Malaga to Caithness: return of the Mackem Diaspora

Gerry McGregor's shrine

Salut! Sunderland always takes pleasure in drawing readers’ attention to other corners of the web where the passion for matters Sunderland can be fuelled.

Some will recall the fascinating Mackem Diaspora series – click here if you missed it – in which Sunderland supporters scattered around the world, from all part of the British Isles to far-off places, gave their potted life stories.

One of those who contributed was Gerry McGregor, who lives as far north as it is possible to go on the UK mainland without falling into the sea.

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Isaac ‘Jack’ McGorian: echoes of Bardsley from the Roaring Twenties

Isaac 'Jack' McGorian in 1939: captain, front row with ball between his knees, of Griqualand West Team in Kimberley vs England


Not for nothing do we boast of going to the ends of the earth to find interesting snippets about Sunderland AFC. The story, for Salut! Sunderland‘s purposes, began in a coal-fired power station in the Transvaal.

Bill Richardson*, a Seaham lad who has not seen his home town or even country for a long, long time, works there. And this is what he wrote a month or two ago at the Blackcats list, an e-mail loop that brings together SAFC fans wherever they find themselves in the world:

I only found out at the weekend that one of the ladies I work with, father played for Sunderland 1926. His name was Jack McGorian.

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Sitting on my hands as Whitley Bay beat Coalville to FA Vase

IMG_2718editImage: Jason Bowler

Part Mackem Diaspora, part Cup Final report, this is broadened football writing as compelling as it gets. Malcolm Dawson traces the life journey that took a committed Sunderland supporter from Eppleton to Leicestershire and, implausibly, a seat among the Coalville Town fans (who may like the photo, especially now I’ve changed it to one from Coalville) trying – in vain – to urge their team to victory at Wembley …

See also: Wembley Soapbox: Whitley Bay beat Coalville and I hug a Mag

Back in those pre-Thatcher days of early ’79, my 25th birthday coincided with my first proper full time, permanent job. During what is now called a gap year, I had spent the first 12 months of my graduate status in the long hot summer of 1976, enjoying the views of Eppleton Colliery from the garden of my parents’ house, listening to Steely Dan and the jazz-influenced pre-Born in the USA Springsteen and taking the occasional walk around the Bull Wells, even occasionally going as far as Seaham to get a glimpse of the North Sea.

A temporary job in Sunderland working with young offenders, was followed by a Post Grad teacher training course in the Fylde. (A few years back on an in-service course, we were asked to write down why we had decide to become teachers. Truthfully my response was …”the ratio of women to men at teacher training college was 7:1”.)

I then had another stint, working with the disaffected youth of the North West, before my 149th application for a teaching job bore fruit and I became the youngest member of staff at Ashby de la Zouch CE Primary School. Little did I know that I would still be resident in the East Midlands, 32 years later!

After 18 months in the job I felt secure enough to buy my first house – a terrace in the nearby town of Coalville. I felt sure I would be at home there. As the name suggests the town was built on the extraction of the black diamond. Robert Stevenson (son of George) opened a mine at Snibston, in the 1800s. That was half a mile from my new house and there was another pit in between.

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The Mackem diaspora (6): does Sacriston count?

SacristonMemorial002.jpgImage: Eidoloon

When Paul Roberts added his reminiscences to the thick volume of life stories in the Blackcats Mackem Diaspora series, the question was no so much how far the net could be cast, but how near. My mind was made up by the creator of the series, Jeremy Robson, who ruled that Paul’s memoirs counted because he’d moved to Mag country. If you still aren’t convinced, Brian Kirby’s more pronounced exile, though still in the UK, gets us back on track …

Any Salut! Sunderland reader who is new to this series may wish to add his or her own, or explore the stories we’ve reproduced here from other Sunderland supporters spread around the world.

There is also the Blackcats Google map, which has now been seen by 5,800 people:

The map, created by Neil Chandler, can be found by clicking here

The Mackem Disapora series:

* 1: From Murton to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

* 2: Born in Newcastle, supporting Sunderland

* 3 Ladies’ stockings, REM and other exotica

* 4: Home and away

5: A global Mackem’s first game – an 8-0 defeat

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The Mackem diaspora (5): draft-dodging, apartheid and gazumped by Bob Stokoe

Tony Roffe's photo: Jake's adaptation
Tony Roffe’s photo: Jake’s adaptation

When Salut! Sunderland‘s mini-series on the Mackem Diaspora* reached instalment number four, that seemed to be about that. But it would be criminal not to offer this priceless late account of a life that began in London and moved to Australia, Singapore and South Africa before family roots on Wearside were re-established. Andy Nichol gets instalment number five all to himself ….

