Jim Matthewson's Ships At Austin & Pickersgill,Sunderland February 1957 to June 1985

                    

                                

Jim's Life Story Compiled for A School Project By Grandson James Bulmer  in 2003

                

The Earlv Years
James Alexander Matthewson was born at home in Byker, Newcastle UponTyne, on the 18th of January 1923. In those days, all babies were born at
home, and there were no trained midwives like there are today. Old female neighbours acted as midwives, and only knew how to do it from delivering one
baby after another.
James, or Jimmy as we will call him in this biography, was the first born child of Margaret and James Matthewson Senior. His father worked as a haulier
with a horse and cart and also as a baker's roundsman. He had his own horse and cart which he used to collect rubble from building sites and dump
for a small fee.
Elizabeth Mary, Jimmy's sister was born on the 8th of April 1924. His father died at the age of 26 of Tuberculosis. After the death of his father, his Mam struggled to raise two children on a widow's pension of 18 shillings a week,the equivalent of 90 pence today. There was meant to be ten shillings for his Mam, five shillings for Jimmy and three shillings for his sister Betty (Elizabeth). Times were hard.

 

Jim's Mam and Dad

 

School Days
Jimmy started school at the age of five, in 1928. He went to St. Peter's Infant School in Byker then on to junior school at the age of eight. In 1933, when
Jimmy was ten the school was condemned as it was so badly run down and old and the children were transferred to Raby Street Junior School.

In those days, learning mainly concentrated on the three 'R's, reading, writing and arithmetic. Writing was done in school with a pen and ink. The inkwells
in the desks, were filled every day by a class monitor, who the teacher chose.School life was very strict. The teachers wouldn't allow talking in class,shouting out or any sort of unruly behaviour. They would smack children with a leather strap, cane or ruler.The school provided exercise books, but woe betide anyone who lost,damaged or defaced a book. Punishments would follow.Jimmy on the whole was a 'good boy'. He tried to stay out of trouble as much as he could for the sake of his Mam who was struggling to bring him and his sister up on her own. However, on one occasion, he was made to stand in a corner in the classroom, facing the wall for talking.

On another occasion, he was made to stand in the waste paper basket for back answering. The embarrassment and the fear that his Mam would find out, stayed with him fora long time after the punishment, and made him think twice before acting himself again. He felt really ridiculed. I wonder if these punishments would work today? At playtime, the children used to play games like hopscotch and tiggy. Footballs weren't allowed in school like they are today and in those days you would be lucky to be able to afford a one anyway. There were no tests in the infants or juniors like our SATS today. Tests were done in mental arithmetic and spellings to find out a student's place in class.Jimmy used to practice hard for these tests, because he didn't want to facethe teacher's anger if he got anything wrong.
School dinners were provided for the underprivileged and Jimmy fell into this category with his Mam being a widow. Dinners were things like stew and broth; there were no chips or burgers like we have in our school.
While Jimmy and Betty were at school, their Mam worked as many hours as she could as a cleaner, to get money for them. There was always food in the house, but it was very basic stuff because of the lack of money. She worked really hard to make sure that there was always a meal on the table when they
came home from school.
At the age of 13, Jimmy got himself a job as a paperboy to help his Mam with the money problems, but he was too short to reach the letterboxes! In those
days they were right up the door next to the doorknocker, not half way down like they are today, so his Mam had to go with him.
Clothes were bought brand new and his Mam had to go without to buy them.
There was no school uniform at this time, so the two sets of clothes you had were for school and leisure. There were no casual styles like there are today.
At 11years of age, Jimmy took his 11+ which he passed and went onto Heaton Junior Technical. Uniforms were a black blazer edged in red, black
cap with red stripes, grey short trousers. Discipline there was much worse than primary school, but at least they could play sports. As a result of the
discipline in school, Jimmy was never in trouble, because he was scared of the punishments dished out. At the age of 15, students entered exams. This
was when our students today, would take GCSE's. If the results were good you could go on to higher education.
But with personal circumstances being as they were Jimmy had to get a job.At the age of 13, Jimmy got himself a job as a paperboy to help his Mam with the money problems, but he was too short to reach the letterboxes! In those days they were right up the door next to the doorknocker, not half way down like they are today, so his Mam had to go with him.
Clothes were bought brand new and his Mam had to go without to buy them. There was no school uniform at this time, so the two sets of clothes you had
were for school and leisure. There were no casual styles like there are today.
At 11years of age, Jimmy took his 11+ which he passed and went onto Heaton Junior Technical. Uniforms were a black blazer edged in red, black
cap with red stripes, grey short trousers. Discipline there was much worse than primary school, but at least they could play sports. As a result of the
discipline in school, Jimmy was never in trouble, because he was scared of the punishments dished out. At the age of 15, students entered exams. This
was when our students today, would take GCSE's. If the results were good you could go on to higher education. But with personal circumstances being
as they were Jimmy had to get a job.

