Tag Archives: tyne

The Tyne, 1962

Your Heritage: the Tyne is a Tyne Tees film from 1962 with a wonderful voiceover full of flowery language, and skilful accents and acting by Mike Neville. It’s full of nostalgia for me, as I remember much of this from my time in Newcastle a decade later. I thought it a fabulous place with a fabulous river…

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SS Robin returns proudly to London

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ss robin arrives at Tilbury

SS Robin arrives at Tilbury

SS Robin leaving Lowestoft SS Robin tied up at Tilbury SS Robin in her prime

SS Robin leaves Lowestoft; tied up at Tilbury; in her glory days

The SS Robin has arrived at her temporary berth at the Port of Tilbury after the trading port stepped in to offer the newly restored ship a home.

After delays due to bad weather, on Friday she left Lowestoft, where she has undergone two years of conservation and conversion works to create a floating museum for London funded by the Crossrail project, and arrived at Tilbury on Saturday 18 September having celebrated her 120th birthday last week.

SS Robin is one of only three Historic Ships Register core collection ships based in London, and is our last remaining steam coaster. For more posts on the SS Robin, click here; also see the project website here.

Project manager David Kampfner said the floating museum would display the entire ship to the world for the first time, and that he and his colleagues were very excited to finally bring the important historic vessel back to the Thames.

Port of Tilbury MD Perry Glading added that it was a a great opportunity for the port to play its part in ensuring the SS Robin can bring the history of merchant shipping alive for future generations. The Port of Tilbury opened in 1886, just four years before the SS Robin was launched.

PS – We’ve also heard that the 1938 pilot vessel MV Bembridge has been taken to Poland to be restored and used as a shipping company office. Sailors will know her as the vessel that until a short while ago was the floating club house of the Essex Yacht Club. There’s more about her at the Ships Nostalgia forum.

PPS – We have also received an appeal for help in restoring the SS Kyle, built on the Tyne, England, in 1913. The appeal came from Libby Earle, daughter of the ship’s last skipper, Captain Guy Earle – for the past 43 years the vessel herself has lain on a mussel bed at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, where she arrived after colliding with an iceberg.

If you’re interested in British coasters, at the time of writing Amazon has three copies of Charles V Waine’s book Steam Coasters and Short Sea Traders.

Weel may the keel row

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‘Nearly oval’ lighters on the riverbank at Newburn on the Tyne, image from Samuel Smiles’ book Lives of the Engineers, republished by Project Gutenberg. They’re a bit small to carry 20 tons of coal, but they might well be an artist’s slightly fanciful depiction of the keel

An outstanding recording of the tune known as the Keel Row popped up on my Facebook page the other day, and got me thinking about the keels of the River Tyne. The tune was played on an English concertina by a young man called Danny Chapman and must not be missed: hear it here.  You’ll notice that apart from the beautiful statement of the theme, in the way that’s traditional in the North East of England, there is a following series of stunning variations. There’s more of this stuff on this page. Well done Danny!

But what’s a Tyne keel? Believe it or not, it was an Anglo-Saxon boat type that lasted into the 20th century, though there are none around now and precious few pictures seem to exist. Still, there’s a nice history including the words of the song the Keel Row here. Jim Shead has a little more on the keel here, and the Samuel Smiles book has more to say about how the boats were used.

Finally, there’s a series of photos telling the story of the Keelman’s Hospital here. It’s a grand tale that demonstrates the independence and grit shown by the keelmen in the face of the ruthlessly capitalist coal owners, who seem to have been everyone’s enemy for centuries.