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

When you leave the North East, you may also leave behind regular attendance at your team’s games. I saw more live Sunderland action when living in Abu Dhabi – where I took that photo soon after arriving there – than at any time since I was standing on the Fulwell. TV, however many football channels you get where you live, is not the same as being there. But lots of people accept it, or even less, as their lot …

Here, then, as promised but starting with a Sunderland supporter who had to overcome being born in Newcastle to forge his allegiance, is a further selection of musings from the Sunderland supporters who, for whatever reason, have been lured away from, or never even knew life in or near Wearside …

George Pitcher

Well, I’m Newcastle born and bred and the red sheep of my family. First went to Roker Park with my mother’s cousin in 61 or 62 to see the lads against Swansea Town (as they were then). Was an intermittent attendee during the 1960s and joined the RAF in 1970. On escaping in 1974, returned to Newcastle (Heddon on the Wall, actually) until I moved to Edinburgh in 1979.

I have been a season ticket holder while in Edinburgh, prior to getting married, but have not been anything lime as often as I would have liked since then. I have to admit that apart from friendlies in Edinburgh (don’t think I’ve missed one since 79), the last time I saw a home game it was the final league game at Roker Park against Everton.

I am hoping to make my first pilgrimage to the SoL later this year, with my second eldest son, as his treat to return the complement after I took him to Barcelona in December ( not much difference, eh?).

Gerry McGregor

I left Sunderland when 11, never to live there again. I am currently living in Caithness in the Far North of Scotland. I live on the east coast but A1 nowhere near. I fell off the A1 and just kept going north. Did not want to fall off the mainland and so I stopped.

But expanding on my life story …

Born in Sunderland, Riverdale Terrace it seems on Durham Road but I never knew that name. My dad was a refrigeration rep, which meant he had to go around all the clubs from Redcar to Sunderland. He enjoyed that part of the job too much. I went to St Bennett’s, St Mary’s & 6 weeks at St Aidans.

We left when I was 11 and moved to Greenlaw in the Scottish Borders, Dad bought a pub there. This did not last long and 2 years later moved to Glenlivet in the Grampians. One of his jobs was Excise Man at Glenlivet Distillery. The shame of it was I did not like whisky then. I then went to college in Aberdeen and studied computers. Had a whale of a time there and past all my exams apart from my finals. That last term was the best.

Never mind got a job in Hounslow and moved around London, Chiswick, Feltham, Bedfont, Fulham & finally Finchley Central (on the Northern Line). I was married by then and found I could buy a 3 bedroom house cheaper than the rent on my 1 bedroom flat in Finchley.

Stayed in MK for about 25 years until I divorced and needed a new start. Found a new love, we bought a shop back up in Tomintoul in the Grampains, selling a lot of whisky. We had over 80 malts & over 100 whiskies in total. Went down to Leicestershire to look after my sick father-in-law until he
died. Another new start now maybe as far away as I could get Caithness.

My family was not football minded and so never took me. Anyway dad and family spent most of their lives in Gosforth and so were Mags. It was really the ’73 cup run that brought me to Sunderland and maybe the love that I still had for the place. When I moved to London, I started to go to all of the London games. Never had a season ticket until we moved to Leicester, 4 kids growing up could never afford one when travel was included. One of the conditions of moving to Leicester was a Season Ticket.

I managed to indoctrinate one daughter to be a Sunderland supporter. One other Emma was a teen Man U fan but when she grew up and went out with a Baggie was supported them and even had a season ticket until her daughter came along. Some older members may remember Emma, brought her to the ‘old’ Grange, she lost her program down the back of the bench and Ian T and other dismantled the bench.

I would love to have a season ticket, but it takes 1 days travel each way, so 3 days in total for a match. If my other half was as keen as me would move back to the NE, maybe Weardale. Lovely part of the world. I do think very fondly of Sunderland, everytime I go back it feels like home. One interesting thing I found out was that I thought I was the only family member to of been born in Sunderland. When doing my tree, some relations on my mum’s side worked at Monkwearmouth Collery & live in the houses on the north side of SOL, South Street & North Street.

Stephen Thompson

Spent a year in Norwich 96/97, then Kent 97/03 but since then have live in Cambs. It’s far too flat here. I’ve had a word with the locals and none are prepared to do anything about it. Which is a shame. Ah yes. Well… maybe add “However I’ve put down roots, converted one of my garden sheds into a mackem-themed pub and I have local football and a decent boozer just down the road. I can alway visit The Cheviots and the Stadium of Light at any time so I’m quite happy here. Southerners aren’t a bad bunch really!”

Mike Dennison

I left Sunderland in 1973 when I was 19 to go to Middlesex Poly as it was then. I always tell folks that I went down for the 73 cup final and never went home again, which is not too far from the truth. Apart from the summer of 74, I’ve never been back for longer than a week or two.
I lived in and around London until Feb 2004 when we moved to Galashiels in the Scottish Borders.

