The anecdote puts the early shipbuilder history into some perspective, I truly think. It comes however from the 1929 edition of 'Port of Sunderland', published by the River Wear Commissioners.
I was interested to read (page #585, here, from that 1852 volume not now available for download) that John & Philip Laing 'were the first to introduce the novelty of a floating dock on our river. I read also that James Laing was the very first Sunderland shipbuilder to build in iron. The image appears here thanks to Tony Frost, who advises me that 'Laings' had in their history two dry docks, one of which (visible in the image) was opened on Jul.
Laing, page bottom (have had to disable it, a beautiful Lake Applet featuring a wildebeest, since it makes access to the whole page impossible. To search for specific text on this page, just press 'CTRL F' & then enter your search term.
Whatever data I now have in this section, will, almost certainly expand as new data is received.
Newcastle Libraries have kindly provided, on 'Flickr', a large series of images mainly Newcastle related. And can order a print via that page should you so wish. Activity increased during WW2, a period when it became of paramount importance that the WW2 shipping losses be replaced.
Some famous images of the visit resulted, particularly one of the King bending down to speak with a very young rivet heater or paintpot lad - of about 8 years old - beside a furnace similar to that visible in the 'Joseph L. I find the data re the two 1917 'rivet heater' images to be confusing. One of the 'rivet heaters' was John Cassidy, I believe, but which of the 2 images shows him? but read on) image, of the 'Robert Thompson & Sons Limited' shipyard in the foreground & of the 'Sir James Laing & Sons Limited' shipyard across the river with the Ayres Quay area behind it.What was then proposed was that a new company be formed & that the creditors accept shares in lieu of their debts. Was, in fact, a new company formed or was the existing company restructured?The 'new company' was also, I read, named 'Sir James Laing and Sons Limited.'James Marr, [(1854/1932), later (1919) Sir James Marr, obituary etc.], an experienced shipbuilder who was Managing Director of Joseph L.Rather to permit to a modern reader some understanding of the reality of the early days of Sunderland shipbuilding.The anecdote comes from a paper, written I think in the 1970s, by James A.In 1793, David, his son, joined him in that business. David died very soon thereafter (in 1796, at just age 21. In 1804 they 'leased (or built)' a dry dock located on the N. Philip and John lived on Church Street, Monkwearmouth, near to the yard.