Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Death of the Shipyards (c.NZ380578 & thereabouts)

In 1989, the final remaining vestiges of the shipbuilding industry were wiped from the River Wear when the Pallion and Southwick yards were closed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government.  It signalled the end of a way of life stretching back more than six centuries.  Here’s how the press reported the sorry episode (exact source unknown)…

DECEMBER 12, 1988, saw the final ship to be built on the Wear slide down the slipway on a bitterly cold winter’s night. The chill which affected onlookers not only came from the plunging temperature but from the realisation that an industry, which had sustained Sunderland for centuries, had disappeared. Efforts continued to revive it and campaigners put up a spirited fight. Their hopes were raised repeatedly only to be dashed as time and time again progress became enmeshed in red tape stretched tightly between the European Commission in Brussels and Whitehall in London. It is true that the Sunderland shipyards were struggling to find orders before they closed. The world market for ships was a tough one and the Tory Government decided enough was enough and they were not going to help the Wearside industry any longer. The closure deal was put together by the European Commission and the British Government. It involved a £45million aid package to soften the blow for Sunderland and that meant that a ban - or moratorium - on shipbuilding had to be brought in. Euro-chiefs did not want to see millions of pounds of aid pumped into Wearside to compensate for the loss of a major industry, only to see it start up again a few years later. So unclear at times were the terms of the closure that it was not immediately apparent that the ban was to last for ten years. And so Sunderland resigned itself to the loss of the yards. Events moved quickly. At Southwick, which many still called the Austin & Pickersgill yard, a major auction of plant and equipment was held. Then the demolition squads moved in and the world-famous yard was levelled, crushing any vestiges of hope that it would ever turn steel into ships again. It vanished virtually overnight. The same fate awaited the North Sands yard. It was bulldozed and eventually housed a new university campus. That left only the Pallion yard intact, but, unable to build ships, it was effectively mothballed, frozen in time, a reminder of the glory days of shipbuilding. But its name also served as a rallying call for diehard shipyard campaigners who lived in hope that one day, perhaps, the industry would return. Taken over by an Anglo-Greek consortium and called Pallion Engineering, the yard has been maintained. But, as a fully operational shipyard, building ships, Pallion has slumbered. Shipbuilding on the Wear was, to all intents and purposes, forgotten.
[Text taken from here]


1 comment:

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