really working the crowd.

Pat Robinson: (Her husband Sepp Robinson was Mayor). We were on the top of the bus and at one point it rained so at one of the pubs we passed I said to my husband go and get a bottle of whisky, we passed it round cos we were so cold and wet, at least it warmed us through for a few minutes. Muhammad Ali’s wedding was blessed, and we all went to the mosque and these incredibly beautiful people arrived, they were both stunning and dressed in white.

Afterwards we went to Gosforth Park for a fantastic lunch and right through the two days when the cameras were on Ali turned on the big lip but when he wasn’t doing that, he was a sensitive, pleasant, attentive man. He was absolutely charming.

Narration: But away from the glamour and celebrity a sense of frustration was taking hold. The soundtrack was one of anger, the future seemed bleak and the music was reflecting that.

Colin Smoult: I think the music change in 1977 was down to the blandness being presented in the charts, novelty singles, very middle of the road stuff. Bands appearing on Top of the Pops that were no better than a cabaret act. There was no wonder that the punk revolution came along.

Neil Newton: When punk came along I was much more aware of it because it was so direct.

Trevor Cajiao: A lot of people were saying the whole punk thing was like the rock n roll of the ‘50s as it was a rebellious type of thing but as a kid I didn’t understand that because I was just using my ears and The Clash don’t sound like the Johnny Burnett Trio, but in hindsight what they were getting at was the actual energy, the guitar music, rebelling against stuff.

Narration: In South Shields three friends from the Brockley Whins Estate started a punk band The Angelic Upstarts and little did they know where it would lead them.

Mensi: The nucleus of the band really was me, Decca and Mond.

Mond: We had known each other since we were kids, we used to hang around the shops at Brockley Whins.

Decca: They said here Decca we’re forming a band and you’re gonna be the drummer.

Mond: We found you can hire the Bolingbroke Hall and we used to get about 300 people in.

Decca: I think that’s when we started to take it serious, we all got our heads together. I mean Mensi was a prolific song writer.

Mensi: I just write about what’s happening around us.

Decca: He came out with Murder of Liddle Towers, the song that made us famous. Next you know you’re on Top of the Pops and the rest is history.

Narration: The end of the 1970’s saw people looking forward to a new decade. Would we ever see a year like 1977 again.

Closing music & credits.

The film was narrated by Alistair Robinson, music from The Panic Report and the Dipsomaniacs, with excellent photographs by South Shields photographer Freddie Mudditt (Fietscher Fotos) and Derek Cajiao.

The King, The Queen & The Punk (25 mins 2013)  watch the edited version on Alikivi You Tube channel.

Gary Alikivi   February 2020.

 

LADY IN RED – with author Paula Bartley talking about Ellen Wilkinson MP (1891-1947)

March 8th 2016 three of my short films were screened at an event celebrating International Women’s Day at The Customs House in South Shields.

They featured Dame Rosemary Cramp (Bedes World, Jarrow) Eileen O’Shaughnessy (‘Wildflower’ first film made about George Orwell’s South Shields born wife) and Ellen Wilkinson MP (Jarrow Crusade).

When the event was being put together I found a newly released book about Ellen’s political life, the author was Paula Bartley who I contacted and asked if she would like to come up to The Customs House and talk about her book….

The talk I enjoyed most was in South Shields. It was as if I had come home. People knew about Ellen, they knew why she was important, they loved her as much as I did.

In research did you find anything surprising about Ellen ?

I found out that Ellen had enjoyed a relationship with a communist spy, a man called Otto Katz. He was a Soviet agent who used at least 21 aliases.

If these photos below are all of the same man – two of them are of Arnold Deutsch – then he was very dangerous indeed. Arnold Deutsch, who was also known as Otto, recruited Kim Philby, Britain’s most notorious spy.

Certainly Katz – whoever he was – was a handsome man and willing to use his looks and natural magnetism to further his political cause. He even managed to charm Hollywood: Otto Katz and his wife Ilse were immortalized as Victor Lazlo and Ilse Lazlo in the film Casablanca.

M15 thought Katz the most important communist agent outside Russia and put him under surveillance. You can see a report of it below – it’s of Otto Katz staying overnight with Ellen.

It says, ‘he went with Miss Ellen Wilkinson to her flat at No 18, Guildford Street WC1 where he spent the night’. The two sometimes evaded the Secret Service by driving as fast as Ellen could in her car.

Otto Katz’s letters were opened. Below is a negative of a letter from Ellen to Otto that the Secret Services made. It says ‘WHAT a bombshell. Honestly, I am scared stiff. You simply must destroy the negatives or the worst, or send them to me, and any copies there are. PLEASE’.

I don’t know what these photographs illustrated or the result of Ellen’s plea, but Ellen and MI5 destroyed her papers.

What I do know is that Ellen became friendly with Otto Katz in the 1930s and remained so all her life – even when she became a Cabinet Minister.

He accompanied her on a number of trips to Spain during the Civil War and involved her in communist-led campaigns.

Sadly, Ellen died in 1947, and never knew that in 1952 Otto Katz was put on trial for conspiring against the Czechoslovakian communist state, was tortured, found guilty and hanged.