The War Years
Jimmy had to work long and hard during the war years, because lots of ships were needed for the war. Shifts were from 7:30am till 12pm and 1pm till 5pm,
but he had to work 12 hour shifts from 7:30 in the morning till 7:30 at night and weekends.
The shipyard was bombed one morning at 9:30am. The bomb missed the ship and landed at the bottom of the1 00 tonne crane. Albert Thompson,
Jimmy's future father in-law, went missing for two days with shock.
Amazingly, nobody was hurt.This made Jimmy feel as if he didn't want to go to work in case the shipyard got bombed again, but he just had to get on with it

Materials were always available to build the war ships, as they were really important to protect England. People had to hand in old metal accessories to be melted to make weapons for the army and for the metal for the ships.
Leisure time was spent at 'Tanner Hops' which were dances you paid a sixpence to get into at church halls or the YMCA. The music was provided by someone playing the piano and somebody else playing the drums. Jimmy and his friends went to as many of these as they could, to take their minds off
work and the war.
If the air raid siren went when they were at one of these dances and the hall didn't have its own shelter, people would leave to go to nearby shelters,
others would stay and dance on. Jimmy was one of the people who stayed behind. He believed if anything happened it would have happened to him anyway.
At the age of eighteen, Jimmy got a job singing with a dance band in the evenings, at the Oxford Galleries in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He also travelled  with the bands, on what was known as the Blacks Regal Circuit. This was a group of cinemas known in the North East, with branches in Gateshead,
South Shields and Newcastle. This also included the Rink in Sunderland.
They did the circuit at weekends. Jimmy and his friend David Kelly, who also worked with him as a shipwright, thoroughly enjoyed these nights. It wasn't
like work and they enjoyed all the attention off the girls!

In 1944 on the way home from celebrating his 21st birthday with his friends, he first met the woman who became his wife. Her name was Nora Thompson,
the daughter of Margaret Honoria and Albert Thompson, who was a platter's helper in the shipyards. They met on the trolley bus that Nora caught on her way home from work with her friends. She was 17and had just finished her shift at the munitions factory in Walker. They met again with a group of
friends and she was invited to his 21st birthday party that his Mam and sister had organised for him. From then on, they were hardly ever apart and married on the 23rd June 1945 at Walker Parish Church. Nora wore a dress that her sister had worn previously because of the rationing. Everybody
chipped in with their coupons so that Jimmy could get a new suit.

 

Nora Thompson

The food was prepared and supplied by Nora's mother, who had saved and swappedcoupons for ages to be able to give them a decent wedding. Jimmy's Uncle from Basingstoke supplied the wedding cake. He had his own business and had managed to get it by 'wheeling and dealing' with his contacts. All in all it turned out well considering that the rationing was happening.

 The Family
Jimmy and Nora's first home was in Church Street, Walker, Newcastle Upon Tyne. It was a tenement flat, which meant they had to share the washing facilities and toilet. When Jimmy tells any of us about this, he always says, "There was twenty two to a netty!" There was only cold water, which they had to get from a communal tap in the yard. The property was very damp.
One day, Jimmy decided to bring a cat home from the shipyard to help with the problem of a mouse. The next day he came home from work to find Nora
standing outside crying and angry. When he went inside, he was shocked to find the cat had ransacked the flat and ripped the curtains, as it was wild from
living in the shipyard and knew no other. It had been running around, clawing everything in sight!Their first daughter Joan was born in March 1947. Sadly, Jimmy's Mam only lived for three months after her birth. She died at the age of forty-six from cancer. Jimmy, Nora and Betty had  looked after her. Another daughter, Joyce was born in ecember 1950, followed by a son, David Robert, in April 1953. They struggled to live in the flat, as it was so overcrowded and eventually moved to a three bed roomed council house, with a coal fire in Weldon Crescent, High Heaton. It was luxury for them to have hot and cold running water, a bathroom of their own and a back and front garden. Two more daughters were born here. Diane Margaret, in May 1955, and Karen in February 1961.
Nora worked hard to raise the family, while Jimmy worked long hours to earn money to pay the bills.
Jimmy left the Naval Yard to go to work at Austin & Pickersgills shipyard in Sunderland in January 1957. He travelled from Newcastle to Sunderland for thirteen years, by bus and train. He had to leave home at quarter past six each morning and didn't get back until seven or eight o'clock at night. The
younger children were in bed by the time Jimmy got home, so he used to make the most of their weekends together. Family outings were to Paddy
Freeman's park in High Heaton as Jimmy didn't drive at the time and it wasn't far to walk. David used to sail his boat and the girls would play. They would go down to Jesmond Dene to pet's corner to see the animals and have an ice cream. It was a special          treat in shipyard fortnight, when the shipyard used to close down for the men to take their holidays, to go on holiday in a caravan to Seahouses.

