TYNE & WEIRD – with author Rob Kilburn

Folklore, urban legends, strange happenings and eccentric characters from history are all brought to life in Tyne and Weird, Rob Kilburn’s first book.

I asked 27 year old Seaburn lad Rob, what inspired you to write this book ?

‘I feel it’s important to be aware of some of our own history and I think on a personal level it was about finding inspiring characters and stories from the North East’

‘I started Tyne and Weird on Facebook a couple of years ago with the aim of building up an audience. I started sharing stories from around the North East that I found interesting, exploring quirky, strange history and some darker themes’.

Did you come across any surprises when researching the stories ?

‘I think the sheer amount of history unique to the area was a bit of surprise. The more you dig into archives and connect with community you realise how much of the world is connected to our little part of England’.

Have you a favourite story in the book ?

‘One story I found particularly interesting was the two lads from Gateshead who allegedly captured the Loch Ness Monster on camera’.

Is there a story set in South Shields ?

‘Yes, there are stories from all over Tyne and Wear. South Shields has had a number of interesting visitors like Buffalo Bill, Houdini and Jimi Hendrix to name just a few’. 

Have you an idea for future projects ?

‘Yes, I am currently working on a sequel which will also look at areas in the North East outside of Tyne and Weird. There is a lot of weird out there and some of the stories in this one are fantastic’.

Where is the book available ?

The book is available on Amazon or you can get it directly from me here:
https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/898847869/tyne-and-weird-the-book

Interview by Gary Alikivi   March 2021.

GLASTONBURY TOR – More than just a Hill by author, Dan Green

Mysteries of the world are fascinating subjects and we rely on scientists, archaeologists and storytellers to bring them out of the dark.

Former South Shields resident Dan Green, British author, broadcaster and researcher has already shared some of his experiences on this blog including poltergeists, UFO’s and fairies. He recently got in touch about some more unpredictable events that he has experienced.

Of all the apparent mysteries I have investigated and had to leave unsolved, this is certainly high up on my list. Even higher is Glastonbury Tor, a 158 metres high conical shaped hill in Somerset. Placed on a ley line, it has the reputation of being a fairy hill, with alleged strange properties with an entrance to Fairyland, no less, somewhere on its eastern slope.

I’ve visited the Tor at all times of the year both with people and on my own. I can vouch for my own strange experiences such as the first time I ascended to the summit at about 11.30pm and almost immediately there was a brief silent silver flash only feet above my head. Nice welcome.

Minutes later on the left hand slope I watched a 5 seconds silent bombardment of what I described at the time of grey ping pong balls. Obviously they weren’t physical but without being a psychic I saw them clearly. Years later I learned that other people have also watched this ping pong phenomenon. What could they have been? And how can they produce themselves?

More strangeness awaited me starting in 2005 and lasting the next five years. I was ascending the Tor on a July afternoon like I’d done umpteen times when suddenly I became overpowered with a great fear, so much so that I had to crouch down to the grass, unable to progress any further.

My body was awash with what I can only imagine a panic attack must feel like. I had no idea what was happening to me and was so fearful – unlike me – I had to retreat back down the pathway.

I wrote the experience off as it just being one of those weird things and had put it to the back of my mind when I visited next, the following July. Proving that lightning can strike twice, the same thing happened to me again at exactly the same point. For the following five years I experienced the same intense trepidation at the same point, unable to go any further.

On the last occasion two surprised family members watched me scale down the slope to crawl further along and then come up on the path again, when past the troublesome spot. They thought I was playing some sort of game.

In 2010 everything returned to normal for me and I happily skipped over the spot, going backwards and forwards just to be sure. What on earth (or maybe under earth) had all that been about?

Dazzling white ‘something’ at the base of the Tor.

In 2008 I went to Glastonbury to investigate the experience of local man Mike Chenery. On February 2007 at 4.33pm on a bright day he was walking up Orchard Lane at the foot of the Tor when he noticed all the singing birds had suddenly stopped their throng. It’s the sort of thing that happens at times of a solar eclipse.

He was at the vantage point of one of the un-arched sides of the Tower at the top of the Tor and as he glanced up at the deserted summit he saw a dazzling white something that he told me glided a short distance from within the tower. At first it showed itself as linear, long and very narrow, moving its perspective to face his direction and then widening.

