All aboard for South Shields shoe factory memories

Go Gay Shoes Ltd. factory workers set off on a bus trip.
Go Gay Shoes Ltd. factory workers set off on a bus trip.

With plans already firmed up for a reunion involving former workers from the Go Gay Shoes firm, based in South Shields, more and more ex-employees are coming forward to relive the past – including a couple from the other side of the world.

The get-together is being organised by local historian and one-time Go Gay girl, Janet Wylie. It will take place on Thursday, October 25, at the Brighams Workingmen’s Club, between 7pm and 11pm.

Outside the John Clay Street factory.

Outside the John Clay Street factory.

And it promises to be quite a night if the reaction so far is anything to go by.

“I’ve had even more response from the recent article,” says Janet, who was behind the wonderfully nostalgic The Streets of South Shields books.

“Shirley and Malcolm Peters have been in touch from Australia, they both worked at the factory ... and ended up marrying.

“Mary Yeoman, nee Wardale, rang to say ‘I was sitting in the Nook cafe reading the Gazette and lo and behold I saw my mam, Mrs Wardale, and my sister Joan and their kids in the Go Gay bus trip photo.

“I burst into tears. But I can tell you that it has made my day. I have never seen this photo before and there they were my family, it has made me so happy.

“They are all gone now. My mam was the tea lady and cleaner and when she went on holiday I would cover for her.

“I am 78-years-old now but at that time I was 19-years-old with a baby.”

Mary’s is just one of the many stories that Janet is hearing in her search for memories and old photos of former workers at the Go Gay’s two factories – the first of which was in the town’s John Clay Street, the second in Maxwell Street.

“The net is spreading,” added Janet, “and it is bringing so much pleasure to a lot of people – why we didn’t do it before, I don’t know. The thing is a lot of us were in our 20s and younger and a little older in the 70s. So most people are between 60 and 70-ish.

“Some of the people I am looking for are Les and Pat Anderson (brother and sister), Jackie Laurenson (maiden name), David Black, Ellen Ali, Jean Bailey, Janice Veevers, Dorothy Carrick (office), Linda Owens, Harry Bloxam, Norma Jackson.

“These are the people who have not been in touch but I am hoping are still alive and well. There are lots of others who I hope will get in touch but whose names I am not sure of.

“In the meantime, Stephen King has kindly given me some photos that he took on the night of a leaving do he attended.”

Janet intends to use these and other photos on a memory board which will be on display at the reunion.

If anyone can help Janet with her research or wants to know more about the get-together, they can contact her on 07954 413542 or 0191 455 4830 or email her on 54janetw@gmail.com

l Congratulations to the South Shields Gilbert & Sullivan Society whose production of The Wiz recently won the NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) award for best show, and a big well done to Rebecca Fenwick who scooped the association’s best performance award as the Scarecrow.

With the society celebrating its 70th anniversary, what a great time to receive not one, but two truly outstanding honours.

During the coming weeks, we will continue to look back at the society’s history.