Observing the 1980s

Brady, Frederick (Part 1 of 1) Millenium Memory Bank

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    Shipyard Closures

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    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Brady, Frederick, (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Jones, Virtue, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Born in Ipswich. Father loved work. Moved to Clacton on Sea. He was a builder. Mother died when I was 9. We moved to live with grandmother..father carried on moving about. He met a lady in Lincoln and stayed there. He worked on Lincoln Cathedral. My wife and I used to go down two or three times a year..he would show us jobs he had done. Clacton was middle-England. Good housing..beautifully tended sea front...Butlins...I lived there from 1942 to 1949. It was a clean town. I loved cricket and the area was crosscut mad. My mother had a fatal heart attack. Brought up by grandmother in Sunderland. Did not like Sunderland at first. In late 40s it was a dowdy shipyard town with dingy buildings...a cultural shock. In those days three quarters of nation were hard-up. We moved into Millfield...back to back housing..cobbled streets...bomb sites Like all Sunderland people sturdy and pragmatic...what I love about Sunderland people is their ability to accept adversity...do not moan...I have grown to love Sunderland. We had an old ramshackle house..a hovel...we had left a three-bedroomed house in Clacton with a front garden and a back garden...al we had here was an outside garden ...no bathroom you had to use public baths or the blunderbuss in front of the fire. The public baths were lovely. The water was measured out by an attendant..lots of choice language. I used to come out of the baths..pork butcher...people know how to eat when they live in adversity. Go to pub with pies and have a few drinks there. Then go to Roker Park. Greatest player was Len Shackleton. Saturday evening a gang of us met and went to Dance Hall ...we could only do the Barn Dance. Young ladies confronted by Gary Grant type characters...we thought we were so suave...they were all shipyard men and miners...not known for manners. Dance Hall was very popular. Al Plush and his orchestra. The odd fight when people had too much to drink.. No drink sold in the dance hall. I used to buy a suit for ten shillings down and six shillings a week so you would keep up with the latest trends. I used to have a continuous bill with Jackson's or the fifty shilling tailors Italian suits, suits with roll collars and Teddy Boy suits...beetle crushers. They were glorious days. Beginning of the fashionable times. Lots of orders for shops in Sunderland..plenty money through overtime. Band played Glenn Miller sort of stuff. Just prior to Rock and Roll. The Be-bopping started in the 1950s. You would pick up a young lady at the rink and then take her to the pictures on a Sunday. Seven deadly Sins and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning broke the mould of pictures. They would not put those on on a Sunday because Sunday was still treated as religious. Pubs used to close half an hour early on a Sunday evening. Victorian standards were paramount. We moved to a house in Millfield..front room ...two bedrooms...scullery ...tiny little fire...a typical Sunderland cottage. Black lead fire ranges..women would bake pies..oven ...women would bake pies...fender with two seats...nice to sit there in the winter. No bath...no privacy...no pithead baths...nothing for a brother to be sitting in the bath while sisters were listening to the wireless. If you stepped out of line you got a back-hander. All women of that era had to cope. They were disciplined to cope...women had a bad time. Grandfather was a tailor...lost his eyesight...and became a porter at the hospital. He died at work. She died aged 95. She was a tough old bird. My grandmother originated from Seaham...11 daughters..one son...my uncles were all mine workers. Interesting people mining people...diverse interests..My great grandmother was still alive when I first came. She lived in Aged Miners house and you would have all these people on a Sunday in this house...30 -40 people. She used to cater for them..bilberry pies...barley with currants and raisins. A close-knit society..house was in Seaham. Used to go to Beamish. people could not afford holidays. As times improved I used to save up. I used to go to Clacton then. My wife and I went (to Butlins) in the 60s. People like Tommy Trinder etc..dated then. Sing songs etc..silliness...very cheap. They built a housing estate on Butlins at Clacton. I thought this was wrong. The people down there have not got the impetus they have in areas like this. You can not get a bus or train to Ipswich direct from Clacton. In the North East we have got it all sorted out..you can buy a ticket here for nine pounds and go anywhere for a week