Film ID:
NEFA 10879

A TALE OF TWO HAWKERS

1972

Visitor Tabs

Description

Tyne Tees Television documentary about the rag and bone trade and scrap metal dealers on Tyneside, which contrasts the rich with the poor in this traditional business.

Credit: Tyne Tees TV Tyne Tees Color ident

A father and son team of rag and bone men (hawkers) lead their horse out of a stable located in a scrap yard and brush it down before heading off to work the streets. In voice-over, the son, Edward Ramsey, talks about his father who lost his eye when he was 13 or 14. He was always down the pub and always winking, so he was nicknamed 'Winky Pop'.

A crane shifts scrap metal around as the two rag and bone men harness up their horse to a painted cart. The father says he likes a drink rather than going to the betting shop. In voice-over, his son says he has been a hawker since he was at school. 'Pay every day is best, rather than being paid once a week.' He likes cash in his hand.

The father drives the horse and cart out of the scrap yard, Grievesons, onto the Scotswood Road, as the son watches out for traffic. It's a wet day as they drive off up the main road, trotting at a brisk pace, yellow double-decker buses heading up the opposite lane. They turn off the main road into a council estate of 30s housing. The father starts calling out for unwanted items and blows a bugle as he touts for scrap. His son does the same, having fixed a garland of coloured ballons around the horse's neck. The son talks about the horse.

A woman comes out and offers some old clothes for a few coppers. The father and son rag and bone team are targetting an area known as The Ridges (Meadow Well Estate) in North Shields. The son explains that they class themselves as 'rough' round this estate, and so do the rag and bone men, so the two hawkers are welcomed in the area.

Back at the scrap yard, the owner says hiring out horses and carts is his bread and butter. Another two men come in with their horse and cart loaded with scrap. They start unloading. The owner explains that he buys the scrap and rag bundles, sorts out the various steels and metals. He makes a lorry load up and takes it on to a higher buyer, twice a day or so.

Back with the father and son rag and bone men, the son banters with three women and picks up some of the scrap metal in their yard. In voice-over, the father talks about different types of metal they collect.

Close-up of the sign and exterior view of the 60s Robin Adair pub on Scotswood Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. A man and woman (his sister-in-law, Mrs Sinclair) trot down the Scotswood Road on their horse and cart, decorated with a painted sign reading 'John and June Little'. They pull up at Maughans Tyneside Auction Mart. Inside, an auctioneer is mid-patter in a sale of horses. A horse is paraded around the ring, surrounded by a crowd of mostly men and young lads.

Back with the father and son rag and bone men, the cart is now full of various scrap, objects and old clothes. The father talks about the snobby attitude of some people. A woman, Mary Hewitson, on Briarwood Avenue in North Shields looks out from her doorstep and banters a little with the two. Three little children run out to them with some old rags. The father hands one of the little girls a balloon for her rags. He blows up a second for the other girl. He teases the little boy threatening that he won't give him a balloon. The boy looks mortified. He is finally handed a balloon and runs off. Other children in the street hang around, curious about the camera.

A 78rpm record is playing on an old wind-up gramaphone back at John Haydon's scarp yard off the Scotswood Road. A 75 year old hawker swaps banter with a smartly dressed man in a suit and tie. Piece to camera, the businessman speaks about trusting the elderly rag and bone man to do the job because he wouldn't disappear into the pub at opening time like the younger men.

The old man harnesses up his horse, which he talks to affectionately. He asks the cameraman if he wants to buy the horse, now 14 years old. He heads off with his cart up a steep cobbled road in the Scotswood Road area.

[End of Part One]

Edward Ramsey and father's cart is getting fuller.

A crane lifts a scrap Volkswagen car body into a compressor where it is crushed. Interview with the successful owner (Charlie Shepherd?) of Shepherds Scrap Metals Newcastle. He says that he doesn't like to brag but the firm spent three quarters of a million pounds on plant and machinery for the business that year. A giant magnet picks up iron filings at the scrap metal business. General views of machinery operating there, probably at the site in Byker. The owner sits at his desk with three phones, one in red, one in white and one in blue. A woman operates an electronic accounting machine in the offices. He talks about building up the business and about joining the European Common Market and how it might affect the scrap metal business. Metal crashes down when released from the crane magnet.

The father and son rag and bone men are still walking the streets.

A small goods train pushes tubs along a track at Shepherds Scrap Metals. The owner talks about taking over part of a siding at the old St Peter's Station. He says there had been hard times in the scrap merchant business, many firms closing down. 

A young boy is walking with the father and son rag and bone men down a terraced street. The son ties up the horse to a lamp post. Father and son start to put out their scrap on the ground down a street facing a grassed-over wasteland area, with a view down to 3 giant cranes on the Tyne. A woman comes out to see if there's anything she wants to buy. Little children are again getting curious about the TV crew. A child throws some rubbish on a burning brazier

Back at Shepherds Scrap Metals, metal is being crushed. Interview continues with the owner.

At the end of their working day, father and son rag and bone men head with their horse and cart into the family-run scrap merchant yard of C & R Grieveson in Walker, Newcastle. The father talks about the money they actually make. The son muses about his ambition to travel around the country in a caravan and be involved with the travellers at Appleby Horse Fair. They sort out the scrap they've collected into different loads. The horse is un-harnessed and led back to the stable. The father talks about enjoying life. In school he didn't learn to read and write. The two head off with their money.

The film ends with a general view of the horse now safely back in its stable.