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.


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Sally Kimber was a thirty five year old woman who had had a hard home life she was one of fourteen children in the Wiseman family who all lived in a four bed roomed house on Silkey’s Lane. The terraced house became so crowded that only six of them could be in the scullery at on time and their mother had to have two sittings at meal times.

The lads always got served before she and her five sisters were allowed to eat.

Sally was the youngest in the family so she had to help her mother with most of the shopping and chores because Elizabeth (Lizzie) had just started working at Dukes and Marcus’ which made clothing for retail shops. Lizzie was sixteen Sally was only twelve. Then there was Georgina, Alice, Margaret, and Ann who was the eldest.

The eight lads were John, Malcolm, George, Jackie, Alan, Michael, Albert, Tom who was the youngest. All the lads worked down the pit In Battlehill Wallsend with their father John, Robert Wiseman who like his father before him had worked on the coal face. It was a filthy job they all worked long hours but never complained. Their mother Maggie was worshipped by the lads who never left the house each morning without a kiss for their mother. They walked to work with many others in the neighbourhood. They chatted away and smoked either a pipe or a rolled up cigarette made of Golden Virginia tobacco. At work they sang to break the monotony of digging or being a putter who pushed the eight hundred weight tubs around. You had to keep your head down and arms in or you would get them lopped off. Your thighs would burn with the physical exertion of pushing these tubs around on two tracks where they were sent up to the surface four at a time.

Eventually they got ponies in to help pull the tubs around the young men who were putters were either paid off or became hewers who worked on the coal face.

They longed for a Friday night when they could take a bath and then get ready and go to the pub. They usually went to the Chirton Club with their father and mother where they would drink Newcastle Brown Ale. Maggie would drink Amber Ale which was weaker in strength. One bottle would last her all night.

The entertainment would consist of a singer; then a comedian then later they would all have a sing along until it was chucking out time. Once outside they would head towards Lightburn’s fish and chip shop on Heaton Terrace. The singing would continue until they were all served then they would eat their suppers on the way home out of newspaper that was usually running with a mixture of beef dripping and vinegar. Then it was a walk back up to Silkey’s lane to the house.

Everyone respected their neighbours so there was quiet upon their return.

There was a queue for the outside toilet and sometimes if they were caught short then they would line up against the wall in the back lane. There would be a stream of urine running down the lane after they were finished.

This is why the women swilled the lane every week to get rid of the smell of urine when they hung out their washing.


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