I’ve got two grown-up daughters who got dragged to away games in London from an early age. My youngest daughter – Jess and I had season tickets for a while and Jess got to be a mascot for us at Stamford Bridge.

I’ve got a weird hybrid mackem/cockney/scottish accent, but most people can pick up that I’m Mackem born and bred from my accent – especially when I’ve had a few beers.

Mark Egan

I left Shields in 1991 for the south and have lived there ever since. Now in south east London. My daughter has been to a few games but isn’t keen, my son, Sean, is turning into a true fan, fingers crossed. Been to half a dozen games this year. Hope to get to West Ham but have a new baby making its debut in May so not sure.
And I am writing this while wearing an old SAFC shirt before I cycle into work! I left the truly dirty student-era scarf at Selhurst Park when we were relegated in 1997. I regret this a bit now as I then got one with the new club badge which I don’t much like. Still 14 years on it’s been washed once and is still regularly seen around Westminster.

I was born (in Shields) shortly before the 73 cup final. My dad is a Sunderland fan, a season ticket holder for 35 years till ill health forced retirement a couple of years back. My first football memories of my dad coming back from the match in the late 70s and buying a copy of the Shields Green’un for the match report. I can remember him talking about the names of the era – Joe Bolton, Wayne Entwhistle, Barry Siddall etc.

My first game was home to Stoke in 1982. We sat in the Main Stand and I loved it. I had a season ticket from 1986-87 till I left home to go to Oxford in 1991. My memories of the 80s are mostly bad – endless relegation struggles, the bitter disappointment of the 85 Milk Cup final, the appalling blow of relegation in 1987, and all while Newcastle had Waddle, Gascoigne etc.

At Oxford I quickly found some fellow Sunderland fans and started going to away games – I’d only been to three before, the promotion game at Port Vale in 1988, Wembley in 1990 and the relegation game at Man City in 1991 when we were coined by the home fans as we stood on the Kippax. The early 90s were mostly terrible – Roots Hall, London Rd Peterborough (sorry Karen), Leeds Rd Huddersfield, Vale Park, Griffin Park – I endured them all. But I did see most of the games in the 92 cup run, including the fabulous nights at West Ham and at home to Chelsea.

I stayed in Oxford for 6 years and by the end I was a season ticket holder again (for the last year at Roker and the first year at the SoL), going to most away games, and on Blackcats. I’d met Nic Wiseman and Neil Chandler and, with a few others, we’d started It’s the Hope I Can’t Stand which lasted for about 10 issues. In 1997 I moved to London and started working in the House of Commons. I got married in 1998, we moved to Kent, and had a daughter, and my attendance at games came to an abrupt halt.

The 2000s were a decade of gathering gloom for me, culminating in the death of my 3rd child in 2006, my wife’s ill health, and a very difficult divorce in 2008-9. During this time I more or less stopped going to the match and struggled to keep in touch with the lads, mostly relying on conversations with my dad plus the Football Echo. Things have looked up since then, though. I moved back to London in 2009 and got married again last autumn. We have a baby due in a few weeks and we also look after my 2 kids from my first marriage. Sean loves football (although my daughter doesn’t!) and we have started getting to more games. My wife enjoys the football experience too.

I’ve kept the faith, feel the same about the club now as I did in the 80s and 90s. If I could, I’d go home and away. Football isn’t what it was, players are greedy, owners are useless or corrupt – but I love SAFC, its supporters, its history, and the community it forms the heart of and while there’s a Sunderland Football Club I’ll be there to support it.

I dropped off Blackcats in about 2000 and when I came back on I decided to lurk as I didn’t think I’d find time to post. I enjoyed the banter but decided to contribute again when the Guardian closed down its social networking site. I never used it but my wife did and she felt she’d lost part of her life when it disappeared. I realised I felt the same way about Blackcats – long may it continue.

Dave Bunting

I have lived in Bournemouth for the last 35 years. Manage a couple of visits to the NE a year. Retain an accent and have a 20 year old son born and bred in Dorset who is as passionate as me. Result!

Dave Birbeck

Live in Northampton….Left Horden in 1980’s while working for Tudor Crisps to move to Reading. lived there for 25yrs before moving here.
Get up to Peterlee every couple of months as Dad, who first took me to Roker Park in 1962, still lives up there

David Milford

I’m in Peterborough. I’m guessing Blackcats is different, though, as a lot of people on here are looking for links to Sunderland football banter that they don’t (necessarily) get from anywhere else, unlike those back home.

Born in Sunderland. The first house I lived in was down at the bottom of Durham Road just before you get to the University Priestman (maybe?) building where the new (ish) bit of dual carriageway now runs. It was a car park prior to being a road and I have no recollection of houses being there – I was there in 70/71. I was Christened in what is now Sunderland Minster, but it didn’t work and I ceased believing in the ‘man in the sky’ a long while ago, probably around the time I actually first properly thought about it.

