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 (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.

The Village People – new book about Westoe, South Shields

In 2016 I made a documentary ‘Westoe Rose’ about South Shields photographer and local historian Amy Flagg who lived in the Westoe area of the town. Her most notable work was recording the impact of bomb damage on South Shields during the Second World War. When doing some local history research in The Word I came across a new book about Westoe.

The book goes into great detail not only of the houses but it’s residents. The section on Chapel House, where the Flagg family lived, includes a copy of an inventory of furniture which Amy listed for 21st May 1941. It includes a typewriter and photographic equipment in an attic, a what not and stirrup pump in the hall, with a gongstand in the breakfast room – it’s all in the detail. To find out more I talked to the book’s author and member of South Shields Local History group, Dorothy Fleet…. 

More recently the Village has undergone a revival and many houses have been restored as cherished family homes. It has regained it’s elegance and has a sense of the atmosphere of yesteryear. Although it is now totally surrounded by our busy town, Westoe Village remains a place apart. This book tells the story of each of the houses and the families who lived there from the mid-1700s. About 200 years ago it gradually became the desired location for families of successful local businessmen, who often worked together for the successful development of the town. For centuries before then it was a remote rural village of farms and cottages.  (Map of 1768 with the River Tyne flowing out into the German Ocean, now the North Sea. A blue arrow points to Westoe at the bottom of the pic).

One of the stories in my book about the history and notable residents of the Village concerns Mrs Paine and her family. In 1780 a dashing Royal Navy Lieutenant called William Fox was in command of the ‘Speedwell’, an armed vessel on press gang duty in Peggy’s Hole on the North Shields bank of the river Tyne.

Mrs Paine’s young daughter, Catherine, fell in love with William and they arranged to elope to Gretna Green. Catherine joined William in a horse drawn carriage and they travelled at speed, changing horses at the posting stations along the way. Married by the blacksmith at Gretna, they returned home the following day and their marriage was accepted by the family. The following year Catherine gave birth to their son, George Townsend Fox.

Their romantic story ended tragically when William fell (or was pushed) into the icy cold river late one night when boarding the ‘Speedwell’. His fellow crew members recovered his body but, with no knowledge of hypothermia, presumed he was dead.

Left almost penniless Catherine returned to her family home. By 1807 her son George Townsend had married and had eight children, one was William who emigrated to New Zealand. After a highly successful legal and political career there, he served four terms as their Prime Minister and his childhood home in the Village is now a privately run hotel that bears his name.

The book is already selling well and with all proceeds going to the Local History Group to hopefully keep the group going forward and remaining solvent. With all the research, design and illustrations it’s been a real team effort.

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

contact:   dorothyfleet60@gmail.com  

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2019.                                                                 

 

 

 

WAR STORIES – experiences of World War 2 on Tyneside

During spring 2012, Jarrow playwright Tom Kelly and I made a short film about the impact of World War Two on South Tyneside, North East England. Using archive material and personal interviews we revisited the past and spoke with people who shared their memories and experiences of war. These extracts are taken from some of the interviews.

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Photograph by Amy C. Flagg

In the air raid shelters….

Doreen Purvis: My cousin Anne who was 3 or 4 year old used to insist on being taken outside to look at the stars in the middle of bombs dropping around and German planes overhead. This child would have to be taken to the door of the shelter and shown the stars to stop her crying.

Derek Hutchinson: We were all sitting in the air raid shelter and the bombs were coming down and everybody’s ducking from the bomb blasts, but I’m rubbing my hand’s thinking well if this air raid goes on after 3 o’clock I won’t have to go to school. If it stay’s this side of 3 o’clock I’ll have to go to school.

Doris Johnson: I was at the Glebe Church and the siren went. So my friend Jean and I decided we’d run home to Hyde Street just a short distance away. So we ran and went into our respective homes and my parents said we would go into the shelter. My neighbour called out to me did I have anything to read. So I ran round into my neighbours shelter and the man of the house moved to let me sit down. Then the bombs started to fall and I was blown out of the doorway. My mam and dad who I loved dearly, were killed. My dad was found later that night, then died. But my mam didn’t survive at all. That was a day, a night, that I’ll never ever forget.

Derek Hutchinson: The last bomb of the raid was a whoosh, then a (whistle noise) louder and louder. Louder than I’ve ever heard before and then…bam. The wall’s of the shelter shook, the ceiling shook, bit’s of dust came down, the candle fell of it’s rack and went out. Then the all clear went. So we clambered out the back door, forced it open cos there was stones in front, the air raid shelter was actually in the backyard. We went through the house, through the kitchen, as we walked along the passage a big wall of dust came along the passage. When we finally got to the front door it was leaning off it’s hinges.

Outside where there had been houses there was now a hole. It was a bomb crater, they had bombed our street and six houses had gone. We went into our front room and on the mantelpiece were two ornaments, very delicate. My grandmother’s pride and joy. She was really horrified ‘Oh my God, my ornaments’. She was clutching the ornaments saying they were alright ‘apart from a little strap on one of them was broken by Hitler’.

