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8 Wearside stories which made the news in 1987 - from a talking petrol pump to a ghost in a waistcoat

Where has the time gone? It’s 35 years since these stories made the Sunderland Echo news headlines.

Monday, 2nd May 2022, 12:09 pm

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But what do you remember of the Chinchillas who set a ‘first’, the drummer who was still going strong at 81 and the waistcoated ghost who got a pub into the spotlight?

We have all the details for you and here they are to help refresh your memory.

Drummer Jackie Brown, then 81, was still playing the drums – just as he had done since he first started performing in bands when he was 14.

It was all in the Wearside news in 1987.

Sign up to our Wearside Echoes Newsletters. A monthly round-up of our retro best bits

Jackie could hardly hear a note but was still going strong and was playing three nights a week at the Royal Naval Association Club in Roker Avenue with organist Alan Lee, who said: “He is fit for his age and can keep up with the beat.”

The first ‘talking petrol pump’ in the North East arrived in Sunderland.

Now drivers unfortunate enough to possess a talking car can drive into the Foxcover filling station in Durham Road, Middle Herrington, and

let them strike up a conversation!

Subbuteo champ Peter Cooper flicks into action.

The idea is to prevent drivers filling up with derv instead of petrol.

A Washington pub was included in the ‘Haunted Pub Guide’.

The Havelock Arms, in Fatfield Village, got a two-star rating–one of the maximum – in the guide, which included more than 250 pubs nationwide.

Egon Ronay said the Havelock was haunted by a tall man wearing a waistcoat called the Havelock Ghost.

Pet shop owner Len Maidment with the one-day old who was born in his shop to parent Chinchillas George and Mildred.

The new boss at SAFC in 1987 was Denis Smith - and he promised to return the Black Cats to the big time.

The team was relegated to the Third Division for the first time in its 108-year history but Smith, the 39-year-old former Stoke City player and York City boss, was installed in the Roker Park hot-seat and was already making plans to lead the club back to the First Division.

The biggest lift in the history of the River Wear was carried out when two floating cranes hoisted a 2,100 ton rotating platform on to a crane ship.

A change in wind direction led to a delay but the operation itself, at Corporation Quay, went perfectly and attracted many spectators.

Motorist Gary Leonard with the new talking pump at Foxcover filling station in Durham Road.

The two cranes which performed the lift - the Smit Taklift 4 and Taklit 6 - had been brought in specially after completing salvage work on the ill-fated Herald of Free Enterprise ferry at Zeebrugge.

It was the year when The Royal Marine pub in Sea Road opened as The Sunderland Flying Boat.

A pair of Chinchillas were among the first to give birth in a pet shop.

But they kept the staff at Maidment’s Pet Centre in Sea Road, Fulwell, Sunderland, guessing during the 110-day pregnancy, for they didn’t realise a little one was on the way.

Football champ Peter Cooper reckoned he could help Sunderland beat Liverpool, Everton and QPR within a week.

That’s not such a far-fetched idea as it sounds as Peter, 14, from East Herrington, was a Subbuteo star.

The Sunderland Flying Boat in 1987.

He was in the regional heat of the English championships at Leeds and aimed to be at the national final.

What are your memories of Sunderland and County Durham 35 years ago? Tell us more by emailing [email protected]

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Landlady Audrey Goff looks to the ceiling where she's heard the ghost walk in rooms above in the Havelock Arms, Fatfield Village, in 1987.
Jackie Brown, 81 who played the drums in bands since he was 14.