Sometimes, just for the hell of it, we would go looking for a chase.
I was one of the lucky ones, for during my childhood days we still had the likes of the coal mines and pit prop timber yards based in Albert Edward Dock (east and west) North Shields. These were our paradise for adventure or just lying around in the summer.
The timber yards we had then were Dryden’s, Robson’s, Pyman Bell’s and Robson Miller’s Yard. These specialised in the likes of timber planking. The pit prop yards Pyman Bell’s and Oxbeck’s (east and west) yards. These dealt with the coal mines, so when the props and timber came in they would come from down the dock basin by train, which we would jump on for a ride up to the top of the bank then jump off just before they entered the working areas.
Now if we were bored with that we would just cross over to the west side of the dock, make our way up towards Percy Main coal sidings and ride the coal trucks as they were being shunted down the tracks ready to be unloaded onto the waiting collier ships lying at Whitehill Point Staithes or the Commissioner’s Staithes. You could stand six foot from the ships, watching them being loaded, but were never allowed on as far as I can remember – for safety reasons. This was a great site, for being kids we thought, “This one will sink from being overloaded”, but they never did.
Sometimes, just for the hell of it, we would go looking for a chase. We would go to one of the prop yards, climb on the top of a pile (which were a good height when you think of it) and wait till we were spotted. Then the chase was on, good fun and no one ever got hurt – we did use common sense most of the time. Often at the weekends we would invade the timber yards and build hidden camps, so given half a chance we would go for a chase and then dodge into our hideout and just laugh at the lads running round looking for us. Then again, sometimes we got caught and well, let’s just say you got a thick ear and were sent on your way.
There was always something to do up at the docks and it never cost you a penny and we never seemed to get hurt. Mind you, never get in the way of the Dock Police Force (the dock had its own squad as it was that busy in those days), just a stare would make your knees knock! Our adventure land spread from Albert Edward Dock gates (Dock Road) all the way up to Tyne Improvement Commission’s yard at East Howdon. Today most of it belongs to the Royal Quays and DFDS shipping, with the road blocked off so there is no access, whereas when I was a kid you could walk the whole way from Shields to the Pedestrian Tunnel at Percy Main almost all via the water front.