Mike always carries his digital camera with him and quickly took a pic before the apparition popped off. When I met him he still had the pic saved on his camera. What had he photographed? Not a camera glitch, for a close up shows definite contours, neither an optical effect.

Interviewing Mike I have no reason to doubt his story or integrity. Could this be the most amazing photo ever taken on the famous Fairy hill?

I was once told by an ex-mayor of Glastonbury who preferred anonymity of how one night he witnessed what he described as a spaceship when he saw a reddish orange light appear above the Tor before sinking into the summit. He reassured me that he ‘Wasn’t on anything’.

As well as speaking with a good few other individuals with their own drug and alcohol free experiences, I’ve had further Tor experiences of my own, but they are so personal and likely unbelievable to a listener that I prefer keeping them to myself.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, and as much as I would like to say that Glastonbury Tor is nothing more than simply a hill, my own experiences clearly won’t allow me. Would it you?

Dan Green 2021

Read more Dan Green investigations:

HIDDEN TREASURE on Tyneside with investigator Dan Green | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

MIND GAMES ? Dan Green investigates Mysterious Tyneside | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

Edited by Gary Alikivi  February 2021.

NORTHERN MINSTRELS – with Historian Dave Harker.

Dave talks about his new book which tracks the history of North East popular music and song. 

“The Northern Minstrels draws on a wealth of research to tell the story of North East pipers, minstrels, choristers, street singers and dancing masters, covering the duels, disputes and riots”.

Newcastle based Dave, who turned 74 on November 5, has previously published 16 books, eight of which cover the history of North East music, including biographies of  Geordie Ridley and Blind Willie Purvis.

Also Joe Wilson and Ned Corvan, both were used as a basis for successful plays Mr Corvan’s Music Hall and The Great Joe Wilson by playwright Ed Waugh.

What inspired you to write the book ?  This is the richest region in England in terms of singers and songwriters whose audiences were predominantly working-class.

Terms like ‘North-Eastern’ ‘English’, ‘Scottish’ and so on to describe songs ignore the fact that while what survive today may have been sung in a given region or country, that does not mean that they originated there.  

I had to put the musicians in a social context to show the ways in which music making and printed balladry helped shape the politics of their day.

This included general literacy, printing presses, religious upheavals, employment of official minstrels, as well as laws relating to vagrancy.

Did you have any challenges when writing the book ? The book is by far the most challenging I have ever written because there are so few sources and I had to research what was happening all over England and southern Scotland. I felt it was important to collate the information that survives so others can expand on my work in the future.

What is your background Dave ? I was born in Guisborough in what was then the North Riding of Yorkshire on 5 November 1946. I won a scholarship to Guisborough Grammar School in 1958.

In 1966 I went to Jesus College, Cambridge, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I was awarded a BA in 1969, and in 1970 became a senior scholar at University College.  

I later declined the offer of a fellowship at a Cambridge college and accepted a temporary lectureship at Manchester Polytechnic, since I wanted to give something back to students less privileged than myself.

I joined the Labour Party in 1975 but left in disgust and joined the International Socialists. In 1976, to my surprise, Cambridge University accepted my PhD thesis, ‘Popular Song and Working-Class Consciousness in North East England’.

In 1977 as a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party I organised buses to both Anti-Nazi League carnivals in London.

The ‘80s saw more academic work for Dave including the Trades Union Council, Senior Lecturer in Trade Union Studies and building  miners’ support groups in 1984-85….But by then I was thoroughly disgusted with my colleagues’ careerism. By the early ‘90s I built the largest travelling stall of second-hand socialist books in Britain, and probably in Europe, for Manchester district Socialist Workers Party, and supplied Bookmarks bookshop in London.

I drifted away from the SWP, though I became the founding secretary of the North West Retired Members’ Branch and an officer of Manchester Trades Union Council. In 2015 I moved back to Newcastle, and in 2017 I received the Robert Tressell Award ‘For Services to Working People’.

What does the North East mean to you ?  A few years ago I researched the history of the word ‘Geordie’ and discovered that it had been used to patronise working people on Tyneside for over 200 years.