on bus train or ferry. I had a car for a lot of years...I failed breathalyser abysmally...18 month ban and a big fine...I thought I would do it again so I sold the car and use public transport. I am involved in local politics...use metros. Describes using the Metro. Public transport here is one of the best in Britain. Because of the poverty here they have to be organised. For a couple of years it was hard without the car. I did used to go to the pub in the car. I can get three buses (to the pub). I would like a car for holiday time. There is a lot of anxiety with cars. Clacton was clean and popular. To move to Sunderland with back to back housing, back lanes and cobbled streets was a great change. I hated it. The poverty in Clacton was not ingrained like it was in the North east. The Luftwaffe had damaged Sunderland. Three big bomb sites...became open markets...cheap vegetables etc. These fascinated me. ...strong men lifting cart wheels...people chained up... man pulled people's teeth out without an anaesthetic. Charged sixpence. In 1949/50. Also the 'I do not want ten shillings...etc" The culture of the place was full of surprises. The proper shipyard houses were in Deptford and Southwick..on banks of Wear...a specific design...different to the back to back houses we lived in Millfield. They were tight small little cottages...you would see an army of people coming out of them in the morning. Nobody wanted to be anything else. When people are together like that there is an intrinsic human bond. My time in the shipyard taught me that...fatalities in the shipyard...no consideration for people's safety. I remember a man falling 50 feet into the hold...blood...all bones broken...other fatalities. An everyday occurrence. Conditions were awful...all about production...safety came with trade unions later on. I entered Doxfords at 15... My first day there. Managers wore bowlers and foremen trilbys. Asked for the long stand. ...rubber rivets etc...a good apprenticeship...a shipyard man understands when you are serious etc. I still had a southern accent...anything South of York was a cockney...I had lots of fights. You worked in the dark. Very few welders over 50 who do not have asthma, bronchitis etc. I have about nine things wrong with me. I consider myself lucky. I saw a man in the town last week only a year older than me...two sticks...eyes going..deaf.. arthritis all over his body...tennis elbow. At least I am mobile. I spoke to him...all he talked about was the price of the beer going up in the club. He did not moan once about the afflictions he had...I really felt for him. This is endemic with Sunderland people. At times you were in the 'save all' like a rabbit hutch...sucking effluents in all the time. You can not blame the management...that was the way of the nation then after the war. Your first year in the stores then either in the assembly shed or the ship. You worked with the shipwright at first. When you were out of your time you were on your own. I started drinking when I was 18. I was told that I was going to the dogs. It was like when I got blue suede shoes...my grandmother thought I was going to the dogs. In shipyard 37 years. On closure no work in Sunderland...we became industrial gypsies..travelled...Aberdeen...Southampton..Hull etc. Germany...Holland...Belgium. I feel very bitter towards it. I was robbed of many years of our working life... compensation was a pittance...I got seventeen thousand pounds. Sunderland was the biggest shipbuilding town in the world...more shipyards on the Wear than anywhere else. Many went to the wall because of competition from Japan etc. Only two remained...Austin and Pickersgill Group and Doxford Group...massive employers...5000 people and a spin off of 3 for each job. and P had launched a vast fleet of SD 14 Liberty Ships. And SD 18 ships. Built at competitive prices...better than Japanese...On other side more sophisticated boats..Stenna boats...highly technological vessels...leading the world. We were victims of unfettered global market. We needed subsidies...gradually taken away and we were beaten. We had a big campaign...lots of support...I went to Parliament...some of the comments by Tory M.P.s. I was listening to them kicking 37 years of my life into touch. I am bitter not just for me but for the young people of Sunderland who would be working in the shipyards. Most young people here have never had a proper job. That was never considered. Talks about subsidies in other industries. We had to go away to work. A lot of investment from Pacific Rim has come here. This investment is being withdrawn. You can now see factories closing. I think we are in a worse position than we have ever been. We have nothing to fall back on to. The ferries on the river (last ships built). These are now all deployed in Scandinavia as ferries. There were suggestions at the time that they were not up to standard..trickery... They were