A New Zealand man is returning to his Sunderland roots one last time - and wants your help to make the most of his visit

Retired truck mechanic Tony Lawrence has never forgotten his Sunderland roots.

Wednesday, 1st June 2016, 10:00 am
A family photograph.

He may live thousands of miles away in New Zealand but he has always kept a close interest in Wearside.

He’d loved to fill in some of the blanks on his family connections and wants the help of Echo readers to do it.

Tony Lawrence and his wife Mary.

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If there are any names you recognise, get in touch.

Tony is planning to visit Sunderland soon. Sadly, it may be the last time he and his extended family meet up as the years advance.

Over the coming weeks, we will share Tony’s story and hopefully come up with names you remember - perhaps even some who play a part in your own family history.

Amid the horrors of war, love blossomed in Sunderland.

Tony Lawrence and his wife Mary.

Henrietta Lindsley lived in Nelson Street, Hendon. She had an important job in the war years.

She worked at the Galhome & Robson ropery on Hendon Road and made the ropes used on the Mulberry Harbour. To the uniniated, the Mulberry Harbour was used during the D-Day landings to get cargo quickly onto the beaches at Normandy in June 1944.

A vital role indeed but Henrietta, or Hetty as she was known, had another aspect to her life. Romance blossomed with a coastal battery gunner from South Shields.

It was a typical tale of love amid the heartache as she and Bob courted through the Second World War.

It was the real thing. They married from the home of her Aunt Nan who lived in Randolph Street.

But the newly weds left Wearside to live in Ibstock in Leicestershire - the home village of Tony’s dad. Thankfully, both lived through the traumas of conflict but Bob’s service continued in Gibraltar, Italy and Lubeck in North West Germany.

Finally, he was demobbed in 1946 and the relieved couple could get on with life. They raised a family in Ibstock.

But Sunderland was never far from Henrietta’s thoughts and Wearside was a regular destination for family visits.

After all, it was also the place where many of Hetty’s relatives still lived despite her move to Leicesterhire.

Tony said: “My mother had eight sisters and one brother. They communicated always by letter on a regular basis before telephones became an everyday appliance.

“For the first week in August of every year throughout the 1950s, and into the mid 1960’s, we travelled to Sunderland for our annual holiday, when my mam became reunited with all her siblings and I with all my many cousins.

“During the 50s, we stayed with my gran and grandad Isabella and Ambrose Lindsley in Bramwell Street, Hendon.

“We travelled on Hall Bros. buses from South Shields who ran their long distance service from Coventry via Leicester, to Nottingham and then via the A1 to Newcastle calling at all main points in between picking up and dropping off passengers.

“A fantastic service, something I was hoping to avail myself of when my wife Mary and I visit Sunderland in August 12.”

It’s 20 years since Tony was last here but he’ll be back to see cousin Gordon and Freda Lindsley in the Barnes area.

He said: “I have two cousins now in their 80s who I have never clapped eyes on.

“Their maiden names were Pat and Silvia Parkinson, I believe they now live away from S/land

“My Aunt Vic and Uncle Joe Walton had seven daughters, the second eldest Christine I last saw 45 years ago at our wedding in Ibstock on July 31, 1971.”

So there’s a lot of catching up to do, and there’s more of this story to be told.

Tony, now 68, added: “I am hoping that the story will bring back happy memories for people from long ago, and hopefully people will get in touch with the Echo.

“Ideally, we would like to have a meet and greet meeting with all my cousins at a pub or a club , a social occasion and lots of laughter and memories to share.”

If any of the names sound familiar, get in touch.

Contact Chris Cordner by emailing [email protected]