Days when the Tyne was full of ships

TAIL ALONG THE RIVERBANK ... looking down the Tyne from Bill Quay before the First World War.
TAIL ALONG THE RIVERBANK ... looking down the Tyne from Bill Quay before the First World War.

AS successful and well used as the port is, it’s a shame that a generation is growing up that will never know the Tyne as busy upriver as this.

This is an extraordinary photograph from Kevin Blair, which looks down from Bill Quay. The picture is from a card dated December 1909.

But what is also good is that from amid this busy river traffic, Kevin has been able to pick out several vessels of interest.

The tug, for example, is the Blyth-based Livingstone which had been built by Wouldhave and Johnson at the Low Lights, North Shields, in 1876.

She would go on to founder five miles south-east of Seaham a few years later, in 1913, while seeking a tow. All four of her crew were rescued.

To the left of the Livingstone, there is also a wherry under construction – one those craft that were so much a feature of the Tyne’s coal trade.

The naval vessel to the left is the Bahia, built by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co, Elswick, for the Brazilian government. She had been launched in January 1909.

In the summer of 1945, she was on firing exercise east of Brazil when a stowed depth charge detonated.

She suffered severe stern damage and sank rapidly with the loss of 294 lives.

In the foreground is a vessel we’ve seen before – another Brazilian, the Minas Gerais, built by Armstrong, Whitworth and Co between 1908 and 1910.

She would be broken up at Genoa in 1954.