At different times during the years 1959 to 1968, I was lucky enough to be a Marine Student at South Shields Marine School studying for and gaining, the certificates needed to qualify me as a competent First Class Marine Engineer in the British Merchant Navy. Throughout the duration I was employed by Shell Tankers and from a life-experience point of view it was probably the most significant period of my whole life. It was certainly the most demanding 9-years, changing me from a somewhat naïve 16-year-old schoolboy into a young man who had sailed right round the world on my first ship, during a 10-month trip, by time I was 19; learned that every problem must be solved (failure is not an option), working as part of a team of only a few people who constantly change as their leave becomes due; visited some fantastic places but mainly ones that were exceptionally poor, often unsafe and sometimes even war zones or unstable dictatorships. By the end of it all, my wife Lilian and I were able to enjoy the final 18 months sailing on my last 2 ships with me; I was fully qualified and Shell were happy that I had honoured my 8 year contract.
My first 2 years, September 1959 to August 1961, were full time at the Marine School but at the time a new building had been constructed and it was named South Shields Marine and Technical College. It was in April of 1961 when my Marine Engineer Cadets class was sent down to St. Hildas Church at South Shields Market Place, to take part in a service to mark the 100th Anniversary of the opening of The Marine School.
The SSMTC new buildings were officially opened by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1964 and the college was re-named South Tyneside College in 1984 as it expanded, took in students to study all kinds of General Education subjects and a much wider range of skills training for all kinds of apprenticeships and also merged with Hebburn Technical College.
I retained my association with the college and was delighted to be invited to the new dawn, when Captain Ian McNaught, Deputy Master of Trinity House, cut the ribbon on 8th February 2013, to officially re-launch a re-vamped and much upgraded South Shields Marine School, to enable it to remain a world leader (see photo). However, much more rewarding was the honour of being awarded a Dr Winterbottom Fellowship in July of the previous year.
That brings me to the point of this blog by way of an admission that I have a vested interest in doing so.
They changed my life from average to well above average, as they do for most of their marine students.
Over the last few weeks the Marine School has posted a number of important news items and I want to bring them to the attention of as many people as possible, who have any connection with the maritime sector locally, nationally or globally.
South Shields Marine School is a brilliant, highly respected and very successful marine education establishment, with a global reputation for excellence and has even overcome the severe restrictions caused as a result of covid-19.
There may be potential students somewhere in the world who need the training and educational facilities the Marine School offers and many of them may be able to take advantage of them without leaving their homes or the ships they are currently serving on.
If there are any such people reading this, then I urge you to at least investigate what South Shields Marine School has to offer.
The marine school homepage is HERE.
Information on how the lecturers are navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic to teach students virtually is HERE.
Information on how the school has enhanced its status as a world-leading training centre, through a £300,000 new generation systems upgrade is HERE.
Information on how the marine school is recruiting the next generation of merchant navy seafarers – virtually, is HERE.
Good Luck and Be Safe.
John H Lightfoot MBE