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Bob Mattimore

Bob was born in the District General Hospital in South Shields in November 1936 and grew up in the Tyne Dock area of South Tyneside.

Bob first started working at Swan Hunter Dry Dock in 1967 as a chemist and his job involved testing tanks that contained oil to make sure they were safe for men to enter. Bob also worked in the building yards and did industrial hygiene work; testing for fumes and asbestos. He also performed checks on welding and burning fumes and other areas where men were exposed to hazardous environments.

Bob worked at Swan Hunter for eight years and left in 1975.

Bob was interviewed by Alex Magin on 15 March 2007. The interview took place at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum and lasted for 43 minutes.


Bob Mattimore's Memories

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Smells varied! Not so many different smells in the building, but in the dry docks depending on what the cargo had been. The previous cargo in the tanks, I think the worst I ever had was at Smiths docks in North Shields – we had a Norwegian tanker in which had previously, it was a joint oil tanker and whale oil tanker which they’d stopped carrying whale oil many, many years before and I think the lines hadn’t been used for whale oil for about 10 years and they wanted to strip them out so I had to go in and check as the fitter cracked the blank on the  end of the pipe, when he took the blank off and this 10 year old rancid whale oil ran out it defies description! We had some funny ones as well, we’d occasionally get strong ammonia smells if the insulation had been damaged and a particular one at Wallsend dry docks here was pretty innocuous, but not very pleasant – a ship that had carried bags of fishmeal and it’s like rotten fish all the time! Good for the leeks, but no good for the smell and it varied from there depending on what you had some of the chemical tankers had different smells. Another funny one which we used to get occasionally was we’d get the molasses carriers in for repair and that could be a horrible sickly smell – I think that was probably worse than some of the really pungent ones!