All posts by englandsne

New challenges found in every work for watercolour artist Stuart

As part of our continuing series featuring creative people in the North East DAVID SIMPSON talks to 64 year old Peterlee-based watercolour artist, Stuart Fisher.

Durham Castle painted by Stuart Fisher
Durham Castle by Stuart Fisher

Where in the North East are you based? 

Our home and studio in Peterlee.

How would you describe your work? 

Architectural landscapes in watercolour.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

Thinking my job in architecture was at risk, I revisited painting, something that I hadn’t touched on since secondary school. In the late 1990s I produced a watercolour of a young colleague who had broken his neck in a competitive motocross competition.

This helped to raise funds to assist with his drastically altered lifestyle as he was paralysed from the neck down. I doorstepped Dunlop, one of his sponsors and sold the original for £1,000 after which I raised a further £1,000 from the sale of prints. That same colleague  remains a firm friend and incidentally, is an official mentor to the unfortunate victims of spinal injuries and those in the military who have suffered life-changing battlefield trauma.

Following this I was invited to mount a solo exhibition in a gallery in Corbridge in 2000 and have exhibited almost every year since, turning professional in 2010 with the launch of my website.

What work are you most proud of?

The commissioned painting depicting The Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in North Norfolk. It was a great honour to be invited to produce this work for a shrine of global importance to the Anglican Church and I was especially pleased to be invited to its official unveiling attended by The Shrine Guardians in March of this year.

What inspires you?

There’s potential in almost everything I see and hear.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I don’t think that the North East is necessarily any more inspirational than any other region of Britain. That said, it is my base and as such has to be the source of my subject material. However with all my work, I attempt to add drama to subjects which have been done to death and which might otherwise be jaded to the eyes of the observer.

What has been your most challenging creation?

Watercolour is not a forgiving medium and as such many paintings have been consigned to the waste paper bin after hours of toil. There are new challenges to face in every painting. No matter how simple the subject may outwardly appear, there is always a hidden trap waiting to catch you out. The more you paint, the more you become aware of the potential pitfalls, the easier it gets.

The recently completed commissioned painting for The Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham had a number of challenges, very large size not the least of them. The fact that I’d never before attempted a garden of flowers was the most daunting aspect of the picture. I tiptoed around that section of the painting until I could no longer avoid diving in.

Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham Norfolk painted by Peterlee artist Stuart Fisher
Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk painted by Peterlee artist Stuart Fisher

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Be diligent, work hard and don’t expect art to make itself. Find one person you respect to critique your work, a person you can accept criticism from without being offended. Take inspiration from the greats and aim high.

What other artists or photographers inspire you.

During my early years in architecture, we received calendars at Christmas from local reps. The most sought after of these depicted the work of Sir William Russell Flint (1880-1969) a man who in my opinion is the Genius of the art of watercolour painting. Perhaps most famous for his depiction of scantly clad ladies peppering his architectural landscapes, his style inevitably went out of fashion in the 1960s. However subject matter aside, his technical ability was and in my mind still is, unsurpassed!

Watercolour artist, Stuart Fisher
Watercolour artist, Stuart Fisher

What are your ambitions for the future?

Apart from continuous improvement, I’m not really sure. The 2016 commission to produce a painting of Durham Chorister School for its 600th anniversary is a past highlight. The then school Principal Yvette Day was recently appointed Head of Kings College Cambridge Chorister School. Without prior knowledge of the Chorister School building, the idea of eventually producing a portrait of such an iconic establishment definitely appeals.

Discover more of Stuart Fisher’s work at:

stuartfisher-art.co.uk

 

Pam captures beauty, emotion and memories in paint

DAVID SIMPSON talks to Tynemouth-based artist Pam Morton in the latest in our continuing series of blogs focusing on the region’s artists, photographers and creative people. 

How would you describe your work?

Illustrative bold atmospheric and as realistic as I feel it should be.

'Sunrise Reflections', North Shields Fish Quay by Pam Morton
‘Sunrise Reflections’, North Shields Fish Quay by Pam Morton

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

I studied at Newcastle College of Art in the 1970s however I only started to paint 3 years ago when I retired.

What work are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my first painting “Madly Deeply” it was sold to Marjorie Walsh who is married to Joe Walsh (Eagles Band) now in their home Beverly Hills

What inspires you?

Beauty, emotion, memories of my subject.

'Quirky Tynemouth' by Pam Morton
‘Quirky Tynemouth’ by Pam Morton

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I live in Tynemouth and it’s such a beautiful place full of character  and incredible landscape with a thriving social life.

What has been your most challenging creation?

My very first landscape “The Longsands” and “Quirky Tynemouth” I like to think they remind people of their days in Tynemouth whether it’s a walk along the beach or socialising in Tynemouth Village.

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Practice and feel free to paint if it inspires you, also persevere even if you feel like giving up.

Tynemouth-based artist, Pam Morton
Tynemouth-based artist, Pam Morton

Which other artists or photographers inspire you?

Marcel Witte  is a Dutch painter who paints in such detail and every painting has a message. My favourite photographer is Coastal Portraits by Snappy photographer.

What are your ambitions for the future?

That people will continue to like my work.

To discover more of Pam’s work visit her website at www.pjmartworks.co.uk

Final Rehearsal by Pam Morton
Final Rehearsal by Pam Morton

www.pjmartworks.co.uk

Holy Island ‘paradise’ is an inspiration for Emma

DAVID SIMPSON speaks to Emma Rothera, a Holy Island-based award winning landscape and nature photographer. Part of our series of interviews focusing on creative talent in North East England.

Holy Island. Photo by Emma Rothera
Holy Island. Photographed by Emma Rothera

Tell us how you first started out as a photographer?

I went to Art College straight from School when I was 16 years old to study Graphic Design Communication and Photography.

What work are you most proud of?

My Holy Island portfolio of work  ‘A Journey of Light’

What inspires you?

