UFO over Hartlepool

Winter c. 1949, West View council estate, Hartlepool.

‘Goal!’ Rueben Wright shouted as the lop-sided football crashed into the garden gate. The metal sneck clattered as the wood of the gate took the shock and a bit more green paint fell off.
Five of us were playing street football; each of us had a gate to defend. We usually played until some resident of Brus Crescent got tired of the noise and chased us away into the winter darkness, but tonight we would be stopped by something else.
The ball was kicked into play and we began again, tackling, shoving and pushing and dribbling with our booted, slack-socked and scab-kneed, bare legs. Rueben got knocked onto his back and, as he lay in the middle of the road, he pointed to the sky. ‘What’s that?’
Hovering above the railway embankment was a blue disc trailed by a short and stubby yellow tail. It seemed about half the size of a full moon and was moving towards the north above and parallel with the line of the LNER.
‘It’s a rocket! ‘ someone shouted. ‘Lets run to the tunnel and get onto the sands – there must be a shipwreck. ‘
We set off running, but after a few strides we slowed and stopped.
‘That’s never a rocket,’ one lad said. ‘It not falling to the ground. ‘
We gathered in a huddle, mystified, as we watched the ‘rocket’ continue moving northwards up the coast at the same height and the same steady leisurely speed. It got smaller and smaller until we could see it no more.
We had no words for what we had seen (it was in the days before ‘UFO’ was coined) but we knew we had seen something strange. Next day, the ‘Northern Daily Mail’ had a brief report about an unusual light moving northwards along the coast at Hartlepool. A similar light had been seen all along the coast and as far north as Blyth in Northumberland, about 90 miles away. The newspaper approached the RAF and was told none of their aircraft had been in the area.
Each time I hear of UFO reports I remember that game of street football.

About Harry Nicholson

I once bred Beveren rabbits in all colours. Today, I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. On Amazon is my novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' Recently I published memoirs of my time in the Merchant Navy: 'The Best of Days' and 'You'll See Wonders" I've a blog of poems, stories and art at: https://1513fusion.wordpress.com/
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8 Responses to UFO over Hartlepool

  1. Lee says:

    THE SANDSHOE MAN ! I thought my mam made that up.She always used to get us in at night in the early 1970s by saying “the sandshoe man will get you ” I live in Stockton

    • Yes, Lee. Even in the 50s, in Hartlepool, we were warned about him. I suspect that sometime in the past there’d been a man that crept up behind people and jumped on them. The sandshoe was the plimsole (the posh name) – for us they were interchangeable.

  2. earlybird says:

    I have seen two since I’ve lived here. And I was completely sober both times!

  3. Tilly Bud says:


    I can’t believe we’re alone in this vast universe. I hope we’re not.

    • We surely are not – the place is too commodious to be just for us.
      One of the ships in the fleet I sailed with was stalked by a saucer-cum-bell in the South Atlantic – it caused a bit of a stir at the time.

  4. vivinfrance says:

    A lovely dip into your past. Thank you.

    • How we used to rake about at night! But we were warned to beware of ‘The Sandshoe Man’, whoever he was – and ‘Ikky the Fire-Bobby’. Maybe I should research those figures.

      • Found on the net (of Liverpool origin):

        Icky the Fire Bobby

        In the land of thingamabob and wotsit,
        Icky was my bogeyman, the specter
        who’d grab me if I didn’t get to bed,
        if I didn’t eat my peas or mashed spuds.

        He haunted pantry, clothes cupboard,
        made plans in the dark to terrify,
        a mean older brother, a hairy policeman
        with hatchet and tall bobby’s helmet.

        I trembled in bed waiting for his bullseye
        lantern to single me out, to haul me off
        to the coal bunker for punishment with all
        the other bad, sobbing little buggers.

        Christopher T. George

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