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Interview with Catherine Cookson

The best-selling author Catherine Cookson explains why she will always be 'a child of the Tyne'.

Magazine and Review show 1968 4 mins

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On her return to Tyneside in the 60s, the most popular British author of her age, Catherine Cookson, talks to reporter Marion Foster about the Geordie character and her nostalgia for home. "The northerner … we're a different species." Raised as Katie McMullen, the writer's own tough childhood as a poor, illegitimate Jarrow waif shaped her gritty stories about class and economic hardship on the industrial Tyne, and of rural County Durham, that sold in their millions.

Considered by one historian as the missing link between Dickens and Irvine Welsh, by her critics as refined Mills and Boon, Cookson's literature is rooted in her dark early life, born in South Shields in 1906, and brought up in the slums of East Jarrow. In 1930, J B Priestley thought the town 'looked as if it had entered a perpetual penniless bleak Sabbath'. Cookson wrote about the great, polluted mud flat at Jarrow Slake known as The Gut, the 'slime-dripping' arches of Tyne Dock, the cranes of Palmers Shipyard, the built-up riverside of Temple Town and Holborn and its prostitutes, and the collieries of Harton and Whitburn. In her own words, Cookson was 'a child of the Tyne' but she escaped to Hastings in 1929.