Being out in the landscape and being privileged enough to witness nature during the most inspirational moments in time, first light, sunrise, sunset and last light, also the majestic golden hour.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

It is just a completely magnificent canvas to work with, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

What has been your most challenging creation?

They are all challenging within there own right. Landscape photography tests the ability of a photographer on a daily basis as you are constantly working with mother nature and often unpredictable elements, so therefore much planning must take place.

Emma Rothera, photographer
Emma Rothera, photographer

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists or photographers?

You need to have a constant passion for what you do and be prepared for it to take a lot of hard work, inspiration and dedication to achieve your goals.

Which other artists or photographers inspire you?

There are many talented photographers in this world, a couple that inspire me are Charlie Waite and Ansel Adams.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To constantly push my boundaries to improve my photography and creativity further on a daily basis. I hope to offer further opportunities for learning to aspiring photographers through my workshops and discovery tours in the North East Region, predominantly the Northumberland Coastline and Holy Island. To produce further contributions to magazines and books and extend my portfolio of work. I hope to expand further commissions within the North East and in the UK, including Scotland and abroad.  I also hope to travel the world with my work in the future, photographing and writing as I go. I will always keep my base on Holy Island as this for me is paradise.

Bamburgh  Castle by Emma Rothera
Bamburgh Castle. Photographed by Emma Rothera

To find out more about Emma, her inspirational photographs and her workshops visit Emma’s website at:

emmarotheraphotography.com

Twitter: @erotheraphoto 

Emma is a multi-award winning landscape and nature photographer. Accolades include:

2017 Winner of the ‘Creative Industries Award’ Northumberland Business Awards

2018 Shortlisted for the ‘Creative Industry Category’ Northumberland Business Awards

2016 Winner of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Photography Award

2015 Landscape photographer of the week, worldwide@Landscape photography magazine.

Sea and Sky : Artist finds inspiration in Craster coastline

DAVID SIMPSON talks to Northumberland artist Mick Oxley about his wonderful seascapes.

As part of our continuing commitment highlighting the work of North East artists, photographers, film makers, writers, musicians and other creative people we talk to 64 year artist Mick Oxley who lives and works in Craster.

Boulmer Glory. Painted by Mick Oxley
Boulmer Glory. Painted by Mick Oxley

Describe yourself and your work:

A painter whose work is influenced by the sea and shoreline of the Northumberland coast, it’s moods and atmosphere.

How did you start out as an artist?

I started painting in 1999, after retiring from teaching and I am wheelchair bound. I began under the tutelage of Gordon Highmoor at a WEA class in Craster. I went full time in 2003 and opened my gallery in 2008. I paint and sell from Craster.

Which work are you most proud of?

To be honest, I am proud of a lot of my work, although I do have one or two favourites. While I have worked very hard to get where I am, I also consider myself fortunate I decided to give painting a go.

Mick Oxley at work
Mick Oxley at work

What inspires you?

My biggest influence is the environment that surrounds me – the coastline, the moods of the sea, the kaleidoscopic changes. This provides me with a never ending source of inspiration.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I grew up in the North East, left to work elsewhere and always wanted to return. The area and its people are very much part of my DNA.

What has been your most challenging creation?

Usually very large paintings, when I can struggle to reach across the canvas. Not being able to stand can pose problems and I have to be extra creative.

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Enjoy what you do, have fun, practise as much as you can and you will improve.

Which other artists inspire you?

My two biggest influences are the North Yorkshire artist Len Tabner and Norwegian Ornulf  Opdahl. Both artists had a profound influence on me when I began painting.

February Sunrise. Painted by Mick Oxley.
February Sunrise. Painted by Mick Oxley.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My aim is to carry on enjoying what I do. I like the dual role of painting and running the gallery. I enjoy meeting the customers and working from Craster.

Visit Mick website at: www.mickoxley.com

Mick is also on Twitter @mickoxley   and   @seaskycraster 

and Facebook too facebook.com/mickoxleygallery

Better still, why not pop along to Mick’s gallery in Craster and take in the wonderful Northumberland coast while you’re there?

Stoneman’s Cityscapes

DAVID SIMPSON talks to photographer Lee Stoneman.

The England’s North East site is committed to highlighting the work of photographers, artists, film makers, writers, musicians and other creative people throughout the region. Today we talk to 44 year old Gateshead-based photographer, Lee Stoneman.

Sage Gateshead
Sage ‘alien landing’ Photo: Lee Stoneman

How would you describe your work?

A complete mixture from cityscapes and urban to nature and wildlife. Just starting to get into portraits.

How did you get into photography?

Have always been interested but when I got my first DSLR 4 years ago and made a hash of a wedding I said I would do, I challenged myself to learn how to take a good picture.

Photographer Lee Stoneman (selfie)
Photographer Lee Stoneman (selfie)

What are you most proud of as a photographer?

Having one of my first ideas printed in the Sunday Times in 2014, then last year winning the 8th round of Amateur Photographer of the Year.

What do you most enjoy photographing and why?

I enjoy the fact that I can bring happiness to people who see my images and to make their day a bit brighter.

Over the Rooftops, Newcastle Quayside Photo: Lee Stoneman
Over the Rooftops, Newcastle Quayside Photo: Lee Stoneman

What inspires you?

Many things inspire me at the moment I’m working on a project based on film Noir after seeing The Third Man. But I have ideas pop into my head all the time it’s just a matter of making these ideas in my mind’s eye into a reality.

What influence, if any does North East England have upon your work?

It has loads of influence, there is so much around here we are really spoilt for choice. Most of my pics are within a 10 mile radius of Newcastle and I don’t really have to go much further.

What has been your most challenging photographic creation?

The now and then pictures I did 4 years ago. Finding the spots and matching the pictures from 1914 was a challenge but the end results were worth it.

