TODAY is the 50th birthday of Teesside. On April 1, 1968, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar, Thornaby, Eston and Billingham were banded together to create the County Borough of Teesside – it had its own council and it had its own fire brigade.

It had an inaugural procession, in which, under a cold grey sky, large crowds line Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough as floats, trucks, children and drum majorettes march by. A four-minute colour cine film of the occasion is available to view for free on the British Film Institute’s player. Go to and search for “Teesside”.

And it had its own postmark, plus it had its own poem, written by the British Poet Laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis.

Day-Lewis – father of the Oscar-winning actor, Daniel – was commissioned to write the poem by our friends at the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette. Day-Lewis was the Oxford University Professor of poetry, and the Middlesbrough municipal gig was one of his first commissions as poet laureate.

Before writing it, he said with a smile to a friend: “If I can write some verses on the amalgamation of six Teesside boroughs, I shall feel that I have really achieved something.”

However, he has quite a neat idea concerning Teesside’s history of bridge-building. Bridges, he says, bring people together and now the six boroughs are coming together for a new joint lifespan.

Hail Teesside by Cecil Day-Lewis

Old ironmasters and their iron men

With northern fire, grit, enterprise began it

A hundred years ago. Later, we scan it –

Desolate homesteads welded into one,

Hamlets grown up to towns, deep anchorage

Gouged out of sand, wastes blossoming with the fierce

White rose of foundries. So the pioneers

Printed their work on nature's open page.

Their steel made bridges from Sydney to Menai;

Their shops networked the sea. Gain was in view

But inch by inch out of the gain there grew

A greater thing – a sense of community.

Bridges are for drawing men together

By closing gaps. Could those rough ghosts return,

They'd find a world of difference, but discern

That here is the same breed of men and weather.

You are bridge builders still. Only today

You draw six towns into a visioned O,

Spanning from town to town the ebb and flow

Of destiny. A dream is realised. May

The northern kindliness and northern pride

See, as your forebears would, the future in it.

Here a new span – our lives shall underpin it

And earn fresh honours for our own Teesside.