Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH HANN

WHEN did Newcastle-on-Tyne become Newcastle upon Tyne? That was the question posed on a Facebook page I enjoy visiting to look at old photos of the Toon.

It was the cue for a lot of fiercely-patriotic Geordies to assert that it had always been called Newcastle upon Tyne, at any rate since it stopped being called Pons Aelius.

Reminding themselves, for good measure, that it had been a proud county in its own right and never a mere part of Northumberland.

Clearly no one recalled, as I do, a decree being handed down that we should stop calling the place Newcastle-on-Tyne, which was the normal form when I was a small boy.

I can't remember whether it came from the City Council or the Post Office, and remarkably in the age of Google and Wikipedia I can find no record of he pronouncement being made, but I guess it was around 1960.

I do distinctly remember my father moaning about having to change the wording on our letterhead, and the postmarks on all local mail changing to the longer and grander form of "upon Tyne".

A few years later my dad had occasion to moan again when the introduction of postcodes demanded another print job, and I was grateful for his blood pressure that the change in the county boundaries in 1974 did not make him print the things again.

Because although we were shunted from Longbenton in the historic county of Northumberland to North Tyneside in the new-fangled and bogus county of Tyne & Wear, our postal address remained "Newcastle upon Tyne".

We lived yards from the city boundary and I cherished the grand sign bearing the coat of arms and the legend welcoming visitors to the "City and County of Newcastle upon Tyne".

It was one of those distinctive things, like yellow buses, the Tyne Bridge, singing Blaydon Races, and displaying unquenchable loyalty to an underperforming football team, that set Newcastle apart and gave me a surge of pride in my birthplace (which was, indeed, described as "upon Tyne" on my 1954 birth certificate).

I must admit that I have always thought of Newcastle as being part of Northumberland, not least because of the large, white LNER signs precisely halfway across the river on the King Edward Bridge, proclaiming that was where Durham ended and Northumberland started. …

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