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Vickers Yard, Elswick


The following article entitled ‘Yard was foreman's favourite haunt’ appeared in the Shields Gazette on Tuesday 19 June 2007 and concerns a ghost that haunted the Elswick facilities of the Vickers Armstrong Ltd a manufacturer of aircraft, artillery, ships and military vehicles.

THE old Vickers Yard at Elswick in Newcastle provided employment for many Tynesiders – and it also played host to a ghost. 

Our tale begins back in the 1930s, when a foreman at the yard, Freddie Bolam, found himself in a degree of domestic bother.

Details are scant, but it seems the hope of a romantic relationship had turned sour. A newspaper report at the time said tactfully that he'd been "let down in love".

Sadly, it seems Freddie felt life wasn't worth living, so he committed suicide.

His body was never found, but his clothes were discovered piled neatly on a river bank.

Everyone who knew 'Freddie the foreman', as he was known. was convinced he'd thrown himself into the Tyne while in a state of deep depression.

Bowler-hatted Freddie's job at the yard had been to look after a manufacturing unit called Shop 17.

More than a decade after his death, workers in Shop 17 began to see flitting shadows dance across the walls with no obvious cause.

A number of employees asked for transfers to other parts of the yard.

One evening, a security guard in Shop 17 felt a hand on his shoulder "holding him back forcibly". He turned around, but there was no one there.

Not long after, two fitters claimed to have had a lengthy conversation with Freddie, not realising who he was or that he was dead. Later, when shown photographs, they identified him as the missing foreman.

Eventually Shop 17 was closed down, but in November 1974 it was reopened, and once again the ghost of Freddie started to make its presence felt.

There was a crane positioned above the workshop, and a number of drivers claimed they could sense something inside the cab that unsettled them. More than one refused to go into the crane cab again.

On the evening of November 21, 1975, a driver arrived at Shop 17 to begin his night shift.

Before he started work, his attention was drawn to a man standing nearby.

He was dressed in what the driver would later describe as old-fashioned clothing and wore a bowler hat. Could this have been the ghost of Freddie?

Not sure what to do, the worker approached him and struck up a conversation. What transpired between them we do not know, but at some juncture the driver drew a halt to the chit-chat so he could get on with his work.

Just as he was about to ascend the crane steps, he looked back. Where the mysterious stranger had stood just seconds earlier, there was now nothing. He had simply vanished.

Puzzled, the driver climbed up the crane tower and entered the cab as usual. The crane, known in the yard as the High Flyer, was a piece of hi-tech equipment popular with its operators.

Just as the driver was about to sit down in the seat, to his horror he was grabbed by a pair of unseen hands and thrown violently across the cab.

Worse, it soon became obvious the entity – whatever it was – was trying to drag him towards the door and throw him out of the cab altogether.

He managed to get out of the cab and climb down to safety, but he vowed never to work on the crane again, and he never did. Afterwards, lights would mysteriously go on and off in Shop 17.

Newspaper reports at the time said the driver was convinced his attacker was the spirit of Freddie, but I'm not so sure.

Ghosts just don't attack people. I believe that the driver was attacked by something far more sinister than a ghost that evening, and that Freddie had actually been trying to warn him.

I do not know the exact location of Shop 17, though I believe the map below shows part of the area where the Elswick yards were situated.  As always any help in making the maps more accurate is always appreciated.


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