Side, Newcastle Then and Now: Lee Stoneman
Side, Newcastle Then and Now: Lee Stoneman

Do you have any tips for up and coming photographers?

Learn how to use the camera out of program mode, learn the rules of photography then how to bend and break them a little. And most of all do what you like to do and if other people like it that’s a bonus.

What other photographers or artists inspire you?

I like the work of Ted Forbes who has a great youtube channel where he interviews some of the great photographers. At the minute I’m reading some graphic novels by Will Eisner that are giving me inspiration for my noir photography.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I just hope to take images that inspire others to pick up a camera.

An urban noir under the Tyne Bridge. Photo Lee Stoneman
An urban noir under the Tyne Bridge. Photo Lee Stoneman

What is your website address?

Haven’t got a website just my Facebook page and Twitter www.facebook.com/leestonemanphotography/

Twitter: @LPhotogr

Any other great photographers we should look out for?

Paul Cummings I love his work www.facebook.com/paulcummingsphotographer/ and Simon Hogben another great portrait photographer www.facebook.com/simonhogbenphotography/

Whisht! lads ‘ I’ll tell ye aboot the Tangled Worm

County Durham-based Tangled Worm is a new  North East based business publishing poster prints with a bit of difference with an emphasis on Northern heritage,  fun facts and just a little frivolity.

Worm legends poster
Worm legends poster print

“We specialise in colourful poster prints with an emphasis on information, quirky facts and northern history as well as occasionally delve into other educational themes like science” says owner David Simpson, 50.

David Simpson
David Simpson

Based near Durham City Tangled Worm was set up in November  by David, a former writer with The Northern Echo best known as the author of a number of books about the North East.

“I want to produce prints that are colourful, fun and informative” says David  “and I’m especially keen to focus on Britain and particularly the North of England but also want to produce prints that are just for fun”.

A colourful print featuring 150 jokey 'batty book titles'
A colourful print featuring 150 jokey ‘batty book titles’

One of David’s most popular prints is a map featuring over 1,000 rude and curious place-names in North East England which includes such wonders as Common Slap, Old Man’s Bottom, Comical Corner, Goodwife Hot, Make Me Rich, Crackpot and Stinking Goat. It also includes explanations for some of the more familiar unusual names like Pity me and Unthank as well as a wide range of place-names with an international flavour like Moscow, California, Boc Chica, Philadephia and Toronto that pop up throughout  the region.

Curious place-names of North East England
Curious place-names of North East England

Northern history themed maps include the troublesome Border reiver surnames: Robson, Charlton, Milburn, Elliot, Armstrong and many others whose murderous raiding and livestock rustling culture dominated Northumberland and neighbouring border counties in Tudor times. The map includes a few tales associated with some of the most notorious reiving families.

Representing a more distant period is a map showing the Iron Age tribes of the North and the routes and events of the subsequent Roman invasion. Another map features the principal Roman features of the North and two very detailed poster print maps depict the Kingdom of Northumbria in the Viking age and in the pre-Viking era complete with details of raids, invasions, murders, settlements and lists of the all the Kings and Earls based at Bamburgh and York.

The Iron Age North
The Iron Age North

It’s not just about history though, Northern culture is well represented. Products include a Geordie Dictionary poster featuring explanations and origins for over 500 North East words and a unique map showing the names of 1,400 notable northerners ranging from scientists, celebrities, singers, comedians, inventors and notable industrialists from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull in the south all the way up to Berwick. All the northern counties from Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire up to Northumberland are featured.

There’s even a map depicting the North East ‘worm’ legends which provided the inspiration for the business name.  In case you’re wondering, worms are wyverns, legendary serpents that feature in ancient stories that are entwined and entangled with the mythology of invading Vikings, Angles and Saxons.

David says he loves unravelling such tales and history in general to reveal strange roots and sees the world as a place of entangled mysteries and puzzles waiting to be solved, untwisted and enjoyed with wonder. This goes for science too – his colourful Periodic table is one of his latest additions which explains how the elements combine in ways to make up our universe.

Periodic Table
Periodic Table

“In the same way as the knights of old defeated the by slicing up those worms I like to break up knowledge into morsels for entertainment and enlightenment. It hopefully whets the appetite to learn much more.”

Visit Tangled Worm Poster Prints at

https://tangleworm.com

Tangled Worm

 

The past is a wonderful place to visit but it’s not a place to permanently stay

DAVID SIMPSON reflects on finding a balance between looking back and looking forward in defining the future of North East England

The Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland
The Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland

I love history and especially northern history and I love nostalgia too. Old Photos and memories are wonderful to share and enjoy but I’m not one of those “everything was so much better in the past” types. The past is simply part of a journey; an eventful journey that brought us where we are today. It teaches us what we may achieve and features important lessons too, but that does not mean we should be limited by our past. In fact for me, the present is everything.

Some may say the “past is not important”. Now, I don’t hold with that view either. Just try going for a job interview or writing a CV without saying anything about your past. It would be pretty hard to do because to some extent your past defines you and what you can do, or at least it defines you as you are now. You will almost certainly fail if you have nothing to say about your past but you will also fail if you have no vision of your future.

The same goes for regions, cities and towns that are marketing and presenting their best attributes to the world. An ability to look back to the past with pride but build with a vision towards the future was one of the most impressive aspects of Sunderland’s recent City of Culture bid. It was one of the great reasons why, despite missing out on that title, it has been such a massive success for the city and for the region too.

That past is simply part of a never ending journey of often surprising events and opportunities. The past is merely the early chapter or chapters in an exiting book that is being continuously written. There will be wonderful twists and turns and new highlights as the story grows with each new event and opportunity.

I still love the past though, and like thousands upon thousands of people up and down the land I love to reminisce and look back, occasionally. Being from Durham I often visit a Facebook group called ‘Old Photographs and Memories of Durham‘ one of many such groups that feature compelling black and white snaps of towns and cities up and down the land that are passionately followed by locals and exiles.

