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:
* And the the Google world map initiated by Neil Chandler has now clocked 3,600+ hits. Join it here
I left the North East to be a student in London in 1985, but returned to work as a feature writer at the Echo from 1990-93. That was actually the only time I lived in Sunderland itself.
When I was very little I lived in East Boldon before moving north of the Tyne at the age of eight. During the crucial formative early years, Roker Park was a real treat if I’d been good during the week… (insert your own joke about going even more often if I’d been bad).
After leaving university in 1988 I worked for a magazine company in Cambridgeshire for a couple of years before succumbing to the the pull of a return north. I was lucky enough to get a job at the Echo, writing features about local businesses, the monthly Nightstyle entertainment guide, and more. I also befriended the sports desk and ended up writing match reports on the youth team (Michael Gray era) and the occasional reserve game, alongside the day job.
After three years at the Echo, though, it was time to return to London. I worked on a magazine there for a couple of years, before ending up working for an Internet company and then, ultimately, a big telecommunications company, developing content for ISP customers, the new broadband platform, and interactive digital TV. It had its frustrations though, due to the company struggling financially and endless rounds of redundancies and reorganisation.
Ultimately, salvation came at the end of 2001 when I left to run StockingsHQ.com full time, swapping big business for a life in ladies’ hosiery. As it were. And although the north east still has a huge pull, the company is now settled in lovely Letchworth, near Stevenage, off Junction 9 of the A1.
Born and brought up in Gateshead, then Pelaw, in a mag family. Worked a couple of years in Newcastle but left the NE in 69-70 and joined the merchant navy. Worked for a Greek company who were brilliant. I remember posting this on the list years and years ago;-
I worked for an interesting shipping company at the time. They made their money where they could.
Before my time with them, they’d run the Cuba Blockade with light fuel oil from the Black Sea ports of Russia to Cuba. The Americans told them they’d never work the States again. Then came VietNam and the Yanks needed all the ships they could get. One of their problems was the amount of deck cargo lost overboard. We rarely lost any. Shipped earth-moving equipment and airstrip layers to Na Trang and Da Nang. No munitions though. Sit over the horizon for weeks sometimes, and then in and out overnight. Wait a while and do it again till we were empty. Then up to Japan to backload electrical goods (Sony etc and Seiko) and clothing for New York.
Two of the ships were sunk in the river. One by a mine in a suitcase tied to driftwood and released up-river, and the other by the Americans who were teaching the South Vietnamese how to shell targets. ‘Friendly fire’ even then. It was hairy at the time but a lot of people made a lot of money.
Two-year trips away and triple pay in VN waters. Also some unscrupulous ship staff were selling as much cargo as they could to the dockers. Huge market there!
I’ll have to stop now cos I’m having flashbacks of the B52s rolling in from Guam, I can smell the place and the old shrapnell wounds are beginning to play up.
They were a good company and the general perception of Greek shipping isn’t good, but I know differently.
Tramped the world for a few years on tankers, general cargo and bulkies. Got married and settled in Southampton, had two sons but never got me figure back, then un-married. Then it all went wrong and I ended up working for P&O (or P¬hing). After over 25 years at sea, I took the money and run with a good pension. My visions of endless days in the sun lasted 2 weeks when I was asked to ‘fill in’ at Warsash marine college to cover for a lecturer on long term sick. That ‘fill-in’ is still on-going in a permanent part time capacity with 10 hours a week lecturing on a decent rate, in a growing industry where teaching staff with senior industrial experience are like hen’s teeth. My merciful release of retirement or redundancy has faded away. I enjoy it anyway.
So, after 40-odd years, I’m still all at sea.
Have had a season ticket for years but the travel from Southampton, shifting of fixtures etc are getting me down. I’m pissed right off with the attitude of top clubs, and their managers, and jumped-up jobbing footballers earning a fortune for being mediocre, and they don’t even realise it.
So, sorry Niall, I won’t be renewing this season. I’d happily pay my ?485 to SAFC to watch our games on a dedicated channel, whichever way you want to service it, but I won’t front-up the money and make travel arrangements in the hope fixtures aren’t shifted. It’s too high a risk. It’s a problem your industry is going to have to deal with rather than demonising people who watch footy on TalibanTV.
