The population of North Tyneside was around 270,000 in 1971 and employment was plentiful even though the mining industry from pit closures had put many out of work. Preston, Billy Mill, and Battlehill all stopped production by the end of the sixties and people were forced to take up other kinds of employment. Or move to other North East areas where the coal mines were still in operation. The unions fought for better wages for the men who said that they would no longer stand and let the mine owners pay them peanuts whilst they got rich from the sweat off their backs. Of course this caused strikes and fall outs within family members. Father’s disagreed with the union’s and wanted to work whilst the son’s wanted to strike for higher wages and a shorter working week. The mine owners found it impossible to keep producing coal at a loss so many of them closed down. By the end of the seventies the government had nationalised most of the collieries in Britain and we were producing less and less; until we started buying coal cheaper from Poland and Russia.
The same happened with our thriving fishing industry as peoples tastes changed and the use of modern fish finding equipment meant larger catches. Man’s own greed had decimated the fish stocks and the Icelandic people put a ban on fishing within a 50 mile radius. This was to allow the fish stocks to replenish themselves. Many fishermen were not happy with this and a cod war began. Fishermen sold up and stopped fishing all together because of the ban. The fisheries commission then began to tell fishermen that they could only target certain species. Thousands of tons of other fish were being thrown away dead because they were not allowed to land them. This caused world condemnation. Herring fishing became virtually none existent with only a handful of boats going out to catch them.
After the Second World War the ship building industry began to suffer too. There were very few ships being built on the Tyne and the vast majority of the work was coming from ship repair or conversion.’
The factories in the North East were thriving though as ex miners and other men found other employment. In 1971 it was easy to find work and you could bounce from job to job until you found one that you liked.’
In the Meadowell it was no different every morning hundreds of men could be seen walking to work. They either walked down West Percy Road to the Shipyard, or the wood yard or made their way to the Coast Road to the factories.
Since the end of the war women were now working in the factories; they had proved that they could do some jobs that men could do; they were being paid less than a man to do exactly the same work so it was more cost effective to keep the women on rather than employ a man to do the same job.’
Factories like Dukes and Marks, Thor tools, Hall sections, Levi’s Jeans, Formica, Commercial Plastics, and Welch’s toffee factory kept people in employment.
The lure of good money kept men and women working on the shop floor.
As women gained more and more independence it caused unrest in the households.
Women no longer wanted to be chained to a kitchen sink and have seven or more children to look after. They wanted money of their own and working in these factories amongst the men gave them that and they never looked back.