It does frustrate me though sometimes, when I hear people who want everything to stay the way it was, who wish to go back or who wish for things to remain unchanged forever, like Miss Havisham in her wedding gown. Now even if it was possible for everything to stay exactly the same as it always was, where would the joy be in that?

Tyneside Pride : Who is a Geordie?

DAVID SIMPSON explores the origins of the word ‘Geordie’ and the changes in its meaning over two centuries.

The Tyne Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Tyne Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne

Also see our Geordie Dictionary pages in our roots and dialect section.

So who or what is a ‘Geordie’?

‘Geordie’ is the name given to the natives of Tyneside or at least that’s what the term has come to mean today but what is the origin of this word?

Well to put it simply in one sentence: Geordie is a nickname for someone called George. That’s just about the only thing we can say with certainty in regard to its use in North East England.

How Geordie came to be associated with Tyneside has a number of different theories and it’s worth exploring a few of them here. Just don’t expect a definitive answer that’s all.

In the 1700s, just as today, ‘Geordie’ was the prevalent pet form of the name ‘George’ among the Scots and the people of the far north of England and since there was a succession of four ruling kings called George from 1714 to 1830, it was a very familiar name. Its use and adoption may very probably reflected the opinions and feelings of the populace towards their ruling monarch at any given time.

My personal favourite theory for why Newcastle in particular came to be the home of the ‘Geordie’ is linked to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 when the town closed its gates to the Jacobite army that had mustered strong support across Northumberland.

The Jacobites, named from ‘Jacobus’ a Latin form of James, wanted to place James Stuart, the Catholic ‘Old Pretender’ on the throne. Newcastle had other ideas however and declared its support for the reigning King, ‘Geordie’ : King George I, the German Protestant, who couldn’t speak a word of English.

This is a neat and very satisfying explanation perpetuated by writers and historians during the later half of the twentieth century – myself included. Even the late Bill Griffiths in his wonderful thoroughly researched ‘Dictionary of North East Dialect’ (2004) examines the origins for different definitions of ‘Geordie’ but can only point to an article in The Northern Echo newspaper (August 1997) to support the Jacobite theory.

Now, I have to confess straight away and say that I was in fact the enthusiastic young author of that particular newspaper article. I was merely repeating a theory that had more than once been thrown around by late twentieth century writers such as David Bean. In  his book ‘Tyneside : a biography’ Bean admittedly added a cautious element of doubt to his colourful explanation with the phrase: “Or so it is guessed”. He then went on to make the familiar suggestion that it came from the use of Stephenson’s Geordie lamp.

David Bean's explanation of 'Geordie' from Tyneside : A Biography (1971)
David Bean’s explanation of ‘Geordie’ from Tyneside : a biography (1971)

Go back more than half a dozen  decades earlier to the nineteenth century and you will find a legion of writers and researchers who left no stone unturned in their quest to explore and explain every facet of local culture and dialect. Not one of these – as far as I know – makes any mention of a link between George I and ‘Geordie Newcastle’. In fact as a written record it is not until the last decade of the nineteenth century that we get any reliable evidence that ‘Geordie’ was specifically associated with Tyneside. It does seem though that it was a name given by outsiders.

In 1892 Richard Oliver Heslop’s, two-volume tome entitled ‘Northumberland Words’ was published. This work formed the basis for late twentieth century Geordie publications like Cecil Geeson’s ‘Northumberland and Durham Word Book’ (1969) and Frank Graham’s ‘Geordie Dictionary’ (1974 and 1987). In one of the shortest entries in his glossary, Heslop explains that ‘Geordy’ is the name by which Tynesiders are known outside the district.

The use of the word ‘outside’ is curious because it suggests the term was not yet accepted onTyneside itself or at least not accepted by the middle class audience at which Heslop presumably aimed his work. Heslop said that ‘Geordy’ is also the term for a Tyne ship and for George Stephenson’s miners’ safety lamp. However, it is in Heslop’s accompanying cross reference to the related term ‘Cranky’ that we find a clear indication of the earlier meaning of ‘Geordie’.

Miners' safety lamps showing the inventions of Humphy Davy and George Stephenson
Miners’ safety lamps showing the inventions of Humphry Davy and George Stephenson

Heslop reveals that ‘Cranky’ or ‘Bob Cranky’ was the popular old term for a miner in the region and cites its use in a phrase from a local song dating from 1804. Heslop says the phrase was in later times replaced by ‘Geordy’.

A linguist, Katie Wales, concurred on the association between Geordies and miners and pointed to an early use of ‘Geordie’ as a reference to miners in local ballads and songs from as early as 1793. The use of the term in this respect will have been reinforced by local miners adopting George Stephenson’s safety lamp (invented 1815) which they nicknamed the ‘Geordie’ or ‘Geordy’ if we are to use Heslop’s spelling.

Explanations for 'Geordy' and 'Cranky' in Richard Heslop's 'Northumberland Words' 1892
Explanations for ‘Geordy’ and ‘Cranky’ in Richard Heslop’s ‘Northumberland Words’ 1892

Heslop, who was of course writing for a Northumberland and Tyneside readership gives an early link between the miners of Tyneside and the term ‘Geordie’ as he says “the men who went from the lower Tyneside to work at the pits in South Tynedale were always called ‘Geordies’ by the people there.” The date at which the Tyneside connection to ‘Geordie’ came into being in South Tynedale is not clear.

Almost half a century earlier, in 1847, John Brockett’s two volume ‘Glossary of North Country Words’ published in Newcastle upon Tyne opted for the spelling ‘Geordie’ which he describes “as a very common name among the pitmen” and showed that it was a form of address between them. He further confirmed that “the pitmen have given the name of ‘Geordie’ to Mr. Stephenson’s lamp in contra-diction to the Davy, or Sir Humphrey Davy’s Lamp”. Brockett made no mention of Newcastle or Tyneside in relation to the term Geordie.

