LONDON CALLING: Nights at the Marquee Club

The heart of London’s music industry was the legendary live music club the Marquee, along with CBGB’S in New York, the club has been defined as one of the most important music venues in the world.

It would provide the catalyst to launch the career of many bands – The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin – the list is endless. A&R men used to regularly visit the club to watch out for the next big thing and with plenty of bands looking to make it, the best way was to be seen on the stage of the Marquee.

Tony Iommi explained in Iron Man his auto biog…‘I was in rehearsals with Jethro Tull for the recording of their Stand Up album and one night Ian Anderson took me to see Free play at the Marquee. He introduced me to everybody as his new guitar player, so I thought, this is wonderful. I felt like a pop star. From being a nobody in Birmingham to people at the Marquee taking an interest – it seemed great’.

Graeme Thomson wrote in his biog about Phil Lynott – ‘It was do or die. Thin Lizzy were £30,000 in debt. Money was borrowed for their showcase gig for Phonogram at the Marquee on 9th July 1974. It was so hot that night that all the guitars went out of tune, but they played well enough to confirm the deal, even if the advance for a two album contract only cleared what they owed’.

Mick Wall’s biog of Lemmy featured the time Motorhead nearly called it a day. Guitarist Fast Eddie Clark remembers ‘We found ourselves in April 1977 in the situation of breaking up’.

As a farewell gift to fans they would record a live album. They had a show coming up at the Marquee that surely would be the best place for them to bow out. But when they looked into the cost, they knew they had no chance. A farewell single was recorded instead.

‘The Marquee gig was one of the best we ever did’ according to Eddie. ‘Lemmy said the sweat was climbing up the walls trying to get out’.

Thoughts of it being their last were quickly forgotten about. Two weeks later they piled into a Transit van for the drive down to Escape Studios in Kent. They recorded the bones of 13 tracks, eight of which would become the album Motorhead.

Bands from the North East of England – White Heat, Angelic Upstarts, Fist, The Showbiz Kids, Punishment of Luxury, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang, all travelled south down the M1 to the capital. Was playing London the catalyst for a life in music, or just a road too far for some ?

John Gallagher from Chief Headbangers, Raven  ‘The running joke was – c-mon lets git in a van and gaan doon t’London ! We did quite a few one off support gigs. It was in the back of the truck, drive down to London, play the Marquee with Iron Maiden and drive back straight after the gig’.

Harry Hill, drummer with Fist remembers…’We played the Marquee for two nights supporting Iron Maiden. We were going down an absolute storm, the place was packed. I’m not sure what the band thought about it but their manager was kicking off – You’re just the support band. You’re not supposed to go down like that –  We won him over in the end and he came into the dressing room with a crate of beer. Yep we gave them a run for their money’.

Residencies were part of the scene and a few North East bands got on the list including Dire Straits. This advert from March ’78 with admission fee only 70p.

Select dates for North East bands listed as playing the Marquee for 1976:

Halfbreed 15 & 29th January & 3rd March.

Arbre 4th April.

Back Street Crawler 11 & 12th May with AC/DC as support.

Cirkus 15th May.

1977:

Penetration 29th June opening for Heron.

also 30th July & 1st August opening for The Vibrators.

1978:

Penetration 21st June.

Punishment of Luxury 3rd October.

1979:

Showbiz Kids 3rd February.

Punishment of Luxury 13th February.

Showbiz Kidz 21st April.

Punishment of Luxury 7th May.

Showbiz Kids 19th May & 14th June & 14th July.

Punishment of Luxury 23rd August & 31st October.

1980:

Raven 5th, 6th, or 7th November with Taurus or Diamond Head opening for Gary Moore.

1981:

White Heat 29th April.

1982:

Angelic Upstarts 18th February & 12th August.

The Marquee at Charing Cross Road finally closed it’s doors in 1996 after first establishing the club in Oxford Street, then it’s heyday in Wardour Street.

 Gary Alikivi  May 2020.

 

FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE with recently departed Tyger, Micky Crystal

After 7 years, two albums and playing numerous tours a statement was released by guitarist Micky Crystal on 23rd April 2020 which left fans of the Tygers of Pan Tang in shock as it came at a time when the Tygers were, after rescheduling lockdown dates, gearing up to going out on the road with new album Ritual…..

