This film is part of Free

Young World: 29 October 1964: Day in the Life of a River Pilot

Young World: 29 October 1964: Day in the Life of a River Pilot

A novice in winklepickers learns the ropes as a Tyne river pilot apprentice in the 1960s.

News 1964 4 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


A young apprentice learns his craft as an understudy pilot on the River Tyne in the 1960s. Keeping the cutter shipshape, crewing pilot launches, negotiating the tides, channels and currents of a troublesome river, and attending the South Shields Marine College (the first in the world) to learn age-old navigational skills (pre-GPS) are all part of a maritime vocation, traditionally passed down from father to son amongst Shields clans.

Tyne Tees TV's Young World was a magazine addition to the North East Newsview, which broadcast stories on inspirational young people. This episode (the sound track unfortunately missing) focuses on a trainee river pilot who has dressed up for his TV debut in rocker wear of drainpipe jeans and winklepicker shoes, favoured by The Beatles in the early days. It's a plus that the crew member at the wheel is also a dead ringer for Hank Marvin of instrumental beat group The Shadows. Bygone generations of Shields pilots, aristocracy of the river workers, were also dandy dressers, favouring distinctive stove pipe hats and frock coats when afloat.