Memento of When the Boats Went out; Visitor Book Signed by VIPs at More Than 170 Launches at Tyne Shipyard Is Sold

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

APIECE of history from the North East's famous shipyards has been rescued and preserved for future generations.

For more than 50 years and over 170 ship launches, a host of VIPS signed this shipyard's visitors' book.

But when Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson's Neptune Yard on the Tyne closed, the leather book ended up in rubbish skip.

It was retrieved by a man who sold it to former merchant seaman Trevor Ashman, from Warkworth in Northumberland.

Mr Ashman put the book up for sale at Boldon Auction Galleries in South Tyneside, and it has now been bought for pounds 310 by Tyne Wear Archives and Museums.

They already own a similar volume from the neighbouring Swan Hunter Wallsend yard, and now the new visitors book will take pride of place in their collection.

It records visitors and launches from 1910 to 1963, and also contains watercolour paintings of flags and crests of the vessels.

In some cases there are scenes or figures representing the ship's name.

Mr Ashman, who went on to have a career of more than 30 years in the fire service, said: "It is a remarkable, one-off book which is an important piece of North East history.

"It was found in a skip by a man I knew when the Neptune Yard closed. Because of my time in the merchant navy I am interested in the sea and maritime items and I bought it from him. …