From Brockett's Glossary of North Country Words 1847
From Brockett’s Glossary of North Country Words 1847

Most of the evidence from the Victorian era points to ‘Geordie’ being a widely used for term for miners in the region. However, another source, J.P Robson’s ‘Songs of the Bards of the Tyne’ (1849) said that it was used as a word for ‘rustics’.

The first occurrence of the word ‘Geordie’ in ‘The Oxford English Dictionary’ is in 1866 as ‘Jordies’  and is defined as “the sailors belonging to the ports on the north-eastern coast of England”. Of course, this may have been the south country or London understanding of the term. London, remember was constantly visited by sailors from the North East coast as part of the coal trade.

Only three years later, in 1869, John Camden Hotten, a London bibliophile and expert on ‘slang’ contradicted the Oxford Dictionary stating that Geordie was a “general term in Northumberland and Durham for a pitman or coal-miner.” He stated that that the origin was not known and that the term had been in use for more than a century. The degree of certainty in Hotten’s statement is not known but it places the origin of ‘Geordie’ when defined as a ‘miner’ back before 1769.

There is, however, an early reference linking the term ‘Geordie’ specifically to Tyneside in relation to shipping. This occurs in the Sunderland section of William Fordyce’s ‘History of County Durham’ (1857). Here Fordyce mentions that a “recent periodical supplies us with the curious information that mariners term a vessel from the Tyne a Geordie and from the Wear a Jamie.” It’s a tantalising link back to the Jacobite theory but there’s no evidence to suggest that Sunderland had been particularly pro-Jacobite.

On the same page in relation to shipbuilding, Fordyce makes the remark that “it was derisively said that the Sunderland shipbuilders could either make a ship or build one” as the quality of the workmanship was seemingly regulated by price on Wearside. This was possibly an early origin for the term ‘Mac n’ Tac’ (later ‘Mackem’), used by outsiders in reference to Sunderland that perhaps regained prominence around the 1960s but seemingly was not familiar to Wearsiders until around the 1980s when the insult was enthusiastically adopted and became a badge of honour in much the same way that the ‘Geordie’ insult was adopted on Tyneside.

The Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland
The Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland

On further investigation it becomes clear that ‘Geordie’ seems to have originated as an insult for a miner (and perhaps a mariner). At the very least it was a patronising term and seems to have been a byword for a fool. Frank Graham suggested that the word originally literally meant ‘fool’ and linked it to the madness of King George III who reigned from 1760-1820.

Supporting the view that Geordie meant ‘fool’, Graham cited a quote that came from the famed music hall comedian, Billy Purvis in 1823 spoken at the Newcastle Races on the Town Moor that year. Billy slated a pitman who had left his wife and sold his furniture to become a performing clown and rival to Purvis. In the quote Purvis said the pitman was a genuine fool unlike Purvis himself, who was merely acting the clown to earn a living:

“Noo, yor a fair doon reet feul, not an artificial feul like Billy Purvis! Thous a real Geordie!”

Billy Purvis, Newcastle Music Hall Comedian
Billy Purvis, Newcastle Music Hall Comedian

‘Geordie’, as a slightly patronising term for a pitman was still widely used in the late nineteenth century.

From 1887 to 1891, a popular Newcastle-based publication called ‘The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend’ explored the heritage and culture of Northumberland, Newcastle and occasionally County Durham with a middle class readership in mind. Generally this publication is full of wonderful informative articles and illustrations but its pages also include countless features on local ‘North Country Wit and Humour’ usually featuring ‘Geordie’ who is almost always depicted as a generic pitman and a bit of a fool. In these features the pitman or ‘Geordie’ includes miners from as far south as Castle Eden near the Durham coast.

A typical observation of a 'Geordie' miner from the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Legend, this example from March 1887
A typical observation of a ‘Geordie’ miner from the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Legend, this example from March 1887

Frank Graham held the view that the middle classes of Newcastle once feared the miners and patronised them with the term ‘Geordie’ but over time, during the twentieth century it became a more friendly accepted term that was widely adopted across the region.

Graham was himself a rather colourful character. He was the Newcastle-based author and publisher of hundreds of small scholarly books for the general reader mostly featuring Northumberland history. Born in Sunderland, he was a noted Communist who had voluntarily fought in the Spanish Civil War against the Fascists.

In addition to his Geordie Dictionary, Graham was perhaps best-known as the publisher in 1969 of the tongue-in cheek ‘Larn Yarsel’ Geordie’ written by the humour writer and art teacher Scott Dobson of Blyth. At around this time Geordie was primarily associated with Tyneside but still often widely used in a broad sense for all people across the region in Northumberland and Durham. It was, it seems only in the 1970s and 1980s, perhaps in part due to increasing football rivalry, that ‘Geordie’ became much more exclusively associated with the people of the lower Tyne.

Our online  Geordie Dictionary from our roots and dialect page

Geordie phrases poster print from Tangled Worm

Cyclist’s Paradise:  Keeping fit and enjoying the region’s landscapes

DAVID SIMPSON shares his passion for cycling as he explores old railway routes and scenery across the North East from the saddle of his trusty mountain bike

Lydgetts junction cycle hub near Consett. Photo: David Simpson
Lydgetts junction cycle hub near Consett. Photo: David Simpson

Cycling and especially mountain biking is one of the best ways to see our region. Taking in the wonderful varied scenery of our beloved North East from the cyclist’s saddle is one of life’s great pleasures.  Travel from village to village, town to town and watch the delightful changes in the region’s rolling scenery mile by mile. Head along rural riverside routes into industrial heartlands, take in lovely country roads or try out the course of a former railway route at your own leisurely pace. Simply marvellous!

