That Big Old River

River Tyne Shipyards

I always liked this song by Jimmy Nail. It reminds me so much of my younger days living in Wallsend on the north side of the River Tyne.


You couldn’t move in Wallsend without some sort of connection to the river. In you couldn’t see it, you could hear the traffic moving along it. It was back in the days when ships were built on the Tyne and it really is true what they say:

You never forget seeing your first ship launch.

I was always entranced seeing such a huge structure slowly move off down the slipway, gradually building up speed before finally hitting the water and sending a great wave across to the other bank.

You could always tell when a shift had come to an end at one of the shipyards. The nearest one to where I lived was Swan Hunters. You would hear the hooter screaming to indicate shift end and then seconds later the roads outside the shipyard would be flooded with people walking out of their place of work.

The High Street in Wallsend was a vibrant shopping street, with a great range of independently owned and managed shops that seemed to offer you everything you could want between them. Back then, a trip to a supermarket was a rare thing.

At the top of the street, where I lived in a terraced flat, was the Coach & Horses Pub. It was nice to be able to get in from work, park the car and just wander up the street for a couple of pints to take the edge off the day. ‘The Coach’ as it was known was one of a number of pubs along the High Street and to go up one side of the street and back down towards home would take most of a Friday or Saturday. Unlike other places there was never any trouble, at least not that I saw. It was a safe place where people worked hard and played hard.

Some of the images in the video below brought back so many memories. I wonder if they will do the same for you.