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Shipbuilding

You are in: Tyne > History > Shipbuilding > Remembering Swan Hunter

Mike Adie in front of the Swan Hunter cranes

Mike said the project has snowballed

Remembering Swan Hunter

Photographer Mike Adie set up a website so the heritage of Swan Hunter and shipbuilding on the River Tyne is not lost to future generations.

Mike Adie remembers watching HMS Illustrious and Ark Royal being launched from the Swan Hunter shipyard.

"Because my brother worked at Swans we used to get tickets for launches with my mum and dad," he said.

"I can remember coming down and seeing Illustrious and Ark Royal being launched.

"It's the buzz of the day, the crowds of people, dignitaries and the ships being launched. The chains being dragged into the river and the noise that they made.

Swan Hunter entrance. Photo: Barry Martin

The entrance to Swan Hunter

"You look at some of the photos and the streets where children are playing are overshadowed by the bow of the tankers. It's so interesting."

Important to remember

It was the fear that future generations would not know about Swan Hunter and shipbuilding on the River Tyne which spurred Mike on to set up his website.

The last ship was towed out of the famous Wallsend yard in July 2006. The iconic cranes which dominated the Tyneside skyline for so long have been dismantled and sent to India.

Mike's brother David worked as a coppersmith at Swans and when the cranes started to be dismantled he went down and took some photographs.

He said he saw it as the loss of another manufacturing base - the mines had already gone and now it was shipbuilding.

"I didn't anticipate anything like that. The interest has been overwhelming. It's really just beyond my wildest dreams"

Mike Adie

He said: "I wanted to be able to have a site that recorded what Swan Hunter was so my two daughters and their children will be able to look back and know what was on the banks of the River Tyne.

"There is nothing really there to mark the industrial heritage.

"The next generation will not know what was there. It's heritage, it's part of Wallsend."

Website has snowballed

Mike believes Swan Hunter needs to be remembered because of the major role it played in the local economy but also because of its world-renowned shipbuilding.

His original idea was to have a simple website with some photos to record the dismantling of the cranes but he said the whole thing had snowballed.

He has received photos, stories and videos and he has been contacted by people from around the world including Australia and South Africa. It means he now spends about four hours a day on it as well as his job and his photography.

Laughing, he said for Christmas 2007 his daughters bought him a remote-controlled crane, saying he had become obsessed with the project.

Mike Adie in front of the Swan Hunter cranes

Mike in front of what remains of the cranes

Mike said: "It started off as a personal interest and I have now got into it with all the stories and all the various different characters. When you speak to people who worked there I just feel sad about it."

Overwhelming interest

The site features photos, stories and poems, a worker's diary and a blog. Mike is planning to add details of all the ships that were built at Swans.

He said: "I didn't anticipate anything like that. The interest has been overwhelming. It's really just beyond my wildest dreams."

Mike said he had met and spoken to a lot of interesting people since starting the project.

He asks for feedback from people who use the site and he says its future direction will depend on where people want it to go.

His ultimate aim is that the website could be used as an educational tool to teach future generations about what was there.

He said: "I would like to think that schools would take it up and use it as a learning resource."

last updated: 09/04/2009 at 11:19
created: 30/01/2008

You are in: Tyne > History > Shipbuilding > Remembering Swan Hunter



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