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Storm uncovers part of South Shields’ past

Sleeper.
Sleeper.

They say an ill wind blows no good, well that might not be strictly true, as one reader suspects.

For Peter Smith believes the raging Beast from the East storm, of a few months back, may have uncovered a relic of South Tyneside’s past – namely an old seaplane ramp used during the First World War.

I’ll let Peter explain.

“Recently, being a brilliant night, I had a delightful walk along Sheels little beech,” he said.

“I came across this awld slab of concrete, encased in vintage railway sleepers. As a child, I heard about this old relic, which has once again reared itself for all to see.

“Before long I had several dog walkers (and a nice couple from West Boldon) asking me to tell the tale again.

“My belief is that this is an seaplane ramp which re-appeared a few months back after the Beast from The East, blew away tons of sand that had covered the site for many years.

“Apparently, in about 1916, this ramp was built to launch little seaplanes straight over the North pier to hoy a few grenades on WW1 Germany.

“There was an operational seaplane station, with big hangers to house and repair these things.

“To protect the Tyne, a barrage balloon also operated from the station.

“Buildings were all along there, where the new grass, fancy new car parks and the new Minchella’s now is (sort of below The Lawe Top).

“Some of the personnel were billeted in the nearby Majestic Ballroom”

Now Peter is calling on other readers to confirm his theory.

“I’m just wondering if any educated Boldon researchers can add or contradict my understanding of this amazing historical piece? How accurate is my tale please, does anyone know owt at all?”

In the short term, Peter says: “It might be a good spot for Boldon grandparents to take the kids before it gets covered up again; to have an actual walk on this piece of real history, though be sure to go at low tide.”

Meanwhile, in the long term, Peter believes the suspected wartime relic, could become a local attraction.

“Surely Sheels Tourist Department should spend a meagre hundred nicker and erect some sort of sign post, explaining to day trippers and also younger Boldon folk, what went on here,” he added.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to think that the council was proud of what happened on this area 100 years ago.”

Meanwhile, the recent article, paying tribute to the memory and music of South Shields brass band conductor Jack Nightingale, brought a message from around the other side of the world.

It came from Pearl Naulder (ne Waggott) Naulder, who is now living in New Zealand.

She wrote: “I have just read your article regarding Jack Nightingale.

“I am the daughter of Jim Waggott and the sister of Colin Waggott, both previously of the Harton Colliery Band and CWS Manchester Bands.

“Both are unfortunately deceased but I know would have wanted to pass on their commiserations (and probably lots of memories) to Jack’s family.

“I was the little girl who used to hang around the band room – and who is now 74! Doesn’t time fly?

Also getting in touch was Ronnie Joynes, who wrote to me about Binns store. He said: “I am 73 yrs of age now but I can still recollect in the very early fifties (at Christmas time), going through what seemed like a snow tunnel which slanted as though you were going slightly downhill, it was probably only made of paper machie and cotton wool.There were various baubles and silver decorations, twinkling stars etc festooned on either side of this tunnel, (although nothing as decorative as you can get now) us kids thought it was marvellous and it seemed to transport us to a magical world.

“At the end of the tunnel there he was – Father Christmas, waiting to give the children their presents, Dan Dare ray guns, toy lead soldiers, colouring in books, scrap books, tin whistles, and not forgetting the famous tatty gun and pea shooter.!

“It is nothing compared to what happens at Christmas time in this day and age, but it certainly made an impression on me at the time.

I never forgot it.”