Sure, you can do some of these things from the comfort of your car but can you take a break without the headache of finding a parking space and can you go ‘off road’, away from all the traffic? Cycling is great because you always feel that you’re part of the outdoors, rather than just passing through within the confines of a wheeled metal box. That feeling of being part of the scenery is something that you never quite get from inside the car, even when the window is wound right down.

Scenery near Sunderland
Scenery from a recent Durham to Sunderland cycle ride. Photo: David Simpson.

Best of all though, cycling keeps you fit, in both mind and body. Mentally, I’m at my sharpest and happiest when I’ve been doing lots of cycling and it’s really invigorating. Walking, running or team sports might work for you but it’s cycling for me. It works well with my lifestyle and interests: my love for history, for taking photographs and a passion for the region’s varied landscapes makes cycling the perfect fit.

Now let’s be clear, I’m not one of the Lycra brigade. No, no, no, when I’m out cycling, I prefer skinny, stretchy jeans, old trainers, a long-sleeved shirt plus a jumper or fleece in the backpack just in case it gets too chilly. That’s more my scene. Purists might frown on this but that doesn’t bother me, though I should say a helmet is always a must. Taking something high-viz too if you’re going to be out in the twilight could also be wise and don’t forget a spare bottle of water or squash and a snack to keep you going if you feel peckish en route.

C2C Cycle route. Photo: David Simpson
The C2C Cycle route. Photo: David Simpson

No, it’s not about the streamlined look or the speed for me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the thrill of the racing bike fraternity whizzing through the blurry countryside constantly improving on their best times, clocking up mile after mile on twisty roads and climbing hills with endless motor cars for company. There’s plenty of great scope for that activity across the region and I am sure the exertion is exhilarating but it’s not really for me.

I’ll often ride more than thirty or forty miles a time on the mountain bike but sometimes I’ll just go for twenty or a modest ten or perhaps even six or seven miles just to get out of the house. The more miles you do though the easier the distances become. I don’t mind cycling on the road some of the time but more often than not I head off along one of those superb off-the-road cycle paths that crisscross our region.

Many of these routes are the legacy of Dr Beeching, the man who closed so many railways back in the sixties, but that was due to the burgeoning growth of the motorists. I don’t suppose Beeching ever envisaged the growth in popularity of cycling though many of the cycle ways he has unwittingly created, from old railway routes, provide ideal and relatively easy going paths that often stretch for many miles. It all makes sense: those routes were designed for steam locomotives that wanted to avoid steep hills and take the easiest routes. All good news for leisurely cyclists like me.

Former railway station at Lanchester in County Durham. Photo: David Simpson
Former railway station at Lanchester in County Durham. Photo: David Simpson

Old railway routes converted into long-distance paths are one of the great gems of our region’s countryside and are great ways to get out and about in the North East. In recent rides I’ve headed out in various directions using a village near Durham City as a base. The other week I cycled from Durham into Sunderland through lovely countryside with views of the sea along the way.

Surprisingly, much of the track through Sunderland itself encompasses fields, trees, parks and even a lake. Except for the occasional glimpse of a block of flats nearby, you barely notice you’re in an urban environment until you eventually emerge in the city centre and then after crossing a couple of main roads at pedestrian crossings you head over the Wearmouth Bridge and back into the countryside along the banks of the River Wear – though I took a brief diversion to the river mouth first just to see the sea.

Cycling by the River Wear at Sunderland. Photo: David Simpson
Cycling by the River Wear at Sunderland. Photo: David Simpson

In County Durham there are pathway ‘hubs’ that provide good centres for exploring various walking and cycle routes where railways once ran. Broompark, just west of Durham City is one such hub. There’s parking there and a picnic area too, so you can take your bike along on the car then make your way by bike along a choice of three routes. I’ve tried all three. One heads along the pretty wooded valley of the little River Deerness to Esh Winning and on towards a place called Stanley Crook and another heads north along the Browney valley to Lanchester and then on towards Consett. The third heads south to Bishop Auckland culminating in a good view of the Bishop of Durham’s home town that can be reached across the Newton Cap Viaduct.

Perhaps the major hub for cyclists in the North East is Lydgetts Junction at Consett, arguably the central hub for all North East cycle paths. Here routes head out to Newcastle and Tynemouth, south into Durham, east to Sunderland and west all the way to Cumbria via the splendid Hownsgill viaduct.

Sculpture on C2C Cycle route near Lydgetts Junction, Consett. Photo: David Simpson
Sculpture on C2C Cycle route near Lydgetts Junction, Consett. Photo: David Simpson

It’s always good to combine parts of routes and even improvise with a bit of research beforehand. Recently, I headed out from my village base east of Durham City to join the Deerness route at Broompark but then left its course at Esh Winning to make the steep climb by local roads through Quebec and Cornsay Colliery to lovely Lanchester. There, joining the Lanchester Valley route to Consett I joined  the C2C route at Lydgetts Junction –  with its impressive art installation sculptures along the way – as I continued through Leadgate, Stanley, Beamish and Pelton where I improvised in a descent into Chester-le-Street on my way back to my village base completing about 44 miles.

Souter Lighthouse
Souter Lighthouse is one of the many beautiful features on the coastal route between the Tyne and Wear. Photo: David Simpson

Many routes link in with the longer-distance coast-to-coast cycle paths like the C2C (sea to sea) route I have mentioned. This route links the coastal Cumbrian towns of Whitehaven, Workington and St Bees to Sunderland, South Shields and Tynemouth. An alternative cross-Pennine route is the W2W (Walney to Wear) route linking Walney in southern Cumbria to Sunderland, part of which we followed on our recent ride from Durham to Sunderland.

The great thing is, you don’t have to stray far from the cities to enjoy great cycle rides. There are good cycle rides around Stockton and Hartlepool into the fringes of the County Durham countryside for example and in Tyne and Wear there’s a particularly enjoyable coastal ride from the mouth of the Tyne to the mouth of the Wear – and back.

