As a boy in Newcastle the quayside along the River Tyne was very much where I loved to be although back then it wasn’t how it is now. Geordieland in the 60s was an industrial powerhouse with the coal mines and steel works both of which were central to employment and the very culture of the North. Watching the ships sail along the Tyne, under the bridges and past the bone yard became part of every little Geordie Boy’s DNA and I was no exception; songs by Roger Whittaker, Mark Knopfler and Jimmy Nail only reinforced the bond as did family visits to the Sunday Market along the quayside.
I left Newcastle, very much against my will, as an 8 year old back in ’63 and it must have been more than 20 years before I began revisiting the North again regularly and reconnecting with my homeland. I’d missed it enormously but because of past pains I’d found it very difficult to go back. Eventually I made the effort partly because I had begun writing my biography (MANboy Geordie) of which RockHeart (in the scale of things) is one chapter – albeit my favourite chapter. Another far more important reason was because I missed my niece who was one my few blood relatives.
When I finally did go back and saw the quayside as it is today I was astonished at the regeneration; gone was anything and everything that looked remotely industrial replaced by cafes, bars, bistros and the most gorgeous Millennium Bridge bringing the total number of bridges crossing the Tyne to a staggering 22. When I walk along the quayside today I feel exceptionally proud of my heritage and love the new developments but have to add the caveat that I ‘delight’ at recognising something familiar that has remained the same throughout the changes.
When I left Gibraltar in 1977 there was no Queensway Quay or Small Boat Marina and although I’m struggling to remember what was there (if anything) part of me thinks it was that jetty where we (Rooke boys) would occasionally take a dip. It’s memories like this that sometimes (somehow) connect my love of Gibraltar with my love of Newcastle and begin moulding the special parts of my life together. The similarities between the boy in Newcastle and the young sailor in Gibraltar give me great comfort that regardless of painful times there have also been happy times. And as with Newcastle quayside the Queensway Quay (to me) is just fabulous; and the idea that I may well have jumped into the water and swam off it all those years ago makes the place even more special.
(Covered walkway to Queensway Quay)
After walking through a covered walkway we came out onto the quayside and as with the Newcastle of today it was beautiful, the similarities were uncanny but so too were the differences. Just looking up the quay at the apartment blocks, the eateries and at the small boats in the marina coming out of that covered walkway was almost like climbing out of the wardrobe and into Narnia. The warm evening sunshine just enhanced the whole experience for us all and as Carol, Sheila and Joe explored the menus of the various restaurants I was totally happy watching them enjoying their evening while reflecting in my private world.
At length my companions agreed on dinner at The Waterfront restaurant which suited me well; in fact anywhere along the quayside would have suited me well because the views were beautiful. Having said that the fish and chips served to this Geordie Boy as the sun slowly went down that evening were excellent; pretty similar to what I might have expected in Newcastle (only on a plate instead of in a newspaper).
Anne Marie Pitto said:
I love all your posts and follow them avidly but this one rang true with me on so many levels. I’m a Newcastle lass who’s first ever job was actually just off the Quayside. I used to watch the Bessie Surtees (some kind of barge) pass by on the River Tyne every morning. The driver used to wave and we would wave back. Having lived in Gibraltar for more than 30 years obviously Queensway is part of our daily lives.
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Alan Dixon said:
Anne Marie thanks so much for that reflection and how fabulous to have a Newcastle lass reader. I don’t especially remember that particular barge but I certainly click in to your memories of the coxswains waving and you waving back – it was something I did too. Don’t tell anyone but I also did it as an adult when I lived on the side of the Trent in Newark (1997-2007).
I’m really glad you enjoy my ramblings and thank you for reading .