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John Lightfoot, MBE CEng FIMarEST, Chairman of South Shields based Solar Solve Marine and long time ex-student of the town’s world famous Marine School was delighted and extremely proud to be invited as guest of honour at the unveiling, by John Watson, Chair of the College Governors, of a Blue Plaque to mark the importance and heritage of the old Marine School in Ocean Road and afterwards at a ceremony to revive Winterbottom Day at South Tyneside College’s Marine Safety Training Centre.

The idea for a Marine School for South Shields was established in 1837 by Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, probably the town’s greatest philanthropist, but only opened its doors to students on 26 March 1861, two years after he died at the age of 93, having been funded by the bulk of his fortune. Originally it was established to train Masters and Officers for the Merchant Navy but was quickly expanded to include training courses for Marine Engineers also. It became well established for its very successful training record and exceptional pass rate for nautical student exams nationally and then later internationally; a status and reputation that it still holds today, as one of the world’s premier educational establishments for the training of personnel in all types of maritime related skills and professions.

Over the years the need for more space resulted in a new site and new name and in 1954 the first phase of South Shields Marine and Technical College opened adjacent to Westoe village, where Dr. Winterbottom had lived for the last 63 years of his life. The name was later changed again to South Tyneside College but plans are currently in place to re-establish the maritime departments with their own training blocks and entrance, as South Shields Marine School, which is the name it is most affectionately known by and referred to, by ex-marine students all over the world.

In his speech to mark the revival of Winterbottom Day, on 26 th March every year, John Lightfoot said “ When promoting my marine business and its products I am always reminded of the highly positive impact that South Shields and the Marine College has on the global marine industry as I network with ex-students around the world, as well as those within the borough who met and married local girls as a result of attending the college and subsequently settled here.”

“Ex-students globally heap nothing but the highest praise on our college; its staff; the town and the friendliness of its people. There is never a bad word, just PRAISE and ADMIRATION with lots and lots of happy memories from everyone.”

“I was a student at the college on Winterbottom Day on 26 th March 1961 and lucky enough to have attended the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Marine School, which took the form of a Service in St Hilda’s Church. I remember it well and I will of course remember today, the 151st Anniversary even more so.

Top Image – John Lightfoot, Guest of Honour (Left) and John Watson, Chair of South Tyneside College Governors (Right) of the Blue Plaque unveiled to mark the historical importance of the old South Shields Marine School building in Ocean Road. The other attendees include Lindsey Whiterod (Far Left), Principal and Chief Executive of the college.

Below Image – John Lightfoot, Guest of Honour at South Tyneside College’s Winterbottom Day revival presents his case for backing the decision to re-create South Shields Marine School as a separate entity within the college.

JHL Winterbottom Day speech