only small and built quickly...'The only thing you ca see from space is the Great Wall of China and the line of ferries outside Austin and Pickersgill. There were 10 - 12 of them ..all red coloured. My family did not go down to see them. I went to Doxfords. There were 10 - 12 shipyards at the time...lists the shipyards...I have worked in them all at various times...in good times you could leave one and go to another. River was a liquid motorway...ships all the time...tugs hooting...you feel the river has died now. It is much prettier now...you had the Lambton drops...it was horrific to look at then...very dirty...it is nice to see walkways put in..university on the banks of the river and the glass centre...personally I would rather have the shipyards. The city is improving out of sight. You served your time the nearest to where you lived. All houses concentrated near shipyards. These estates (where I live) were farmers fields. It took me 8 minutes to walk there. Millfield was always part of Sunderland. Sunderland is biggest city between Leeds and Edinburgh. Millfield was always part of the 'West End"...this was used a lot as a prefix. Millfield has a good shopping centre. In my younger days Pyrex was a thriving industry. About the same distance as the shipyard. We had canteens. I had dinner there. Not gastronomic delights...pies called sinkers...all stodgy things..panakalty (pan hagarty)...originally came from Ireland...suet puddings...leek puddings...hard-time diets...I was sixteen stone at one time. Nobody cared about weight at that time. There was a national craze about weight.. started on a fat free diet...I have been 12 and a half stone for 8 years now. It is not difficult when you get into it...you eat pastas etc. I never thought I would live to 60 ...I am 62. Modern houses help you. In Millfield they were damp and coal fires with the smoke and effluents etc. You do not have these to contend with. I can walk 4 or 5 miles without touching a road. When I lived in Sunderland I never saw a fox..you see foxes out the back here and deer. Deer from Lambton castle. Through cricket we used to go to lots of little villages in Essex. This gave me love of the countryside. We were always in countryside when we were boys. I never went to countryside from Millfield. In those days it would be down to the pub or the pictures. When we came here I wandered along roads to hetton etc. You can lose yourself in your own thoughts. When I was in 40s the craze of jogging started. I did the Great North Run a few times. I used to jog over these places. I was a nine-minute miler at the best. I have run for four hours. I packed in when I was 46. I was 52 (when shipyards closed) You just have to get on with it. I got call to work in Germany. You had been brain-washed during the war to hate all Germans. I became friendly with two Germans they were fine...they spoke English... It changed my whole perspective. I do not like to call my own country...I am patriotic...but we are so far behind. I think it is the insularity...the arguments against the Common Market are all nationalistic arguments. Over here if you speak a couple of languages you are a great intellect but over there people speak 5 or six languages especially in Germany. I talked to young people in Rotterdam who knew more about politics than most adults in this country. I used to be an anti- European but when I saw the conditions the rate of pay (3x what I earned in Sunderland) and I got seventy pounds for the inconvenience of working outside my own country. These were the people who I had been taught were my greatest enemy. The centralised Westminster system has let the North East down. The shipyards and the mines would not have closed. I have actually seen Europe working. Arthritis are gradual things...migraines, gout...high blood pressure. Doctor would not allow me to work any more. I have built up a reserve of money. Wages are so different in Europe. I earned over five hundred pounds a week in Germany. All foreign workers had to work overtime at double time. I have been wise with my money...paid off my mortgage. At least my son will be left a house. I used to live in a Council House called Thorney Close. I hated it, it was the pits of an estate. The Council sold these at half rent half buy. I love living up here six miles out of Sunderland. Building Society gave me good advice...I added to redundancy money. He advised me to pay off my mortgage. People who buy council houses put a porch on the front and then change their accent. I like to see society keep together. I have learned that a society who keeps together is an irrepressible society. Old Mother Thatcher would not like to live outside of society. There are 99 houses in Wood Lea. You did not have to put a deposit down. You paid a mortgage for half and rent for half. It was not a particularly good scheme. They are worth about 55 thousand now. I am not into DIY...I rely