Couldn’t care less about the Tyne and Wear derby but you should stick to facts Raven.
A rivalry with roots in kings and coal
Richard Stonehouse traces a great enmity between fans that predates football Sunday October 23, 2005
At 1.30 this afternoon, about one million people in Tyne and Wear and an additional million more from the North-East’s diaspora, will watch and listen to what they consider to be the most important match of the season. Yet, to the rest of the watching world, the outcome will be observed with indifference.The Tyne-Wear derby may be perceived by the uninitiated as parochial and unsophisticated, but like the world’s greatest derbies it has a historical conflict as its bedrock. And if anything, as a basis for a rivalry, the Sunderland-Newcastle derby is the most legitimate conflict anywhere.
Some of the great derbies are based on issues that are trite and irrational. The historical class difference, for example, between the Milan clubs - Milan traditionally unionist and working-class, Inter upper-class and conservative - is now moot, given the chairmanship of the right-wing Silvio Berlusconi at Milan. Their historical reason for difference has dissipated, as it arguably has for Juventus-Torino, Real Madrid-Atletico, and Panathinaikos-Olympiakos.
The Celtic-Rangers rivalry has been written about extensively, and needs no elaboration. Other than to say that if football can act as a metaphor for international and jingoistic warfare, then the Old Firm is the most articulate. But the Tyne-Wear derby wins in its secular and concise regional conflict.
It does, after all, predate football by 226 years. It is a conflict that has divided two cities, 12 miles apart, for more than three centuries.
In the epoch before the 1600s, King Charles I had consistently awarded the East of England Coal Trade Rights (try to contain your excitement) to Newcastle’s traders, which rendered the Wearside coal merchants redundant. People died because of it. Coal and ships were Sunderland’s raison d’etre.
But when, in 1642, the English Civil War started, and Newcastle, with good reason, supported the Crown, Sunderland, because of the trading inequalities, sided with Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, and the division began.
It became a conflict between Sunderland’s socialist republicanism, against Newcastle’s loyalist self-interest. A purposeful enmity if ever there was one. Unlike rivalries between other clubs, the differences between Newcastle and Sunderland date back to fighting based on the necessity to live and feed one’s children, and benefit one’s city.
The political differences between the two culminated with the battle of Boldon Hill. A loyalist army from Newcastle and County Durham gathered to fight an anti-monarchist Sunderland and Scottish army at a field equidistant between the two towns.
The joint Scottish and Sunderland army won - and Newcastle was colonised by the Scottish. It was subsequently used as a Republican military base for the rest of war.
And while this is a lucid basis for two cities hating each other, it has, like every other modern-day derby, developed profoundly irrational manifestations.
It has been noted that some Newcastle fans refuse to buy bacon, because of its ‘red-and-white appearance’ - the pinnacle, regardless of any jovial flippancy, of irrational behaviour. Likewise the past Mackem boycott of a particular breakfast cereal, because of the Newcastle-orientated marketing of its brand, is silly beyond words. However, these are benign occurrences.
In March 2000, more than 70 Sunderland and Newcastle hooligans took part in some of the worst football-related violence ever seen in Britain. It was not even a match day. What the police called ‘usually respectable men and fathers’ had decided to meet in mutual territory with their enemies, to fight with knives, bats and bricks.
Sunderland fans boarded a ferry towards Tyneside, found the awaiting ‘army’, and fought. One man was left permanently brain-damaged. Dozens of people were arrested, and years upon years of prison-time was sentenced.
The continuation of tension involves a new sense of injustice. For well over a decade, Sunderland’s population has bemoaned that they have been paying their local taxes to finance both the Newcastle Metro and airport.
A perceived bias towards Tyneside in the regional and national media further compounds a feeling of inequality. It seems that history is repeating itself for the people of Sunderland, albeit in a less livelihood-threatening sort of way. Perhaps a more trivial, city-image sort of way.
But this makes little sense. Let’s just hope that despite the hijacking of the game by the corporate class, and the working-class ostracising that comes with it, there remain terraces from which Mackems and Geordies can vent their invariably abusive opinions of each other without violence and civil war.
Why Mackems and Geordies?
The derivations are uncertain, but both have theories based in historical political allegiances. ‘Geordie’ because of Tyneside’s staunch support of the Hanoverian King George II during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion - ‘Geordie’ is a common diminutive of ‘George’; and Mackem because of Wearside’s accommodation of the Scottish ‘Blue Mac’ army during the civil war.
It is more likely, however, that the origins stem from aspects of the shipbuilding and coalmining industries. The Tyneside coalminers preferred George Stephenson’s ‘Geordie’ safety lamp over the more widely used Humphry Davy lamp. And it has been accepted almost universally that Mackem is derived from the phrase Mak(e)'em and Tak(e)'em, coined by Tyneside shipbuilders to insult their counterparts on the River Wear, who would build the ships and have them taken away by the richer classes.