Alan Shearer, Jackie Milburn, Hughie Gallacher. Three of the most important men of Newcastle’s history and three men who have all worn the football club’s number nine shirt with pride.
Footballers are seen as gods in the Toon whether they’re goalscorers like the Malcolm Macdonald, skillful providers like Peter Beardsley or just players with a never-say-die attitude like Brian Kilcline. If someone plays well for the team, it doesn’t matter if they’re local or from abroad, the Geordie faithful will adore them.
While footballers may be the top tier of northern celebrities, famous people in other areas are increasingly becoming noted.
Black Jack Mulligan was a wrestler in the 1960s and 70s and, alongside other wrestlers of the time such as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, is regarded as one of the UK’s most legendary fighters.
Restaurateur Abdul Latif has become a local celebrity – partly due to his coverage in adult comic magazine Viz, and partly due to his restaurant offering what he claims is the world’s hottest curry free to anyone who can finish it – and one of the group of celebrity chefs known as The Hairy Bikers was born just outside Newcastle.
The Hairy Bikers got their big break on television and that’s where many Geordies start out. Jimmy Nail, despite having no previous acting experience, was given the role of ‘Oz’ in “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” before embarking on a successful career as an actor and musician. In addition, Byker Grove has helped start television careers – Donna Air used her experience on the show to become a presenter and, more famously, Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly (better known as Ant and Dec) started a music career before becoming two of the most well-known presenters on British television.
Music is a big part of the Geordie culture. The Lighthouse Family met at the city’s university, Brian Johnson (the lead singer of AC/DC since 1972) was born in the area and, more recently, Cheryl Tweedy, now known as Cheryl Cole, of Girls Aloud grew up on Tyneside.
Like many Geordies chasing fame, Cheryl moved away from the area to be closer to the English heart of the music industry and since her marriage to London-based footballer Ashley Cole she has started to spend more time in the capital.