Playtime at South Tyneside pipeworks

The new engineering shop of Peter Johnston and Co pictured in  November 1967.
The new engineering shop of Peter Johnston and Co pictured in November 1967.

Years ago, when daytime TV programmes were few and far between, there was one show that sticks in the memory – Going To Work.

Each week, the programme focused on a different occupation, showing viewers what it was like to work there.

Westoe's H31 pit face pictured in October 1975.  Left to right:  Power loader, Bob Sparks; Eddie Robson, shearer operator; and cableman Harry Dent.

Westoe's H31 pit face pictured in October 1975. Left to right: Power loader, Bob Sparks; Eddie Robson, shearer operator; and cableman Harry Dent.

After recently featuring a photo on social media of the “new” engineering shop of Peter Johnston and Co (South Shields) which opened in 1967, one reader got in touch to say how she got a “sneak preview” of going to work there.

Alison Campbell posted: “My mum used, to be a cleaner in the office upstairs. I used to go along when I was tiny and run along the long corridor. The draughtsman were lovely, they used to sit me on the chairs and give me paper to colour in.

“She worked there when Gregson pipeworks took it over too, lovely memories.

“When I was a bit older I used to wash all the cups for pocket money and pretend to be a secretary swivelling around in the chair ha ha.”

Others who either worked there or know somebody who did also got in touch.

Beatrice Mills said: “My lovely dad did, the tall man in the suit, on the right of the photo” while Joyce Temple revealed: “I did. Left school one day started in PJ Personnel Department the next. Met my late husband, Kenny Temple, who was apprentice plumber at PJs the same day.”

Brian Zwart emailed: “I’m sure my uncle George Zwart worked there with Micky Spotiswood. George moved to Australia when I was a young lad” while Griff Graham said: “My dad worked at PJ and Gregson pipeworks in 1975, going to show him this pic.”

Susan Davison took to Facebook to say: “My brother served his apprenticeship there from about 68/69 ish” while Jackie McFadyen (Ward) told how her uncle, Peter Malone, worked there, as did Len Smith, “record SSFC goals scorer” according to David Word.

Meanwhile, when accompanied a photo showing miners working three miles under the North Sea on Westoe’s H31 coalface, in 1975, with the question ... “should our coalfields have been kept open?” ... lots of you responded.

Dean Swan said: “No, but should have been phased out rather than slammed shut on the whole industry. Cost at least two generations of people on the scrap heap” while Dave Bulley added: “100% yes. Could have exported, could use cleaning tech to burn it cleaner. Better than shale gas or relying on other countries for fuel any day.”

Sandra Wilson commented: “Too right, there was plenty of coal left, destroyed South Shields my dad was a miner, was Maggie Thatcher fault.”

Artie Carhart said: “The problem was, it was costing more to dig the coal out and cheaper to buy it from abroad; one of the reasons they closed the pits.”

Rob Paris took to Facebook to say: “It was a dying industry. The EU were undercutting it and British coal was costing the government millions to get out, and the unions were costing it in lost wages and productivity as well.

“Sad for the people involved and hardships that they endured but I guess Scargill fell into Thatcher’s hands with his illegal strike in Yorkshire. If the northern fields had stayed out of it they would have kept going a few more years but would have shut too.”

Ian Richardson said: “Loved my days at Westoe” while Vincent Newbrook spoke of “Little Bobbie, sparks machine man.”

John Hallz posted: “Of course they should have been, the mine was the heart and soul of the town.”

Jean Dunbar recalled “all the winter strikes. Cooking on an open fire, all exciting at the time when you were young.”

Steve Young said: “Closing the mines was a political ideology that had nothing to do with economics.”

Anthony Davies concluded by saying: “As much as I enjoy mining, it never paid. How was that fair on the rest of the population?”