So these figures survived the war and I went on the Antiques Roadshow with them and I showed them a picture of the bombing which was horrifying. He valued them which wasn’t very much and then said ‘Well you know why they survived don’t you’. I said I had no idea. Well he said ‘They are made in Germany. If you look on the bottom you can see the makers mark’.

Maureen McLaughlin: We were at school and the teachers were trying to persuade everybody to go onto evacuation. But I didn’t want to go and leave my mam cos I was the only daughter and just had one brother. But my friends were all going so I said yes I’ll go. They gave us a list to get, my mother had a job to get them because you had coupons. I had to have new pyjamas, jumper, skirt, shoes, wellies, slippers, yer case had to be full of these new things. But when it came to going I wouldn’t go, I started crying so she took me home.

Memories of food rationing…

Doris Johnson: My dad was a grocer and food started to get scarcer, you got your ration book and you had to abide by that. There were queues for anything which wasn’t rationed. Then sweets were rationed you were very lucky if a shop had a bar of chocolate in.

Maureen McLaughlin: I’ve been asked where you hungry during the war well I wasn’t as the rations were enough for us. Then again if we were short of butter or sugar some of these people in the street with big families would sell you their coupons. You’d take it to the corner shop and they’d sell you the butter, sugar, meat or cheese.

Doreen Purvis: In those day’s everybody took two or three spoonful’s of sugar in their tea so sugar was a very precious commodity. My mother said a cup of tea got knocked over into a sugar bowl and they were so concerned that they actually dried the sugar out on the top of the stove so they could use it again.

Dave Bell: During the war when there were shortages my Granda loved pea’s pudding and found out there was some available in Ferry Street in Jarrow. Now he lived in Nixon Street which is two or three street’s away and he sent my Aunt Joyce, his youngest daughter to go and get him a bowl of this pea’s pudding. Well she got it and coming back she was just crossing the square in front of the Empire cinema when a dog fight broke out overhead. A German plane was being attacked by a spitfire and the two of them were swirling about and opened fire. As the bullets were overhead, in fear she threw herself down onto the cobbles and the pea’s pudding went flying amongst all the horse muck. So that was the finish of me Granda’s pea’s pudding.

Picking up shrapnel…

Maureen McLaughlin: We used to go around in the morning after the air raids had been, that was our past time. All the young ‘uns hunting for bit’s of shrapnel in the street’s. We all had a tin and collected bit’s of shrapnel to see who had got the most, bit’s of bombs and aeroplane an’ that.

Derek Hutchinson: Of course it really was called looting. All the thing’s we picked up off the bombed street’s had presumably belonged to somebody. We had photographs and ornaments, it was stealing but we didn’t know. So a lot of my time was spent running away from long legged policemen.

Doreen Purvis: My Grandmother lived in Thornton Avenue just beside the dock gates and of course there was lot’s of bombing raids during that time. Under the cover of the bombing the docker’s would often liberate various items from the docks, climb over the wall with them and stash them in my Grandmothers house. Usually as a reward she might get a bottle of whiskey or something similar.

One night a German war plane came down over the South Marine Park and lake in South Shields…..

Bob Robertson: My parents then lived in Eleanor Street. One of the plane’s I believe came down in one of the parks. But on it’s way it jettisoned two or three 500lb bombs and did an awful lot of damage.

Derek Hutchinson: A plane flew very close overhead on fire. It crashed at the right hand side at the bottom of Beach Road and blew up. Killed the airmen, blew down the building that houses the little boats. And just created mayhem. If you could grapple in the lake with bent coat hanger’s and pull something out with German writing on this was a swappable article – well I pulled out a flying boot. ‘I’ve got a flying boot’ I shouted’. So they all came running along ‘Hey that’s great’. Then I put my hand inside the flying boot and pulled out what appeared to be cooked tripe. This wobbly, jellified, whitey creamy skin. Of course it was the poor man’s foot – it had been blown off. ‘You’ll never do any swaps with that it’ll stink. Chuck it back in’ they said. So I threw it back in the lake.

Doreen Purvis: The radio was a great source of information during the war but the Germans also used it for propaganda purposes. And there was a broadcaster called Lord Haw-Haw who used to home in when there had been a raid the night before. On one occasion he was talking about South Shields and he was talking about people in the ruins of their houses starving to death, well just at that point me Grandma was dishing up stew. So she thrust a plate of stew in front of the radio and said have a smell of that ya’ bugga’.

I am looking to add to these stories so if anyone would like to share their experience of that time just get in touch at     garyalikivi@yahoo.com

DVD copies of ‘War Stories’ (35 mins, £7) are available from South Shields Museum or The Word, South Shields. A short version is available on the ALIKIVI You Tube channel.

 Gary Alikivi August 2019.

WESTOE ROSE – making the documentary about historian and photographer Amy Flagg

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Amy Flagg is fondly remembered as the lady in a hat and trench coat, who quietly went about photographing buildings and recording history of the town she loved. But who was Amy ? By the Second World War both her parents had died, plus the town she loved was falling apart from the German air raids. Her life was crumbling around her. When the bombs dropped she captured the scars with her camera. This is a story of courage and determination of a very unique woman who captured some of the most devastating images of South Shields in the 20th century.

