Wearside Echoes: Old photo brings back happy memories

Canteen staff at  Bristol Aero Engines - including Eddie's mother Betty
Canteen staff at Bristol Aero Engines - including Eddie's mother Betty
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A GROUP of canteen ladies smile for the camera in this happy snap taken at Bristol Aero Engines in the 1950s.

The picture, part of a collection digitised for Rolls-Royce by Sunderland Antiquarian Society, was recently featured in Wearside Echoes – and brought back happy memories for one reader.

“I was shocked to see my mother Elizabeth Storey in it,” said Eddie Storey, who now lives in Doncaster.

“Our family didn’t really take photos – so I’ve never seen a picture of her before.

“She died in the late 1950s, when I was 16. I joined the RAF a year later, but never had a photo of my mother to take with me. It made me feel quite emotional when I saw this one.”

Elizabeth, known as Betty to her friends, was the wife of former shipyard worker-turned-Sunderland Corporation maintenance man John Storey – and the mother of 10 children.

Despite a hectic and loving home life, she also managed to find time to work in the catering industry – with her spell at Bristol Aero Engines followed by a post at Hepworth’s the Tailors.

“She worked all her life, finishing off at Hepworth’s,” said Eddie, a retired gear manufacturer. “My brother John worked at the same firm as a cutter, and five of my sisters had jobs there too.”

Eddie, who was born on Ford Estate but brought up in Pennywell, still recalls the shock of hearing of his mother’s death – just minutes after finishing a shift at Monkwearmouth Copper and Brass.

“I was on the bus going home to Pennywell when my brother John told me the news,” he said.

“It was a shock, just like seeing that photo, as she was only in her mid-50s.”

The other Bristol Aero Engines photos featured today were provided by South Hylton man Dick Madden, who was one of the original workers in the early 1950s.

“If you cut me in half, just like a stick of rock, then the words Rolls-Royce would show through,” he said.

Bristol Aero Engines, later known as Bristol Siddeley and Rolls-Royce, took over its first factory – a former pram firm at Pallion – in March 1951, employing a staff of 100.

A second factory opened close by just six months later, in August 1951, and a third in March 1954 – representing a capital investment of £2.25million.

“I was fortunate to be retained from the Sunex Pram Factory, where I had worked from 1947, aged 15,” said Dick.

“I was part of a skeleton staff, working as a metal polisher.

“As machines were installed, and work became available, I was engaged in “scuffing out” pockets of pistons.

“There was no eye or body protection back then – although later they were made a must.

“I have fond memories of working as a polisher as turbine disks were introduced, and also playing in the football team.”

Dick sadly had to retire in 1986, aged 54, due to a heart condition.

He still keeps in touch with old Bristol pals, however, through the annual day trips for retired workers still run by the firm.

“It was a wonderful company to work for, and happy days for me.

“I met my beloved at the pram factory, and we were together for 54 years,” he said.

Twitter: @WearsideEchoes