Spy stories are always interesting, Agent Zig Zag (Durham born Eddie Chapman) is a fascinating tale of traitor, villain and hero. Ben Macintyre made a BBC documentary about him and his exploits as a double agent during the Second World War.

On Tyneside was Russian born William Fisher and his son Heinrich, a KGB spy born in Newcastle, he worked for the British Socialist Party in South Shields.

My great uncle Alexander Allikivi, born Russia 1888, was living in South Shields at the same time. How many more Soviets were living in the town and was Allikivi a member of the party?

(‘The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy’ by Vin Arthey is a great source for research. Interview with Vin on the blog 30th July 2019).

Paula continues….

Like a lot of young people, Ellen was excited by the 1917 Russian revolution. She joined the Communist Party and planned for socialism in Britain.

The Soviet Union gave her and Harry Pollitt (later General Secretary of the British Communist Party) £500 to travel first class to Russia so that they could attend the Red Trade Union Conference in Moscow. Here she met leading revolutionaries like Leon Trotsky and Alexandra Kollontai.

Back in Britain, she helped found the Red International of Labour Unions, known as the Profintern. But there was a problem. She was also a member of the Labour Party.

In 1924 communists were banned from belonging to the Labour Party and Ellen had to make a choice. In 1924 she left the Communist Party but its ideas influenced her.

What inspired you to write about Ellen ?

I was intrigued by her, her name kept coming up in lots of books about women’s history: a photo; a mention of the Jarrow March; a bit on the first women Labour MPs. I wanted to know more.

I did an internet search, read a book about her by Betty Vernon and was gripped. Why was this 4ft 11’ bundle of dynamite not better known?

The more I read, the more I fell in love. I became a little bit obsessed – and two years later, after a lot of research I finished an introductory book about her: Ellen Wilkinson – from Red Suffragist to Government Minister.

It was challenging researching Ellen’s life as she had destroyed all her papers and I had to rely on Hansard, newspapers, archives and people who had known and written about her.

I visited lots of archives: Hull, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Warwick to try and find more about her.

Why did I like her so much?  I admired her energy, her passion, her warmth, her charm and her sheer doggedness to make life better for the less well-off.

Where was Ellen born and what kind of upbringing did she have ?

She was born in Manchester to parents who didn’t have much money. Ellen, her parents, her two brothers and her sister all lived together in a tiny two-bedroomed terraced house with no bathroom or inside lavatory.

The family struggled: her father worked in a very low paid job while her mother was too ill to work outside the home.

Ellen’s future didn’t look particularly bright, yet she went to Manchester University, became a Labour MP and then first-ever female Minister of Education.

Do you think it would have been difficult being one of the first women MP’s ?

In 1924 Ellen was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East. She walked into a space that was both masculine and upper-class.

The Palace of Westminster was a grand building with its panelled walls, high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, vast halls and chambers, heraldic symbols and statues of dead white men.

Intimidating for those, like Ellen, who had not grown up in a big house, been to public school or Oxbridge.

The benches in the House of Commons were made for men. Ellen was so short and the benches so high that she had to sit with her feet dangling inches from the floor. In fact, she used her briefcase to rest her feet.

On her second day in Parliament Ellen made her debut speech. She looked confident but was scared stiff. Ellen had to stand up alone in the House of Commons while over 600 MPs, mostly men, looked at her.

But Ellen was a streetfighter, she had learnt how to deal with difficult crowds when she was campaigning for votes for women, had rotten fruit thrown at her and had to think of quick witty replies to hecklers.

And she knew that what she had to say was more important than her fears: she told MPs that she was determined to improve the lives of women and poor people.

Since women had not been expected to be members of Parliament there were no facilities for them in the House of Commons. It was a male space.

The first women MPs had to squash into one small dressing room which contained a washstand, a tin basin, a jug of cold water and a bucket – a situation they naturally found intolerable.

Ellen called it ‘The Tomb’. Even so they rarely complained, partly because they were just glad to be in the building.

These women soon found that they were not welcome in certain areas of the House namely the bars, the smoking rooms and the members’ cloakroom.

Either because they feared giving offence or were intimidated, they tended to stay away from these places. Ellen broke this by striding into areas that the men thought exclusive to them.

Did you come across anything unusual when researching Ellen ?

These early women MPs tended to stick together and give each other support. Ellen became friends with someone who was very different from herself: the American, Conservative and very rich Nancy Astor.

The two women worked closely together to improve women’s lives, getting better pensions for women, changing the Nationality Laws (British women lost their nationality if they married a foreigner), allowing more women to join the police force, helping to gain votes for women on the same terms as men, and trying (unsuccessfully) to improve the laws on prostitution.

Where have you publicized your book and have you any projects planned ?

I wanted to share my research about this remarkable woman, so I spoke at lots of different places, from the Ellen Wilkinson School in Ealing to Labour Party groups, to women’s groups and even at the House of Commons.

You can see one of my talks ‘The Mighty Atom’: Ellen Wilkinson and parliamentary politics on the parliamentary you tube channel (https://youtube/2bi409l621l).

My work on Ellen Wilkinson encouraged me to find out about other Cabinet Ministers and last year my book, Labour Women in Power: Cabinet Ministers in the 20th Century was published. But no-one captured my heart more than Ellen Wilkinson.

Interview by Alikivi   February 2020.