Virtually all ‘definitions’ had no historical accuracy or conceptual content, and the best one I know was that ‘Geordie’ was the name by which Tynesiders are known outside the district, either geographically, or culturally, even if they live there.

What bothered me was the tribalism in the region – Mackems (from Sunderland), Smoggies (from Teeside) and so on – not least because it did not serve the interests of working people, but on the contrary helped to divide them.

Only 100 copies of The Northern Minstrels have been printed.

They are available for £25 (plus £5 p&p) per copy from Dave at d1harker@btinternet.com

Interview by Gary Alikivi  November 2020.

METAL TOON, METAL CITY – video filmed in Newcastle for new single from Chief Headbangers, Raven.

On Tyneside during the ‘70s and ‘80s rock music was heard from Sunderland to South Shields, bounced over the river Tyne to Whitley Bay and Wallsend – the vibrations were felt in Newcastle. A North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal was coming in.

Not just riding, but steering the wave were Fist, Hellanbach, Mythra, Tygers of Pan Tang and Venom pushing metal to its limits and discovering a new energy. Another one of those bands was Raven.

Now based Stateside, but originally formed in Newcastle in 1974, early gigs saw the trio cutting their teeth on North East live circuit of working mens clubs. Headline gigs at Newcastle Mayfair and Dingwalls gained the band a solid live reputation. The gates were opened, and the band went onto UK support slots with Iron Maiden, Ozzy and Whitesnake.

By the early ‘80s two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ were recorded in Impulse Studio, Wallsend on the Tyneside label, Neat Records. Then a call came in from America.

Raven were at the very forefront of speed metal spawning the big four beasts from the United States – Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and dragging Metallica out on their first, and scorching, tour across the USA. We know where they ended up. These were life changing moments. Raven knew their future was Stateside and subsequently signed to Megaforce and then major label, Atlantic.

Fast forward 40 years plus and the band are still hitting it hard with new single ‘Metal City’ from their forthcoming album. The music video was filmed on Tyneside capturing iconic structures like the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and even St James’ Park home of Newcastle United. I asked bassist and vocalist John Gallagher did filming stir up any memories when you were at the locations ?

It definitely stirred up some memories especially with one part of the shoot. We were driving to one of the locations when I mentioned “I grew up down that street there” and our video guy Paul said “Then let’s check it out!” So the footage with me playing the bass is in the backlane in Benwell where we played football as kids.

After ‘Top of the Mountain’ this is the second track released and both are very strong opening singles, I asked John are the band putting down a marker for what the listeners can expect from the rest of the album ?

Very much so. Top was the perfect choice as the first song as it sounds like one of our early songs dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!! And Metal City is not only the title track but it’s a real anthem type song.

(Yep, added to trademark Gallagher scream, check out the geet big chorus!)

The rest of the album runs the gamut from crazy fast songs like The Power, and a tribute to Lemmy in Motorheadin’. Added to super aggressive tracks like Human Race and Break plus a bit of an epic in When Worlds Collide. So there’s variety, and all heavy with ‘all killer, no filler’.

How do you look at this album compared to previous releases ?

This one is a belta! We actually think this album is the best thing we’ve ever done, for a band that’s been around the block as long as we have that’s really a case of laying down the gauntlet to many of the other bands of our era who are putting out ‘ok’ albums.

The band have just released new European tour dates, when was your last gig pre – covid ?

Our last shows were on the Monsters of Rock cruise which departs from Florida. We did the pre-party show in Miami and a show on the cruise. Always great fun, and we actually did Chainsaw for the first time in about 30 years. We can’t wait to test drive these new songs on stage!

Watch the video on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtKKmm6ibOM&list=RDjtKKmm6ibOM&start_radio=1&t=20

Check official website for tour dates and album release:  https://ravenlunatics.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2020.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #5 – Thomas Young VC (1895-1966).

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Thomas was recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

As a stretcher bearer Thomas saved countless lives of army colleagues on First World War battlefields. He was presented with his VC on the 29th June 1918. This is his story.

My name is Thomas Young although I was born Thomas Morrell on 28th January 1895 in Boldon, North East England. When I was young my father was killed in a mining accident so my mother remarried a man form Whitburn called Surtees Young.

We lived at Cliff Terrace, Ryhope. I left school early to become a miner. When I was 18 I joined up with the Gateshead Territorials then in 1914 transferred into the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. I was a stretcher bearer.

