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The Building of a Bridge

I was there, the day the Tyne Bridge was opened

A short while ago I was fortunate enough to be shown a film of the building of the Tyne Bridge, from the laying of the foundations to the opening ceremony by King George and Queen Mary on October 10th 1928.  The film had a significant effect on me, as it brought back a memory of long ago, but it is so vivid to me today as though it took place yesterday.  I am 89 years old now, and as I was only 6 years old at that time I realise I was present at a moment in history which I must write down before I pass into history myself.  Hence the story which follows.

The Building of a Bridge

October 10th 1928.  A cold day but the excitement was such that I didn’t personally feel it, not just because I was well wrapped up, but because I was going to see the King and Queen.  I was 6 years old and had never seen the King and Queen except at the cinema or in newspapers.  To be honest I didn’t have much interest in the bridge.  I was going to see the King and Queen and that was enough for me.  With me was my Mum, Dad, and my brother Joseph who would be about 18 months old.  He wasn’t interested in anything I don’t think, but when the cheering started he joined in with gusto, not knowing what it was all about.  He just joined in the fun.

Dad took us to the Jesmond Dene end of Armstrong Bridge as this was the best vantage point to see the King and Queen on their way to Newcastle city centre and then they would proceed down to the river.  There must have been thousands of people lining the route that day.  Suddenly voices shouted, “here they come” and there they were, King George and Queen Mary, in a coach pulled by four beautiful white horses coming down past the part of the route which is now occupied by the Corner House Hotel.  A roar went up from the crowd, unheard of by me before anyway.  I was told later on in life that it was only equalled by the roar from St James’ Park when Newcastle United scored a goal while playing at home, and which could be heard all over the city.

Queen Mary was wearing a dark coloured coat with a fur collar and a fur hat, and King George wore a civilian suit.  They both looked wonderful.  It is a memory which will be with me until my dying day, with all the others stored up in my memory box.

It would be wonderful if we could read other stories about the bridge and about the men who built it, and also the people of Dorman Longs who I understand designed it.  About the ordinary men who put it all together.  No hard hats or safety equipment which I could see.  There must have been casualties.  Working at such great heights in cold weather must have been appalling.

Well, that is my story of the day our Tyne Bridge was opened, and the day King George accompanied by Queen Mary came to open it, and I was 6 years old.

Kitty Brightwell

Photographs from Newcastle City Library Photographic Collection

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