Film ID:
NEFA 20959



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An amateur film made by Eric Parr of the South Tyneside Movie Makers on the history of the Shields Ferry service between North and South Shields and the last of the steam ferries; the Northumbrian. The film uses interviews with a number of people who have fond memories of either using or working the ferries intercut with both historical photographs as well as archive footage including film from THE PASSING OF THE TYNE FERRY produced by Lilian Wincote in 1972.  

The film opens on the present day Shields ferry Pride of the Tyne pulling away from the quayside. A sign nearby points pedestrians towards the terminal before cutting to views of the skipper at the controls of the vessel as well as the ships radar.

As the ferry come alongside the North Shields terminal a small group of passengers wait for its arrival followed by views of passengers disembarking.

The film cuts to show archive footage of the last steam ferry, Northumbrian travelling across the river Tyne.

Title: The Last Steam Ferry

More archive footage follows showing men loading cars and a motorbike on to the ferry.

An interview follows with 102-year-old Jenny Johnson on her happy memories of using the ferry as a child to visit the markets with her mother on Saturday and Monday.

Archive footage shows workmen coming on board the Northumbrian which then cuts to an interview with George Jolley whose father started on the ferry in 1935 as a deckhand. The film cuts to views of a deckhand working to tie up the Northumbrian.

George continues to say his father ‘jumped’ to the vehicle box where he collected fares and checked vehicles and animals to make sure they are suitable for transport. Again, as he speaks there are photographs of his father working at the booth and archive footage of the tariff board.

The film cuts again to show archive film of pedestrian and traffic coming off the ferry at South Shields as George Jolley talks about the gating system his father worked.

Archive film shows a deck hand raising the pedestrian ramp which then cuts to an interview with Skipper Jack Sharp. He talks about the number of men who worked on each ferry; five in total including the Skipper, the engineer, a fireman and two deckhands. His job when he worked the ferries was safety.

Title: Wartime had it’s problems with the blackouts

Archive footage shows the Northumbrian on the Tyne which then cuts back to Jack Sharp who talks about the problems of working during the war without lights. The only light they had was pointed downwards onto the mooring ropes only. Archive photos show the river Tyne from this period.

The film cuts back to George Jolley who is sitting with a large leather bag on his knees. This bag was his fathers and was the last fare collection bag used on the last ferry journey of the last steam ferry, the Northumbrian. He shows the camera the bag’s keys as well as a selection of old coins. The leather bag needed to be strong to take the weight of the all the old coins. From out of the bag he brings another smaller one containing a selection of old coins typical of the types his father collected.

Archive photographs show George’s father working in the vehicle box. The film cuts back to George holding a 100-year-old truncheon that was the only protection those working in the vehicle box had from attackers. More archive footage of the Northumbrian and Tyne follows.

An interview with Captain Andy Nelson, Assistant Harbour Master for the Port of Tyne Authority, outlines that he was responsible for the three remaining steam ferries; the Northumbrian, the South Shields and the Tynemouth. Archive photos of the ferries are shown as Captain Nelson explains the impact the opening on the Tyne Tunnel had on the ferries and the consequent dramatic fall in vehicles using the ferry.

Captain Nelson explains how the authority was aware that these ferries were on the way out and that having five crew members was uneconomic. As he speaks both archive photographs of the engine room as well as archive footage help illustrate his point.

A photograph of a pony pulling a cart is used to illustrate a story Captain Nelson tells, which believes, is true about how the crew of a ferry having to pick up and carry a pony onto a boat as the animal had refused to get on board after it felt the jetty move because of choppy waters.

Archive footage of the tugboat Maximus is shown as Captain Nelson talks about river traffic back then and how ‘it was a village within itself and the ferrymen were a part of it;’.

The film cuts back to Captain Nelson who expressed how impressed he was of the efficiency of the ferrymen, especially Captain George Humble who knew how to handle the vessels well. A photograph of Captain Humble cuts to archive footage of him climbing on board the Northumbrian.

The film ends on a photograph on the Northumbrian on the Tyne.

Title: Converted into a floating restaurant The Northumbrian spent a difficult year on the Tyne before being sold abroad.

End credit: Camera Don Robson Eric Parr

End Credit: Producer Eric Parr

End Credit: South Shields Movie Makers