At the start of the War, I was posted to the Western Front and reached Boulogne in April 1915. We were immediately thrown into the Second Battle of Ypres. I also served on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele.

At the Somme I was wounded by a bullet in the left thigh and was evacuated to England. That put me out of action for a while but went back to France a few month later.

I was awarded my VC after a day on a battlefield in March 1918. It was all going off in broad daylight – rifles, machine-guns, shell fire, it was pretty heavy let me tell you. There was a number of casualties but I managed to bring back wounded comrades. Some I couldn’t move because they were badly injured, so I dressed them right there. When the wounds were dressed as much as I could I carried my marras back. I saved nine lives that way.

I went back to Durham for a spell of leave and they laid on a surprise for me. Officials from the coal mine took me home along the Scotswood Road in a pony and trap. My home was dressed with flags and bunting.

I met The Earl of Durham who gave me a watch, some War Bonds and a silver cigarette case. A civic reception was laid on in Saltwell Park in Gateshead. There must have been thousands turned up that day.

After the war I went back to work in the mines but couldn’t keep my job because of my war wounds. I took on a new job at the mine as bath attendant and got £9 a week. But due to my health problems and financial worries I sold my VC medal, luckily a DLI officer saw it in a pawnbroker’s shop so the Regiment bought it back.

Thomas Young died at a hostel in Whickham on 15th October 1966, and buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard, High Spen, Durham with full military honours.

A memorial to Thomas Young was unveiled in July 2007 and can be seen in the grounds of High Spen primary school. In 2018 a commemorative memorial stone at Cotswold Lane in Boldon Colliery was unveiled to honour the memory of First World War hero Thomas.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources : Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #2 – Joseph Henry Collin (1893-1918)

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy, that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

In a series about Tyneside recipients of the VC, this story features Joseph Collin who was born in Jarrow, North East England on 11th April 1893.

My father Joseph was a rail worker, and my mother was called Mary. I lived at 12 Drury Street and was baptised at St Bede’s Church in Jarrow before I went to St Patrick’s School in Harraby, Carlisle.

I  won prizes for running, I also loved playing football. Then I got a job in Leeds at the clothiers Hepworth & Son.

It was 1915 when I enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a Private. I must have done good because during training they promoted me to Sergeant. Then in 1916, we went to France and fought in the Battle of the Somme.

I took more training and returned to France in 1917 and served as a Second Lieutenant with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

We went to the front line at Givenchy. The Germans were pressing us hard with bombs and machine-gun fire. They were really close.

We had to withdraw because we only had five men remaining, but still fought for every inch of ground. Then I went out and attacked their machine gun, firing my revolver first then threw a grenade putting the gun out of action. I killed four of their team and wounded two others. I saw another machine gun firing, so I took a gun and found a high vantage point, and kept them at bay until they wounded me.

Joseph died soon after from his injuries and was buried in Vielle-Chapelle Military Cemetery, Lacouture, France. His parents were presented with the Victoria Cross for Joseph’s bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice.

In 1956 the medal was presented to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regimental Museum where it is displayed. In the chapel is a plaque which commemorates Joseph, and each year schools in Carlisle compete for the ‘Collin Shield’, a trophy for a 1 mile race presented in his memory by his family.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 Carlisle City Council displayed a blue plaque commemorating Josephs heroic gallantry at the Battle of Givenchy. A memorial stone to honour the memory of World War One hero Joseph was laid in 2018 at Joseph Collin House in Jarrow.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources: Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

POSTCARDS FROM SPAIN (10) – Tyneside volunteers in the Spanish Civil War

TYNESIDE VOLUNTEERS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR.

The International Brigade Memorial Trust keeps the spirit alive of men and women from around the world, who volunteered to fight fascism in Spain from 1936 to 1939.

But who were the volunteers ? Over 20 years, Archivist Jim Carmody and historian Richard Baxell worked on putting together a list of their names.

A list of over 2,000 volunteers are available from the International Brigades on the link at the bottom of the article.

For some young men it was more than a shock to the system to see the brutality of war. On arrival in Spain 19 year old American Frank Neary was shot in the head on the first day and died in a Madrid hospital. German Artist Stephen Pollock, was badly wounded at Brunete. From New Zealand came Doctor Douglas Jolly who was in charge of a mobile surgical team.