…..’I officially announce that I have left Tygers of Pan Tang and want to thank you the fans for all your love and support. I am proud of the music we have created and the things this line-up has achieved. I have developed and grown both as a musician and as a person and I feel this is the perfect time to open the door to a new chapter and new goals. I wish the band all the best for the future. Micky’

Only so much can be said in a statement so for more detail I got in touch and asked Micky if he has made the right decision…. Absolutely, you know I had a great time for the first few years but to be honest I think I cared too much and was starting to drive myself crazy really wanting it to be something that it wasn’t going to be. At the same time I feel fortunate that I’ve met some true friends within the band and been able to visit some of the wonderful places I have through playing music.

But unfortunately, cracks started to appear and gradually got worse particularly around making the Ritual album.

What were the problems for you ? I began to find things incredibly frustrating. The manager and the original member have been friends since the Sykes/Deverill days and while he did do some good things early on, it gradually had a very negative effect on the decision making. It became less of the democratic brotherhood that it was sold as when they asked me to join.

Increasingly towards the end, big decisions were made without everyone’s approval or in some cases we were deliberately not being told, there’s too many examples to individually list. The original member made it clear to me on numerous occasions that it was their way or the highway which only added to my growing frustrations after he had very little involvement in the writing or recording of Ritual.

That wasn’t a problem in itself, but it became painfully apparent that there was no appreciation for the extra work and hours put in by myself.  I started to feel more like a hired hand who was expected to write albums and do the hard work but have very little say or input regarding anything else – that just didn’t work for me.

In the end it was actually an old interview quote from John Sykes (former Tyger guitarist) that made me realise things would never change and it was time to walk away. “What happened with the Tygers was that I was getting fed up with them. Everything was a five-way split, yet I was doing most of the work and not getting the credit I should have done. They didn’t wanna listen to what I had to say – I told them to get rid of the manager”. (Interview with Killerwatt in Kerrang magazine 1984) 

Micky with Soren Andersen.

What are your plans now ? I’ve been working on a home studio and have been getting more into the production side of music which I’m really enjoying. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I was fortunate enough to spend a week with Soren Andersen last year and I learnt a lot from him so I’m putting a lot of the stuff I learnt into practice now. I’ve also got some online content for some guitar companies that I’m working on. Plus some online collaborations and a prog project that I’m pretty excited about too.

Have you been listening to any new music ? I’m listening to a lot of trap and pop music at the moment. People like Machine Gun Kelly and Post Malone in particular. I’m listening to a lot of Big Wreck too as well as all the usual rock stuff like Led Zeppelin and Ozzy. It really depends on the day to be honest, one day it could be Chick Corea the next day it could be Bring Me The Horizon.

What were your highlights in the Tygers ? Writing closely with Gav and Jack was a highlight, they both work fast and they’re very open minded when it comes to creative ideas.  Finding out that both the self-titled album and Ritual had charted was awesome combined with various magazine front covers for the first time in the bands history. Spending my 28th birthday on stage in São Paulo, plus I’d always wanted to play in Japan so getting to play there and go sightseeing round Tokyo was certainly a highlight.

The Lockdown – how are you dealing with it ? I’m still teaching from home via Skype and playing a lot and recording too so I’m keeping busy. Just trying to make sure I’m learning new things so it’s been ok.

Who knows what the future holds. I’m totally open to new projects and bands. I hope it involves a lot of music, recording, teaching, playing live. I love it all.

For more information contact Micky on his social media acoounts:

https://facebook.com/MickyCrystalOfficial/

https://www.instagram.com/mickycrystal/

https://youtube.com/MickyCrystal

https://jtcguitar.com/store/artist/micky-crystal/

Interview by Gary Alikivi  April 2020

 

HARD ROADS & NO EASY LIVIN’ for Canadain metal band Anvil

On the road to making their dreams come true heavy metal band Anvil knew they had to work hard and make sacrifices – there’s no substitute for rehearsal… ‘We done 7 days a week, 8 hours a day rehearsal for 10 month before the first gig. We played every shithole in Ontario and Quebec. It wasn’t easy back in the day being an original band. And we were loud as f***remembered guitarist Dave Allison in an earlier interview. (link below)

In his book The Story of Anvil, guitarist & vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow talked about the time when they saw Van Halen support Black Sabbath at Niagra Falls. Halen were an up and coming band with an intense excitement surrounding them. It had an effect on them Robb and I wanted success more than anything. It wasn’t about financial reward, success would mean recognition for our music’. To give themselves a chance to make it, Anvil knew they had to fly from their home in Canada and play London. Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow looks back on the days when forming Anvil, he and childhood friend Robb (drums) always talked about playing Londonit was one of our goals, to play in the same places that The Who and The Beatles played’.

