The Great Liners (Episode 40)


Shipping on the Tyne

For our 40th episode in this epic, award winning series, we have come up with something quite special. To start with it has a running time of 75 minutes, that’s absolutely packed with some truly rare archive film, most of which has never been made public before.

In this episode we take you to the North East of England to the Tyne, a place that not so many years ago, was home to one of the biggest and busiest maritime stages in the world. Ships filled every berth of the Tyne all the way from its estuary to Newcastle and beyond. It was a scene of constant activity, with ships of every shape and size arriving from and sailing to, ports all over the world.

The rare film we have used allows you to be able to step back in time and experience this, almost as if you were there in person. But the Tyne had so many more maritime wonders to show, for it was also the home of some of the world’s biggest ship building industries that not only built ships for the UK, but also for most of the world as well.

In its day it built and launched over 4,000 ships, including some of the most innovative and famous ships ever to sail the seven seas. In this programme we include the building launch of some of them including the Mauretania and the Dominion Monarch, the magnificent Port Line ships, as well as Ellerman Lines, Shaw Savill and many more sights we never ever thought we would ever be able to see.

But, this programme also has many surprises for you in the form of great maritime stories that up until now have gone largely untold. They include the remarkable story of the old paddle tug, ‘Eppleton Hall’. When she finally retired after over half a century of dedicated work, she was dumped unceremoniously on a mud bank and left to rust away as she waited for her turn to face the scrapyards. But then one cold, foggy day, something quite amazing happened. Along to river bank came an American ship enthusiast, looking for memories of the Tyne’s heyday, when suddenly he stumbled across the remains of the poor ‘Eppleton Hall’ and unbelievably, just fell totally in love with her.

He arranged for her to be taken to a small Sunderland yard, where he set about the almost impossible task of trying to make her seaworthy again. After several years hard work he decided she was ready, not just to go to sea, but to actually sail all the way across the Atlantic to San Francisco, a journey of some 7,000 miles and one almost everyone said would end in disaster. Well, after battling horrendous storms and all the other close-encounters a flat bottomed paddle tug could ever encounter in the open seas, after best part of a year she actually made it.

The other great story is one that will shock and stun most of the maritime world, for, I was always told that one of the reasons we lost our great ship building industries, was because we no longer had the facilities and skills to be able to compete with the rest of the world and yet, we tell you how, during the making of this programme, we discovered that way back in the mid-1960s, ship builders Swan Hunter had advanced plans to construct three giant, one million ton super, super tankers, which would have, even to this day, been the biggest ships ever built. Perhaps for the first time ever, we tell this amazing story, a story that is so truthful, talks were already well advanced with oil companies interested in buying these would be giants of the sea. Who said we hadn’t got the facilities and skills to compete with the rest of the world!

There is so much for you to enjoy in this very special programme.

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