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Shirley Copeland

Shirley was born in Wallsend at the GB Hunter Memorial Hospital on The Green in 1952.

Her father was a Commissionaire at Swan Hunter and the family lived in the ‘Big White House’ was at the top of Swan Hunter’s bank. Shirley talks about her memories of living in the “Big White House” and some of the launches at Swan Hunter.

Shirley was interviewed by Alex Magin on 24 November 2006. The interview took place at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum and lasted for 33 minutes.

Shirley Copeland's Memories

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Definitely the sound, the sound of the shipbuilding.  It was always there, always there when you came in from school, when you got up in the morning.  The men going down the yard, and you’re talking hundreds and thousands of people who worked there.  And it was always exactly the time you would see them going down in the morning, and then you’d see them come back up in the afternoon.  As soon as you heard those buzzers you knew that bank would be solid, solid with people.  My dad always came out after the workmen, he didn’t come out until they’d all come out.

And the traffic, there Weren’t a lot of cars around, people must have walked to work I think, or either biked – there was a lot of bikes then.

And watching the launches.  I remember being privy to being inside the yard a couple of times quite near royalty when they came to launch the ships.  If not you would just stand where the wall was and someone would lift you up so you could see what was going on.

So you mention sounds, what sounds?

The sounds of the chains when they launched the boats.  And the clatter, that sound still stays in my mind.  And just the sound of the actual ships being built – the knocking and the banging and the welding and obviously the sparks flying and things like that.