Monday, March 12, 2007

Dawn Chorus

I was listening to a programme about L.S.Lowry and life in the 1950s on Radio 4 last week. The time of my youth. What really triggered the old memory cells was the sound of factory sirens announcing the start of the working day.
How I well remember being awakened at 7-30 in the morning, time to get up and go to school. Not the alarm clock: but the different tones of the sirens at each factory/foundry/shipyard etc. It always started with the deep sonoruos tone of Doxfords. Then then Laing's, Pickersgill's and all the rest joining in to make a cacophanous chorus which would last for a minute or so. At the end each horn would fall silent in turn making a diminnuendo trailing off to a single plaintive note, the Mayfair toffee factory at the bottom of our street. The day had begun.

Similarly, at New Year, at five minutes to midnight, all the menfolk, - and us lads sometimes, - would leave our houses ready for first footing at the start of the New Year. Never mind Big Ben or the Greenwich time signal, we re-entered our houses when the ships on the Tyne and the Wear told us. The New Year was always heralded by a chorus of ship's horns. It was a wondrous and is now an evocative sound.

Alas, all that has gone. Tyne and Wear no longer have the great shipyards. The port of Sunderland no longer plays host to great ocean going ships. All has changed.

A couple of years ago I went on a cruise. When we left the harbour on our final evening, the ship was accompanied by three tugsboats. When they had cast off and left us to set out across the bar, the tugs gave us a farewell toot. Each with its individual note. An exchange of hoots from our ship and others in the harbour ensued. The whole thing triggered off some deep emotions. It made my hair stand on end. Memories of things long gone. Strong stuff.

1 comment:

David Randall said...

Hello Norman,
Fascinating to red your memories of life in Sunderland. My Dad's family come from there, and his Uncle was Harry Randall 'the Toffee King' and founder, I thin, of Mayfair toffees ... at the bottom of your street! But help me, what was the mane of your street, Id like to visit one day, and find out what became of Mayfair toffees! Bless you. David Randall