Memories of working at Bartrams shipyard - from the Victorian offices to a ship's launch

Memories of life at the Bartrams shipyard have come flooding back for a former Sunderland woman.

Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 7:00 am

And it is all thanks to a novel that she read that former Farringdon woman Sandra Perry recalled her time on ‘one of Sunderland’s greatest shipbuilding design and construction projects’.

Sandra, nee Laws, re-lived days of serving tea ‘promptly at 3pm’ to the managing director and presenting a bouquet at the launch of the ship Corfu Island.

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Memories of life at the Bartrams shipyard have come flooding back for a former Sunderland woman.

Sandra said it reminded her of being at Bartrams in the days of the SD14 which was one of Sunderland’s greatest shipbuilding design and construction projects.

She got an interview at Bartam & Sons Ltd, South Dock and said: “I found myself aged just sixteen being offered a job as an office junior with a starting weekly wage of £5.2.6p.’

The memories of Bartrams remain vivid for Sandra.

The launch of the Mimis N Papalios at the Wear shipyard of Bartram and Son. Pictured is Mrs Papalios with Mr Bartram.

She said: “I can still remember the grandeur of their old Victorian offices which even then were plush.

"I was based on the ground floor typing office with three or four other ladies. I had my own desk with an Imperial manual typewriter and typed general correspondence and remittance advices.

There were other duties including opening the daily post, sorting and delivering it, photocopying, running errands and covering for Doreen the firm’s switchboard operator during her breaks.

"This fascinated me and later led to my employment as a GPO operator. I also had to serve tea with boiling hot water promptly at 3pm daily to the firm’s managing director Mr McFetrich.

The Mimis N Papalios goes down the ways at the Wear shipyard of Bartram and Sons. Also pictured is the Dunelm tug in December 1967.

"I remember with awe the director’s wood panelled boardroom where Mr Robert Bartam and the MD would be served a five star lunch by the resident cook with crystal glasses, fine porcelain and silverware. Mr Bartram and Mr McFetrich were very kind.”

Sandra remembers the day the MD spotted her walking to work and said he ‘saw me, stopped his blue Mercedes, asked me to get in and said he didn’t like their girls walking on the South Dock.

“He said that if I had to go into the town on any errands to ask the Scarf the firm’s chauffeur to drive me there.

"Sometimes it would be the pool car a gleaming Ford Consul, a shiny Mercedes or the glistening gold Bentley. As a sixteen year old being dropped off on the High Street with my door being opened by Scarf is an experience I shall never forget.”

A 1960s ship launch at the Bartrams yard. The refrigerated cargo liner, the 10,600 ton Timaru Star is pictured.

Sandra also remembered the launch of the Corfu Island on December 5, 1968.

"I was instructed to present a bouquet of flowers on behalf of ‘Bartrams to 22 year old Miss Marie-Lisa Voyazides. I remember she was the daughter of the Chairman of the ship’s new owners the Greece based Naxos Shipping Corporation.”

Sandra also presented flowers at another SD14 launching and thinks it was another Greek owned SD14 vessel the Mimis N. Papalios.

Do you have memories of Bartrams? Tell us more by emailing [email protected]

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The 11,300 ton Tongariro being launched from Bartram and Sons shipyard on the River Wear in 1966.
Sandra in her primary school days at Thorney Close.
Sandra Perry, nee Laws, and husband Greg at their Italian home.