I’ve essentially followed others around all my life. Firstly my parents who came into a bit of money from a grandparent (my father, a Londoner, says “I’m not staying in Sunderland”) and we moved to Norwich in 1961 when I was 14, later Portsmouth (1964). I moved to London for my uni years, and I often wonder how things would have turned out if I’d gone to Durham instead. In 1970 my supervisor got the chair of chemistry at Victoria University, Wellington and offered all his students a move to NZ. I took this up and have stayed down under ever since though a small part of that time was in Sydney. My wife wanted to move back to NZ and we duly did so, but to Palmerston North rather than Wellington. It wasn’t until 1980 that we moved back to the Wellington area where I have spent the majority of my life. This last year my new partner wanted to move back home to Palmerston North and, guess what, I’m back there again. I wonder if I’ll end up back in Sunderland via Sydney, London, Portsmouth! No I won’t – I know that now. you see, everyone else has gone home but I can never physically go home. Home no longer exists. Oh for sure Sunderland exists, most of the suburban houses still exist, the type of people still exist, but the true soul of the place does not. That disappeared in the 1980s. There will be those of you who may think “thank xxxx for that” but for those of us who witnessed the Indian summer of the Victorian industries in the 50s and even beyond the real Sunderland has gone for good. But actually it hasn’t. Home DOES still exist but in virtual form. Home is the internet where you can immerse yourself in memories for as long as you wish. So being a Sunderland born in Palmerston North in 2011 gives you the best of both worlds. Access to a slowish-paced modern life and access to memories through a screen. Good grief – I haven’t mentioned football once but we all know it goes with the territory.
OK, might as well join in with an extended 12-inch remix of my previous submission:
Born in South Shields and taken to my first match by me dad in 1963, aged eight (Sunderland 5 Benfica 3: a good start!). Still remember the thrill when he took me down by the corner flag as Eusebio was lining one up. Saw a few games during that promotion season, my abiding memory is being one of 56,000 against Rotherham on Easter Monday. Also remember Johnny Crossan coming to my primary school to present the Weaver To Wearer Cup! I remember that promotion team better than just about any other I’ve watched over the years, though I suppose that’s not surprising as it was pretty much the same team every week. I don’t know how many players we actually used but I was looking at a team photo in that book of Paul Days last weekend and there were only 13 players in it, and I don’t really remember ‘the other 2’.
My own passion was strengthened by going to secondary school in Sunderland (St Aidan’s) though my loyalties were divided with the Mariners when they were in the Northern Premier League back when it included Wigan, Macclesfield, Scarborough and other notables as well as seeing all the games on our FA Cup run where we lost at QPR in the 3rd round having been kicked off the park by Rodney Marsh and his gang of bullies. I still have the corner flag from the last game played at Simonside Hall when the council sold the ground and the club had to move to Gateshead.
Obviously 1973 had a massive impact on my commitment to the cause and when I first left Shields, for Birmingham Poly, in 1974, I found my devotion only increased. Returned to the north east for a few years in industry and then decided London was the place to be after a liquid lunch with Andy Nichol as we ‘studied’ to become teachers. The fact that Andy had heard about the London Branch was crucial to our decision and it played a big part in my enjoyment of life there over the next decade – during which I also found myself working with Big George Booth (though this was pre internet/Blackcats) before I moved out to Wiltshire. Three years later, the end of my first marriage and some strange sequence of events lead to me taking on a new job in Bangkok where I spent a marvellous nine years punctuated by occasional visits from fellow Blackcats and regular packages of videos and Footy Echos from me mam. TV coverage improved steadily during my time there and meeting up with fellow exiles late on Saturday nights to watch the live games during the Peter Reid years become a much-loved ritual.
I brought two sons back with me from Thailand in 2002 and looked forward enormously to sharing the passion with them as we got back just in time for the 19 point season! After two years we moved back to Bangkok ‘for good’ which turned out to be for a year so we could get back just in time for …… the 15 point season! Although we struggled on as a family group and joined Quinny’s ‘magic carpet ride’ with season tickets for a couple of years the lads seemed to get more enjoyment from the burgers and pies than the football and as they started to discover all the rival delights that life had to offer I stopped dragging them along. I’m still hopeful that I can get them back into the fold once they can fully participate in ‘the match-day experience’ and discover how much better it can all seem with the help of a few beers but I can understand if it doesn’t happen with the way the game has developed.
I gave up teaching a few years ago and became a postman and some ugly rumours relating to Saturday deliveries could threaten my own participation in ‘the ritual’ – or force another change of jobs. We now live in the same house I moved to in 1960 and, to be honest, I still like Shields a lot and I’m pleased my lads have had the chance to grow up here. I really couldn’t see myself settling down back here before but things, and relationships, change and now maybe I can. Even so, I’m not sure if I’ll live long enough to ever see us win anything again.
