The Street Urchin

The Street Urchin is set in North shields and tells of young Billy Phelps a promising young footballer- his father is a trawlerman and has no time for his children or his wife when he meets a Norwegian girl and begins an affair.
The impact of the the marriage break up and triumph over adversity are told in this heartwarming story.

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Billy Phelps curled up next to his brothers Alan and John in the small bed, the bitter winter cold bit into his body making him shiver under the one grey blanket and the coat that was placed on top. He tried to stop his feet from freezing by placing them inside the sleeve of the coat. He looked out of the window to see that the snow had covered half of the wooden window frame. The whiteness of the snow lit up the small bedroom.

Billy was seven years old and the oldest child of Albert and Lizzy Phelps. They lived at the bottom of Bedford Street in North Shields.

Albert was the captain on board the Misty Dawn a trawler based on North Shields fish quay. Starting out as a deck hand at fourteen; Albert soon learned the ropes, the work was hard with long hours and rough weather conditions with swells of over twelve feet and at times it was hard to even keep you feet let alone bring in a fishing net.

The introduction of Well Smacks made it possible for fishermen to stay at sea longer because the fish was quickly gutted then placed into fish boxes where they were iced. The boxes were piled twenty high and the hull of the boat adapted so they could hold over two hundred boxes each weighing about eight stone. Cod was the most popular fish to catch along with haddock and whiting, Herring had started to become less popular in the 1930’s. Once the largest herring port in the world North Shields Fish Quay with its natural harbour which was not subject to tidal currents making it easy for fishing boats to land their catches.

Boats used the land marks called the high light and low lights to navigate into the harbour.

 Albert saved up enough money over twenty years at sea to buy the Misty Dawn, he was very proud of his boat. He was strict but fair with the men who worked for him.

He was responsible for his six man crew. In ten years as a captain he had never lost anyone at sea. The boat cost him over forty thousand pounds to begin with but by the time he had it refitted her and had a new pump installed. The total cost came too roughly to nearer fifty thousand pounds when all the work was completed. He took out a loan from Lloyds Bank and remortgaged the house in order to by the boat. A big risk but one Albert was prepared to take and it paid off.

Albert fished the waters off Iceland, Spitsbergen, as well as the North Sea.

 

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