Heroes and Heroines of the North East

Geordies. We’re a very proud breed, but where did it all start?

Don’t worry, I’m not about to cite you a history lesson, but who’s responsible for putting the Toon on the map? These days the city’s mainly renowned for its gregarious inhabitants, infectious accent and party atmosphere, but before all that ‘3 trebles for fiver’ malarkey, the planet had us to thank for the likes of the Railway, Jimi Hendrix (bear with me), Gladiator, Wor Bobby and of course one the nation’s most bonny lasses.

George Stephenson – ‘Father of the Railways’ – 09/06/1781 – 12/08/1848 (67yrs)

Born in Wylam, Northumberland
At first glance it seems that George’s got more brains than Kurt Cobain’s garage wall, however he didn’t learn to read or write until he was 17, when he discovered the necessity of a proper education.

Of course, he’s most well known for his acclaimed efforts as a civil and mechanical engineer, and he soon went on to built the first public railway for steam locomotives. The Victorians held him in great ‘esteam’ and considered him a great example of a pure British mind.

George was also responsible for the very first ‘rail gauge’ (the distance between the tracks) of 4 feet 8½ inches, or 143.5cm for you hardcore metric lovers. ‘Stephenson’s gauge’ is still regarded as the world’s standard.

Sir Bobby Robson CBE – 18/02/1933 – 31/07/2009 (76yrs)

Born in Sacriston, County Durham
Wor Bobby’s professional career as a rising inside-forward spanned almost twenty years, and in that time he played for Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Vancouver.

He went on to play international level and made twenty appearances for England, scoring four goals for Queen and country. After his colourful career as a footy star, he stepped into the managerial role and took charge of many teams, including the England squad for eight years (’82 – ’90).

In 1999 he returned to the North East, and moved in with Newcastle United at St. James.

The first home match that Sir Bobby took charge of, the Magpies was regrettably at the bottom of the league. They were paired against second bottom Sheffield Wednesday, and yes, we battered them 8–0! A-thank-you Bobby.

Over his first season in charge (1999–2000) the late, great legend led the club to an 11th place finish, with 14 wins from his 32 games in charge.

Whilst being in charge of Newcastle United he became somewhat of a celebrity, and after his battle with cancer and his eventual passing it left a lot of fans at a loose end, a true loss.

Sir Bobby 4 – 1 Cancer.

Sir Ridley Scott – 30/11/1937 – Present

Born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear
Sir Ridley is responsible for an epic catalogue of films, and is widely regarded as possibly the most acclaimed northern director and producer to have lived.

His films include The Duellists (1977), Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985), Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), Hannibal (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008), and Robin Hood (2010).

Sir Scott is set to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year; I doubt many Geordies have achieved that feat, yet.

Chas Chandler – 18/12/1938 – 17/07/1996 (57yrs)

Born in Heaton, Newcastle
When it comes to world of music, Chandler is probably one of the industry’s most unrecognised individuals. His career began playing bass in a trio with his friend Alan Price, and when vocalist Eric Burdon joined them; The Animals were formed (most well known for their cover of House of the Rising Sun.)

Amazingly, after The Animals disbanded in ’66, Chandler founded the legend that is Jimi Hendrix that same year in a small cafe in New York. Two months later Chas was homeward bound with an excited Hendrix in tow to blow minds back in the UK.

Together they quickly recruited a few other musicians to form The Jimi Hendrix Experience and after that Chandler went on to produce the first two studio albums with Jimi, and really put him on the map introducing him to the likes of Cream.

Mark Knopfler OBE – 12/08/1949 – Present

Born in Glasgow, Scotland (I know this is a cheating a bit, but he moved to Blyth when he was seven, and went to school in Gosforth, so we’ll have that one too.)

Knopfler is most well known for being the virtuosic lead guitarist and singer of rock band Dire Straits of which he formed in 1977 with his brother David.

I would put money on the fact your dad loves them, and he would swear by some of their more popular songs alike Sultans of Swing, Walk of Life, Money for Nothing and Brothers in Arms. At their peak Dire Straits we’re regarded as one of the best bands of the 80’s, and they went onto produce six studio albums which were all extremely well received.

