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Recalling Swan Hunter in old images.

IT'S November 29, 1977 - 40 years ago today - and hundreds of workers stream out of Swan Hunter's Wallsend shipyard at the end of their shift.

The yard, and others on the Tyne, were still in full swing at the time but under pressure from shrinking order books and cheap foreign competition from the likes of Japan and Korea.

Earlier in the year in a bid to address the situation, the shipbuilding industry had been nationalised and the newly-formed British Shipbuilders took over the river's larger yards.

It was a far cry from the halcyon days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when a host of yards on both banks of the industrial River Tyne, from Scotswood down to South Shields, built hundreds of vessels of every kind.

It was Swan Hunter which loomed largest of all the great North East shipbuilders and became famous around the world.

Aircraft carriers, passenger liners, cargo liners, ferries, ice breakers, destroyers, frigates and submarines were constructed by Swans' highly-skilled workforce.

Founded in 1880, the company united three powerful shipbuilding families - Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson.

Its yards at Wallsend and Walker would build more than 1,600 ships that sailed the seas.

Among the scores of vessels constructed by the firm were some of the most famous ships in seafaring history.

The liner, Mauretania, which held the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, was launched here in 1907.

Meanwhile, the RMS Carpathia which rescued survivors from the Titanic in 1912 was also a Swan-Hunter-built vessel.

Among the ships built at Swans which fought in World War II were HMS Sheffield and HMS Victorious, both of which took part in the sinking of the Bismarck.

Four decades later, the aircraft carriers, Ark Royal and Illustrious, would also be constructed by the yard.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the launch of a series or supertankers such as the Esso Northumbria and World Unicorn.

Through the challenging 1980s and '90s, towards the new millennium, Swans went through different incarnations.

The last ship to be built and completed at the yard was the Largs Bay in 2007, while in 2010 in a highly symbolic move Swan Hunter's cranes were dismantled.

Today the Swan Hunter name lives on in maritime design and the subsea industry.


The Carpathia was launched at Swan Hunter's Wallsend yard in 1902

Three years after the fire which killed eight workers, Swan-Hunter built destroyer HMS Glasgow puts to sea from the River Tyne, March 8, 1979

The launch of Esso Hibernia from Swan Hunter, Wallsend, in 1970

HMS Ark Royal under construction at Swan Hunter shipyard, Wallsend, May 18, 1981

A crowd of locals turned out to see off World Unicorn, the Swan Hunter-built 257,000-tonne tanker. January 14, 1974

The newly completed Mauretania sails down the Tyne from Swan Hunter, Wallsend, on the afternoon of October 22 1907

The rush home as workers finish their shift at Swan Hunter Shipyard in Wallsend 29 November 1977

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2017
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