The Seagulls Song

A young woman discovers she has breast cancer and tells her friend and neighbour- her son is a promising young footballer and his father likes a pint or three. Get the hankies ready when reading this one.


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It was eleven forty five in the evening when Tom Johansson returned home from an all day drinking session. He said goodnight to Sylvia the barmaid of the “Ridges Inn” on West Percy Road. He had been playing dominoes with his friends Alan and Jimmy Heads whose son knocked about with his son Georgie.

He crossed onto Linden Road passed the Hadrian Mini market on the corner of Marina Avenue then onto Bridge Road North. It didn’t matter how much Tom had drank, he was always able to navigate his way home again. Tom turned left into Briarwood Avenue. This was a place they called “The Congo” because of the number of black residents who lived there. Walking past Mrs Bine’s house he opened the gate that led to his house. The Ridges Estate was built by the end of the thirties on farm land. The first houses were built to accommodate the fishermen from North Shields. Thirty four houses were built on what went on to be known as Silky’s Lane. The houses on the banks of the River Tyne had become uninhabitable.

Severe dampness, poor sanitation, and infected water from outside led to many children becoming ill and dying. It took Tom a long time to get used to the new area. He was born on Norfolk Street and his parents had both died there.

His wife Margaret and his now fourteen year old son liked the house. Margaret moved with Tom in 1959 then she got pregnant with Georgie. The houses got modernised in 1972 with indoor toilets, a modern bathroom, and an electric fire. The galley stove was removed and gases installed so they could do all their cooking on a gas cooker.

She made new friends in the street; that like her and her husband had relocated when the houses were built. Her neighbour across the path Yvonne Ellis liked to go the” Rex Bingo” together on a Friday night when Tom went to the pub and her son Georgie went to the newly built Collingwood Youth Club. The site of the youth club was built on a reservoir in 1969. It gave the teenagers somewhere to go of an evening. There was a football team run by Steve Wyres and George Williamson the club leaders.

There was a canteen as you walked up the concrete stairs that took you to the club’s entrance then past the office. In the right hand corner there was a dartboard where Billy Giles would be seen practicing. Around the corner was another room where there was a pool table.

On the other side of the room there was a hall where they held disco’s on a Friday night. The place would be buzzing when the disco was on with all the local lads coming to dance to the sounds of the 1970’s. Paul Decker ran the disco there.

Sandy Longworth would bring his Gary Glitter Album in. Terry Wilson and his brother Peter along with Geordie Shotton, Billy Giles, Jeff Sharp, John and Rob Kelly, Harra’s, Jeff and Isaac Decker and Terry Patterson, would dance none stop. They all wore the skinhead clobber; along with a highly polished pair of Dr Marten’s boots.

The hall was also used for five a side football and further back there was another room that was used for gymnastics on a Wednesday. Susan Wiseman, Pamela Short, and Joanne Forrest took part.


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