The Shieldsman

A story of four young boys growing up in the tower block of flats in Percy Main in North Shields. the story follows them through to adulthood through mischief and lost innocence, love, tragedy, and finally triumph. If you remember what it was like growing up as a child then this story is definitely one for you.


15. 15

“Is that you Joe shouted his mother from the scullery.”

“Aye mam I’m back.”

“The coal man has been can you go doon an fill the shed up or someone will pinch it.”

“Aye alright mam.” Joe twisted his face as he picked up the two coal buckets from the landing and headed down the four fights of stairs to the coal shed. Each resident had their own shed allotted to them and there was another on the landing but the coal man wouldn’t deliver it direct to your door it was placed in the sheds below and had to be ferried upstairs by bucket unless you lived on the bottom. The nine tower blocks had four families to a landing and each door was painted red, light blue, yellow, or green. The rubbish went into some large bins via a Shute which you opened then threw the rubbish into. The smell was terrible and you were glad to shut the shute door once you had emptied your bin. The bin men would call each Wednesday or Friday on bank holidays to empty the big bins.


Joe filled the buckets then began his journey to the top floor; Mrs Henderson lived in the green door, Mrs Tully in the Yellow door and Mrs Thompson the light blue door. Everyone got on pretty well with their neighbour. Joe had the red door and he made his way to the cupboard painted the same colour to empty the coal. Joe made a few bob bringing coal up for the neighbours. He also ran errands to McKenzie’s shop or to Hills the fish and chip shop where the owner would bring in buckets of chips that the potato peeler had rough material on it once peeled the eyes were taken out and they were ready for frying. You could smell the fish and chips being cooked as you came home from school the village had a small sub post office run by an old couple who were very stuck up. They were from Ponteland and were retired teachers who had bought a house near St Johns Church. Mrs Richardson walked around with her noses in the air and would hardly speak a word to anyone unless they were either church dignitaries or very wealthy. They considered the people from Percy Main peasants. Joe would make a point of trying to take them down a peg or two when he went to collect his mother’s family allowance each week. He would collect others family allowance for them on the landings which also earned him a few shillings which he gave to his mother. Joe also had a paper round from Peart’s Newsagents. Joe delivered all his papers to the nine tower blocks morning and night after school for which they paid him twenty two shillings a week.

Once he’d done his chore he knocked on Mrs Henderson to ask if she wanted her coal brought up.

“Aye Joe she would say, yer a canny lad. Yer na where the buckets are; give is a shoot when yer done.”

Aye I will Mrs Henderson.

Hearing the sound of the coal being put into the coal house made the other neighbours that Joe helped come out and ask if he’d do theirs for them as well. In total Joe was


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