New book chronicles the industries that made Sunderland great

Launch of Empire Bruce at Laing shipyard in 1941. Images courtesy of Sunderland Museum and WInter Gardens

A new book charts first-hand accounts of the industries which helped shape Sunderland.

As well as interviews with the ordinary men and women from the coal faces and shipyards of Wearside, Sunderland Industrial Giant: Recollections of Working Life also features interviews with former SAFC owner Bob Murray and broadcaster Kate Adie about their memories of the industries that became interwoven with regional identity.

The book has been penned by Sunderland-born writer and photographer Marie Gardiner who wanted to document accounts of long-gone city industry before they were lost forever.

It features photographs from the archives of Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, the use of which was donated for free.

Marie, who grew up in Grindon and now lives in County Durham, says she was inspired to write the book due to her work making documentary films for exhibition and television.

Marie, who runs Lonely Tower Film & Media with her partner, said: “We’ve been working a lot with history groups lately and a lot of people say they wished they’d asked people questions while they were still around, before it was too late.

A worker at Pyrex. Date unknown.

“It got me thinking about my grandma who used to work in Pyrex and my grandad who was a docker. When I was a kid I didn’t pay much attention, but as I got older I became more and more interested in how Sunderland was this major industrial giant. I realised that if we didn’t start listening to those first-hand accounts now they’d disappear.”

Marie liaised with Sunderland Maritime Heritage and other history groups who put her in touch with former workers at some of Sunderland’s major industries.

The resulting book features chapters on coal mining; Co-op stores and Joplings; Vaux; glass-making and Pyre; SAFC football club; the docks and Port of Sunderland; shipyards and Nissan.

Marie said: “Each section features one or more interviews with the men and women who worked in the industry and their stories are woven into the narrative, such as a former miner called Albert Holyoak who worked in Wearmouth Colliery for 40 years. He had some really colourful stories to tell.”

Marie Gardiner with her book

The author said it was fascinating to be able to document such rich chapters in Sunderland’s history.

“Industry is such a massive part of your identity when you’re from Sunderland,” she said. “My generation may not have actually worked in the shipyards of the glass making industry, but we still have that sense of civic pride. Even the name Mackem - we made things that the world needed and that’s something to be proud of.”

•Sunderland Industrial Giant: Recollections of Working Life, published by The History Press and priced £12.99, will be available from Wednesday, November 15. It will be available from Amazon and book shops including Waterstones in The Bridges.

•Marie will be hosting a launch for her new book at The Peacock, formerly The Londonderry, in Sunderland City Centre from 6.30pm on November 30. The event is free to attend but people are asked to register at
•Marie will also be signing copies of the book at Waterstones in The Bridges at 5pm on December 7.

Joplings fire in 1954

The docks in 1966

Grinding domestic glassware at Wear Glass Works in 1922

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