The River Tyne flows alongside the great, historic City of Newcastle upon Tyne and continues Eastwards before emptying into the North Sea between the piers at Tynemouth and South Shields. For centuries it was the ‘lifeblood’ of its hinterland, both North and South of the river. It became the source of immense wealth and world class engineering. The shipbuilding industry along the Tyne created some of the biggest and best ships the world has ever seen. Shipbuilding employed thousands of people, mainly men, strong and proud, many of whose ancestors preceded them in the industry.
As a young boy, I was privileged to watch the launching of Esso Northumbria (1969), which was built by Swan Hunter’s yard, on the North bank. At the time it was the largest ship the world had ever seen and a source of immense local pride. Other ships, of very many, built on the Tyne have included RMS Mauretania (Passenger liner, 1906), HMS Newcastle (Destroyer, 1975), HMS Ark Royal (Aircraft carrier, 1981), HMS Richmond (Frigate, 1993) and RMS Carpathia (1903) which rescued survivors of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
The North East of England has produced some of the world’s finest engineers and scientists (Robert & George Stephenson, William Armstrong, Joseph Swan, et al) and the region could, at one time, be regarded as the ‘silicon valley’ of its day. Tyneside and its near neighbour, Wearside and their environs were a major centre for both the shipping and coal-mining industries. The City of Newcastle housed many of the associated administrative offices, which in turn has left us the legacy of numerous fine and architecturally significant buildings. I have been fortunate to work in several of them and to have visited many more.
Sadly, the shipbuilding and mining industries have now all but disappeared from the North-East landscape – largely as a result of socially-destructive government policy – the effect of which has been to decimate many communities.
I am proud to trace my ancestry back to the great shipbuilders on the Tyne (as well as those in Scotland and N. Ireland) and that’s, perhaps, why I have an affinity with the river and all it represents. My own career began with a shipping company based in Newcastle and which, in due course, became a casualty of the demise of the shipping industry.
I thought it might be of interest if I upload a few of my documentary photographs taken on and of the River Tyne.
It’s my intention to upload other images from my River Tyne project from time to time.
I hope you like them and I would welcome any comments or questions you might have.