I only lived there a short while before we moved to Silksworth. Only there for one or two years and can’t remember that either. Moved to the new housing estate of Moorside (next to the Doxford business park) in about ’73.

Left school at 16 and got a job at Barclays. Got bored after 3 years and went to Sunderland Poly. Spent the last 2 years living in Raby Street and in a house above the Discount Motor Parts shop at the bottom of Hylton Road next to the Cowies roundabout. As an aside, the proprietor of said shop used to go to school with me mam.

As part of the degree I spent about 15 months working for SmithKline Beecham in Welwyn Garden City. My first time away from Sunderland. After I graduated (like Brian, from a university) I got a job in Peterborough.

That was ’94. I’m still here. I worked for 10 years at the company I joined when I came, but for the last seven (where did that go?) I’ve been working for a small company I set up with a few old colleagues.

The missus (whose family live in Guisborough, although I met her in Peterborough) has a hankering to go back home at some point. I’m not so bothered, although I would love to get to more matches. Me mam and dad are both West Stand season ticket holders. It just takes up too much time getting there from here – as I’ve said before, it’s all about priorities.

Alan Burgess

I also have moved around, though only in England apart from a year in Swansea – I wonder if that counts as ex-pat experience? The breakdown is:

18 years Roker
Three Bristol
Five Sheffield
One Swansea
10 Cottingham (as near Hull as makes no difference unless you’re an estate agent)
29 Hertford

So I too am a mainstream Blackcat who works/worked mainly in IT and now lives north of London near the A1.

SAFC memories? The low was the 1958 relegation closely followed by the Gillingham and Charlton play-offs. The high of course was 1973. The most bizarre was standing in the away fans section of the Roker End with my Hull City mates (we had to stand there because they were fully kitted out in black and amber) and being taunted by the Sunderland fans as they (ie we!) had won 1-0 thanks to George Burley.

Neil Chandler

I’ve been in London since leaving Sunderland in 1995 aged 25. I don’t miss Sunderland, but I do enjoy visiting family and friends up there; and I do miss the sea and being able to get to home games easily – I haven’t made a single one this season


Ian Lynch

Sutton, Surrey/London. Never lived in Sunderland. My father left Sunderland in 1961 to go to university in London and has lived in the south or East Midlands ever since. My grandfather, a foreman at Swan Hunter, lived in Fulwell and died in 1986.

I’ve lived all over England, eventually settling in and around London. Sussex next, then, hopefully, Italy – although the other half is very fond of Vancouver. Can’t stand the idea of five months of winter myself.

Andy Humble

Our family just celebrated 40 years of living in Australia (Melbourne, although I spent 3 years in Hong Kong in the late 70’s), at the start of the month so its apt that this topic should come up now! Many memories have flooded back lately and many go back to Sunderland.

My family moved from Sunderland to Armthorpe in Doncaster, where I was born a year or two later. We used to go to Sunderland for holidays thru the 60s and left the UK in ’71. My brother Ian, the “older” one on Blackcats, took me to my first game at Roker Park on our last visit to Sunderland before immigrating and it was there I followed the huge roar and chanting with “What Sir, What Sir” while everyone else was chanting “Watson, Watson!” I’m frequently reminded of that, but for a 6 year old I thought I was doing the right thing and was pretty much hooked, although I had no idea why people around me were wetting themselves with laughter. Happy place Roker Park!!

The biggest issue in the early days was the media. We had very little news apart from the BBC results service, where we’d laugh as the commentator made it obvious from his tone if the away team won or lost! Sad tone if they lost and surprisingly happy tone if they won. Pretty non descript if it was a draw! Luckily for us, IIRC, the 73 cup final was the first ever Live Final played on Australian TV. Today we are lucky enough to catch every game live, which has only just happened this year, and on the rare occasion we are not live we get to see a replay a few hours later. The big issue is most games KO locally anytime between 12midnight and 4am, depending on time difference and I find it too appealing to not watch it live, even though I have the capability of recording it and watching it in the morning! Thus most Sunday’s are pretty much a write off, especially if the scotch has been opened, which is usually the case!

I remember when we played Norwich in the Milk Cup final in 85. We rang my eldest brother, who stayed in England when we immigrated, at half time only to find he had gone to the game, so we asked his wife to put the phone next to the TV and we listened to the 2nd half via long distance phone call. Expensive days for phone calls also if I remember correctly!

Most of the family get back every few years or so. I was back in 2008, but in July, so didn’t see a game, in fact the last game I saw was Chelsea at home in 2000. We won 1-0 when Niall got a penalty for having his shirt almost pulled off his back! I just realised that was so long ago!! Time to get back!!

Bill Richardson

Born in Seaham ’47. Left for Natal, South Africa ’78. Moved up to the Transvaal in ’81 (Mpumalanga now) on the day Reagan was shot. Spent time in Swaziland, Cape Town (nuclear power station) so know what the problem is at Fukushima. Back in the old Transvaal now. Coal fired station. Never been back to Blighty.

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