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.


110. 110

Ralph lost contact with Brian Smith the skater after he went to Germany with a travelling Ice show as a professional ice skater. He hasn’t heard from him since then.

Ralph now lives in Lancaster with his wife; he is still passionate about North Shields, the little town where he was born, and he often waxes lyrical about the place to everyone he see’s.




Margaret Cummings and Brian Harman kept their baby a secret for over five years before they left  North Shields to live in Australia. They are still together now.


George Cottingham and Florie Grant were married in 1950 they lived out their lives in Seahouses. The paintings of Frank Johnson were sold for several hundreds of pounds. Both Bobby and Peter became successful business men.


The Skin shop was knocked down along with the Ships Laundry, the Chinese Garden, and Percy Hudson’s slate yard. The joinery shop too that was above it in the late 1970’s. Most of the shops mentioned in this story are no longer there. The houses surrounding the fish quay underwent re-modernisation in 1973. The town still flourishes today although the fish quay is no longer the fishing port that it was. There are very few fishing boats there now and the herring that was landed there is no more. Most of the fish filleting stores are gone and the place is more like a tourist attraction with shops that sell luxury cuts of fish and shellfish, old types of sweets, bars, and restaurants. Ralph came for a visit with Pat and his Children and Grand Children and he saw the changes from when he was growing up. The first stop he made was to Preston Cemetery to lay a wreath on his friend Tommy Armstrong’s grave. Sixty eight years had passed so quickly. He wondered where all of his friends were now. Later he walked through the town and visited his old street and showed his children and his grand children where he was brought up in humble beginnings. They strolled along the Black Midden’s and onto Collingwood’s Monument and Priory Castle before heading back and stopping at the Waterfront, a fish and chip shop where they all sat outside eating fresh cod and chips out of a carton. Not the same as newspaper Ralph said but all the same it evoked so many good memories of growing up around the town. After which he walked with his family and showed them where Tanners bank was and old Staggie’s rag and bone shop was located at the top of the Tiger Stairs. Turning around Ralph looked up and showed them where there was now luxury flats; China town was located. Then they walked to Howdon Road to where Cottingham’s fish shop was and his car was parked. Ralph drove them to Smith’s Park where his friend Brian Smith lived. Brian’s father left Smith’s Park and went to work in Northumberland Park until he retired. Then Ralph showed them the schools were that he went to and Scots Park where he played as a boy and stole apples from the tree behind the toilets. Then took them to where the Skin Shop was. He closed his eyes just for a few seconds and all of his friends who he had grown up with were there with him playing cricket; the girls playing hand stands, hopscotch and skipping. He smiled away to himself thinking what a great childhood they all had. Yes, they were poor but what they had in way friendship money could not buy.





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