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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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Do you have any other memories of Swan’s?

Just the one memory about the house, and the mushrooms.  When I found out that the Big House was being turned into a museum I actually went to see the people, just to make them aware that people did actually used to live in this place.  They were quite surprised and they took me on a tour of the house and I explained where the living quarters used to be, and they were quite interested and I had taken some photographs down with me that they kept and I think they photocopied them, but I don’t know whatever happened to them.  I obviously have the originals back.  But we were standing at the reception area and I said that was where my mum and dad’s bedroom was and I showed them the door behind.  That door there was to the cellar.  The man gave me a strange look and I said “What’s the problem?” and he said “Nothing.”  And I said, you’ve got that look on your face and he says “well,” and I said that I remember my dad tried to grow mushrooms down there , and the bloke looked at me and said “What are you talking about?” and I said “Well, I remember, as young as I was, and I’ve spoken to my brother about it since and he remembers the tale as well.  He had trays, wooden trays, with all this peat or whatever it is you grow them in, and I would go down with him to help him to water them and they never ever grew.  He had them there for months and months and months and they never grew.  The bloke looked at me and said, “Well, I’ll you something Shirley, when we came to renovate this property we couldn’t get in the cellar for mushrooms.”  And I just looked up and I thought to myself, my dad’s up there now laughing.  He couldn’t grow them himself but something quirky must have happened and they were left to grow on their own and things happened, but that’s a very funny story that always remember.  That’s something my dad left on this earth – a pile of mushrooms!