by Wilf Mitford
Aa mind Sunday mornings doon by the Felling Shore
With me Father and me sisters when we would all explore
The place where he was born and bred, before the first world war
He would show us where he used to live, knocked down some years before
Though the people and the hooses were replaced by grass and trees
The Felling Shore was still alive in me Father’s memories
Aa mind we would have a drink at a pub known as The Ship
Where me Father would talk about the days when he was just a rip
On may a summer’s afternoon his school days he would skip
And swim around the River Tyne before it was a tip
He would tell us about the dwellings where he spent his early years
With the usual outside netty in a poor state of repair
An the only source of water was one tap in the square
In the middle of the dwellings which they all had to share
He told us about when he was caught in a farmers field
Eating some raw carrots which were the farmers yield
“Use the whip on him” the farmers young son squealed
But me Father did a runner before his fate was sealed
From The Mitford Family album ‘Geordie & Northumbrian’
Credits: Wilf Mitford, Vocals & Guitar; Pamela Mitford, Violin; Julia Mitford, Flute
*A word on pronunciation – the word ‘Father’ in this context is said in a traditional Geordie way so there is no assumed ‘r’ sound as in ‘farther’ but rather a very flat short ‘father’. ‘Aa mind’ is another Geordie-ism and can be translated as ‘I remember’
This is a particular favourite of mine as it shows a real connection between my Dad and his. Wilf’s dad was William Mitford (1911 – 1978), known as Billy. He died the year I was born, so this is one of a few links I have with my paternal grandfather. I’ve been researching the Mitford line of our family tree and it’s only recently I’ve appreciated what a beautiful picture this song paints of my grandfather. You can get dates & places from family history sources, but nothing can compare to this first hand description captured in song. I particularly love the last verse that paints such a cheeky image of him.
Speaking of family history sources, I have discovered that a number of generations of the Mitfords lived at the Felling Shore going back at least to the early 1800s, if not further. They worked as Watermen or Keelmen ferrying goods, people or coals across the Tyne to South Shields. I was most excited to find Keelmen and Watermen in the family tree as I was brought up singing the Keel Row, a real northern classic. I’ll see if I can dig out a family photo of Billy to add to this.
Billy’s parents were from Felling Shore and when Billy was born they were living a little further down the road at Quay Corner in Jarrow so that his Dad, Edward, could work as a labourer at the docks. The development of the Chemical Works provided jobs in Felling, so the family moved back with Billy living in the Simpson Buildings as a child. By the 1939 census Billy is living on Abbotsford Road in the main part of Felling, working in one of the chemical factories.
Billy was first married at aged 28 to an Elizabeth Grey, however she died from tuberculosis only a few years later. It was in 1948 that he married my Nanna, Peggy Coxon. He found work where he could. In the late 1940s / early 1950s he was working for Marconi who made radar equipment. They also had a factory in Chelmsford and so my grandad moved down there, away from the family, in the 1940s, returning when my dad was 4 or 5.
I’m thankful to have this picture of Granda and the Felling Shore from both local history sources (thanks Anthea!), family history sources such as census records, and the words of my Dad’s songs.
The Felling Shore by Wilf Mitford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://mitfordmusic.wordpress.com/.
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