A dream was about to come true as their record company Attic sent them to Englandon a trip that would prove life changing’. Attic agreed to finance a trip to the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donningtonwe were bottom of the bill headed by Status Quo, a privilege that cost us 30,000 dollars. We were already on the red line with Attic for life, so another 30 grand wasn’t going to make a whole heap of difference’.

Guitarist Dave Allison told me in a previous interview… ‘Monsters of Rock ! What an experience. It was surreal, couldn’t believe we were actually there. By that time we were a well-oiled, road hardened, very confident bunch of guys. I think we were a little heavy given the rest of the line-up, but still the biggest thing we had done’.

The appearance at Castle Donnington with Hawkwind, Uriah Heep, Gillan, Saxon and headliners Status Quo was followed by two sold out dates at the legendary Marquee Club, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow remembers ‘This dark, sweaty venue in Soho in the heart of London was a legend in Heavy Metal circles. The gig was awesome, we blew people away. The energy in the room was totally intense. The dream I carried since my dad bought me my first guitar had come true. That night I felt I’d really made it’.

There was some downtime and relaxation for the band as they were invited to the Reading Festival ‘like Monsters of Rock another shrine to heavy metal. We weren’t playing but went along to hang out and watch the bands like headliners Iron Maiden and Michael Schenker’.

Feeding the media is part of the game and Attic set an interview up with music journalist Malcolm Dome. Rock photographer Ross Halfin was sent to capture a few shots for the article…. ‘Ross was a real kook, always trying to push the boundaries by getting musicians to do outrageous things. He said let’s get a picture of you opening the door and you’re naked just holding your guitar’. The photo was published in Kerrang magazine with a sign hanging off him Please Don’t Disturb.

In the chapter headed Big Time, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow reveals the moment that Anvil’s fortunes were changed ‘Signing with David Krebs, within a short time of putting our names on the dotted line, we were off to Britain for a tour with Motorhead. A week before that we played the Heavy Sounds festival in Bruges, where the overwhelming response from the crowd convinced me I’d found an audience that would stick with us forever.

I had their first three albums and went to see them at Leeds Queens Hall in May 1983 with Saxon, Twisted Sister, Girlschool and Spider. Hearing they were opening for Motorhead I got a ticket for the Newcastle City Hall gig, and what I can remember they went down well.  Looking back on that time was bitter sweet, as Lips remembers ‘During the UK tour with Motorhead in June and July ’83 we blew the crowd away. But by the time the 30 date tour culminated with three nights at the Marquee Club in London we were thousands of dollars in debt. One of our crew was carrying severe addiction problems and he blew all the money we were making on cocaine’.

Extracts from The Story of Anvil by Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and Robb Reiner.

Link to the interview with Dave Allison

https://garyalikivi.com/2017/11/12/still-hungry-dave-allison-original-rhythm-guitarist-vocalist-from-canadian-metallers-anvil/

Gary Alikivi  April  2020.

 

 

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (9)

International Brigade Committee. David Marshall sitting at the front.

While researching for the Teesside International Brigades memorial, Tony Fox repeatedly came across one name – David Marshall. David was one of the first British volunteers to fight in Spain. Tony takes up the story… On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in September 1936, David had travelled to Spain to join the International Brigades in Barcelona. He joined one of the first groups, the German-speaking Thaelmann Battalion, with whom he fought to defend Madrid.

On 12th November 1936, a sniper’s bullet hit him just above his ankle. He was removed by stretcher under heavy fire, then transported on a lorry for more than two hours to a field hospital. After treatment in Alicante he was repatriated to England at the end of 1936 where he began campaigning for aid to be sent to the Spanish Government.

However his significant contribution on Teesside has not been been looked at. On his return from Spain he actively campaigned for aid to Spain. In 1939 he was instrumental in the production of the memorial. He was guest of honour with Frank Graham and John Longstaff when it was dedicated in 1991 and again at the 1996 rededication in Middlesbrough Town Hall.

