Oxford People of Britain series

A Tyneside Shipyard

As I had hoped, the Hulton series attracted attention. I was lecturing at the Kenton Lodge College of Education in Newcastle at this time. When the OUP decided to produce their People of Britain series of 30 page booklets, they asked me to contribute one on the Tyneside shipyards. Illustrations by an artist would be needed. A college staff friend recommended Val Kennedy.

Val and I had a lot of fun visiting the great shipyard of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson and seeing the building of a huge supertanker, the Solen, which at that time was the largest ship ever built on Tyneside. We were allowed full access to everything that was going on but must always have a guide. Everything we wrote, or drew, had to be submitted to the Company for approval

Val and I were greatly impressed by the view in Leslie Street where the children played in the street with the bows of the mighty ship and the cranes towering over the houses.

When I wrote that the boys would grow up to work in the shipyard, I did not imagine that there would by then be no shipyard for them to work in. The Solen was soon surpassed in size by enormous tankers and cruise liners built in other countries. The Tyne was neither deep nor wide enough for such huge vessels. Although I did not realise it then, this ship was the beginning of the end for shipbuilding in Newcastle. Today, the  big shipyards on Tyneside have gone. Leslie Street has been totally demolished and rebuilt.

When a dozen booklets had been produced they were bound together into two volumes and continue to sell in this form for many years.

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