In March 1970, Jimmy eventually moved to Sunderland with his family, as he had been promoted and had to be closer to his work. They bought a three
bed roomed semi-detached house in Grangetown for £4450. It was a large corner plot, and the house had been builttn the land of a former market garden. When they moved in, there was two five foot hills left by the builders in the back and side gardens. Once word went around the shipyard aboutthis, different men kept stopping Jimmy, to ask if they could have some of the topsoil. It was one way to get the garden levelled out, which happened in notime at all. The deal was that the men would give Jimmy plants for his garden in exchange for the soil. With all the plants that he was given, the garden was
filled. It turned out to be Nora's pride and joy. She was the manager in the garden, and he was the labourer.
As he didn't have to spend so much time travelling, Jimmy now had time on his hands and was able to spend it with his family. He regularly attended the football matches, Sunderland at home one week, then Newcastle at home the next. The rivalry between the two teams was not as bad as it is today, and Jimmy had friends in both places.
In March 1971, Jimmy and Nora became Grandparents for the first time.
Their daughter Joan, who had married Tony and gone to live in America, gave birth to a boy Andrew James, in New Jersey. They were delighted. Joan, Tony and Andrew returned to live in England when Andrew was just five months old. They stayed with Jimmy and Nora, until they found a place of their own.
One day, Jimmy decided to take Andrew for a walk in his pram to see some pigs at the farm (even though he wasn't sitting up so couldn't see them) and they got stuck in the mud, which turned out not to be mud! When they got home, Jimmy wasn't allowed in the house, until he had hosed the pram and himself down! Andrew slept through it all!
As the years went by and his family grew up and married, Jimmy was able to spend more quality time with his Grandchildren, Andrew, son of Joan and Tony. Gary and Julie, son and daughter of Joyce and John. Kate and Vicky, daughters of David and Lynn, and Emma, Laura and James - Karen and George's children. He thoroughly  njoyed playing with them and teaching
them things he would never have dreamed of teaching his own children (which he still does today, much to my Mam and Dads horror!) Jimmy and Nora now had time to have holidays together and it was fortunate for them that they had two daughters living abroad, one in America and one in Australia. They had a brilliant holiday in Houston, Texas where Tony, Joan and Andrew were currently living. They took Jimmy and Nora to NASA space centre, Disneyland and Mexico. It was fantastic! Visits to Australia followed to visit their other daughter Diane. Here they visited Brisbane, Sydney and had trips to the Great Barrier Reef and the Lon Pine Sanctuary where koalas and other animals roamed free.

From Then Until Now
Jimmy soldiered on after Nora died. He kept his independence by moving into a smaller bungalow rather than sheltered accommodation, and continued all of his own washing and ironing. He had a home help who came in once a week to do his cleaning and a gardener to come during the summer months.
They still do today.
His family was a great help to him and they still are, and he slowly got used to being on his own.
Trips to the football match became less because of problems with getting to a seat, but he still followed the sport on television.
He built up a group of friends at the local pub, who were in the same position as him, and would walk around there for a chat, a pint and some lunch, rather than sitting on his own.
The family invited him on holidays and to stay at their houses. Joan and Tony were now living in Leeds and Diane and Andrew were still in Australia, so he
went "down under" for a holiday on his own, with help at the airports from the staff.
He went with the Bulmers to their caravan in High Hawsker, Whitby and they all had great fun playing cards and singing on a night. One time when he went to visit, George had been varnishing the veranda, which you had to walk along to get in. He left the bit outside the door until nighttime so it could dry overnight. It was supposed to be quick drying varnish! Jimmy was up first the next morning, and went over to the shop on the sight to get a newspaper. By the time he came back he had heavy grass boots on his feet. The varnish hadn't dried as well as it should have and it had stuck to his shoes which had then stuck to the grass that the farmer had just cut! He saw the funny side if it and so did the rest of the family, when he burst in the door and tried to make it to his seat without getting grass and varnish on the carpet.

