Sunderland Ships and Sea

Duration: 2:44 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.149
This story has been viewed 10531 times

This story is about Norman's memories of his life working in the shipping industry in Sunderland.

By Norman Jack

Other information

This story was inspired by the shipbuilding gallery and collections at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

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Video transcript

Being born in Sunderland on the riverside and coming from a shipbuilding and seafaring family, ships were always going to be in my life.

As young boy living close to the yards the noise was always there day and night, riveters, plates being hammered, buzzers and hooters blowing were part of life. The sound of men’s heavy boots at 7am in the morning was all part of the mystery and the magic. I often wondered as a boy, what did these ships do when they left the river. The only way to find out was to join them.

I joined Wm Doxfords ship builders in 1946, in the yard plan office making alterations to the ship's construction plans. In my first few weeks in the yard ship number 740 was launched. When I left the company in 1952 Ship number 784 was launched. I commenced my electrical apprenticeship in 1948.

I finished my period as an apprentice electrician and joined the merchant navy as a 20 year old to finish my apprenticeship at sea.  I joined my first ship M.V NESSBANK in Belfast as 3rd electrician and sailed to find the answers to some of my questions. 

My 1st trip took me to Cuba, to load sugar for the U.S.A Gulf Ports. Then the Panama Canal carrying general cargo for Australia and New Zealand. Then light ships to the pacific islands of Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Isles, and New Guinea, loading copra at all these islands for the UK. The homeward trip was via Ceylon, Suez Canal, Gibraltar and Liverpool. With a few thousand tons of copra for lever brothers port sunlight soap works plus 500 tons of palm oil.

One answer to my question was that Sunderland ships carried the world’s goods. I served further six years with the same company as chief electrician. Then moved into oil tankers but that is another story. The yards are silent now and the river is now dead. But the world knows of Suncerland, its ships and its craftsmen.   

what have the younger age kids to look forward to today .this story must seem like a fairy tale to them. sunderland supplied thousands of merchant navy officers as wqell as armed service personnel. Posted on 29/03/2011 at 10:18:14

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