Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

1924 FA Cup Final Fans Were All at Sea

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

1924 FA Cup Final Fans Were All at Sea

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Tony Henderson on catching the boat to the big match.

With tales of train delays and passengers bussed between stations, perhaps it's time to reintroduce a London-Newcastle link which was popular for more than a century ( going by boat.

Newcastle United fans piled on board the Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Company's boat Bernicia, built at Hawthorn Leslie's Hebburn yard on the Tyne, to travel to London for the team's appearance in the 1924 FA Cup Final.

Quayside crowds and the Tyneside Highland Pipe Band on a tug gave the supporters a grand send-off. Flying a magpie flag, the Bernicia was given a chorus of sirens from moored ships as she made her way downriver. The company had run a sea special for United supporters for the 1905 Cup Final and they did so again in 1932 when Newcastle met Arsenal at Wembley.

Around 40,000 people gathered on the riverside as Bernicia again made the football trip, this time carrying a 6ft-high black and white replica of the Cup on her funnel. Fans could sleep on the boat for two nights in London for five shillings.

The first steam passenger boat on the Newcastle-London run was the paddle steamer Rapid in 1824. The journey south took 54 hours and the return 60 hours ( rapid indeed for those days. A contributor to the Newcastle Examiner was full of praise for the company's Royal Dane passenger boat in 1884. "The saloons and cabins are placed near the deck level and as a consequence the air is always fresh and plentiful. The Royal Dane has been recently fitted with electric light and this has tended to the further sweetening of the atmosphere on board," he wrote.

The skipper for the 30-hour run was John Cracknell, and the voyages were enlivened by concert events. On one trip the singers ended the night's entertainment by surrounding Capt Cracknell's room and warbling "Sleeper awake, bright stars are beaming." It is doubtful if the captain was.

A passenger on the Juno in 1889 wrote of the steward entertaining passengers by reciting scenes from the Merchant of Venice and Othello.

Not everyone was a happy Newcastle-London passenger. …

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