This film is part of Free

Ship There Was

A heart-warming tale about a Tyneside shipyard worker who dreams of a cruise on the luxury ocean liner he helps to build.

Documentary 1952 25 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


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.