Film ID:
NEFA 19259



Visitor Tabs


A detailed promotional film of the construction, launch and fitting-out of the Shaw Savill cruise liner, the Northern Star, at the Vickers-Armstrongs Shipyards, Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne. Footage includes the start of manufacture (the laying of flat keel plates) on April 28th 1960, the naming ceremony and launch performed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, on June 27 1961, and extensive shots of the interior decoration of the ship.

Credit: Shaw Savill Line [on still of poster]

Title: "Northern Star"

Title: A One-Class Tourist Passenger Liner for Shaw Savill Line

Title: Built by Vickers-Armstrongs (Shipbuilders) Ltd. Naval Yard. Walker. Newcastle upon Tyne

Credit: Filmed by Turners Film Productions, Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Credit: Production Brian Nicol A.R.P.S. Photography Bryan Copplestone A.I.B.P.

The film opens with various views of the ocean liner Northern Star at sea, with shots of its bow and hull steaming through the water.

A high angle panoramic view of Vickers-Armstrong's Walker Naval Yard, Newcastle upon Tyne, on the River Tyne. The camera pans across to a construction berth at the yard lined by giant cranes, with a ship in the early stages of construction in 1960. The keel plates are laid "with due ceremony" on 28 April 1960.

There is a general view of shipyard workers, welders and riveters pictured beside a construction berth, moving amongst the piles of keel blocks. A group of men, possibly Vickers-Armstrongs and Shaw Savill bosses, stand on a plate laid on keel blocks in a berth. There is a wider shot of the scene looking towards the River Tyne, with a ship near completion in the next berth.

The next sequence is of the construction of the Northern Star. Various shots depict ship plates and parts such as the rudder which is lifted into the construction site by huge cranes, guided by shipwrights directing the operation from the berth. The first stage of the ship’s hull takes shape. We see the legs of a mobile crane moving along the side of the berth. There are further shots of men working on the structure of the hull. An overhead shot records men working inside the hull. Close-ups and general views of the machinery being worked on in a machine shop. A general view towards the river shows the ship supported by scaffolding. From ground level, a rail track leads towards the looming bow section which is put in place. The stern section is then seen being lowered into position. An overhead view records this activity in the shipyard.

The upper decks of the ship take shape. There are dynamic shots of ship parts lifted into place for final stages of construction. The camera pans across the ship deck where the bridge is under construction, with background view across the river landscape. A low angle shot follows of the liner with portholes and decks constructed. A high angle shot pans from slipway at the river’s edge towards the giant hull of the ship with propellers in place. An overhead shot of workers levering cables and the mounds of drag chains for the launch beside the slipway follows. Various shots record the ship in berth nearing completion. There is a general view of some workers walking on tracks leading to the newly constructed Northern Star superstructure in berth.

It's Tuesday 27 June 1961 and the ship stands ready for the launch on a sunny day. The officers and company executives walk towards the Northern Star in its berth, lined with flags. The camera pans over the cruise liner and down towards the mass crowd gathered beside the berth for the launch. A naval band is seated in an enclosure. There is an overhead close shot of the band as the conductor counts them in. An overhead shot of the large crowd, the crowd looks up towards camera and waves. Officials and VIPs are in the launch stand.

The royal car arrives and there is a close up of the Shaw Savill & Company flag. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, is greeted on the launch stand and waves to the crowd, with many female VIPs pictured in their best hats. There is a brief overhead shot of the crowd waving and cheering. The Queen Mother stands before the microphones with a bouquet of flowers. Women hold onto their hats in the wind. The Queen Mother performs the naming ceremony and presses the lever to release the champagne bottle for the launch of the ship. The Northern Star descends down the slipway into the River Tyne as crowds observe beside the berth. The film returns to the crowded launch stand. Following this we see a close up of the smiling Queen Mother waving to crowds, with female VIPs behind her.

There is a brief view of the Northern Star manoeuvred by tugs on the river. Various shots of the ship docked and the fitting-out process ensue, followed by the installation of the ship’s power plant, engines, and other hydraulic machinery including dynamic shots and close-ups of workers hammering in rivets, fixing deck timbers, sawing wood, guiding various heavy machinery parts into place.

A group of men are gathered at the shipyard with Northern Star docked in the background. The streamlined funnel is hoisted into position at the rear of the ship by crane. An overhead shot shows workers gathered beside the funnel in a snow storm. There is an overhead shot of the shipyard and buildings with clock tower. Another overhead of the funnel in position and supported by crane hoists, Tyne river landscape in the background. A sequence of shots follow of the hoisting of the ship mast into position on deck, with overhead shots of the extensive fitting out sheds at the shipyard.

Close-up shots record workers drilling and punching in deck screws, and spreading oil on part of the deck. Various shots record the laying of the deck boards. Workers spread wet cement on a deck. Rolls of linoleum are laid. Steps are constructed and men are paint exterior surfaces. The mast is in position and lifeboat in place at upper deck level. A young electrician with quiffed hair works on the mast wire connections. Two men position the ship’s exterior compass, with a panoramic view of the River Tyne landscape in the background. Joiners then work on the wooden ship railings.