Knopfler went to form a solo career after the bands unfortunate break up in 1995, and still gigs around the country to this day.

One little fact a lot of people don’t know,  is that Mark’s intricate playing style is all done without a plectrum, which makes him all the more impressive.

Gordon Sumner CBE aka Sting – 02/10/1951 – Present

Born in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear
Sting & the Police consisted of Gordon Sumner, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. Their elaborate playing techniques propelled them up the charts and together they produced some fantastic music.

Some of their more famous numbers included the likes of Roxanne, Every Breath You Take, Message in a Bottle and Englishman in New York.

However, before Sting was ‘Sting’, he was presumably Mr. Sumner at St. Pauls Middle School. After studying at what is now Northumbria University and graduating with a teaching qualification, he went and taught kids English in Cramlington.

After his illustrious career with The Police came to a saddened close, Sumner went on to form a solo career, however the boys still get together and play gigs on occasions.

Jimmy Nail – 16/03/1954 – Present

Born in Benton, Newcastle

Most people will know him as the lovable, yet typically difficult leader of the gang in hit TV series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Nailed played Leonard Jeffrey ‘Oz’ Osborne, and the show ran from 1983 – 2004.

Nail has released numerous solo albums, and one of his more popular releases in 1992 Growing Up in Public reached #2 in the UK album charts. It featured some huge names alike the late great Gary Moore, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and George Harrison.

The aforementioned Mark Knopfler plays some of the lead guitar tracks on the 1994 Crocodile Shoes albums, and as tribute he was repaid with an important plot reference to Oz’s being a fan of Dire Straits in the third and final series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

Alan Shearer OBE – 13/08/1970 – Present

Born in Gosforth, Newcastle

Shearer, the man needs no introduction.
He is regarded as one of England’s best strikers, being both Newcastle’s and the Premier League’s record goal scorer.

In his time as a professional footballer he played premier league football for Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and for of course, England.

After his retirement as a player, he began work as a pundit for the BBC, and is often seen alongside Alan Hansen on Match of the Day.

Some people are born for football and others are born to publicly speak, I think it’s a fair assumption that Shearer is the former, I can’t help but laugh as he evaluates the matches – “absolootely sensayshunal Alan” is a personal favourite if I recall correctly.

In 2009 he briefly left his BBC role to become Newcastle United’s manager in the last eight games of their 2008–09 season, regrettably, not even Shearer could turn that one around.

Ant & Dec – 18/11/1975, 25/09/1975 – present

Born in Newcastle

Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly are the cheeky Geordie twosome that the nation’s grown to love. The team were first recognised on television series Byker Grove, where they played characters PJ & Duncan, from which they then launched their subsequent pop careers.

Since, they’ve built very successful TV presenting careers, with shows such as SMTV Live, Pop Idol, Saturday Night Takeaway, I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and Britain’s Got Talent, and in 2006 the lads starred in the film ‘Alien Autopsy’, alongside stars such as Omid Djalili and Bill Pullman.

Cheryl Cole – 30/06/1983 – Present

Born in Newcastle

Cheryl is most credited as a singer, songwriter, talent show host and for of course being rather aesthetically pleasing.

However before all the glitz and glam of stardom, the little Geordie made her first television appearance in a British Gas advert sitting in the bath in the late 80’s – if only it was as easy to get her to take her top of nowadays.

In 2002, television series Popstars the Rivals became Cheryl’s door to fame after she was selected to become a member of Girls Aloud, and the rest is history. The group achieved massive international success, however when they finally spit it seems that Cheryl was the only one who remained in the lime light.

She has since released two consecutive number one albums in the UK, and two number one singles – Fight for This Love and Promise This.

In 2008 Cole became a judge on The X Factor, and is renowned for various modelling positions with some of the world’s leading fashion labels.

Most recently Cheryl divorced her husband Ashley Cole in September 2010 after just four years of marriage, keeping the male population positive.


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