Film ID:
NEFA 10912



Visitor Tabs


Autobiographical documentary on James Mitchell, the English author of crime fiction and spy thrillers (pseudonyms James Munro and Patrick O. McGuire) who also worked as a film and TV scriptwriter. Born during the General Strike, Mitchell returns to his home town of South Shields and reminisces about his family and childhood during the Depression era. He revisits places remembered from his youth, including the River Tyne, South Shields Town Hall, Marsden Rock and Sunderland College of Art, where he taught, and talks about the long established Muslim community in the town. This is an edition of the Tyne Tees Television series A World of My Own [no credits], originally broadcast on Wednesday 2 July 1969.

The documentary opens with a general view of the Old Town Hall in South Shields. A car turns into Market Square. Close-ups follow of author James Mitchell as the driver. Travelling shot from the car driving around Market Square, then turning left past the Ridings store on the corner of the main shopping street, King Street. The car (a Jensen Interceptor Reg. No. RBB 99F) then turns onto a residential street. Close-up of Mitchell driving. Travelling shot of the car moving along the coast road with a view of a harbour and ship yard crane, and on up River Drive.

The Shell tanker Dingle Bank sails up the Tyne. James Mitchell gets out of his car and surveys the mouth of the Tyne. A boat is sailing out of the Tyne between Tynemouth Pier lighthouse and the South Shields lighthouse.

The Pando Strait and Iron Crown cargo ships are moored at a Shields shipyard, the North Shields Fish Quay on the far bank of the Tyne. A crane looms at the end of another residential street. A door-to-door insurance salesman (Man from the Pru?) collects payments from a woman in one of the houses. A woman plays football with some children on a street, a dog barking at her. Two women call at a local corner shop. A few adults and children hang out on another street of terraced houses leading down to the Tyne.

Pigeons perch on roofs. An elderly Asian man in braces feeds his hens in a back yard. A teenage boy visits to show him a racing pigeon. The man examines the pigeon and strokes its head.

At South Marine Park a woman and her child feed the ducks on the lake.

James Mitchell drives through South Shields on a steep residential hill. He arrives at the grand forecourt to the prominent Edwardian Town Hall on Westoe Road, with fountains and nymph lampholders in the forecourt alongside a statue of Queen Victoria. Various close-ups of sculpted figures on the front of the building follow. Mitchell walks up the front steps. Inside, he climbs the stone staircase, pauses to look at a bust, walks a corridor and enters a panelled chamber. He looks at a photo of his father amongst councillors. He sits on the Mayor’s Chair in the council chamber. Piece to camera about the family’s pride when he became Mayor of South Shields.

Mitchell walks down a derelict street of terraced houses with smashed windows, glass on the pavements. He looks through a smashed window pane, a cigarette dangling from his house. He enters one of the houses where debris and leftover possessions litter the floor. He walks into a back yard strewn with debris and on down a back alley. General views follow of boarded up houses and corner shop as he strolls down the deserted streets. Old advertising for Woodbines and Brooke Bond Tea still adorn the front of the shop.

Next, he walks through gardens lined with nymph lamp holders and down the stone steps leading towards the Marine Park South lake, a grand vista facing the North Sea.

A short sequence shows the exuberant Durham Miners Gala procession past the County Hotel with banners and brass bands and dancing crowds.

Portrait shot of James Mitchell. General view of an empty bandstand in a park. A young man walks his dog through an empty fairground. All the rides, including the Helter Skelter, are closed. He continues walking the dog along the Groyne Promenade.

[Countdown leader]

Mitchell gets a ride on a police launch sailing past the Herd Groyne lighthouse and into the Tyne. Travelling shots follow from the boat as the author sits towards the stern and watches the industrial riverscape pass. The boat passes the cargo ship ‘Bamburgh Castle’ (built at Swan Hunter) and another large ship. The three police on board the launch sit up front. Mitchell sits out back to watch the sights of the river. The boat comes in to moor and Mitchell hops off waving goodbye. On the riverside, he heads across the deserted forecourt of the grand Customs House in the Mill Dam area, east of the old Tyne Docks.

Back in South Shields town centre, women stroll through the Market Square, some with prams and children, past the Old Town Hall and a market cross. Saint Hilda's Church on Church Way also faces the market place. People browse and shop at the market stalls. One or two young women have bouffant hairstyles popular at the time. Children are curious about the caged birds on sale at the market.

A bus advertising Binns on its rear passes a road sign pointing to North Beach and South Beach, and the Lifeboat Memorial on Pier Parade, between the North and South Marine Parks.

Waves roll onto the beach. The Ritz restaurant sign is visible through the columns of Ghandi’s Temple, a 1930s bandstand on the seafront.

Mitchell drives along the seafront. Various shots of Marsden Rock and Marsden Beach follow. A young woman in a bikini runs along the beach. Slow motion footage of her running follows. A lift moves up the lift shaft from Marsden Grotto, a pub on the beach. Mitchell enters the lift, graffiti on the wall outside, and travels down to the beach, lighting a cigarette as he goes. On the beach, he glances around. Shots of Marsden Rock follow. One or two people are scattered on the beach. Hundreds of birds nest on Marsden Rock. A man’s pet dog runs out of the sea with a stick. As a woman knits whilst seated on a deckchair, children play with buckets and spades in the sand. General view of Marsden Bay. Mitchell walks the beach, sits on the rock and looks out to sea. View of the sea through a rock stack.

Still on Marsden Beach, Mitchell short piece to camera about writing a spy thriller series under the name of James Munro, his main character John Craig. A ship waits in the distance out at sea as waves crash onto the South Tyneside shore.

Back on the River Tyne, various cargo ships moor around the harbour at South Shields including the James Rowan and Sir William Walker. A smaller boat heads upriver.

Exterior view of Sunderland College of Art at Ashburne House, Backhouse Park. Interior shots of the arts students painting, sculpting, working on technical illustration, and making collages. Various exterior shots flash between the old Ashburne House and modern 60s extensions for the art college at the campus. A selection of paintings of the architecture follows. Students work away in the sculpture workshop with welding and other techniques. The section closes with exterior views of the college buildings.

The next sequence opens with a close-up of Arabic writing on a sign. A man enters the building, a seamen’s boarding house in the Holborn area of Laygate. The Indian restaurant of Shah Jan sits on a busy street. Two children wander by. An Arab man with two children enters a door to a building, the sign above the door reading ‘Licensed Seaman’s Lodging Housekeeper (A.A. Hussein)’ This is probably the Yemeni boarding house at 50 - 52 Brunswick Street.

In the play area of a small, modern 60s low rise housing estate, probably still around Holborn, a group of young children pet two dogs.

Mitchell walks across a lawn at South Shields Marine and Technical College. A domed observatory tower sits on the building. He gets back in his car and drives off. High angle view of a main road looking out over South Shields towards the Tyne shipyards and cranes.

[Mitchell was also creator of two of the most acclaimed television drama series of the late 1960s and 1970s, Callan and When The Boat Comes In. Before 1964 he taught libreal studies at Sunderland College of Art.]