A high angle shot of work on one of the sundeck swimming pools with poolside murals follows. A man applies mosaic tiles. There is a long sequence of shots of the fitting-out and decoration of recreation rooms, the tavern, projection room, children’s play area, with carpenters and electricians at work.

Workers stream down the gangplank from the Northern Star on completion of the ship. There is a high angle view of the ship in Palmers’ dry dock at Hebburn. A dock marine winch unwinds as the ship backs out of the wet dock. The Northern Star is secured with many cables from the ship to dockside.

In the next shot the Northern Star is sitting in dry dock on keel blocks. A sequence of shots shows the testing of the mechanically operated stabilisers that emerge from the sides of the ship. Men coat the ship hull with paint. There is a low angle shot of the base of the hull and the propeller in dry dock. Men carry the ship furniture onto the ship up the gangplanks.

The Northern Star is afloat in the dock (‘Builders’ Quay’). There is an overhead shot of the upper deck where a group of men in life jackets are gathered. Men carry packages from a hold. One is hoisted over the side where it inflates in mid-air and so the demonstration of an inflatable life-saving raft ensues. This is lowered from ship to water. A small boat tows two of the tent dinghy away from the ship.

An overhead shot shows a line of men carrying armchairs across a walkway to the ship. Inside the ship, women are engaged in cleaning all the surfaces. There are two close-up shots of cleaners at work.

A high angle view follows of the completion of the main swimming pool (seen earlier) with the largest pictorial tiled mural in the world at the time and upper viewing galleries. Two men sweep the floor of the empty pool, install interior picture panels and unwrap bundles of ship towels. A sign for the smoke screen is screwed into the wall. A tap lever is pressed and the film cuts to the swimming pool filling with water. There is a general view of the ship walkways next to the pool with a bank of the Tyne in the background. Various shots record the delivery and storage of the great quantities of food, meat, and drink, with close-ups of some of the brands; Ostermilk, Crosse & Blackwell, Chivers, Tuborg, Courage Barclay. Bottles of spirits are placed on shelves. Hundreds of glasses are set up on tables. Plates are stacked in the kitchen. There are shots in the kitchens as kitchenware is cleaned and stored, a large mechanical bread mixer is switched on and a chef ices a cake in the shape of the Northern Star. A pint of beer is pulled and books are shelved.

Various shots document the final calibration and testing of equipment in the Operations Room. Lines of workers leave the ship from a lower deck walkway, a crane towering in the background.

A series of fade-in, fade-out shots detail the modern interiors of the spacious public rooms and accommodation areas of the ship, including tavern bar and dining rooms, cinema loungs, and the crew areas such as officer’s lounge, bridge and operations room, the boiler room, and control room.

On 19 June 1962 the finished vessel is ready to put to sea. Flags fly from the ship as members of the crew come aboard for Northern Star's sea trials along the Scottish coast. The gangplank is removed, ropes dropped into the water as the ship is towed downstream by three tug-boats watched over by a crowd on the quayside. From South Shields Northern Star is seen being towed out to sea between the Tyne piers.

General views of Northern Star travelling at speed through the water followed by flocks of gulls. Moored at Greenock there are various views around the ship showing the many outdoor recreational spaces including the lido area with three swimming pools, main sports deck and main observation deck. Deck chairs are laid out along the decks ready for passengers.

The film cuts to the official handing over ceremony taking place onboard Northern Star. Richard Rudkin, General Manager of Vickers Walker Naval Yard signs the agreement handing the ship to Captain Lockhart, Marine Superintendent of the Shaw Savill Line. The two men shake hands. Mr Rudkin then shakes the hand of new Captain of Northern Star. There is a presentation of a tankard.

On deck a flag is lowered and replaced by another representing Shaw Savill Line. As it is raised the captain gives a salute. General views of Northern Star at sea heading south through the Irish Sea towards Southampton. 

A sign on the side of a building reads 'Southampton'. Inside the building flags hang down from the ceiling as passengers and baggage pass through Customs. A crane loads suitcases onto Northern Star. A steam train pulls into a platform and passengers alight and climb aboard ship.

Crowds watch from the quayside as Northern Star prepares to leave. Colourful streamers hang down from the ship as a brass band performs on the quayside. Along the dockside building a sign reads 'Good Luck and Best Wishes to Northern Star'. Crowds both onboard and along the quayside wave as the ship pulls away from the quayside and is towed out to sea. The film ends with Northern Star heading out to sea.

Title: "But I am constant as the northern star whose true fix'd and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament." Julius Caesar Act III. Scene I

Note: The ship served the Australasia sea route and was designed to capitalise on a new £10 fare-assisted migrant trade scheme, assisting many British emigrants to Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s.