When the Second World War broke out he, like many other Brigaders, was at first barred from entry into the armed forces. Working in the Civil Service he uncovered and published the directive barring Brigaders from serving, and worked to overturn the policy. The policy was overturned when Churchill formed his National Government.

David volunteered and served in the engineers, however when he was interviewed about his background in Spain, the Captain wrote on his records that David ‘was Communistic or fascist’, and even as a corporal he was never placed on guard duty when abroad. He fought in the Normandy campaign, liberating Belsen and serving in the occupying forces until 1947.

Marshall returned to Teesside after demobilization, returning to the ministry for Labour once again. He maintained his links with Brigaders. It seems likely that Tommy Chilvers, who painted the Teesside International Brigades memorial introduced him to Ruth Pennyman. Ruth had formed her Basque refugee children into a concert party, and Tommy played the guitar.

David worked as a carpenter on the sets until joining the Joan Littlewood Who’s Theatre Workshop which began life at Ruth Pennyman’s home in Ormesby Hall. In 1975 his wife Joyce died, afterwards he bought a sailing barge which he refurbished.

Marshall was instrumental in the formation of the International Brigades Memorial Trust in 2000, serving on the executive committee, with fellow North East Brigaders, Dave Goodman, Frank Graham and John Longstaff.

Sadly, David died on 19th October 2005, his partner Marlene Sideaway is currently President of the IBMT, she led the 2009 IBMT AGM in the North East, in which the Teesside International Brigades memorial was rededicated and relocated within Middlesbrough Town Hall.

She also donated some of David’s materials to The Dorman Museum. David was a superb poet, I am honoured that Marlene has signed a copy of his 2005 book The Tilting Planet, which includes the wonderful I sing of my comrades.

Sources:

Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors (Aurum Press 2012), page 119

 David Goodman, From the Tees to the Ebro (London: CPGB, 1986), page 12

 http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/local-news/service-honours-teesside-spanish-war-3713541

If you have any information about the North East men and women who were involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

 

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (8)

Another article came in from International Brigades Memorial member Tony Fox. He talks about the campaign for a Stockton Memorial to volunteers who fought during the Spanish Civil War 1936-39…..John Christie, the landlord of the award-winning pub, The Golden Smog, is leading a campaign to raise money for a memorial commemorating the Stockton Brigaders. It will be erected just off Stockton High Street. The memorial will include names of the eight Stockton volunteers who were employed when they left for Spain.

When researching about the volunteers the picture that emerges is that of conscientious activists, with experience in a number of campaigns for justice, and anti-fascist activity. There was John Longstaff who had fought the British Union of Fascists at Cable Street, London. I found William Carson, Joe Harding, John Longstaff, Wilfred Cowan and Bert Overton, who had been in the Welsh Guards and was put in command of No.4 Company at Jarama.

Otto Estensen was commissar and commanded the Anti-Tank Battery in 1938. There was Patrick Maroney who was a member of the Irish Republican Congress, a pro-communist grouping of the IRA.

Described as ‘an uncompromising fighter for Trade Unionism’, George Bright was a NUWM activist and Communist Party member. At 60 he was the oldest Brigader in the British Battalion. George and Phyllis Short, Bert Overton, and George Bright had organised the September 1933 anti-fascist protest known as the Battle of Stockton.

Sadly, George Bright was killed at Jarama, Bert Overton was killed at Brunete and Joe Harding was killed on 23rd September 1938 at the Ebro River. This on the same day Juan Negrin, head of the Republican government, announced that the International Brigades would be unilaterally withdrawn from Spain.

If you would like to know more I will be producing a booklet to accompany the memorial, or have any information you can contact me at foxy.foxburg@gmail.com

More research will be done when the Local History libraries open, but for now in Postcards from Spain, the search goes on for North East stories from the Spanish Civil War. If you have any information please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (7)

Another story to be added to Postcards from Spain comes from local and family history researcher Linda Gowans from Sunderland. Linda was involved in a project researching the World War 2 memorial board at St Gabriels Church in Sunderland, when she came across two men who were involved in the Spanish Civil War….Both men also received O.B.E awards in the New Year Honours list of January 1946. The first was Captain Frederick Robinson of 14 Hawarden Cresent, Sunderland who was Master of SS Garesfield. He was at sea a total of 30 years, served in both World Wars and brought food supplies to the people of Spain fighting General Franco.

