Swan treated more like an ugly duckling

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TODAY’s redundant eyesore may become tomorrow’s unique museum piece or tourist attraction.

ANDREW LEVETT looks back at a battle 40 years ago over part of Hartlepool’s industrial archaeology.

THE rare swan-necked crane is heading for extinction – and local bird watchers couldn’t care less.

So began the Mail’s report on Wednesday, April 25, 1973, going on to explain that the crane in question was of the dockside variety, rather than the feathered.

But Hartlepool’s swan-necked crane was believed to be the last in Britain and that, according to campaigners, made it worth preserving.

The North East Industrial Archaelogical Group wanted the crane restored to working order on its site in Hartlepool docks and opened to the public.

But the plan was ruled out as “totally impracticable” by docks manager Mr H Williams, who said: “We are running a docks, not a museum.”

Don Wilcock, a spokesman for the archaelogical group, said: “As far as we know the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority wants to use the area around the crane for timber storage.

“If this is the case the crane would not be in the way. The crane is rather magnificent and as far as we know is unique in the country.”

The stream-driven crane dated back to the start of the twentieth century but had not been used for several years.

Mr Williams insisted: “It will have to be taken away if people want to preserve it. Anyone is welcome to take it away but we can’t have it here.”

The open air museum at Beamish looked at the crane but decided it would cost too much to take away.

Anyway, Mr Wilcock said: “You can’t have a dockside crane 18 miles inland.”

He added: “I would have thought it could still have been some use at the dock.

“If there was a power cut it would be the only one working.”

The crane was demolished shortly afterwards but a footnote to the story came in August 2000, when Son of Swan Neck came into being at Hartlepool Marina.

The 300-tonne ship lift was given the title by Owton Manor resident Jim Massey, who won a Mail competition to name the new hoist.

Jim, 70 at the time, told the Mail: “My brother Teddy was a riveter in the shipyards around here and as a kid I used to bring his bait down to him.

“Almost every day I would get out of school early to see the crane as I came down to see him.”

For his ingenuity, Jim won a 20-inch colour television and video recorder.

What are your memories of the swan-necked crane?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.