‘Wooden Dolly’ statues have been a part of the history of North Shields for 200 years. There have been many incarnations over the years, beginning with a ship’s figurehead, morphing into a fishwife – and lately returning once again to its original form.
It all began in 1781, when a collier brig by the name of the Alexander and Margaret was attacked and ransomed on the high seas. Some time later, in 1814, the ship’s female figurehead somehow found its way to the town, where it was placed at the entrance to the Customs House Quay, on Liddell Street. In time, a tradition grew up among the local mariners to shave pieces from the figure to take with them to sea as good luck charms. This led to its repeated defacement and replacement – firstly in 1850, then in the 1860s, and again in 1901 when Dolly No.4 was raised, this time in the shape of a fishwife.
But that wasn’t the last of it. Most of us have grown up with Dolly No.5, being the replica fishwife placed in Northumberland Square in 1958 (which still survives). But lately – in 1992 – a sixth statue has appeared in the very same spot previously occupied by numbers 1-4, being a throw-back to the original ship’s figurehead. This can be seen at Custom House Quay next to the Prince of Wales pub.
Check them out here…