Left Shields for Georgia (US) in 1980, back to live in London for a couple of years in ’85 before leaving for good in ’87 for Fort Worth/Dallas.
I studied at UGA. Beautiful campus with the best looking women in the world. Best years of my life. Got there in September 1980 and met REM on my first night. Moved in the same party circles as them (and what a party town, though you exaggerate the size – half that, I’d say, including students) and the B52s who had just left town but returned frequently. Even tried to pick up Kate Pierson at one party. She detected I was from England and said she’d just been. I asked where and she said London, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester etc. And still the penny didn’t drop that they’d just been on tour. After getting blown off I went back to talk to Pete Buck who told me who I’d just been talking to. She was unrecognizable without the bouffant.
Anyway, REM owe it all to me as I convinced them they’d be huge in England. Insert smily face here.
When I first got to Athens I was the only kid in town with an earring. Not Stipe, not anyone. So I was considered pretty cool, since I knew about the English music scene too, though it got me into two really bad fights with rednecks. I blew all that the second last time I saw REM. I’d gone back to England in 85 and went down to London for an interview with British Airways. I was in the bar at Heathrow on the mezzanine overlooking the ground floor waiting for my return flight when I spotted them having a coffee below. Nobody was paying them any attention because nobody knew who they were. I went down sans earring and in a suit (the shame) to say hello. We had a good time catching up for half an hour and they put me on the guest list for Newcastle. I went backstage with them after the concert and that was my last contact with them.
Many other great memories of Athens including Georgia winning the National Championship in my first season. The capacity was 82,000 at the time and the Winnebagos would start rolling in on a Thursday. The stadium is now 100,000 plus since they filled in the end opposite the bridge. Before that though it was a railway embankment and you could watch for free. But you had to get there after the bars shut on a Friday night to get a spot and be prepared to party for another 18 hours. Not too hard in the early 80s. Having said that, student tickets for the stadium were dirt cheap.
Anyway, written far more than I intended.
How ’bout them Dawgs!
(About a trip to North Carolina) Lots of good hiking and fun tubing down the rivers. Also went to a ‘spent’ ex-Tiffany ruby mine – the Sheffield mine. You buy a $10 bucket of soil/rubble and get to keep whatever you find sifting through it in the water shute. I have 4 kids (elder son, twin girls, another girl). Son burned through his bucket quickly and found nowt. One of the twins (well, one of the expert helpers who walk along on the other side of the shute) found a 22 carat ruby – biggest that day. This so disgusted the other twin ( no love lost there) that she abandoned her remaining half bucket and said she’d had enough. Son searched through said bucket and quickly found another 22 carat ruby. Cue huge argument over who was the rightful owner. Value at the time was estimated at $400 each – you loose a lot in the cutting apparently.
Nothing to do with football, so I’ll throw this in. In anticipation of us clinching promotion, me and Cole flew back for the Burnley game for his very first match at the Stadium of Light. What a great first game! We were in the NW corner when Carlos Edwards thrashed the ball into the net – still one of the best I’ve seen. When we got back to the car and met up with grandpa he asked Cole what he thought of the game. His reply will live with me forever. He said “It was amazing. When Carlos scored I was screaming at the top of my voice and still couldn’t hear myself”. It’s what it’s all about. He’s hooked. It’s these special times that make the rest worthwhile.
Still miss Shields and The County, in particular, but Georgia women are special. One early evening I was walking through campus, must have been the first week, and I was laughing to myself about something, head down, walking uphill into town. I looked up and there was a gorgeous lass walking towards me. She said hello. And I looked over my shoulder to see who she was talking to. Nobody there of course. Completely floored me because even though Shields folks are the best I’d never experienced that anywhere in England. It kept happening, too. Americans, in general, are a friendly lot. Poor politics, but friendly.
I’ll stop now.
I’m jealous of your time in Thailand, Gordon. Never been, but would love to. Did you ever come across a Kevin Frost/Johnson? From N. Shields/Whitley. I went to school with him.
Before I kind of got off-track, I meant to say that back then phone calls were too expensive for a student so I went to the university library every Tuesday afternoon when the English Sunday papers came in (at the earliest). Thats where I learned a win at Liverpool kept us up. Stan Cummins, 1-0? Always annoyed when the mail was late.