on friends. I want my garage roof tiled not a flat-top. I am useless. I like reading. I did a computer course. I have got word processing, database and spreadsheet at first level. I have been stopped work about three years. I did a joinery course at Ryhope School. On the day I passed 3000 joiners were laid off at a factory. I could not take-in the computer course. The tutor told me I would pass the kids who he said would fail. Then it comes to you all of a sudden. A friend told me which fingers to press. This was done through the dole. This was the first time I had been on the dole. I had gone 37 years in work. Then lots of forms...I think it was geared up to put you off work. I had 5 -6 years working away...it was like being a single man again. I did one contract on board a ship round Africa from India. Conditions were awful in India. Describes working conditions in India and living conditions...sanitation, smell. I am British. I dislike some things done in name of Britain. I did not like bombing of Iraq. I do not believe in taking innocent lives. I am of Irish descent. I went to Ireland a few years ago. I got a pleasant surprise...it is the loveliest country in Europe. They are my type of people. An Irishman gave me a book about politics. I now see that the Loyalists seem to be dominating the talks. I am a Protestant. I think it needs to be fairer. We wiped out villages along the River Gambia in the name of the British flag. I am not proud of British History. I used to take my sons to football matches. Sunderland lost. People were getting half-kicked to death. I stopped going to football. Then you see them in Spain with the Union Jacks. We are classed as the scum of Europe. I socialised with Germans because the English I was with made me ashamed of them. They were civilised people. My sister in law has stopped going to Ibiza because of the behaviour of the English. What I love about Ireland is it is more affluent than here. Lovely towns like Killarney. They still have their own culture' Killarney is about the size of Chester le Street and there about 200 pubs there. There is music in all of them. There is never any violence. It is a lovely accent in Southern Ireland. They have a massive command of English. I look forward to going there. The weather is poor. The Irish influence in this area is great. I think I felt I belonged when I had the camaraderie in the shipyards...good harmless fun...conditions were always bad. It is the friendship which grows with people. I miss it immensely now. The clock has turned a full cycle now. In next ten years Sunderland will be transformed. I met a chap on National Service who always called Sunderland the 'old girl' . I think the old girl is going to become a young girl. The extension to the shopping centre will make it one of the biggest indoor shopping centres in the country. ...glass centre...regenerated houses in the East End. Plans for cinemas etc all over the city. You have to have change. You can not live in the past. I worked in Bremerhaven in Germany. It was damaged during the war but it was rebuilt exactly as it was. Also Heidelburg has been rebuilt as it was. I am not a great lover of old buildings. Reproduction houses would be a better idea. Plymouth has been rebuilt with some reproduction buildings. There is a suspicion with foreign workers at first. I found there were words in the German language which were from the North East but they were used in Germany. These words are part of the culture of the shipyards...e.g. the word piss. Many German words similar to ours. I speak Italian. I have been told it is the most beautiful language in the world. I went to college to learn Italian. Also Psychology, Political Psychology. I now have a fetish for psychology. I read the Human Zoo and the Naked Ape. I was putting people into categories such as chimpanzee. As a work person I owe everything I have to the Trade Union Movement. They have always helped people get on. They had a horrible character assassination done on them in the 60s. However, what Arthur Scargill said was right. I rate France as the greatest democracy in the world. The Unions could not be legislated out of power. France has come on a lot faster than we have. We were told that the British Unions were too extreme and that is why Germany was so successful. The first week I was In Germany I was called to go on strike. The Unions are very strong in Germany. You could not legislate them out of power. We have never had a proper constitution. The fount of sovereignty should be in the hands of the people. I am an absolute believer in democracy. I am a citizen of Sunderland. I am a North Easterner. This is a down-trodden area. If we get an Assembly the innovation of the industrial revolution will be there again.

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    Interviewed for Millenium Memory Bank

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