Remembering the war and sinking of the Gaul

The factory freezer trawler Ranger Castor from North Shields went to Hull and was renamed Gaul.
The factory freezer trawler Ranger Castor from North Shields went to Hull and was renamed Gaul.

If you want to recall or learn what life was like in South Shields during the Second World War then get along to The Customs House later this month for the screening of a fascinating film.

War Stories was made by Gary Wilkinson and Tom Kelly, in 2012, and features the memories of people who lived through the conflict, as well as the sights of the town in wartime.

War Stories by Gary Wilkinson.

War Stories by Gary Wilkinson.

As Gary says: “Using archive material and personal interviews, we revisit the past and speak with people who share their memories and experiences of war.

“There are some good stories in there from people who were young at the time of the war, who can remember the likes of bomb shelters, fighter planes and the destruction that the Germans left behind in their town.

“To help illustrate the film we used the excellent black and white photographs of local historian and photographer Amy C. Flagg, who documented the impact that the war had on South Shields.

“We also included stories from Jarrow, Hebburn and HMS Kelly.

“Unfortunately some of those people filmed have passed away in recent years, but their stories of how they coped during the war live on, and will never be forgotten.”

War Stories is being shown at The Customs House, on Friday, September 11, at 7.30pm, along with Shiels (2015) and Lizards (2013), two other films made by Gary.

Tickets for the event are £5, and are available from The Customs House (0191) 454 1234 or

Shiels is a documentary about the shared history, tradition and connection between North and South Shields.

Meanwhile, Wildflowers, another of Gary’s films - about South Shields-born Eileen O’Shaughnessy who went on to marry the writer George Orwell, (real name Eric Blair) - document the influence she had on his writings.

It is to be screened on September 25 – which would have been her 110th birthday.

• I have also been asked to make mention of a special visit and service which takes place later this month to remember the fishermen who died when the factory trawler Gaul sank with the loss of all hands.

The remembrance day takes place in North Shields, on Saturday, September 19.

The Mission Area Officer of The Fishermen’s Mission, Superintendant Peter Dade explains: “A coach party of between 40 and 50 retired fishermen and their families, from Hull, will be visiting North Shields.

“They will be here for the weekend, and will visit the Fishermen’s Mission and the Old Low Light, on the North Shields Fish Quay.

“They will meet with members of the Association of Retired Fishermen and the Retired Fishermen’s and Associated Club.

“The first part of their visit will be a 30-minute service, starting at 12.30pm on Saturday at the Royal Quays Marina (the former Albert Edward Dock).

“This will be at the actual site where the Ranger Castor - her name before she was renamed the Gaul - berthed, and where a plaque was unveiled last year as part of the 40th year of the Gaul tragedy.

“This will be a service of reflection and remembrance, for all 36 fishermen lost on the Gaul.

“Families of those who were lost on the Gaul, from both North Shields and Hull, will be present, and wreaths will be laid. It will be a time to reflect and to remember.

“The visit is seen as a historical one, because there hasn’t been a group on this scale visiting North Shields since the Gaul was lost in February 1974. All are welcome to attend.”

• Meanwhile, the South Tyneside branch of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society is holding a meeting this month.

The event, which takes place at St Hilda’s Church Visitor Centre, Market Place, South Shields, is on Wednesday, September 16, starting at 1.30pm.

Branch chairman, Gerry Langley, said the meeting is an ideal opportunity for people who are interested in their family history to go along and get help and advice.

“For those who are yet to start or are just starting on their family tree, wanting to explore their family history, but don’t know where to start, then come along and find out.”

For more information, email

Other meetings will in the visitor centre on the third Wednesday of the month, starting at 1.30pm.