The Tyne ferry runs through our blood

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THE cross-Tyne ferries have been part of nearly all our lives round here since we were babes in arms.

That’s as passengers, of course.

But it’s also nice to be reminded that many folk have had even closer connections, through family members who have crewed the vessels over the years.

One of them is Pauline Wiggall, who’s been interested in recent pieces on the old vehicular ferry Northumbrian, which was briefly a floating restaurant on the Tyne, after being taken out of service and before eventually sailing off to Belgium.

I’ve still not given up hope of finding out what ultimately became of her.

But Pauline was pleased to see the piece, as her great-grandfather, George Henry Thomas Emmerson, was once the Northumbrian’s skipper.

Pauline has been researching her family tree and has been trying to find out more about him.

“I have tried getting more information, but have had no luck,” she says.

“I can remember, as a child, being told about him; also that one of his sons worked at the ticket gate - who I do remember talking to, when we went on a trip to North Shields.

“I seem to recall my mother telling my that my great-grandfather was down in the engine room that day, but I don’t know if that’s right.”

Adds Pauline: “I have to say that I really look forward to all the photos of South Shields, and interesting snippets about the past. I’ve been doing my family tree since the 1970s. The pleasure it has given me is unbelievable, and I still hope to shed some light on a few more bits and pieces.”

I have not been able to hitherto turn up any information on George Emmerson, but he was in a distinguished line of ferry skippers.

The picture here is of two of his successors, Joe Bramwell, left, and Herbert Gay, who were both masters of the Northumbrian, and who are seen more than 40 years ago, not long, I suppose, before she was taken out of service.

One other note: I also turned up the fact that it is exactly 85 years ago almost to the day, that the Northumbrian was launched at the Hebburn yard of Hawthorn Leslie’s, from whom she’d been ordered by the Tyne Improvement Commission.