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John Nichols

John was born on the 18 September 1959 in the village of Earsdon near Whitley Bay.

John’s father worked for the Merchant Navy as a second Electrical Officer on board the Swan Hunter built ship the Dominican Monarch

He left school in 1976 at age of sixteen and entered the Merchant Navy. After leaving the Merchant Navy, John joined NAFFI (Navy Army & Air Force Institute) and ran shops onboard Swan Hunter vessels including HMS ARK ROYAL and HMS COVENTRY.

John was interviewed by Alex Magin on 24 October 2006. The interview took place at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum and lasted for 38 minutes.

John Nichols's Memories

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So what does Swan Hunter mean to you now, do you still have that personal connection?

No.  After I left the Navy, I left the Merchant Navy, basically and I went to join NAAFI, that was my disassociation with the Merchant Navy when I joined NAAFI.  It’s because shipping, generally on the Tyne had gone right down.  The yards were closing the ships were few and far between, the colliery trade was pretty much finished by that time, the Staiths were shut down at Jarrow and obviously at Blyth as well.  You could see then that the decline was imminent and it was getting faster and faster and faster.  There were certain yards further down the like Tyne Dock, Cleland's shipyard were shutting down at certain points for a few month and then they might get an order.  You could see it then, you know.  From the early to mid eighties it was all shutting down and I think because I went a different way, I went to join NAAFI obviously and we did a lot of Mediterranean trips where the Royal Navy go and things like that and then I left NAAFI and I was based in Portsmouth with P&O ferries so again that sea connection but a different part of the area.  I knew that the Tyne as a whole was declining rapidly and it would never ever be the same.

How did you feel about that?

Very sad, actually and they weren’t all that old, pictures from the seventies, things like ESSO NORTHUMBRIA these massive big tankers going down the slipway, all the tradition of the naval ships, absolutely fantastic, the MAURETANIA, things like that, all the tradition and all the good actual work that went into these ships, and we were known for making good solid ships.

But just to see it actually go down and see it decline that that was very, very sad.  Obviously, there’s still a lot of memories and I hope in the future they will keep a lot of this going, keep the cranes here, tell the children what it was like.  You never know, I think they should just keep a yard in mothballs because I believe what goes around comes around.  It’s like the coal mining industry; they’re going to have to start looking for coal in ten, twenty years again for the fuel crisis.  I believe shipping, because ships have only got a certain life, that will actually come round again, they’ll start getting maybe the odd little order here and there.  It will never grow to what it was but it’s always working tradition that should still be kept on the Tyne, you know.