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.


6. 6

Along Howdon Road were two shops on each corner, further along was Shorts Scrap merchants and rags and woollens outlet. Inside was piles of metal about fifteen feet high with various grades of metal; aluminium was stacked on one side; brass on another. Copper and tin formed another pile along with lead but the biggest was iron and steel.

Inside large bundles of woollens about five feet square were tied up. In another part of the large warehouse old coats trousers and other materials were bound together. They were all weighed and then tagged. Further along was a Co-op store which had a large cat called “Daisy bell and it wondered all over the place. Then further along was Gianndria’s fish and chip shop. It looked just like any other house on the street until you looked in the window and saw queues of people inside. On the corner of Lawson Street stood Percy Andersons Slate factory and above it was a joinery shop. There were several grocery stores; one called Allan’s and another called Barbara’s. Another fish and chip was situated further on owned by George Cottingham there was also a pork butcher’s called Watson’s. The smell of the sawdust mixed with the other stink coming from the Skin Shop as life carried on as normal as possible. At the bottom of Coach Lane There was a vicarage and what came to be known as the Chinese Garden. Some people said they saw people going in and coming out again and that the place may have been used as a brothel. The garden was built upon an old Quaker cemetery and some year’s later bodies were removed and reburied in Preston cemetery. The other Streets nearby were Coronation Street and Elsdon Street. On Pennman Street there was Duncan’s, grocery store better known as the Hadrian Store which had a frightening looking bacon and ham slicer which a couple of assistants had chopped the ends of their fingers off from being careless. Then there was Spence Terrace, Trinity Street which had a Methodist Church and Trinity Crescent. The Ship Laundry employed women to wash clothing and bedding in this huge place. Many people came and brought clothing to be washed and dried there especially in winter when they couldn’t get washing dried. The walls of many houses were streaming with water from the condensation from drying washing inside of the home. This led to severe dampness and often tuberculosis.



Ralph came home around five o’clock to find his mother Hannah washing clothes in the outhouse.

“Hi Mam said Ralph as he looked up on his mother as she nearly wore her fingers to the bone scrubbing out the washing ready to be dried off inside.

“Do you want to use this water and have a bath; I’ve just changed it and I’ve put some soap flakes into it.’

Oh yes mam said Ralph knowing he would be getting in before his brother John and his older sister Agnes. He quickly and unashamedly stripped off after his mother took out the last shirt belonging to his father Jack who worked in the ship yard. His brother John was eleven some four years older than him but they were very close and he would often stick up for him at school when the older boys taunted him.

Agnes who was the eldest looked after both of them. She was sixteen and was like a mother hen. She always wanted to know where they were both going and would warn them not to get into any mischief; but inevitably they ignored her. Ralph had another sister called Maureen his mother told him who had died at birth.


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