Film ID:
NEFA 10686



Visitor Tabs


An edition of the Tyne Tees Television Series Northern Scene originally transmitted 24th April 1980 that follows Captain George Purvis, a Tyne Pilot, who is retiring in his 70th year after 35 years working on the river. The film follows him as he pilots into Smith Docks the ferry ‘Free Enterprise 2’ and ends with him taking the gas tanker ‘Joule’ out of dock into the North East. These sequences are intercut with interviews with Captain Purvis as well as a number of his colleagues who talk about the long traditions of their families who have worked as Tyne Pilots.

Title: Tyne Tees Television

The film opens with a view of the lightship ‘North Goodwin’ being escorted out of the River Tyne by two tug boats. One of the tugs is identified as the ‘Alnwick’. An aerial view follows of a cargo ship making its way upstream.

At South Shields Captain George Purvis, a Senior Pilot, walks along a quay and boards the pilot cutter ‘Hadrian’. A member of the crew casts off and the cutter pulls away from the quayside. In the wheelhouse Captain Purvis speaks with the skipper about their destination.

Back on the quayside Captain Purvis is interviewed. He talks about his family’s heritage of being a Tyne Pilot as well as the history of the Pilots on the river which date back to 1497.

Back on the pilot cutter views from the boat as it makes its way out into the North Sea. The ferry ‘Free Enterprise 2’ can be seen in the near distance. Captain Purvis speaks with the captain of the ferry by radiophone. Views follow from both the cutter and the ferry as Captain Purvis comes alongside and climbs aboard ship using a rope ladder.

The film cuts to the bridge of the ferry where the ship’s Captain shakes hand with Captain Purvis and they discuss how the ship is to be brought into the Tyne and Smith Dock’s, the ferries final destination. Captain Purvis takes control of the vessel and gives orders. Via radiophone he speaks with Tyne Dock with regards current river conditions.

The film cuts to show a view of the Pilot Watch House at South Shields. A man with binoculars looks out of a window onto the river. Inside a second man takes a phone call and writes down details of a Pilot job on a slip of paper before placing it on the wall over the phone. There is a close-up of a list of all the Pilots which includes eight named Purvis. Other popular names include four Burns and four Tinmouth’s. On the wall is a large map of the Tyne showing all the various berths. One of the pilot’s places slips into two of the berths at Middle Dock.

Back on the ‘Free Enterprise 2’ there are views of the ship making its way slowly up the Tyne past Tynemouth and North Shields. A tug boat follows alongside.

Back on the quayside Captain Purvis talks about the importance of bringing ships into the Tyne without damaging them as well as doing the job with efficiency. He also talks about the problems of dealing with foreign ships.

On the bridge of the ‘Free Enterprise 2’ Captain Purvis speaks with the captain on the tug boat ‘Quayside’ via radiophone. The tug is then seen travelling alongside.

On the bow of the ferry a member of the crew carry’s a large rope in readiness for the docking. General views show Captain Purvis on the outer bridge give commands and carefully manoeuvre the ship slowly into the dock. With the ship in position Captain Purvis shakes the ferry captains hand for a job successfully done.

The light boat ‘North Goodwin’ travels down the Tyne past North Shields, a tug boat follows behind.  In the foreground two men are seen in a rowing boat.

On the quayside Captain Purvis talks about how Pilots traditionally navigated the river and how technology and charts have changed today. He also talks about the problem on the river had with smog especially during World War Two.

The film cuts to an aerial view of the mouth of the River Tyne looking upstream. General aerial views follow travelling up the Tyne as far as the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle showing the various industry along both banks.

Two tug boats lead a large cargo ship up the Tyne, a third tug follows behind.

General views from the Tyne Pilot Authority meeting showing men in suits smoking and listening while the Chairman speaks and Secretary writes notes.

The film cuts to show the rear of Pilot Watch House. Three women walk along a Lawe Street past a number of houses that once housed the Tyne Pilots as part of a tight-knit community.

The film cuts to a series of archive photographs showing various sailing ships on the Tyne followed by photographs of some historic pilot boats. There is a photograph of Captain Purvis’s grandfather James who was the oldest working Pilot in England. There are photographs of some steam ships which sailed on the Tyne when Captain Purvis was an apprentice in the 1930’s.

The film cuts back to Captain Purvis being interviewed. He fears for the family tradition of Tyne Pilots as his sons have so far only had daughters. He also says that these days prospective Pilots have to serve at sea to get their Masters Ticket before they can apply to be a Pilot.

The film changes to show a younger Pilot, John Marshall. He talks about the generations of his family who have been Tyne Pilots. He has two daughters, but hopes if he does have a son that he would want to become a Pilot to keep the tradition going. He also doesn’t believe there is any reason why women couldn’t do the job.

General view of a cargo ship travelling down the river.

The film cuts back to John Marshall who is asked why he would want to be a Pilot rather than the lucrative captain of a super tanker. For him it is the “personal satisfaction” of doing a good job.

The film changes to interview a third Pilot, Billy Young, whose father and grand-father were both Pilots. He says that once he started working on the Tyne he didn’t want to work anywhere else. The films show Billy walking towards a Pilot Cutter moored on the river.

The film cuts to back to Captain Purvis who says that according to the ship owners those Pilots trained on the river are better than those who have a Masters Ticket.

Captain Purvis comes out of the Pilot Watch House and climbs aboard a bus which drives off along Lawe Street. The film cuts back to him on the quayside talking about piloting his first iron ore ship and the problems with manoeuvring larger ships.

Along the dockside comes Captain Purvis past the gas tanker ‘Joule’ which is moored there. He climbs the gang plank and boards the tanker. The film cuts to show a view from the stern of the ship looking down onto the Tyne where a tug boat waits. On the bridge Captain Purvis shakes hands with the ship’s captain. Looking down from the stern of the ship again a view of the tug boat ‘Cragside’. Back on the bridge Captain Purvis communicates with the skipper of the tug boat ‘Westsider’ via radiophone. On the deck members of the ‘Joule’ crew throw down ropes to the tug ‘Westsider’. The ‘Joule’ is seen slowly being manoeuvred out of the dock and then turned to point it downstream by the tug boats.

Now in position on the Tyne Captain Purvis gives the order to the crew to head downstream. There are views of it traveling along the river flanked by the tug boats. Along a quayside a small crowd watch proceedings.

As Captain Purvis looks through a port hole on the bridge he talks about some of the near misses he’s had while piloting a boat. General views of the tanker slowly travelling down the Tyne toward the North Sea.

The captain of the ‘Joule’ is interviewed and is asked about his relationships with river Pilots. He says they are invaluable is shallow waters such as the Tyne. Not all Pilots around the world are as good as here.

Captain Purvis looks through the port-hole on the bridge. He then speaks with the skipper of the ‘Westsider’ via radiophone to ‘let go’. General view of the ‘Joule’ passing North Shields.

The film cuts to an interview with Captain Purvis who’s celebrating his 70th birthday. This ‘casting off’ will also be his last before retirement. He reflects on his 35-year career and says while it has had its moments, such as working on cold dark nights, he has enjoyed the river more than going to sea.

On the bridge of the ‘Joule’ Captain Purvis hands back control of the ship to the captain. Outside the pilot-cutter comes alongside and Captain Purvis is seen on the rope ladder half-way down the side of the ship. Captain Purvis climbs aboard the cutter and the film ends with it heading back to the Tyne as the ‘Joule’ heads out to sea.