Market swing boat rides were fun but dangerous too

Cookson Country
Cookson Country

SOMETIMES I come across things in old papers that make me wish I’d been a fly on the wall at the time.

I’ve had an interest in Shields’ Market Place in recent days, going back to the era, in the second half of the 19th century, when it was as much a place of entertainment as commerce.

This included swing boat rides which, in fairness, were looked upon as something of a nuisance.

That they could also be dangerous was proved one day, in 1882, when one of the swing boats struck a little boy of five or six in the forehead.

He suffered what sounds to have been an ugly, four-inch, jagged wound, and was immediately picked up and carried off to the house of a Dr Legat, in Smithy Street, who stitched him up.

The boy proved quite the little soldier, it being noted: “Although suffering terrible pain, the little fellow was wonderfully patient.”

When asked, he could remember his name – Willie Stewart – but not his address, only that he lived with his parents in the Low Street, which was a generic name for those old streets that ran along the riverside, between the Market Place and the sea.