I searched for some background on Frederick and found on the 1939 register taken just before the Second World War he was employed as Master Mariner on SS.Knitsley. He lived with his wife Elizabeth and had one son Frederick who was 5 year old.

Linda added….The second is Captain William Gould, Master of S.S. Monkleigh, he had been at sea for a total of 42 years. During World War One and Two he was torpedoed four times, twice in each war. He also ran the blockade to bring supplies to Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

Also searched for some background on William and found that on the 1891 census he was 4 year old and lived at 9 Princes Street, Sunderland with his father Thomas, who was a mariner, his mother Jane and brother George. Ten year later William was an apprentice steam engineer.

In 1910 he married Maggie Graham, they had two daughters Irene and Kathleen, and a son, William junior. Not long afterwards his wife Maggie died, aged 32. William remarried to Ada Moore in 1922, and three more children were born, Thomas, James and Poppy.

Linda also mentioned William and Ada’s son Thomas who joined the British Armed Forces but only for a short time as it ended in tragic circumstances….. Thomas decided not to follow his father to sea and in 1942 joined the RAF, gaining his wings in South Africa in 1943.

On April 29th 1945 he was part of 3 man Advanced Flying Unit out on a training flight. Joining Pilot Officer Thomas Gould on board were Flying Officer Gordon Aubrey from the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Sergeant Howard Montgomery of the Royal Australian Air Force.

They took off from RAF South Cerney, Gloucestershire but ran into poor weather and visibility was very low due to a snowstorm. While flying at low altitude the aircraft hit tree tops and crashed in a wooded area at New Barn Farm, Temple Guiting. All three men on board were killed. Thomas was only 21.

His body was brought home for burial at Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland and his grave bears the inscription, ‘His life, a noble sacrifice’.

A tragic end to a young man’s life, and sad that he went before his father William who died 7th April 1950.

 If you have any information about the North East men and women who were in any way involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

 Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (6)

Here’s another interesting article for the series about the Spanish Civil War, International Brigades Memorial Trust member, Tony Fox, looks at representation from North East men during the conflict…….I discovered that volunteers travelled to Spain together, Frank Graham left Sunderland on 15th December 1936 with friends, Tommy Dolan and Bill Lower. In London the groups were sent to the Communist Party offices at 16 King Street to meet the formidable ‘Robby’ Robson who would assess their suitability, in military and political terms. Robson explained in detail the dangers to be faced.

On acceptance volunteers were told to purchase weekend return rail-tickets from Victoria Railway Station to Paris, as this did not require a passport. In France volunteers had to act with discretion as groups of volunteers would occasionally be arrested and repatriated. The recruitment of the International Brigades was coordinated by the Communist Party in Paris.

On arrival in Paris the volunteers would meet the liaison, Charlotte Haldane. It was in the red-light district of Paris they underwent medical examination and checks on their political reliability. From Paris they would travel to the Spanish border by train on what became known as ‘The Red Express’, then travel across the frontier by bus or train.

After February they would be smuggled in groups past non-intervention patrols, over the top of the Pyrenees. Some volunteers were smuggled onto ships which attempted to break through the naval blockade of patrolling Royal Navy warships and Italian submarines.

Bill Lower, Frank Graham’s companion from Sunderland, died along with 54 volunteers and about 100 passengers and crew when the SS Ciudad de Barcelona was torpedoed by an Italian submarine in May 1937.

Once across the frontier, they would be taken to the International Brigade headquarters at Albacete, where volunteers would be vetted again, processed and divided up by nationality to be placed into the different linguistic battalions of the International Brigades. British speakers were placed in the XVI Battalion of the XV Brigade.

Frank Graham and Bert Overton, from Stockton arrived at the Madrigueras training base on 1st January, four of the seven Stockton men I am studying arrived in Spain the following week. At Madrigueras the Brigaders with military training instructed the others. Bert Overton had been in the Welsh Guards, therefore he was made an officer in No.4 Company.

Officers, commissars and specialists received separate instruction, leading activists from the North East took key positions in the British Battalion: George Aitken would be the first Political Commissar for the British Battalion, Frank Graham would command 3rd section of No.1 Company until later becoming a scout.

Bill Meredith, a well know activist from Tyneside, would later command No.2 Company. Bob Elliott would be the Political Commissar for No.2 Company with Wilf Jobling his deputy commissar.