Just some of the script from my documentary about South Shields photographer and local historian Amy Flagg. I came across her photo’s a few years ago when I was part of a group who volunteered to digitize the photographic collection held in South Tyneside Library. They were excellent photographs especially her record of the Second World War bomb damage in South Shields. A brave woman.

In my research I found that Amy had a darkroom so was able to print her own photograph’s. I know the magic that can happen there as I had my own set up during the early 90s. My darkroom was in a cupboard under the stairs where I’d print my black and white’s. Before I had the home set up I went on a short course in photography and darkroom techniques at a local community centre. If I was investing time and money I wanted to know my way around a darkroom first.

I’d go out with a roll of film and shoot some photo’s, develop them into a roll of negatives then put them into the enlarger and exposed the photographic paper to the light shining through the negative. Then put the paper through the tray of chemicals. The image started to come through –  it was like magic. Real magic. Not the Paul Daniels showbizy stuff. This was the real thing… like voodoo. I knew I had to do more of this. And I did.

 

In June 2016 the time was right to make a short documentary about the life of Amy Flagg. Using archive information, diary entries and photograph’s from South Shields Library I put a script together. North East playwrite Tom Kelly provided the narration, local journalist and writer, Janis Blower, added the voice of Amy. We recorded the voice over’s at The Customs Space studio in South Shields. As with many documentaries I’ve made, North East musician John Clavering captured the mood with some great music. On March 8th 2017 ‘Westoe Rose’ was screened at The Word in South Shields on International Womans Day.

Watch the documentary ‘Westoe Rose’ and to check out some of my other films go to You Tube and subscribe to my channel.

 

Gary Alikivi June 2018.

SECRETS & LIES – documentary based on The Life of Baron Avro Manhattan.

 

A11The time has got to feel right to work on a project. I came across Avro Manhattan during Summer 2012 in the Local Studies section of South Shields Library. There are a couple of large cabinets, inside are files with photographs and cuttings from local newspapers. All in alphabetical order. At the time I was researching Eileen O’Shaughnessy, the wife of George Orwell, when I came across Manhattan. I flicked through to the O’s but landed in the letter M’s and came across a name which was unusual for Tyneside. I pulled out the file and inside I was gobsmacked what I was reading.

Manhattan was born in Italy in 1914, he was a Writer, Poet and Artist. He had met Picasso, had homes in London and Spain, and in his will left over half a million pounds. Impressive story for someone who ended their days in a terraced house in South Shields. I needed to find out more but had a few projects to complete first.

A week later I was in a charity shop when I came across a small book ‘Poems by Manhatten’ – he was still about. At the entrance of South Shields library there was a small plinth about 5ft tall with a bust of Manhattan on top. I used to tap his head a couple of times for luck. Eventually I gathered a lot of information about him but it wasn’t until June 2015 when I went to the Blackhill cemetery in Shotley Bridge and found the grave and headstone for Baron Avro Manhattan. 

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Article from The Shields Gazette, June 2015.

There was more information on various websites but a lot more digging was needed – talking to his ex-neighbours and friends. I put a request in The Shields Gazette and recieved a few calls in response. The story was on their website and a woman from Germany called Gunda Kraepelin got in touch. She sent over some photo’s of Avro when he was a young artist in Italy. She also told stories about him when he was young as her mother knew him well. Another response was from somebody closer to home.

A woman had bought the South Shields house that he died in.  Inside were carpets, curtains, old bits of furniture and in a spare room upstairs was a box of artwork, books, letters and photographs – full of personal stuff. Lucky she kept hold of it and handed it over to me – it was a goldmine of information about Avro’s life. The material took some sorting out and helped fill some gaps in his timeline. 

After months of research and writing the script, I was ready to record and make a documentary of his life. North East actors Jonathan Cash with his wife Helen recorded the narration and musician’s John Clavering and Dom Santos added sound. In The Customs Space studio in South Shields I was sitting with the sound engineer Martin Trollope and Helen Cash in the control room. In the studio Jonathan was sitting next to a microphone with a copy of the script.

After reading all the material on Avro, writing the story and looking at his photo’s I imagined what he might sound like. I was looking down at the script when Martin said ok let’s go for it. Jonathan read the first sentence and I immeadiately turned to Helen and said ‘Avro’s in the room’. It was brilliant. The rest of the session went really well and I was confident that I had the narration for the documentary. 

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During a project leaving plenty of space and time can allow more information to be collected – a positive aspect of not having to work to a deadline. So it was left for another year as I worked on other projects. I received a couple more leads from interested people but nothing that would add to the film. Then in June 2018 I decided to prepare the documentary to upload onto You Tube – but not until I watched the World Cup first !  – The search isn’t over to find out all the Secrets and Lies.

Watch ‘Secrets & Lies’ here and check out some of my other films on You Tube and subscribe to the channel. 

Gary Alikivi July 2018.