Nostalgia writer Sarah Stoner today raises a glass to a Wearside craftsman.
A WEARSIDE model-maker is the best bar none – as his latest project proves.
Fred Gooch has turned his hand to crafting guitars, ships, bridges and churches over the years – even a nuclear submarine.
But his latest artworks, celebrating Sunderland’s Edwardian Renaissance, should raise some cheer among Sunderland drinkers.
“I was standing outside the Londonderry pub when it just struck me how it would make a nice model,” said Fred, from Pallion.
“I’ve been a regular for years, but it wasn’t until that moment I realised what a fascinating building it actually is.
“After finishing that, it was logical to seek out the other Georgian pubs in the town too – the Dun Cow and the Mountain Daisy.
“This trio really showcases Sunderland’s wonderful Georgian architecture. All three are buildings which really stand out.”
Fred’s passion for model-making developed as a young boy, when he would spend hours building planes from basic craft kits.
His hobby had to be put on hold, however, after leaving school to become an office boy at printing firm Edward Thompson’s.
But, following spells at a wine merchants and Coles Cranes, a job as a clerk at Sunderland Shipbuilders sparked his interest again.
“I used to watch the ships being built at Pallion and, after a while, I started making my own scale models of them,” said Fred.
“My first was Cedarbank, the first ship out of Pallion’s new yard. Looking back, it was rubbish, but I was happy with it at the time.”
More and more followed, each better crafted and more intricately designed, including the first Superflex ferry and the yacht Radiant II.
“Every model is my favourite when I’m making it, but I think the Radiant is my overall favourite. I really love that ship,” said Fred.
“The firm wanted to buy my models, but I wouldn’t sell them. Instead, I loaned them three, which were displayed in glass cases.
“When I was made redundant in the summer of 1988, I took them with me, leaving the cases empty. That gave me a little satisfaction!”
Fred did not stay unemployed for long. Indeed, the skills honed in his shed helped land him his dream job – building a model submarine.
Every tube, pipe and electrical wire on the Trident sub – even the washbasins – had to be hand crafted, to ensure precision engineering.
“We used perspex, which I had never worked with before, and it was an amazing job. I got paid for doing something I loved,” said Fred.
“Nowadays, you wouldn’t need to build a model like that, it could all be done on computer. But it was a brilliant time and I learned a lot.”
Although obviously not on such a grand scale as the 10ft Trident, the trio of pub models have still benefitted from hours of care from Fred.
Working to a scale of roughly one inch to 10ft, the perspex replicas took the model-maker three months each to build and hand paint.
“I used photos and a few dimensions to draw up my own plans of the pubs. The only things I didn’t put in were the satellite dishes!” he said.
“It was the first time I had ever built a full pub, and I really enjoyed the challenge. That, for me, is the best part of making models.”
Fred’s next project, Sunderland Museum and original Winter Gardens, will also provide a challenge – as the gardens were bombed during the war.
The retired commercial buyer is planning to work from vintage photos of the building, but would appreciate a spot of help from Echo readers too.
“It is all very well having pictures, but they don’t show every angle. If anyone has some original plans, that would be wonderful,” he said.
“There is a part of the museum, right at the back where the gardens were, which is hard to see - even in aerial shots. Plans would be great.”
l Can you provide Fred with Sunderland Museum photos or plans? Anyone who can help should contact him on 567 8718.