The North East continued to be overly represented as officers and Commissars throughout the conflict; later in the war Sunderland born Bob Cooney became Battalion Commissar, Stockton’s Otto Estensen was Commissar and commanded the anti-tank Battery. Dave Goodman from Middlesbrough became the No. 4 Company Commissar on his arrival in Spain in January 1938.

More stories soon from the front line of the Spanish Civil War in Postcards from Spain.

If you have any information about North East men and women who were in any way involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Sources:

The Battle of Jarama 1937 by Frank Graham. Published 1987

Unlikely Warriors by Richard Baxell. Publisher Aurum Press 2012

Fred Thomas diaries currently being transcribed for the Imperial War Museum by Alan Warren.

http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/

Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (5)

After recent posts about the Spanish Civil War, I asked for any information relating to the North East men and women who were involved. Tony Fox from Stockton immediately made contact…..I am a member of the International Brigades Memorial Trust which has been very supportive to my work, especially the President Marlene Sidaway and the Historian Richard Baxell.

I’m currently working on two projects about men and women from the North East who traveled to Spain during the civil war.

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon, Marlene Sidaway and Duncan Longstaff (son of Johnny Longstaff).

The first project is with Middlesbrough Council on the memorial plaque in place at Middlesbrough Town Hall. The plaque is for ten men from Teesside who served in the International Brigades, and was produced in 1939. It is thought to be the first Brigades memorial produced in the UK.

I am also working on a memorial to Stockton’s International Brigaders which I will write about in another post.

Reading your previous post Postcards from Spain (1) I can add information about the two men from Whitburn who didn’t have any dates or locations when they were killed in Spain.

Edward Tattam listed as ‘Missing/killed in action 17/3/1938 at Belchite-Caspe, Aragon.

William Tattam is listed as ‘date of death 17th July 1937, believed to have died when the lorry he was riding in overturned on the way to Brunete’.

Harry Reynolds is listed as ‘date of death February 1937 at Jarama. With a very interesting footnote – ‘Left for Spain in a group led by Wilf Jobling’.

This confirms one of my assumptions. I knew that the volunteers traveled in groups to Spain but thought they were led by ‘responsibles’ – leading activists who cared for the volunteers and provided political guidance.

As Harry Reynolds, led by Wilf Jobling, arrived in Spain at the same time as the men I am studying, the Teesside Brigaders, it is reasonable to assume that the North East volunteers traveled together as a group.

Tony added more detail to the story about the men behind the North East recruitment…..

North East recruitment of volunteers was organised by a small group of close friends who were graduates of the International Lenin School in Moscow.

George Aitken was the North East Coast District Secretary, covering Northumberland and Durham. George Short was a Communist Party Central Committee member and Teesside Secretary of the NUWM, he originated from Chopwell, locally known as ‘Little Moscow’ as it had a Communist club.

Wilf Jobling, a NUWM executive committee member also from Chopwell who I mentioned earlier.

South Shields men were recruited by a guy called Charlie Woods. Finally a Sunderland branch activist, Frank Graham, in recruiting twenty volunteers, it was the largest individual town contingent in the North East.

Posting soon another addition to Postcards from Spain from Tony Fox. If you have any information about the North East men and women who were in any way involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com.

Sources: No Justice Without a Struggle:The National Unemployed Workers Movement in the North East 1920-40 by Don Watson. Merlin Press 2014.

North Eastern Daily Gazette, 2 May 1935

From the Tees to the Ebro David Goodman CPGB, 1986.

 Interview of Charlie Wood https://www.amber-online.com/collection/no-pasaran/

http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/

 https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stocktonbrigaders

 Gary Alikivi  April 2020

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (4)

Following on from the previous posts focusing on the Spanish Civil War, in this one we find out how a South Shields man was involved.

Firstly, an important note, if relatives of Norman Leathley Ramsey can add any information to this post, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

So who was Norman ?

He was born in South Shields in 1894 and at 6 year old lived at 175 South Frederick Street in the Tyne Dock area of the town. His father Thomas was a coal trimmer, his mother Isabella, had four more children. A few year later the family moved to 49 Eleanor Street, although Norman wasn’t registered at this address as he had started his career at sea.

After the First World War Norman was awarded a Mercantile Marine British Medal, was married to Minnie Legross and the couple were living at 51 Broughton Road, South Shields. By 1922 he was employed as a ship’s butcher at 154 Laygate Lane.

