Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Press letter: Give Sunderland back its soul

I AM Sunderland born and bred, and have only just become aware of the sad plight of the City of Adelaide, a clipper built in Sunderland in 1864 and which in 1992 was declared part of the UK National Historic Ships Core Collection.

My family has roots going back many generations in Sunderland, and I lived there until 1985.

My heart goes out to the group Scarf, Sunderland City of Adelaide Rescue Foundation, and in particular Peter Maddison and his supporters who are trying so hard to prevent the destruction of part of Great Britain's heritage which was born out of Sunderland – the greatest shipbuilding town the world has seen.

I sadly, am one of thousands of people who witnessed part of Sunderland dying as a result of the shipbuilding industry disappearing from the Wear. I am passionately heartbroken about the effect this had on a city which was built around, and gained worldwide acclaim for the ships which were built in the shipyards on the Wear.

I have a particular interest and passion, as I spent time working in the Doxford shipbuilding yards at Pallion, Deptford and North Sands. I worked for almost 20 years as a PA in the industry.

When I first began work at Pallion, the offices were a picture of Victorian elegance, with the scaled models of past ships standing in ornate glass cabinets, one, a model of the HMS Victory, had been made by prisoners of war, and every piece had been honed and sculpted from pieces of bone. I remained there until I was made redundant.

I have eerily poignant pictures in my mind of the first launch I attended in 1971, hearing the chocks being knocked away, the noise of the chains being dragged, and the clouds of rusted dust billowing as the ship slipped into its new home, the beckoning river.

I am sure that I will be only one of an army of Sunderland people, who felt the heart was cut out of Sunderland with the shipyard closures and the effect this had.
Surely now is the time to put the soul back into Sunderland – the return of the City of Adelaide to its birthplace would achieve this.

I believe March 31 is the deadline. The City of Adelaide is the oldest clipper in the world – what an accolade – this clipper, once restored, could be the "Cutty Sark of the North". The revenue and tourism this would bring would be permanent and lucrative.

Margaret Snowdon

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