Woman who launched one of last ships to leave the Wear relives memories ahead of unveiling of new landmark

Iris Lindsay.

Iris Lindsay.

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The Sunderland woman who launched one of the last ships to leave the waters of the Wear has relived her memories ahead of the building of a new landmark which will honour the city’s shipbuilding days.

Iris Lindsay, 89, from Doxford Park, has spoken of her memories of Sunderland’s shipyards, and the day she launched a vessel from the banks of the Wear in 1979, as part of a video that showcases ‘The Launch’.

At the time, I don’t think I realised the significance of the day, but when I look back, I am really proud

Iris Lindsay

The new structure is being proposed by Siglion, to stand on the rivers-edge.

The mother-of-six, who worked in the canteen of the shipyards before being made redundant, spoke fondly of the day she was asked to launch a ship, and her memories of being ‘like queen of the day’ when she was chosen, of all nightshift workers at the shipyards, to set the ship a-sail.

She said: “I remember getting a phone call, and being told ‘Iris, you’re a very lucky lady. You have been chosen to launch a ship. You have been privileged’.

“At the time, I don’t think I realised the significance of the day, but when I look back, I am really proud.”

Mrs Lindsay, who is grandmother to 18, great-grandmother to 30 and great-great-grandmother to one, is featured in a video that looks back at Sunderland’s shipbuilding heritage, and then ahead to 2018, when it is proposed The Launch will be completed.

The structure, which – if planning permission is approved – will stand at the tip of the Keel Line, creating a promontory overhanging the cliff-edge of the Vaux site, has been designed to pay tribute to the city’s industrial past.

The giant metal landmark features a three-metre long, three tonne pendulum, that is designed to mirror the movement of the hundreds of champagne bottles that swung and smashed against the side of Sunderland ships.

Mrs Lindsay said: “The Launch looks really impressive.

“I have seen the city change a great deal over the years, and I saw how much Sunderland lost when the shipyards closed.

“It is so important that we don’t forget that part of our history.

“It’s funny how I can’t really remember things from last week, but I remember those days so clearly.

“They were happy, happy days, and it’s so sad to think of all the lads who lost their job so young.

“It’s right to remember. And I think The Launch will help us do that.

“Help us never forget what Sunderland once was.”

The video of Iris will be shown between 1pm and 7pm at Keel Square, as part of a public consultation exercise to get feedback on plans for the proposed development, which it is hoped will be completed by the time the 2018 Tall Ships event arrives in the city.