Letters, Saturday, August 13th, 2011

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Remembering the shipwrights’ work

I RECENTLY attended the annual retired boilermakers’ re-union. While talking to a welder, I voiced dissatisfaction that when any reference was made to shipbuilding the major trade was omitted in most cases. He totally agreed and suggested that I write to you.

The point I was making is that shipwrights are almost never mentioned, perhaps the reason being that they quietly went about constructing masterpieces that folk gazed at in wonderment.

Shipwrights for centuries built vessels that made history. Then with the introduction of steel came the chance to introduce labour that had no need to have the complex knowledge required of these elite tradesmen, although they were still required as a stabilising force, with the added responsibility of keeping everybody right.

This additional task was undertaken with no perceptible disruption in their production. The questions came from all sides:When can we weld this? When can we paint this? What can you take next? Everything hinged on what the shipwrights decided.

 When the shipwrights had rectified all the bad workmanship from the pre-fabrication sheds, they had the responsibility of moving 6-8000 tons of steel a quarter of a mile into the river. It’s amusing to see TV programmes with “intellectuals” trying to solve how the ancients moved heavy objects.

Admittedly a lot of these skills weren’t needed and weren’t taught eventually, so anyone who served an apprenticeship after the mid-60s are shipbuilders not shipwrights. Incidentally the Duke of Edinburgh is Permanent Master of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, although I suspect strings may have been pulled to get him in.

Well there it is as promised, Fred. There will be no need to doff your cap when next we meet – a pull at the forelock will suffice. Overall though, lads, you didn’t do so badly, did you? Thanks to the organisers of the reunion.

Stan Taylor, Sunderland

Weather factor

OF course bad weather hits the economy, and despite her anti-Government rhetoric Bridget Phillipson knows this (Echo July 3).

Lots of cheap shots have been fired at the Government over the statement (first made by an economic analyst) that the severe winter weather had impacted on the last quarter growth figures for 2010.

A closer look at the sectors involved then shows that construction and non-food retail showed negative figures while production and manufacturing grew. A clear indication of the impact on sectors vulnerable to weather.

It is telling that Gordon Brown said in April 2010: “We had a terrible month of weather which hindered the transport and communications business in the country. Obviously it has been a difficult few months. But that just shows how fragile the economy is”.

All Bridget’s rhetoric is pretty rich coming from a Labour MP whose party left this country with the biggest peacetime budget deficit in UK history.

Alan Wright, Conservative, St Chad’s Ward

PDSA’s thanks

ON behalf of the staff, volunteers and pet patients at PDSA, I’d like to say a big thank-you to the Sunderland Echo and its readers for the £5,000 donated to the charity from the paper’s Creature Comforts appeal.

PDSA first came to Sunderland in 1952 and we have been treating the sick and injured pets of local people in need ever since. Last December we opened our new PetAid hospital on Hepworth Road, which cost £1.6million to build and equip.

Your generous donations will help support the ongoing running costs of the new hospital – which treats more than 130 pets every day and provides over 55,000 treatments a year.

The charity is funded entirely by public support and receives no Government or Lottery funding, so without the support of animal lovers like you our vital service wouldn’t be possible.

Anyone wishing to find out more about donating, fund-raising or volunteering for PDSA should visit www.pdsa.org.uk.

Lianne O’Brien, Senior veterinary surgeon, Sunderland PDSA PetAid Hospital

Irresponsible TV

DURING the mass killings last year in Cumbria political correctness was displayed to ridiculous levels by North East Tonight news, employing male and female presenters standing side by side on the pavement taking turns to inform the viewers of the situation.

I thought I would never see such stupidity again, but then came the programme on August 10.

While the nation had experienced appalling riotous behaviour, we were congratulating ourselves that here in the North East we had escaped these horrendous ocurrences. Then North East Tonight irresponsibly ran footage of the Meadowell riots of some 12 years ago. Talk about implanting ideas into the minds of our youngsters!

I have watched this programme for years and I feel at times they are struggling for items to pad out the programme.

Bill Hodgkinson