Museum wants your shipyard memories and memorabilia

We are appealing to local people to share their memories of working in the South Tyneside shipyards to feature in an exhibition next summer.

The launch of the refrigerated cargo ship ‘Turkistan’ at Readheads shipyard, South Shields, 12 September 1962. 35mm slide by Ronald Sanderson of South Shields.
The launch of the refrigerated cargo ship ‘Turkistan’ at Readheads shipyard, South Shields, 12 September 1962. 35mm slide by Ronald Sanderson of South Shields.

Staff at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery are appealing to local people to share their memories of working in the South Tyneside shipyards to feature in an exhibition next summer. 

The theme of the exhibition will be shipbuilding, ship repair and associated industries on South Tyneside. 

The southern banks of the River Tyne were once home to many yards big and small, from the mighty shipyards of Hawthorn Leslies in Hebburn, Palmers in Jarrow and Readheads in South Shields, through to busy ship repair yards such as Brigham & Cowans, Tyne Dock Engineering, and Middle Docks of South Shields, and Jarrow’s Mercantile Dry Dock. Many thousands of men and women were once directly employed in shipbuilding and ship repair locally, or employed by a firm supplying the yards, making it one of the Borough’s most significant former industries. 

Exhibition curator, Adam Bell, said “The shipyards and the coal mines were once our two big employers. In 2018 we staged a major exhibition about South Tyneside’s pits, in which we featured paintings by the legendary South Shields artist Bob Olley. Now it’s time to put shipbuilding and ship repair in the spotlight, and we’re absolutely delighted that Bob Olley has started work on a brand-new series of paintings, for display in the exhibition, charting our shipyard trades and traditions.” 

To help discover what it was like to work in the yards, museum staff are seeking to record oral histories with those who were involved in those industries, capturing memories that will be preserved in the museum as a lasting archive for future generations. 

Museum staff are also on the hunt for items to display in the exhibition, such as artwork and photos, certificates and paperwork, tools, workwear, models, commemorative items and any associated memorabilia. 

Anyone who worked in the South Tyneside’s yards, or individuals with something they could lend for display, should contact Adam Bell, adam.bell@twmuseums.org.uk or (0191) 211 5599 during museum opening hours.