Jimmy
Jimmy started off with a hard life, having no Dad at home and having to help his Mam with his sister, but today he should be proud of what he has done for himself and his family. He has worked really hard and given them lots of love over the years to make sure that they had a happy life.
He celebrated his 80th birthday in January of this year and the family gave him a surprise lunch party at a pub in Stamford ham , Northumberland, called The Cook and Barker, then everyone went back to his daughter Joyce's house, to continue the party.
Everybody in his immediate family was there. His daughters and their husbands, his son and his wife and all of his Grandchildren and their partners.
He thoroughly enjoyed himself.
For all he gets lonely, Jimmy is still full of life and fun. He still pops to the pub for his lunch with his friends now and then and regularly visits his family, who are now spread about the country. He goes to Leeds to stay with Joan and Tony and Kent to stay with Diane and Andrew. He still has his weekends in Sunderland and goes for tea to Joyce and John's and David and Lynn's who live in Newcastle not far from him.
He still watches the sport on television and can still manage to get his younger Grandchildren hyped up by carrying on with them until they get into trouble off their Mam and Dad, and the older ones tipsy until they get wrong off their Mams and Dads as well. Even though he is eighty, he is still young at heart. To put it in his words he is "not bad for an old man".

                                                              Jim Died 31st August 2007 in Newcastle General Hospital -

 The Eulogy at His Funeral was given by Son in Law Tony

I’ve had the honour of knowing Jim for over forty years and it’s   been a privilege to have been a part of his life and his family’s life for all that time.

He’s been a lot of things to me a confidant, an advisor, a drinking buddy though I was never able to keep pace with him. He took great delight in telling everyone that the night I first stayed at their house he found me lying on the landing at 2 in the morning and had to step over me on his way to the loo.Strangely we had quite a bound after that. The Willows Club or the Widows club, as its known in the family, has a lot to answer for.

He’s the only person I know who passed off a hangover as sunburn as he did on one of his visits to Australia. He really got it in the neck from Nora when she had to miss a special boat trip.

He’s also been a friend, a surrogate dad, and a mentor, someone who I could turn to for advice particularly in my early working life. 

I knew that the advice he gave was sound because it came from many years of experience gained in management in the ship yards. 

Jim had a tough early life and struggled to grow up without a father who he lost in infancy. But nevertheless he worked hard at school and used his intelligence and strong work ethic to eventually carve out a very successful career in the shipyards 

He was youngest head foreman ship right on the river and eventually became ship yard manager of the most profitable and successful ship yard in the country. 

He gained the respect of the men through being firm but fair but he was quite a fiery character and wasn’t averse to telling a story against himself.

Apparently on the long winter nights the men would stop work and spend time sitting round braziers and Jim would dash down the deck kicking over the fires urging the men back to work. Unfortunately for Jim on one particular night they had welded the fire to the deck.

Jim hopped off down the deck trying not to show the pain. 

 Usually the men were warned that he was about as they would tap on the pipes to send a message round the ship that the little fella was coming on board. They must have held him in some awe. 

In the tribute speech at his retirement it was said of him

“In the past 28 years Jim Matthewson has been one of the lynchpins in Austin & Pickersgill’s progress and success”

This is an achievement that all the family is extremely very proud of. 

Not only was he a lynchpin in his work but also in his family 

He loved all his family dearly, and the deepness of the love seemed to increase with each generation from his daughters and son    and in- laws to his Grandchildren and his two great grand daughters.

Although you wouldn’t think so if you were to believe one of his favourite saying

“I’ve got no favourites among you - I hate the lot of you”.

He was proud of all his offspring’s achievements not least of Laura and Emma’s singing and he wanted you to hear them today singing two of his favourite songs.

 His love for wife Nora never waned and I’m sure he thought about her everyday. Anniversaries were particularly difficult for him 

Jim was a very caring and generous person. He was always the first to put his hand in his pocket and even up to the last few days he insisted on having change in his pocket.  

I remember his and Nora’s generosity at Christmas times when they invited my own mum and uncle to spend it with them.

I remember the happy times we had on caravan holidays, Monday Night Dances at the Quay club and those legendry parties. 

Jim had a strong personality not for him sitting quietly in a corner

He was an astute judge of character, quick witted and rarely bettered in jibes and banter  

Jim, you have Enriched all our lives in more ways than you can  ever imagine. 

Rest assured Jim whilst the family lynch pin has gone we will be here for each other. 

The time has come to knock on the pipes once more. Jim is coming aboard for the final time.  

God bless you Jim we love you dearly and will miss you always.