Wearside Echoes: Flying back in time

TREASURE TROVE: A worker at  Sunderland's Bristol Aero Engines - now Rolls Royce.
TREASURE TROVE: A worker at Sunderland's Bristol Aero Engines - now Rolls Royce.
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A TREASURE trove of old factory photos are winging their way into the archives of Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

Society members Bill Hawkins and Colin Metcalf have spent months digitising dozens of pictures of Bristol Siddeley – now Rolls-Royce – taken at the Pallion site from the 1950s onwards.

“They are a wonderful addition to our archives,” said Bill. “Thousands of Wearsiders have worked there over the years, and I’m sure the photos will bring back many memories.”

The pictures have certainly brought back happy memories for Colin, of Eden Vale, who spent 35 years at the Pallion plant.

Colin followed in his father’s footsteps to join Bristol Siddeley in 1967, working his way up from looking after the stores to checking plane engines for faults.

“My dad, Leslie, worked for the firm for nearly 22 years. He was a progress chaser, checking on the machines,” he said. “A lot of fathers and sons worked there, and I wanted to as well.

“After leaving school I got a job with Tom Cowie, in motorcycle spares, but managed to get a job at Bristol Siddeley when I was 20. It was a great place to work, and I only retired due to ill-health.

“It wasn’t all about work, though. There were Christmas parties and panto visits for the children of staff, as well as badminton and gardening clubs, a ten-pin bowling team and trips for retired staff.” The collection digitised by Bill and Colin dates from the opening of the Bristol Siddeley factory at Pallion in the early 1950s, when much of the work involved developing helicopter parts.

“Obviously, with working there, I knew there were pictures of the early years. They were often mounted on boards and put out on display during open days at the site,” said Colin.

“As a member of the Antiquarians I have a special interest in local history, so I thought I would approach Rolls-Royce and ask if we could have copies for our archives. Luckily they said yes.

“It took about a year to get everything sorted out, but it was definitely worth it. We were given access to photos from the 1950s through to the 1980s – and they really are a bit of a treasure.”

David Fisher, a human resources officer at Rolls-Royce, helped to arrange the loan of the pictures, and the scanned versions have now been placed in the Antiquarian archives.

“We really appreciate David’s help, and that of Rolls-Royce. These old photographs have now been saved for the future, which is what the Antiquarian Society is all about,” said Colin.

* All photos copyright of Rolls-Royce. More old pictures in next Saturday’s paper. If you have memories to share of the firm, contact Sarah Stoner by email on sarah.stoner@northeast-press.co.uk