Penny stamper has brush with history

FOR many people, it was probably just a novel distraction while waiting for a train.

But it could just be that the legacy of the old ‘penny stamper’ machine at South Shields railway station is larger and more global than could ever have been suspected.

And it’s all because of the passion of the Armed Forces for spit and polish.

Honestly, the detours which subjects in Cookson Country take never cease to thrill me.

In this respect, I’m going back to when a reader was recalling the old station stamping machine on which you could stamp out your name etc on a strip of metal, for a penny a letter.

It interested John Henderson, of Holder House in the town, because still in use at home today, after almost 60 years, are these brushes for which – using the machine at the station – he made number stamps to identify his ownership of them, while serving in the Royal Air Force.

John, who was with the RAF’s motor transport division between 1952 and 1956, said: “Everybody in the services used to be issued with brushes, both for boots and clothing, Each one would be stamped with a number but, after a while, these would wear off.”

John’s solution was to make permanent number stamps using the station machine.

And so effective did it prove, he ended up getting orders for others.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea, and I’d end up bringing someone’s number home and getting a plate made for them as well.”

John reckons that stamped plates he made for pals are probably still in existence all over the world.

“In fact I’ve a friend in Australia and he’s still got his.”

Of his own, he said: “They look as good as the day they were made 60 years ago. It’s only a pity that they didn’t have ‘Made in South Shields’ on!”