Sprat Fighting 1957

There used to be tons upon tons of sprats swimming up and down the river then

Photograph of North Shields Fish Quay

North Shields Fish Quay

In these times (2006) down where the Port of Tyne Authority stands in North Shields, there stood the Tyne Brand Ice Factory.  Now, just at the side of the building, there once was a set of steps which me and the lads used to go fishing off.  There used to be tons upon tons of sprats swimming up and down the river then.

Anyway, when at a loose end we would go onto the quay and wander along looking for a couple of old fish hooks someone had lost or dropped.  The best ones were sprat or flattie hooks.  Now if there were none and you had a penny (12 old pennies are equal to today’s five new pence piece) you could buy two from Richard Irvin’s shop on the Quay.  Then we would get a couple of old bits of mending twine, tie them together and that was it – you had a fishing line.

When it came to bait you were spoilt for choice with all the bins of filleted fish just sitting about, or if it was the herring season we would just jump on a drifter and get a couple of herring out of their net.  Back to the stairs and it did not take long to catch a good quantity of sprats each, so then we would lie them on the road for the next wagon that came along to squash.  Now, this mush was ideal to have a fun-fight with, and it never took long for us to be covered from head to foot with mush.

When the fun was over it was time to head home, which was fine until you reached the back of the house.  First I would climb up to see if anyone was in  – if there was and you got caught you had had it!  Next door to us we had a great neighbour called Hannah and it would not be the first time I was grabbed by the ear and dragged next door for a wash and brush up.  Somehow, she had the knack of whipping off your clothes and putting you into the poss tub.  With two quick swipes of what I called her ‘magic flannel’ (an old pair of knickers) you came out sparkling.  I hate to say it but that lass had a gift for doing that sort of thing.  Well you can guess we used them immortal words “never again, no next time” but we always did as it was just good fun at the time and cost nothing.

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