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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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What did it mean to you as you were growing up?

Well, even when I lived over in Howdon you were still aware of the people who were saying “oh I’ve been made redundant; oh I’ve lost my job.” And wondering where they were going to get their next job from because the jobs weren’t in the area.  That was a big place where people would come to get a job.  So even though I wasn’t right in the vicinity of Swan Hunter I was still aware of people losing their jobs slowly over the next 30 years after I moved.  To this day, the people who worked there, lost their jobs – and what do they do now?  People went into the yard thinking it was a job for life or that their sons would follow them on.  It was something that happened.  So it has been a big, big miss I think.

What does it mean to you now?

Just a waste.  A waste of an area where we built the best ships in the world.  Why has it happened?  Why hasn’t the government done something?  Why haven’t they stepped in to give a boost to this area.  It’s alright building new things on the quayside and new things elsewhere but shipbuilding started here.  It was something that we were very proud of.  Why has it been left to deteriorate so badly over the years because that’s it, over the years it has deteriorated and if help had been brought in sooner I’m sure we could still be building those ships, today!