John belongs to: Merchants and Traders
John was born in North Shields. His father was a fish merchant and his mother ran a second hand shop. When he left school John followed his father into working on North Shields Fish Quay. He has worked there as a fish merchant since 1957.
John was interviewed by Carl Greenwood on 6 March 2005. The interview took place at Discovery Museum and lasted 49 minutes and 43 seconds.
"Well, the equipment- when I first went to the market there was no mechanisation- none at all"
Well, the equipment- when I first went to the market there was no mechanisation- none at all. If you wanted fish off the market, you had a bogie, this is a vehicle, approximately, how do you measure it? I just…Six foot by three foot with four steel wheels on it and a handle. And on these bogies would put anything from 10 to 15 boxes of fish, and you would drag it to the premises where you worked at.
The three lucky firms on the quay, they had a Lister trucks, which was just a little truck that had been used during the war for dragging mines across, mines and bombs across airfields, and if you were lucky you had one of them, but there was only three firms out of maybe 200 firms had these. Otherwise it was just all manpower. These bogies, and the fish on top approximately weighted just over a tonne, and generally three of you- one would pull and two would push, but some men were so strong they used to pull the bogies by themselves if they had, their stores local to the market. And it was, heavens, it was about 20 years later when we got fork lift trucks, where we were, but everything used to be manhandled.
We used to get fishes, boxes of fish from Norway with halibuts in, and these boxes would weigh half a tonne and it was just sheer, sheer brute strength how we picked them off the ground and then put them on the backs of wagons- it was just, everybody worked as a team, you might have six men lifting one end of a box but if one was weak you were really out to one side, so if you walk around the fish quay, you’ll notice that there’s like a three foot wall all the way around- if you, you know, you see like a little wall and people think, “well, what was that wall there for?” Basically, it was, it was because when you sometimes when you got Norwegian fish, instead of just putting it on the ground you would stack it on the wall, and they gave you that three foot height which was just the, and the wagon would only be three foot six high so it was just easier to tip it on and do things like that.
And as I say, nowadays, you have fork lift trucks but we’ve got no fish, we had no forklift trucks and we had thousands, I mean thousands of boxes of fish. Like, a thousand boxes, I can’t even think what a thousand boxes would be.
John has 16 memories in the memorynet:
John's memories with a Work theme:
- Leaving school
- Working on the trawlers
- Working on the trawlers and moving to filleting
- Fish merchant's routine
- Ferry days
- Changes at the Fish Quay
- The community on the Fish Quay
- Prawn fishing
- The auction
- Filleting fish
- John's staff
- Photograph of John
- North Shields fish market
- Buskers laying out fish