We used to mackem, you used to tackem

October 25, 2008

Arrived in Sunderland (on the north-east coast of England) to look after my Dad while the rest of the family go off on their half term holidays. I left the North-East back in 1980 because of the awful job prospects in this area after the closing of the Shipyards.

Sunderland in 1850 was the largest shipbuilding port in the world and in 1900 employed twenty thousand workers on shipbuilding related industries. Searching through my family tree almost all the males since the first census of 1841 seem to have been shipwrights or boilermakers (one was a hairdresser).

My dad was a plumber, working on and off for Sunderland Shipbuilders and various house plumbing firms but the consistent thing was that he regularly handled raw asbestos and a wide range of other dangerous chemicals. Now he has multiple myeloma and pleural plaques on his lungs. He was diagnosed early last year and almost crippled by the bone deteriation and at that time my mam became his primary carer. within six months she (a non-smoker, non-drinker) had herself been diagnosed with and in November died from lung cancer. We have no proof that this was because she washed my dads overalls that were covered in asbestos dust.

Anyway dad is in good spirits especially as Sunderland have just beaten Newcastle, our sworn enemies were it not for the fact that first my brother and now my son have found their perfect partners in black and white shirt wearing girls.

I am looking forward to a week of exploring old haunts, visiting relatives who might give me more clues towards my family tree (last time my Aunty hinted that a number of children were not of their legal fathers thanks to a very naughty great uncle) and wallking along the Roker beach breathing in the wonderful bracing air direct from the North Sea.

Sunderland folk are now more often referred to as ‘mackems (and tackems)’ mainly because that is how we pronounce make and take which is a clear difference in pronounciation from that of ‘geordies’ who say it more like mayke and tayke. This was then said to be because we mack the ships and you tack them away.

I mustn’t take too long posting this blog as my dad doesn’t have broadband and so I am piggybacking on generous neighbours who have unsecured networks and who might go to bed and switch me off at any minute. Oh and the game is now on Match of the Day.

The clocks go back tonight in the UK so the evenings will get dark earlier as we leave British Summer time so it is an extra hour in bed tonight.

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