NOT many people can say they’ve crossed the River Tyne 288,000 times.
But Shields Ferry skipper Bob Paterson has – after clocking up 25 years of service on the cross-Tyne ferry service.
During his time, he’s made the half-mile journey between South Shields and North Shields enough times to clock up 144,000 miles.
The 53-year-old has been recognised for his dedication with a long service award from Nexus, which owns and operates the ferry.
Bob says that most of all, he’s enjoyed having 25 years of banter with his passengers.
The father-of-one, who lives in The Cotswolds, Boldon Colliery, said: “I have had a great time working on the Shields Ferry over all these years.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to continuing. It’s a great job.
“I’ve had some really proud moments. I’ve met Her Majesty The Queen twice, and Princess Anne when she launched Spirit Of The Tyne in 2007.
“I was also extremely proud in 2010 to become frontline employee of the year at the National Transport Awards.”
Bob started work for the Tyne and Wear PTE, now Nexus, in August 1989.
A proud Scot who has settled in North-East England, Bob is a popular and familiar face with the Shields Ferry passengers and his colleagues.
Bob has also been involved in five river rescues over the years and is a piper in the South Tyneside Pipes and Drums band.
He and his fellow pipers have often done performances at the ferry landing and on board.
The ferry skipper is also a keen fundraiser for Help For Heroes, having been inspired by his son, Lance Corporal Kevin Paterson, who has served with the Black Watch in Afghanistan.
Bob added: “Some memorable moments for me include last year when there was that big tidal surge and the North Shields pontoon was under water. We had to suspend the service because it wasn’t safe for the passengers.
“Obviously, meeting Princess Anne and the Queen were big moments too, and we’ve had lots of local celebrities on the ferry over the years. Denise Welch, Sting, Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy, Robson Green, Lindisfarne – they’ve all been on.
“The job has changed a lot over the last 25 years, but I’ve loved it. I’ve met some wonderful people, and I’ve loved all of the banter with the passengers.
“I have to thank the management for letting me stay on for this long.”
Shields Ferry manager, Carol Timlin, said: “Bob is a credit to the Shields Ferry crew, and a great ambassador for Nexus.
“We are all very proud of Bob’s achievements over the years, winning awards within the organisation and externally.
“Bob has worked very hard to achieve the position of Ferry Master and team leader and he is a great role model for his team.”