The Netmaker

"The Netmaker" the story follows four families who are all linked in some way to the Wilkinsons Lemonade Factory that was bombed during WW2. This is a tribute to the 107 people who lost their lives on 3rd May 1941


11. 11

May Johnson hurried along Saville Street she was late for work that morning; she worked for Hogg’s the chemists on Albion Road. She tried her best but getting six kids ready for school, cooking breakfast for her husband George, Skipper who worked on the Northern Gale a Herring boat. He was the net maker and repairer. The skipper had been fishing these fish for some thirty five years and had noticed a steady decline in the fish stocks and the popularity of the Silver Darlings as they were called. Herring had always been the main staple of many families as it was cheap and plentiful. The natural fish oils that it produced, was good for you. They went out for four to five days at one time. The four man crew fished off Mallaig, Ullapool, and Tarbert in Scotland as the fish stocks were still plentiful. George’s job making or repairing nets never stopped. The nets made from Sisal Twine didn’t last long and had to be constantly repaired which was a long and laborious job. The net would split or more often than not, rot until the use of Coaline Netting; it was a man made fibre and lasted far longer than the Sisal Twine. There were some forty boats moored at North Shields gut and you were hard pushed to even see the sea as the boats were huddled together. George would say he could smell the fish quay as he walked down Tanners Bank; there were different smells, the smell of the Guano works being the strongest. He could also smell the herring being unloaded and even the smell of diesel oil. It reminded him of home. As a fisherman George was given more rations. They got more coupons because they were helping to feed the nation. They received extra coupons for clothing and food. The quay came to life around five a.m. every morning when the boats would return with their catches that had to be unloaded and sent straight to market. The Harbour master and the man from the Fisheries Commission checked the fish for any abnormalities or disease before they were allowed to be sold.

The quay had its characters where everyone seemed to have a nick name. There was “Crow Banks, “Danny the Gull, “Moby Dick, and “Hopalong Cassidy. No one ever called them by their real Christian names and even in the pub they would ask “have you seen Crow Bank’s or Humpty Dumpty.’ All the fishermen worked together and drank together. Their wives would also meet and discuss the fishing. The smoke filled the room in the Mariners Arms or the “Rat, it was really called “The Ballarat but it became known as the “Rat and the name stuck. Men would talk about the catches and how they had outdone their rival boats. “Tiddler Watts skipper aboard the Norma Jane

Told his friend and skipper of the Sandpiper Jim Hardy that “Lobster Harris; who was always scratching his bollocks, hence the nickname. They would ask him if he had crabs and he would say” Do crabs walk sideways and are two bob each” and the women would all voice “Whey Aye they do.’ “Well you’re looking at a millionaire he joked.’ It was funny as the men got a strange feeling when they were home.

The fishermen all couldn’t wait to get back to sea when they were home.’ The sea calls you they would say.’

But a few days at sea and they all wished they were ashore again.’


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