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.


17. 17

His father gave him dirty uniforms to be laundered at the Ship laundry which he would drop off on his way.

Pat was twenty six years old and married to Mia Lee Chan and they had one son called Tang but they called him Tim because Chinese kids were taunted at school if they kept their Chinese names. He was nearly six years old and he was already helping his grand father in the restaurant. The customers loved him as he came to each table to remove the empty plates. Tim was a good looking boy and was very tall for his age. Pat had been introduced to Mia by his cousin Ho Fong Lee in Kowloon where he had returned to see his grand parents. The stink of the river and the junk boats still existed as he climbed on board and sailed up the river to Kowloon Island to see his grand parents. Mia was very shy at first and hardly spoke but as the days passed she began to open up to him and he liked her more and more.

Upon his return he told his mother that he was in love with Mia and could she ask his father to bring her over with her parents so they could be married.

His father was reluctant at first because Pat was only nineteen and Mia eighteen.

Eventually his father agreed and it was near Chinese New Year and the year of the dragon that Pat and Mia were married. Mia helped in the restaurant in Whitley Bay and they all lived above the Shop. Pat and Mia were saving up to buy their own home. It was going to take them twenty years but it would be worth it to have a place of their own. Pat enjoyed the simple things in life and they rarely went out together. Pat was a decent billiards and pool player and made money taking on the locals in the bars and amusement arcades in the Spanish City near the coast.

Pat backed the wagon into the blood red double doors then they were opened to allow him in. the skin shop had only three men and one woman running the place. It was a simple enough operation and they had a side line making pet food.

Pat emptied the ten tubs containing the offal and it was then taken away to be processed. He then delivered the finished product to butcher shops all over North Shields, Tynemouth, Cullercoats, and Whitley Bay. He earned £4.17 shillings and sixpence a week which was a good wage in 1948.

Not many people would work in the Skin Shop because of the smell but Pat got used to it.


Nelly Kimber walked with her son John to the doctors he hadn’t been well since the school broke up he had two big lumps on the side of his neck and was covered in little spots all over his body. She had to take an hour from working in the laundry to take him and she was practically dragging the boy along the street. Nelly lived on Thrift Street which wasn’t far from the doctors. She sat down in the doctor’s surgery and everyone looked at John. One woman pointed out straight away that John had measles and mumps. Could be the beginning of chicken pox said Barbara Brand to Nelly. “Suddenly every bugger is a doctor said Nelly, I needn’t have brought him here I should have just knocked on your door Barbara.’

“I was only sayin’

“Just keep your big gob shut will yer.’

Sensing an argument was about to erupt Joyce Junghan the receptionist told Nelly to go in next.

“How come she gets to go in before me? I’ve got a boil on my arse that needs lancing.

“I’ll put my foot up your arse if you don’t shut up.’

Oh aye you and who’s army.’

“I’d blow you out like a hot snot.’

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