I first got interested in Swan Hunter shipyard when I was a little lad and my
uncle took me onboard a famous liner that was built there that was called the
Bergensfiord. It always stuck in the back of my mind and when it came to
leaving school I put my name down to go into Swan Hunters as an apprentice,
which is what I did and I was accepted, so I went in as an apprentice welder.
But before that I had to work in the general stores for a year. This is because
you went in the yards when you were 15 but you weren’t allowed to start your
time till you were 16. Unfortunately I had an aluminium flash which affected
my right eye and it was advised that I pack my trade in as a welder and so
they changed my trade to a shipwright.
In being a shipwright apprentice I learnt 3 or 4 different trades in one trade
which was lining off, which was iron work, which was woodwork, which was
working in the loft and I was one of the youngest ever apprentices to go to sea
at 20 and 2 months.
I also worked on 5 clan boats, which were built at Swan Hunters and they
were a big order, there was no overtime on them. And they weren’t very long
on the stocks, just a matter of months then they got launched. But, I also had
the beauty of sailing on them as I was a carpenter with Clan Line which was
an Indian crew. I also have memories of coming into Swans when I was a
young chap of cycling all the way from West Allotment through the fields and
passing the famous colliery on my way there which was the Rising Sun pit.
And this was a part of Wallsend – that’s gone as well, so has Swans gone and
the whole lot has gone up the Swanny.
I also went back into the yards when my career was in the merchant navy as
a shipwright and I also worked on another famous ship at Swans, which I was
underneath when it launched called the Esso Hibernia. I also worked in
various yards on the Tyne; Swan Hunter – Wigham Richardson, which is the
Neptune yard which I totally hated. I also worked in Redheads which I didn’t
like. I worked in Smiths Docks, which I didn’t like. And I worked in, also,
Wallsend – Swans docks. So the only yard for me to work in was Swan
Hunters. Unfortunately, Swan Hunters is down there now. It’s a shame is was
the best shipyard in the world and as far as I am concerned this is the end of
the Tyne as a ship building river also I believe this is the end of the
Swanssnappers as we have documented the river for 3 years, the cranes
coming down, the sheds and now there’s nothing left bar 2 cranes.
Swans was the best yard to work in and I’m proud to be associated with Swan
hunter and Wigham Richardson, and I served my time there and to me I will
always be a Swans Man.