TO PLAY AMIDST THE COBBLES

Four young boys are accused with robbery. one of them with murder, Hanging in Britain was still prevalent at that time. Can one of them escape the hangman's noose?'
Ruby White the petite honey blonde who works in a chemist shop spends her lunch break reading poetry in the local library. it is there that she meets Richard Llewellyn Shaw a writer and poet from Wales who has come to the North East to write a book. A relationship develops even though he is eight years her senior.
Then there is Jessie Longworth who has been saddled with looking after her father who is in the early stages of dementia. She is unable to cope with looking after her father, and her family and asks her brother Edward if he will take her father for a while. Joe Corder is an ex-dock worker. He worked hard all his life and gives his son his savings to help him start his own business. He meets Elizabeth who comes from a well to do family who all look down on Jessie and her father. She will not have him in her home.

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In 1961 work began on the construction of the new tunnel that would take vehicles across the river to Jarrow. The Cundy where all the children had played for years was drained and then the bulldozers came in to remove huge tons of earth as the first stages of the tunnel got underway. The tunnel would be 180.000 cubic yards long and would be 90 feet below the seabed. It would be the longest and largest man made structure under ground. It was set to cost eight and a half million pounds to construct. The tunnel would be 31 feet in diameter and would use some 45.000 tons of cast iron primary linings. Over 35.000 steel bolts would be used and welded into place. Diesel driven Compressors would be used to supply vital air to the men working under ground and a back up system in case there was a failure.

The children found a new source of adventure as the tunnel was being built hiding in the inverts when the dump trucks drove out of the recess. The football field at the bottom of Melrose Gardens disappeared. Florence Gray was only a child when David Gray her father was the crane driver who supplied the men with the cast iron linings. She recalled how there was nearly a tragedy as the chains holding the tons of cast iron broke and it severely injured some men as the steel fell on top of them. David Gray who was in a well paid job then, had to live with the nightmare of the screaming men as they were trapped for many hours underground. One of the men Tom Laws injured his back and was lucky to be alive when the steel came crashing down He needed a blood transfusion but because he was of a rare blood group they had to use plasma. He told of how he thought that they would not get out alive. It was real scary as the blowers that forced the water back whilst the men worked stopped momentarily and the threat of being drowned was imminent as the sea water began to rush in. Luckily quick thinking by the foreman Peter Wilson got the blowers working again and a rescue party was sent in to free the men.

A lot of the men suffered from symptoms that resembled the bends that deep sea divers get if they stayed under water too long they had to be placed in decompression chambers to get rid of the nitrogen in their blood stream.

After the accident Tom Laws became a regular blood donor.

The tunnel would take another six years to build and was eventually opened by Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1967. She wore a pink coat and matching hat whilst Prince Philip wore a tatty tweed coat.

The tunnel would take over forty years to be paid for and a second tunnel went on to be built in 2008 it was completed ahead of schedule in 2011. It runs parallel to the old tunnel and cost £260 million pounds to build. It won’t be paid for until 2037.

 

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