You can cycle along the bank of the River Tyne all the way to Wylam and then back along the other side of the river and once you’re back at the beginning there’s no extra charge for taking cycles across the Shields ferry to reach the other side.

Bicycles are welcome on the Shields Ferry. Photo: David Simpson
Bicycles are welcome on the Shields Ferry. Photo: David Simpson

Superb cycling can be found in Northumberland too, often with the Cheviots serving as a wonderful backdrop with some routes taking in coastal areas and castles. A cycling friend of mine recently tried out a circular route from Wooler across to Holy Island which looks appealing.

In North Yorkshire the Vale of York and Vale of Mowbray around Thirsk and Northallerton offer relatively gentle cycling with gradual climbs into the Yorkshire Dales to the west or challenging cycling in the North York Moors to the east.

Sustrans provide a useful zoomable map of all the major cycle routes in the region (see the links below) but it’s also worth checking out the region’s woods and forests that can appeal to thrill-seekers or those who just want to take a cycling stroll. Hamsterley and Kielder for example have superb mountain biking trails to explore.

Out and about. Scenery near Sunderland. Photo: David Simpson
Out and about on the bike. Scenery near Sunderland. Photo: David Simpson

Whatever kind of cycling you do, it’s always enjoyable to keep a record of your routes, speeds and distances mile by mile, to see how much you’ve ascended and descended and how many calories you’ve burned. It’s a satisfying way to round off a good cycle ride. You can post the details on social media too and it’s a good way to log your progress and share with others.

That’s all part of the fun and can be facilitated by downloading great route-tracking GPS apps like Endomondo, Strava or Mapmyride to your mobile phone. It’s always good to review your times and distances, when you get back to base, and to check your best and slowest lap, though often, I find, I’ve lost more than an hour or so stopping to take photos or admire the beautiful views along the way. I’m certainly not going to complain about that.

Tyne Bridge. Photo: David Simpson
Tyne Bridge. Photo: David Simpson

Update!

We’ve been out on the bike again (the day after this blog) this time from Consett to Newcastle and back (38 miles) taking in the Derwent valley and Tyne riverside with Lydgett’s junction as our starting base. Another lovely route. Check out our sunny day of cycling photos of the Derwent Valley here and of Newcastle-Gateshead here.

Useful links

Railway-paths in County Durham  (for cyclists, walkers, runners, horse riders and wheelchair users) with downloadable pdfs of maps and route features.

Sustrans C2C Cycle Route  and other routes throughout the North East of England.

Cycle Routes in Northumberland from Cycle Northumberland

Cycle friendly cafes: englandsnortheast.co.uk/2016/08/21/many-reasons-get-yer-bike/ a blog by Helen Gildersleeve

www.cycle-route.com Has an astonishing  choice of suggested cycle routes. Select by nation and county for an extensive list of routes with map details.

Kielder Forest Mountain Bike Trails: www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/OverviewA0panel.pdf/$file/OverviewA0panel.pdf

Hamsterley Forest Cycle Trails: www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/nee-hamsterley-cycle-trails.pdf/$file/nee-hamsterley-cycle-trails.pdf

Cyclists on the Shields ferry: www.nexus.org.uk/ferry/guide-ferry  Large groups of cyclists should contact the ferry in advance.

GPS Cycling apps

Endomondo: www.endomondo.com/

Strava: www.strava.com/

Mapmyride: www.mapmyride.com/app/

Charlie’s quest to lose a million pounds

DAVID SIMPSON speaks to former London marathon winner and Olympic medallist, Charlie Spedding about his big plan to tackle obesity and help the nation lose a million pounds in weight

Charlie Spedding
Charlie Spedding at home near Durham. Photo: David Simpson

A former North East Olympic marathon medallist has launched an ambitious online campaign to help thousands of people lose millions of pounds in weight.

Charlie Spedding, 64, is the owner of ‘Who Wants to Lose a Million Pounds’ a venture that hopes to tackle the nation’s escalating obesity problem, helping people become healthy without feeling hungry:

“I have this collective idea of a whole group of people losing a million pounds” says Charlie, one of the region’s most successful athletes, referring to losing the ‘lbs’ rather than the ‘£s’.

Born in Bishop Auckland and raised in Ferryhill, Charlie started running at school where cross country was compulsory:

“It was the first thing I was any good at” he recalls.

Charlie came second in the English School Championship for 1,500 metres in his final year at school and at 16, joined Gateshead Harriers, regularly taking a bus trip from Ferryhill to Gateshead just to train. Charlie proved not quite fast enough for the middle distances, but moved up to 5,000 and 10,000 metres before finally making his mark in the marathon.

CS_84
Winning the London Marathon in 1984

The pinnacle of his career came in 1984, when he won both the Houston and London marathons and claimed Bronze in the Los Angeles Olympics, narrowly missing out on silver to Irishman John Treacy by two seconds.

Considering the marathon’s central place in the Olympic story, Charlie can take particular pride in being the only Brit to have won an Olympic marathon medal in the last 52 years. Furthermore he is one of only six British athletes to have won the London Marathon since its inception in 1981 and is the third fastest British marathon runner of all time, after Steve Jones and Mo Farrah.

I met Charlie at his home in a village near Durham to talk about loseamillionpounds.com the website at the heart of his new business venture. First, though, I ask Charlie if he thinks he should be better remembered for his past achievements.

He’s somewhat philosophical and modestly recalls that there were some great gold medallists around at the time like Seb Coe and Daley Thompson but he proudly reflects on a prized photo of himself with Steve Cram and Mike Mcleod fresh on arrival back at Newcastle from Los Angeles in 1984.

By trade, Charlie is a pharmacist and has been for most of his life, training at Sunderland Polytechnic Pharmacy School, before starting his pharmacy career in Ferryhill. In more recent times he owned a pharmacy business in Wallsend and along with his athletics experience this gave him a sound knowledge of diet, nutrition and how the body works at the chemical and hormonal level.

