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. i

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“Get yourself to church this Sunday Flo and I’m sure Mr Bell will give you a few bob to tide you over until Bobby gets paid. Hannah and Florie paid for the goods they had bought and walked back along the street to their own house.

“You can come in for a cup of tea if you like Flo’ I have some fresh bread that I baked this morning and a bit of cheese and there’s a tomato there that we can have with it.

“Give me five minutes Hannah to unpack these and I will be over.’

“That will give me time to make the tea.’

Florie opened the front door and went inside as Hannah crossed the street to her own house.

 

Everyone came outside Lawson Street as the barrow pulled up outside of number 54 and the bailiffs went in to turf Mrs Cissie McLachlan out of her two bed roomed house. Standing in the street with her two children the bailiffs took anything they could sell.

The neighbours hurled abuse at the two men who just ignored everyone; it wasn’t their fault it was the councils. They were just being paid to do a job.

Cissie had got behind in her rent when her husband was killed in an accident in the wood yard where he had worked for over twenty years.’

The case had dragged on for over five years as Percy Hudson’s wood yard would not accept responsibility for the accident that killed Robbie McLachlan when a log pile fell on top of him. He was dead by the time they cleared the wood from his body. Crushed by the falling logs Robbie was 43 years old. Cissie had found work in the Ship Laundry but the amount of hours she was doing couldn’t sustain her family. Robbie’s parents did not like Cissie as they said she had come from a family of a murderer. Her brother Michael Smith had hit a man with a brown ale bottle on the back of the head during a fight in the Jungle Bar. Michael had a reputation as a bit of a hard lad and on the night of the murder had gone there with two friends. A group of Greek fishermen were making sport of two women in the bar. They were lifting up their dresses and feeling their bums. Michael’s friend Tommy Glass told them to stop. It was then that they pulled out a knife. Robbie jumped up from his seat and began fighting with two of the Greek fishermen. The others were kicking Tommy and Billy Nicholson on the bar floor after being punched in the head by this huge man with a moustache. Michael picked up the bottle from the bar and smashed it across the man’s head. He staggered then fell like a tree onto the corner of the table. He was dead before he hit the floor. At the Newcastle Assizes he was given life imprisonment.

The trail had lasted many weeks but Michael ended up in Durham Jail.

 Cissie still went to see her brother regardless of the threats from Robbie’s parents. They told her that they would have nothing more to do with her if she continued to visit a known murderer.

Although Cissie was only forty she looked more like a 60 year old woman as the hard work and the lack of sleep had played havoc with her body.

Another neighbour who was also a widow took pity on her and took her in.

She had a spare room where she and he two children could sleep until she found somewhere to live. This was not an isolated case; it was happening all over North Shields. The newly built ridges Estate had similar problems because of the lack of work. When the war was on everyone had work; even the women had taken over the roll of bread winners in the family whilst their husbands were fighting for their country. Employers soon discovered that some women could do the same work for less money than the men when the war was over. This put a lot of working men on the 

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