Andy Nichol is a man of many wise words and has inhabited a very wide world.

He provides cogent analysis of most of the footballing issues important to Sunderland supporters but seen only by those sensible enough to have signed up to the Blackcats e-mail list.

He has chaired the London supporters’ club branch, edited its magazine and devoted so much of his life to following Sunderland AFC that Niall Quinn should seriously consider putting up his statue alongside Bob Stokoe’s. Especially since, as you shall see, the Stokoe heritage is in serious debt to the Nichol one.

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The Mackem diaspora: get yourself on the map

Old GlobeImage: Kenneth Lu

Stop worrying about our decline or gloating at Newcastle’s. As a worldly postscript to our Mackem diaspora articles, help yourself to a blue, Sunderland-flavoured lollipop …

The recent series on Sunderland supporters who find themselves in far-flung corners of the world presented some great anecdotes and personal stories of exile from the North East or, in some cases, not even coming from there but having family connections to be clung on to.

In the course of the series, which brought together reminiscences that had been posted at the Blackcats e-mail loop, I also mentioned a Google map on the same theme, created by Neil Chandler.

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The Mackem diaspora (4): home and away

On the train back home

And so the series ambles to a halt with a final collection of stories, this time from those who put down roots away from the North East but – with one exception – not overseas. Sunderland supporters who live or have lived the world over have contributed, via the excellent Blackcats e-mail loop and reproduced here, some fascinating accounts of how they ended up where they are, how they maintain their passion for SAFC and much more besides. I may slot additional potted memoirs into any of the four instalments or even add a fifth if necessary. Thanks to all who have given permission for their thoughts to be shared with Salut! Sunderland readers …

Check out also:

* Part one: from Murton to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

* Part two: born in Newcastle, supporting Sunderland

* Part three: ladies stockings, REM and other exotica

* The Blackcats Google map

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The Mackem diaspora (3): ladies’ stockings, REM and other exotica

Three down and, as things stand, one to go. My first thought about the “Mackem diaspora” thread started by Jeremy Robson at the Blackcats list was that it was a fabulous idea, and stories like these reinforce that view. The choice of images will become clear as you read on. And the reminiscences of Sunderland supporters taking part in the exercise speak for themselves …

See parts one or two by clicking on:

* From Murton to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

* Born in Newcastle, supporting Sunderland

* And the the Google world map initiated by Neil Chandler has now clocked 3,600+ hits. Join it here

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Salut!’s week: Liverpool’s lost mojo, winning lasses and scattered Mackems

Image: Mrs Logic

Last weekend was another one without football, at any rate for Sunderland supporters. But there have still been plenty of talking points, plus the build-up to tomorrow’s Sunderland v Liverpool match, to keep Salut! Sunderland busy, as the latest digest of the past week shows …

The Lads had a break but the Lasses had work to do. Sunderland Women’s Football Club produced a strong second-half performance to beat Lincoln City, from the Super League to which Sunderland were disgracefully denied entry, for a place if the FA Women’s Cup quarter-finals.

They face an even tougher task in the 6th round a week tomorrow – Arsenal at home – and possibly a tougher one still in persuading the official SAFC website to take a blind bit of notice in their admirable achievements. Perhaps someone can explain why studiously ignores the girls, or direct us to some well-hidden corner of the site, overlooked by me, where their cup and Premier League progress is properly recorded.

For those who missed our week, or parts of it, here is a quick guide to what we’ve been doing. If anything takes your fancy, click on the sub-heading to see the item in full:

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The Mackem diaspora (2): born in Newcastle, supporting Sunderland

Bare necessities

Where are the Mackem wild geese, and what are the stories of their lives away from the North East? It is a fascinating subject – for those of us who care – and since Jeremy Robson got it going again, it’s not touched ground. Look at the Google map – 3,300+ hits last time I looked – and you’ll see that whether exiles read Salut! Sunderland, ALS, Ready To Go , Roker Report or anything else, their thoughts are never too far from home …

For the first part of this mini-series, please go to this link: The Mackem diaspora (1): from Murton to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

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