The ships built on Tyneside are destined to travel further than the men who built them. Popular actors from the radical People’s Theatre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne star in this stylish post-war drama-documentary made to promote the National Savings movement. A tale of thwarted social ambition, Joe forgoes a cruise on the Ocean Monarch liner he helped to construct at Vickers Armstrong for the sake of his son’s education in the Merchant Navy.
Common to many fictional shipyard features, ‘A Ship There Was’ romanticises (and stereotypes) the worker in a tight-knit community, and emphasises a craft passed down from father to son. As with the 1944 Ministry of Information propaganda film Tyneside Story (also preserved at North East Film Archive), there is marvellous documentary footage of the shipyards, the Walker Shipyard Choir sing ‘Blaydon Races’, and the cast includes People’s Theatre actors Bob Griffin and Sal Sturgeon. Sturgeon was a well-known Tyneside performer who played to BBC Newcastle radio audiences as young Tyneside terror Lizzie Ann with the ‘5NO’ Newcastle Company. She became one of the first women directors on radio.
North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.