The Skin Shop

The story which is semi autobiographical tells the story of Ralph Mason Growing up in Collingwood Terrace in North Shields in 1948. it is a story of Hardship, poverty, love, and friendship just after the Second World War. Some names have been changed and I have used some poetic licence to bring the story to back to life as some of the places talked about in this story are no longer with us. "The Skin Shop is one boys journey into manhood.


1. 1

Rose Nicholson shouted at her kids to get outside and play as she dumped some washing in the poss tub and began to scrub it with her bare hands on the wash board with carbolic soap. She dowsed then scrubbed away until her husbands work shirts were clean. She rinsed them under the tap outside in another bucket before feeding them through the mangle to take out the excess water before hanging them on the line to dry. The summer of 1947 was a hot one and the putrid smell from the Skin Shop formally known as (Harding’s) down Howdon Road back lane was as strong as ever. Further up the lane a large group of kids who were playing games. Ann Whelan, Shawn Crawford, Gail Johnson, Allie Walker, and Liz Best were all doing handstands against the wall. Tony Santos, Tucker Young, Ralph Mason, and Manny Nicholson were sitting in the bottom of an old tin bath playing pirates.

Ralph was pretending to be the captain of the Hispaniola as he shouted commands out to his friends as the pretended to row the tub.

 The children were immune to the smell of the sheep and pig intestines and other animal offal as they were boiled up to make cat and dog food and in the main sausage skins. It was the school holiday and the children had been off for nearly three weeks which drove their parents to distraction as they had them around all day long. The one’s who worked were lucky because the children were left to their own devices. Jan Nicholson ran up the lane over the cobbles with two rubber balls and started to bounce them off the walls and began to sing “Oranges and lemons” Janice Nicholson had an older sister Karen who was eight years old and a younger sister Wendy who was five. Their adopted brother was called Manuel (Manny) who was six years old. They all lived together at number 49 Howdon Road in a three bed roomed house in North Shields. Brian Nicholson had been introduced to Rose McNeil by his cousin Allan McNeil. He told Allan straight away that Rose was the girl for him and after a brief courtship they were married. It was four years later when they had their first child. Rose worked in a bakery which also sold fruit but she had also worked down in the Preston pit during the onset of the Second World War.

Her mother Rose Anne had met and married John McNeil a fisherman from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides; he settled in the North East. He worked out of North Shields Fish Quay and was better known as Curly McNeil. They had three children together; Rose, Cissie, and Joe. Unexpectedly Rose Anne became ill and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy with Radium treatment but the cancer was too advanced and she died aged only forty eight.


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