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the local library I have been unable to search for Norman in South Shields after 1922, but his name did pop up 15 years later in a story printed in the Hartlepool Mail on April 22nd 1937 about the Spanish Civil War.

Blockade Runners Challenged: Bilbao Position:

‘General Franco has taken up the challenge of the British vessels who are awaiting opportunities to run the blockade of the insurgent warships to Bilbao and other Basque Government ports. His Government at Burgos has announced over the wireless to foreign Governments that the Nationalists in future will lay mines in front of all the ports in Government hands’, reports Reuter.

A St Jean de Lux message says that a ‘Mr Norman Leatherly Ramsey of South Shields, says he is representing the owners of a British cargo steamer, is willing to run the insurgent blockade if the Basque Government will guarantee the value of the vessel’.

This was the statement he made after he had been detained by local police yesterday on the instructions of a Belgian control officer, taken to the police station and charged with not having proper papers. On the production of his passport, which was in order, he was released.

The report went on to say…Shore batteries have shelled three insurgent trawlers which attempted to seize a number of fishing vessels anchored off Lequeitio, North East of Bilbao’.

For some background to the story, in 1936 Spain elected a government committed to change. The army under General Franco rebelled and what followed were three years of a Civil War. Franco was helped by the Italian dictator Mussolini and Hitler in Germany.

This led to a food shortage in the Republican Basque region of Northern Spain, as the Nationalists had set up a blockade and threatened to sink British food aid ships who approached ports.

George Orwell, in his book Homage to Catalonia, gave an account of his personal experiences and observations in the war. ‘Bread was scarce and the cheaper sorts were being adulterated with rice. Milk and sugar were very scarce and tobacco almost non-existent. The queues of women waiting to buy olive oil were controlled by mounted Civil Guards’.

Further research from various sources revealed that the Newcastle steamer ship, Hamsterley, was at the head of a small convoy of three British food aid ships who made a run on the blockade. On board the Hamsterley, was our man Norman Ramsey, a Merchant Seaman from South Shields.

He gave the North Mail newspaper a dramatic account of how the British flagship Hood and destroyer Firedrake went into action to protect the convoy against the Nationalist cruiser, Almirante Cervera and the armed trawler Galerna….

The Almirante Cervera signalled to us to stop. When we failed to do so, she showed her disapproval by sending a shell across our bows. Firedrake darted in between us and the Nationalist cruiser.

We carried on again towards Bilbao and were at the head of the convoy when another shell burst in the sea. Firedrake swung out her torpedo tubes and Hood cleared her decks for action. Her mighty guns looked terrifying. Firedrake signalled to the trawler Galerna that she must not meddle with British ships.

The trawler tried to get in between us and the three-mile limit but Firedrake headed her off until we had passed inside the limit. Then the Galerna tried to reach us again, but the shore batteries at Bilbao opened fire’.

On April 23rd 1937 the three British food aid ships docked at Bilbao. 35 km’s away was the ancient city of Guernica, where late in the afternoon of the 26th April German aircraft appeared above the city. In support of the Nationalists, the Nazi’s dropped their bombs on purely a civilian target. The destruction swung British public opinion towards the Republican cause.

 

The authorities took the opportunity to show the British crews the devastation, this photograph (above) of refugees on the road from Guernica was taken by Norman Ramsey shortly after the city was bombed.

Ramsey also photographed the ruins at the centre of the city. His pictures were published in the North Mail and Newcastle Chronicle after he returned home in May.

On it’s next voyage to Bilbao carrying coal, the Hamsterley took part in evacuating refugees to French ports, along with the Newcastle steamer Backworth. Like other North East ships trading with Bilbao, the Hamsterley brought back iron ore, arriving with its cargo at Tyne Dock.

Where did Norman go next ?

On the 1939 Second World War register Norman was employed as a Water Clerk living with his family at 118 & 120 Broughton Road, South Shields. His wife Minnie, worked in the Off Licence at 120. The family lived here until 1962 before moving to another house in the town.

After living a full life, Norman sadly passed away in 1967, but the story of his work in helping the Spanish people in 1937 and the powerful photographs he took in Guernica, will live on.

If you have any information about the North East men and women who were in any way involved in the Spanish Civil War please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Research: Ancestry, The Word, South Shields, Discovery Museum and 

Local Studies collection, Newcastle City Library.

