A region still hard at work 40 years ago
WE were still building things in the North East 40 years ago - as a few of this week’s photographs show.
The QE Metro Bridge across the Tyne would soon connect Newcastle and Gateshead as work progressed two years before the urban railway opened and revolutionised transport in the region.
Further down the river, at Wallsend, the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious was launched at Swan Hunter. She would serve until 2014.
And shipbuilding was still a going concern on the River Wear as we see the Duchess of Kent visiting the Austin and Pickersgill yard in Sunderland, 10 years before it finally closed.
We step back to 1978 in our trawl through the Sunday Sun picture archive - but what else was happening four decades ago?
In football, Newcastle’s 13-year residency in football’s First Division came to an end, and they were relegated after a dismal season. They would join Tyne and Wear neighbours Sunderland in the second tier, and it was left to Middlesbrough to fly the flag for the North East in the game’s top flight.
If it was doom and gloom in the world of football, Ian Botham was proving himself one of the greatest cricketers of all time. In a Test match at Trent Bridge against Pakistan, “Beefy” hit 108 runs, then bowled out eight opposition batsmen for the loss of just 34 runs.
In a very different sport, the Boat Race saw a hapless Cambridge crew sinking into a choppy River Thames.
In the entertainment world, young TV viewers watched the first episode of a series that would run for 30 years – Grange Hill. Meanwhile, for the grown-ups, the cult sci-fi fantasy series Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy was also broadcast for the first time. Happy Days, The Muppet Show, and Charlie’s Angels were other essential television staples of the era.
In the twin worlds of cine- ma and pop, the disco phenomenon exploded with the release of the film Saturday Night Fever. Unbuttoned shirts, medallions, and flares became the order of the day for North East blokes hoping to emulate the dance-floor shapes of John Travolta.
The American heart-throb also starred in the year’s other big movie hit, Grease, and enjoyed pop chart success with co-star Olivia Newton John.
As for serious news, 1978 was the “year of three popes” – Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II all held office; punk star Sid Vicious was arrested over the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen; and Britain was shocked by the murder of 13-year-old paperboy Carl Bridgewater in the West Midlands.
The world was changing: global population reached 4.4 million, the first test-tube baby was born, and the video game Space Invaders became a craze, paving the way for the Xbox generation of today.
Enjoy our selection of photographs... Front: Men at work high above the River Tyne on the new Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge, 1978
Nurses training at the recently opened Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, 1978; left, Whitley Bay Playhouse, October 1978
The coastal oil tanker Polarisman leaving Middlesbrough docks for Immingham, 1978
Sunderland’s Gary Rowell in action for Sunderland against Charlton Athletic at Roker Park, 1978