Elsie watched the giants of the sea as they were launched on the Wear

Elsie Cooperwaite holding a photographer of herself at 6 months old in her Sunderland home.
Elsie Cooperwaite holding a photographer of herself at 6 months old in her Sunderland home.

We’ve just loved your contributions to the Echo on the days when Wearside had a thriving shipyard industry.

And today, we have another one from a Sunderland woman who remembers childhood highlights of watching newly built ships which towered above her, and which slipped slowly and gracefully into the water on their launch.

The Orenda Bridge launch in 1971 from the North Sands yard of Doxford and Sunderland Ltd.

The Orenda Bridge launch in 1971 from the North Sands yard of Doxford and Sunderland Ltd.

Lifelong Sunderland resident Elsie Cooper Waite could not help growing up immersed in the sights and sounds of the city’s shipbuilding industry.

That’s because her home at the time, now long demolished, was in Deptford Terrace and it overlooked the William Doxford and Sons Shipyard and Engine Works.

The yard itself was a place she was familiar with as two of her Uncles worked in the site.

Not that Elsie didn’t have memories of her own.

We would all walk down the bank from our homes to get as close as possible and then watch in amazement as the ships began to move,

Elsie Cooper Waite

Elsie, now aged 79, told how as a young girl she used to accompany her Aunt Katie each evening to the yard entrance.

They would go there to deliver a flask of tea and sandwiches to her Uncle Billy who was the night watchman and occupied a little cabin.

But there were plenty of other highlights as well for the young Elsie, and she recalled them for a competition in which she stands a chance of winning a great prize.

Another of Elsie’s wonderful memories was the days when the newly built ships were launched into the Wear.

Elsie Cooperwaite at 6 years with her Mum Elsie Morris.

Elsie Cooperwaite at 6 years with her Mum Elsie Morris.

The days when the vessels would get to take their rightful place on the water for the first time.

Ship launch days were red letter ones for the whole community and especially for Elsie.

That’s because her Uncle Dill Murray was one of the team with the task of knocking the blocks away to allow the vessel to slide slowly into the water.

Elsie recalled: “We would all walk down the bank from our homes to get as close as possible and then watch in amazement as the ships began to move,

“It was a sad day when the shipyard closed but I had a very happy childhood and loved watching those launches,” said Elsie who lives in Seaburn.

She is the latest reader to enter our Sunderland Echo Maritime Shipbuilding Memories competition which is being run in association with the city’s four star Marriott.

And by entering, Elsie is now in with a chance of winning a luncheon for herself and four guests at the hotel which overlooks the promenade.

Our first entry came just days ago from Alan Winter, from Darlington.

Alan remembered his first job was working as a 15-year-old tea boy but he was just as vivid with his memories of the pranks which were regular occurrences as well.

They included apprentices being subjected “to these little set ups” such as being sent for a cap full of nail holes, sky hooks and stripy paint, said Alan.

But Alan was just as keen to highlight what a great start to working life it had been for him.

“I was privileged to spend 19 years making navigation lamps out of copper, brass and mild steel by hand,” said Alan.

We are delighted to have shared the memories of both Alan and Elsie and we would love to hear from even more people with their own recollections of the shipyard days.

Did you work in the yards or know someone who did?

Did you, like Elsie, grow up within the sight and sounds of the ship industry?

Marriott Multi Property General Manager Eamonn Thompson said the hotel, which was known as The Seaburn back in those days, had also played its part in serving the shipbuilding industry.

Eamonn added: “I am delighted that our competition prompted Elise to remember happy childhood days.”

The Echo will be publishing your letters over the coming weeks in the lead up to the arrival of the tall ships.

So don’t delay.

Make sure you take a wander down your own memory lane today by emailing your contribution together with your telephone number and any pictures to Nigel@Media-Consult.co.uk

Letters marked Maritime Memories and including your telephone number, may also be posted to Liz Codling at The Marriott, Queens Parade, Sunderland SR6 8DB.

But make sure you only send copies of pictures or those which do not have to be returned.