 Gary Alikivi  April 2020.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (3)

Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus pandemic the Local History library is closed so confirming details about the South Shields resident featured in this post has proven a bit more difficult. If a relative is out there please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are looking at a Captain C.W. Dick who was in command of a ship that ran a blockade during the Spanish Civil War.

 

The Hansard revealed questions were asked in the House of Commons about the Civil War and the role of British Merchant ships. First Lord Admiralty, Sir Samuel Hoare said. ’The instructions to His Majesty’s ships have, since the beginning of the civil war in Spain, been to the effect that if it comes to the knowledge of a British man-of-war that a British merchant ship is being interfered with on the high seas by a Spanish warship, the British ship is to be afforded protection’.

I came across a newspaper report in The Shields Gazette, April 28th 1937 that featured Capt. C.W. Dick and the Olavus, a ship built in South Shields in 1920 at the Chas Rennoldson & Co. yard.

EXPECTED BATTLE ANY MINUTE (Headline)

Shields Man Who Ran Blockade

The Hull steamer Olavus under the command of Capt. C.W.Dick of South Shields which recently ran the blockade of Bilbao is expected to make a further effort next week.

It is understood she will sail from Liverpool for Barcelona or Valencia with a cargo of foodstuffs. The crew however, have intimated to owners, the Ohlson Steam Shipping Company from Hull, that they will not sail again for Spain under any circumstances.

The crew consists of British engineers and Dutch seamen who were signed on at Rotterdam after the original Shields crew had refused to sign on again for Spain.

For the past day or two Capt. Dick, whose home is in Ravenbourne Terrace, has been in Rotterdam awaiting instructions from the owners. At one time it was thought the Olavus would sail again from Holland, but the crew intimated that they did not wish to sail on any conditions.

Captain Dick’s last voyage to Bilbao was an exciting one. In letters to his wife he describes how the Olavus and the Thorpehall, were at one time surrounded by six battleships representing the insurgents.

‘Thank goodness it is all over and we are out of danger. It has been a great responsibility with all these men’s lives’. He explained that the reported mutiny on board the Olavus was pure fiction. ‘There was no trouble with the crew when she left Nantes. The only trouble we had was at the French port, where the crew of Dutchmen, learning they were to sail for Bilbao, asked to be paid off’.

Captain Dick pointed out that he could not do this and the crew approached their consul, who told them that nothing could be done, and that they would have to sail.

Thirty hours out from Nantes, they were inspected by a rebel cruiser, but no action was taken until two hours later when a shot was fired over the Olavus. He carried on at full speed for about five minutes, then the guns of the harbour fortress began to speak.

Capt. Dick was almost blinded by the second shot, which fell 40 feet astern the Olavus and thinking that the fortress had mistaken him for a rebel gunboat or did not want him to enter until daylight, he put about.

HMS Hood.

In running for the open sea again, the Olavus went through the supposed minefields. The crew by this time were terrified stated Capt. Dick. Describing the holding up of the Thorpehall, Capt. Dick said that Spanish, German and British ships had cleared their decks for action.

‘I expected a battle to start any minute’ he stated in a letter. ‘I was waiting for the rebel cruiser to start, but he slunk away followed by one of our fellows’.

After leaving Bilbao, the Olavus was stopped by a rebel cruiser and the German battleship Von Spree. The German ordered Capt. Dick to alter course and head for land. Unable to offer resistance and confident that the Olavus was about to be interned, the captain did so.

A few minutes later however HMS Hood arrived on the scene and the rebel and German gunboats steamed away. The Hood signalled to the Olavus ‘Good night and good voyage’.

A search reveals that the Thorpehall was attacked and eventually sunk near Valencia on 25th May 1938. HMS Hood was sunk during the Battle of the Denmark Strait in the Second World War, May 1941.

But what happened after 1937 for Captain C.W.Dick ? There is a record of a British Prisoner of War held in Japan on 15th Feb 1942. Is that him ? Hopefully more information can be found to confirm the story.

More research will be done when the Local History libraries open but for now in Postcards from Spain, the search goes on for North East stories from the Spanish Civil War. If you have any information please get in touch at garyalikivi@yahoo.com

Gary Alikivi  April  2020.

Sources: Ancestry, Hansard and The Shields Gazette.