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Marine School gets Blue Plaque at last

SIGN OF THE TIMES ... John Lightfoot, guest of honour, centre, and John Watson, chairman of South Tyneside College governors, right, at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque at the old South Shields Marine School.

SIGN OF THE TIMES ... John Lightfoot, guest of honour, centre, and John Watson, chairman of South Tyneside College governors, right, at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque at the old South Shields Marine School.

A historic building synonymous with South Tyneside’s maritime history has finally received a sign of approval.

Throughout the nation, places of historical or cultural importance have Blue Plaques placed outside them.

They mark the birthplaces of such important figures as novelist Charles Dickens or the site of iconic buildings, including The Cavern Club, where The Beatles once performed.

Now, South Shields Marine School in Ocean Road has received its own plaque in recognition of its contribution to town life from its opening in 1861.

It’s also a nod of thanks in the direction of the school’s famous founder, Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom.

The plaque was unveiled by John Watson, chairman of the college’s governors.

Modern-day dignitaries at South Tyneside College were also joined by special guest, John Lightfoot, chairman of the town’s Solar Solve Marine, himself a successful product of the famous school.

Later the group moved on to the college’s Marine Safety Training Centre for the revival of Winterbottom Day.

In his speech to mark the occasion, Mr Lightfoot said: “When promoting my marine business and its products, I am always reminded of the highly positive impact that South Shields and the marine college has on the global marine industry as I network with ex-students around the world.

“Ex-students globally heap nothing but the highest praise on our college, its staff, the town and the friendliness of the people.”

The idea for a marine school for South Shields was first established in 1837 by Dr Winterbottom, probably the town’s first philanthropist.

But it was not until March 1861 – two years after he died at the age of 93 – that its doors opened.

Originally, it was established to train masters and officers for the Merchant Navy, but was quickly expanded to include training courses for marine engineers too.

It soon became established for its very successful training record and exceptional pass rate for nautical student examinations nationally.

Over the years the need for more space resulted in a new site and a new name.

And in 1954 the first phase of South Shields and Marine and Technical College opened, with its name later changed to South Tyneside College.

Now history could be about to come full circle.

Plans are in place to re-establish the college’s maritime departments with their own training blocks and entrance, to again be known as South Shields Marine School.

Lindsey Whiteroad, the college’s principal and chief executive, said: “The unveiling of this plaque brings to a close a full year of celebrations commemorating 150 years of the Marine School.

“South Tyneside College is very proud of its long history which began in this building.

“From its foundation, the college has served the needs of the local community and beyond, and evolved into a world renowned marine college, which is a remarkable achievement for both the college and South Tyneside as a whole.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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