Saying farewell to one of the Shields Ferry fleet

Readers are sure to be interested to know that it’s 10 years since South Tyneside waved goodbye to an icon.

Tuesday, 28th May 2019, 1:16 pm
Crew says farewell to the Shieldsman. From left Harry Johnson, Gary Stobbs, Bill Lon , Thomas Bennett, Bill Jackson, Steve Burnip, Ray Douds.

The Shieldsman, part of the Shields Ferry’s fleet for 30 years, left the Tyne for the final time in 2009 for a new life on the South Coast of England where a private buyer bought the vessel with plans to turn her into a bar.

On the occasion of her departure, The Shieldsman was boarded up and sailed from her berth at South Shields ferry landing, out the mouth of the Tyne, and then down the east coast of England to Portsmouth.

A few years later the Shieldsman was sold on to a new buyer and she was turned into a houseboat – saving her from the scrapyard.

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Carolyn Drake from Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex turned the vessel into a spacious, four bedroomed houseboat, with “all mod cons”.

Details of the anniversary of her departure have been provided by Nexus, formerly the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, took over the operation of the Shields Ferry in 1972.

Shields Ferry Manager, Carol Timlin, said: “It’s been 10 years now since we said an emotional farewell to the Shieldsman.

“She was an outstanding vessel for three decades, carrying over ten million passengers. The Shieldsman also stood out for her reliability. All of our crew had a lump in their throat when she left the Tyne that day in 2009.”

The Shieldsman entered service on the River Tyne in 1976. She was replaced in 2007 by a new vessel, Spirit of the Tyne.

Spirit of the Tyne, which entered service in May 2007, was the fourth ferry commissioned following the Freda Cunningham in 1972, The Shieldsman in 1976 and Pride of the Tyne in 1993.

Nexus Communications Officer, David Punton, explained that the Shields Ferry carries 500,000 passenger journeys per year and plays a key role supporting local shopping centres, in particular South Shields market.

“It also provides a link to the major new employment areas in the A19 corridor in North Tyneside, connecting with the Route 19 priority bus route.

“Over the past decade, £3.2 million has also been invested by Nexus in new ferry landings at North and South Shields.

“There has been a working ferry between North Shields and South Shields since at least 1377, according to documents from the time.

“Between 1862 and 1908 paddle steamers from the Tyne General Ferry Company ran a passenger service with 21 stops between Elswick and South Shields.

“As late as 1929 there were 11 ferry routes across the Tyne between Newburn and the mouth of the river.

“The opening of the Tyne Tunnel in 1967 led to a huge reduction in ferry traffic. Before it opened 400,000 cars a year still crossed the Tyne by boat.

“The Tyne Tunnel also caused the closure of the ‘Mid Tyne’ passenger ferry between Jarrow and Howdon – it was this ferry which featured in a shoot-out in the film Get Carter.”