Angus MacLean travelled from Scotland but was ordered home after one month as ‘Since leaving Britain he spent most nights in brothels’.

There was a miner from Wales, Tim Harrington, who was withdrawn from battle as ‘he suffered with old lung injury after being gassed in WW1’.

Irishman Thomas Delaney volunteered in December 1936 but by February ’37 was ‘sent home, too young’.

Volunteers from the North East of England included Francesca Wilson born in Newcastle 1881. She was a Teacher who left England in 1939 and worked with refugees in Murcia where she founded a children’s hospital.

From Sunderland was NUWM officer Frank Graham, in Spain he served as a scout and intelligence officer, also Broadcaster on Radio Barcelona.

Included here is a detailed list of 10 volunteers from Tyneside:

1. Thomas Atherton, born Jarrow 1903. Seaman.

Arrival: 27 September 1937.  Departure: October 1938

Comments: Captured in Aragon. POW San Pedro de Cardea. Accused of being Russian for having a bushy beard and almost shot.

2. John Corby, born North Shields 1902. Painter.

Arrival: 16 January 1938.  Departure: December 1938

Comments: Assessment: ‘Disrupter and deserter’.

3. William Z Morrison, born Wallsend 1908. Radio Expert.

Political organisation: Communist Party.

Arrival: 5 November 1937. Departure: April 1938

Comments: In Hospital in Barcelona with suspected appendicitis from 25 March 1938.

4. William Tattam, born Whitburn 1907. Miner.

Political organisation: Communist Party.

Arrival: 21 December 1936. Death: 17 July 1937. Where killed: Brunete

Comments: Believed to have died when the lorry he was riding in overturned on the way to Brunete.

‘When the British Battalion was moving up to the front at Brunete, William Tattam was sitting at the back of one of the trucks. The truck hit an obstacle in the road and William was thrown out of the truck and fell under the wheels of the following truck, he died instantly. His body was probably buried near the roadside where he was killed’.

5. Eileen O’Shaughnessy, (George Orwell’s first wife) born South Shields 1905.

Arrival: 17 February 1937. Departure: June 1937

Comments: Worked in Independent Labour Party Office in Barcelona.

6. Stephen Codling, born South Shields 1907. Lorry Driver.

Political organisation: Communist Party.

Arrival: 13 May 1937. Death: 31 March 1938. Where killed: Calaceite

Comments: Acting commander of the British Battalion’s Communications Company. Captured at Calaceite on 31 March 1938.

7. Frank Antrim born South Shields 1904. Auto-electrician.

Political organisation: Communist Party.

Arrival: 2 October 1937.  Departure: December 1938

Comments: Worked in Auto-Park. Believed to have trained Lewis Clive’s company in shooting and was asked to be a political commissar (information from conversation with his son).

8. Arthur C P Teasdale, born South Shields 1913. Bricklayer.

Political organisation: Communist Party.

Arrival: 24 February 1937. Departure: 23 July 1938

Comments: Hands damaged by shrapnel. Deserted from 20th Battalion of mixed Brigade citing family difficulties. ‘Been in and out of jail in Spain. He was last arrested in Barcelona in May 1938. While in jail managed to get a bomb and set it off in the cell. He has become an enemy of the working class. He should be kept in mind as he was once a secretary of a branch in Communist Party Great Britain’. Repatriated.

9. Samuel Thompson, born South Shields 1916. Miner.

Political organisation: Communist Party.

Arrival: 13 May 1937. Departure: October 1938

Comments: A good report. ‘He was a good steady comrade, though not a brilliant brain.’ Originally believed killed, but actually taken prisoner. POW at San Pedro de Cardea

10. John Palzeard, born South Shields 1916.

Arrival: 14 December 1936. Death: February 1937. Where killed: Jarama

Comments: Company runner at Las Rozas in No 1 Company.

Information collated by IBMT archivist Jim Carmody and historian Richard Baxell between 1996 and 2016. The list drew upon a wide range of sources held in Britain, Spain and Russia, though principally those held in the International Brigade Archive in the Marx Memorial Library in London and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History in Moscow.

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

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