South Shields’ man provides entertainment for thousands

South Shields Amateur Opera Society, with Andre Gaffney, middle row, far right, leaning in.
South Shields Amateur Opera Society, with Andre Gaffney, middle row, far right, leaning in.

Back in 1988 a young Andre Gaffney was pictured performing with the South Shields Amateur Opera Society in a production of Hans Christian Andersen.

Today the talented actor, who went on to perform in shows and pantomimes around the country, is cruise director on one of the world’s largest passenger ships – responsible for providing the entertainment for 5,000 people.

Andre Gaffney.

Andre Gaffney.

His proud mam, Mrs June Gaffney, got in touch with Time Of Our Lives to tell Andre’s wonderful life story after seeing a photo of that 1988 show in the Gazette.

“When he did Hans Christian Andersen, he was 11-years-old, he is now 40,” explains Mrs Gaffney.

“Since that time he did numerous shows while in South Shields amateurs with the director Gwyneth Hunter (who Andre still has a great friendship with).

“That photo shows the feeling and excitement he had for being on stage and entertaining, and he is still like that today – the same expression on his face.”

Mrs Gaffney said Andre went on to the Guildford School of Acting, in Surrey, and after graduating with his degree, performed in shows around London and pantomimes around the country.

He then joined P&O Cruise Line, on the show team, and “travelled to some amazing places, and loved every minute”.

However, when a family member took ill, Andre came home, and took a degree in interior design, a job he did for a few years.

“Then he had an offer with Norwegian Cruise Line,” adds his mum, “and since then he has worked very hard to get to become cruise director.

“The ship he is on is one of the largest in the world, with approximately 5,000 passengers, so as you can imagine it is stressful to make sure every passenger is happy and has a good time.

“He is in charge of a large team of lovely people from all over the world.

“This ship is based in Miami at the moment, and cruises around the Caribbean (what a life). I have been very lucky, as Andre gets me to join him quite often, and like any proud mother ‘I am in awe’ at what he does.

“Andre likes to know what is happening at the Customs House as he has appeared quite a lot there over the years, it’s a great aspect to our town.

“The downside to his job is being away for months at a time and missing family and friends, but he has met some amazing people and sees some fantastic places, and as he says ,‘he has the perfect job – and loves it’.”

Meanwhile, a photo, taken in December 1973 of the old Co-op store in Westoe Road, and posted on Facebook, prompted Margaret Mesie to write: “It was a Co-op departmental store, one of the best!

“I was window dresser there from 1959 till 1963, I loved my work, the staff (some who I still see) and the family atmosphere, as we were a brilliant team.

“It was called the Emporium, happy days!” Another photo, featuring the victorious St Joseph’s RC Under-14s team, showing of the Alexander Murray Cup after beating Hebburn Comprehensive School 4-1 in March 1983, prompted Colin Reay to post:“Boldon Comp won the league, the league cup and the county cup 1975-76 season.” Kevin Trainor added: “People still talk about this team in Boldon, Colin, must have been a good one!”

Did you play in that team or one of the many other football teams hailing from South Tyneside?