Cornwall’s his home but his Wearside roots keep calling Paul home

Shipbuilding in Sunderland.
Shipbuilding in Sunderland.
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Paul Purdy doesn’t live in Sunderland any more. But that doesn’t stop him from being an extremely proud Wearsider who loves to make a return visit.

Once a year for a month, he returns to his birthplace to watch the Black Cats and look down on the pier from a rented apartment.

A young Paul, aged 3.

A young Paul, aged 3.

It’s a chance to reminisce on the boyhood he loved and we are privileged that Paul has agreed to share some of that with Echo readers.

He was born in January 1949, to William and Florence Purdy.

Paul said: “As far as we know, his family were immigrants from Northern Ireland, and hers from South-East Scotland. My father, mother and sisters were evacuated to Darlington for the Duration, and my dad, a fitter and turner by trade, was a bomb inspector in a munitions factory.”

But how did the family come to have links to Sunderland in the first place?

I remember going over the bridge to town numerous times, and looking down at all the ships being built on The Wear. I went off to university, and never lived in Sunderland again. Ten years later, there were no ships being built on The Wear. It was like the heart had been ripped out of the town

Paul Purdy

Paul explained the Wearside connection.

“My dad got a detached retina when he was 36, and, after 10 operations at the Royal Infirmary, was registered blind.

“He and my mam moved to Lawson Crescent, and wondered how they were going to feed their three kids ( I was born by then).

“It was at a time of rationing (which lasted into the early 1950s), and they had the bright idea of buying 1lb of wool and putting it in the window of the house in Lawson Crescent. They sold it, and wth the proceeds, bought 2lb of wool to sell.

Paul today.

Paul today.

“By the time I was 7, we had two successful woolshops - one in Fulwell and one in Newcastle Road - and an architect-built house in Cleadon.”

But the prospering family’s move to Cleadon did not please the young Paul. “I was very unhappy to leave Fulwell Infants,” he said.

“I had no friends in Cleadon, and all my school mates talked funny (more like Newcastle than Sunderland). As a result, my parents moved me back to Fulwell Infants’, and bought a house in Roker Park Terrace for £3,500 (they are selling for for 100 times that now, I believe).”

Like many youngsters, Paul had his fair share of adventures.

“One time, I saw an abandoned boat at Whitburn beach, asked a guy there whose it was, and he said it was his. I asked him how much he would sell it for, and he said a pound.

“I went home and got the pound, and set about working on the boat. I decided it was too long for me to drag to the sea, so I decided to cut the back end off.

“I started the job, put my dad’s tools under the boat, and went home. When I went back a couple of days later, the tools had disappeared, along with my enthusiasm for being a boat repairer. Dad wasn’t pleased.”

In another escapade, Paul once fell off the garage roof at Roker Park Terrace “whilst trying to retrieve a shuttlecock that had got lodged in the guttering.”

In a third drama, Paul said: “I was knocked off my bike on the way home from school. Another couple of days in hospital.”

But not all of his childhood memories involve close scrapes and dramas. Some are fond reminiscences of the Sunderland he loved.

“I remember going over the bridge to town numerous times, and looking down at all the ships being built on The Wear. I went off to university, and never lived in Sunderland again. Ten years later, there were no ships being built on The Wear. It was like the heart had been ripped out of the town.”

These days, Paul is retired and living in Cornwall.

“We have a boat that doesn’t need the back end sawing off, and we spend a month a year back in Sunderland, in a rented apartment looking out over the pier.”

He is a Black Cats fan and said: “We always go to the football whilst we are up there. It will be a bit weird watching Championship games, but we will support SAFC until they are back in The Premiership and beyond.

“I love my home town more than ever now, and we will keep coming back. My wife now loves the place and the people, even though she is from Birmingham.”

Our thanks go to Paul for his wonderful memories and we’d love to hear from more people willing to share their childhood reminiscences, whether they still live in the city or whether they are from another part of the country - or perhaps even further away.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk to tell us more.