In his work as a pharmacist he became acutely aware of the dietary problems that many people have: “I just noticed that most of the people I saw regularly had what you call metabolic diseases, not infections” he says “their internal metabolism had gone awry, it wasn’t working properly, they’d been taking medication for years and hardly any of them got any better”.

He concluded that medication was treating the symptom, not the cause of the problem and felt that it would do a lot more good to prevent the cause.

'Junk food' high in catboydrates
Sugary, high carbohydrate food is a big cause of obesity according to Charlie

“A lot of metabolic diseases are caused by lifestyle and the most important bit of lifestyle is diet” he says. “I know a lot of people would expect me as an Olympic marathon runner to say exercise, and exercise is very important for mental and physical health” but he quotes the words of influential NHS cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra, who says “you can’t outrun a bad diet”, a point on which Charlie agrees.

Charlie notes we are told that one third of the UK has a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 25 and that another quarter has a BMI of over 30. “It’s not good, but how do you visualise that?” he asks.

As part of the argument Charlie assumes a BMI of over 25 is about 2 stone overweight and a BMI of over 30 is 5 stone overweight. With roughly 60 million people in the country one third of the population is 20 million and one quarter is 15 million. Charlie equates this to a UK population that is a staggering 2,000 million pounds overweight. On this basis, the North East, which has one of the highest levels of obesity within its 2.5 million people, is around 85 million pounds overweight. Charlie thinks that if he can gather together a group of people on his site to collectively lose a million pounds it would be a great start in beating obesity.

Charlie’s particular dietary approach to tackling the problem will have its critics. He is an advocate of a LCHF based diet (Low Carbohydrate, High Fat). There are a number of eminent supporters of this approach but in the UK there are some major heavyweight opponents such as the NHS who are broadly opposed or at least very cautious and the British Heart Foundation who are a significant opponent. High fat diets are often associated in some minds with heart disease but Charlie refutes this research.

He acknowledges that his approach does not fit in with official guidelines and his website makes this clear. His opinion has been informed from extensive research and he encourages people to make their own decisions with their own research.

In truth, major aspects of Charlie’s campaign are hard to deny. Reducing sugar, present in so many processed foods (a particular bugbear for Charlie) and sugary drinks is a key part of Charlie’s campaign and certainly a key factor in tackling obesity. Charlie is a great believer in what he calls ‘real foods’ as opposed to processed foods and advocates the importance of cooking as opposed to ready meals.

realfood-300x200
‘Real foods’

Widespread processed foods, excessive carbohydrates and sugary drinks are a relatively recent feature of the human story and Charlie believes humans are not equipped to cope with this change. Foods with more fat content are in tune with the way we have evolved according to Charlie.

He feels the terminology of ‘fat’ is something of an issue. “The problem is we use the same word for dietary fat as being fat” he says. In fact scientists call the fats within our body ‘lipids’ but it is understandable that in the public mind it is hard not to associate ‘being fat’ with dietary fat.

“It’s carbohydrates that make you fat”, says Charlie.

He notes that fats of various kinds are an essential part of our body’s structure and that much of the body is made from fat. The brain for example is around 70% fat and our cells are encased in membranes made of fat while our nerves are encased in protective sheaths that are fat. Charlie notes that while the body is made up of proteins and fats, “no part of the body is made from carbohydrates” and advocates that fats are a perfectly good source of energy.

He argues that saturated fat as part of a diet became demonised, especially after 1977 when official US dietary guidelines encouraged a diet based on carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, pasta) and discouraged fats (butter, lard, cream, eggs, cheese). Much of the world followed suit, but Charlie highlights a graph on his website that shows a very sharp and continuing increase in obesity in the US since 1977 which he associates with the dietary changes.

Graph showing rise in obesity in the United States from Charlie's website
Graph showing rise in obesity in the United States from Charlie’s website

According to Charlie some researchers think a low fat diet and lack of correct nutrients increase health and mental health problems and he points to a theory that Alzheimer’s Disease may actually be type 3 diabetes.

It’s seemingly the excess glucose from carbohydrates that is the big problem. The liver turns extra glucose into fat and this makes you fat and the high levels of insulin that come from high blood sugar content prevent the burning of the fat.

Although LCHF diets have picked up a significant following in recent years there is a significant body of opinion that disagrees with Charlie’s approach. As with many issues in the modern world it is sometimes difficult to get to the truth.

Clearly, processed food manufacture is a multi-billion pound business and sugary drinks are amongst some of the world’s most powerful brands and Charlie is cautious of this: “Big business definitely affects some of the research” he says “when I see a scientific paper on nutrition, I always look to see who paid for it. In my opinion it’s nearly always funded by the sugar industry in some form or another”.

Charlie is clearly animated and excited by his new venture and is aiming for at least 20,000 subscribers in order to achieve the million pound weight loss. “I want people to join and learn more about what a healthy diet and lifestyle is” he says.

There are opportunities for family membership (£8.99 a month) so that families can work together for mutual support and individual membership is £5.99 a month. The site includes a personal page for each member to record their progress, calculating how much weight has been lost and plotting it on a chart. There are regular articles and updates on how to enjoy delicious foods that satisfy and nourish, video clips, recipes, meal suggestions, articles, ideas on exercise, information on childhood development and lots of regular blogs.

“I’m aware I’ve got an uphill struggle” says Charlie, using what might be seen as a runner’s metaphor but that seems unlikely to deter him given his proven track record for endurance.

Charlie Speding's wbesite at loseamillionpounds.com
Charlie Speding’s  site at loseamillionpounds.com

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Note: This article is not intended as an endorsement of loseamillionpounds.com or Charlie’s views by England’s North East or Truly Awesome Marketing Ltd. As with all diets, consult your doctor if you are not sure. The opinions  expressed on loseamillionpounds.com are based on intensive research however they are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional.

Useful links