Preparing to sail off into the sunset

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My time is running out here at the Gazette and I will be signing off in the paper next Wednesday.

Everyone keeps asking me what I plan to do with all my free time. I’m telling them: housework! Not 44 years’-worth, obviously, though sometimes it feels like it.

That women’s lib thing has never been what it was cracked up to be.

But I continue to be touched by the messages that are coming in from readers.

One gentleman of 75 wrote: “Your page in the Gazette has been a superb link with our youth and over the years has brought back many long forgotten memories and given huge pleasure.”

I can only hope it has. I often say when I give talks, that Cookson Country has been like one long conversation between me and readers – sometimes earnest, at other times just gossip. We’ve had our spats and disagreements, but we’ve mostly made up in the end.

I hope you know how much you’ll all be missed.

And for the time being, folk continue to send me treasures.

The lovely picture here is from Peter Halling, who thought that before I went, I might like to see this oil painting he has of North Shields fish quay.

It shows the old training ship Wellesley, and he thinks, the Satellite.

“It’s very atmospheric,” he says. “I’ve not seen a painting of the two ships together.”

The oil is the work of Bernard Benedict Hemy, who was the youngest brother of the marine artists Charles Napier Hemy and Thomas Hemy,

BB Hemy was born in Newcastle in 1844 and died in 1910, so I suppose it’s possible to date this picture between 1904, when the Satellite, the Tyne’s Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve ship, came to the river, and the year of Hemy’s death.

Satellite, built in 1881, eventually crossed to our side of the Tyne – the name of Satellite Quay still recalls her – until she was broken up just after the end of the Second World War.

The Wellesley, of course, was destroyed by fire in 1914.