‘IT’S a long time since I last heard the term ‘spider man’ being used, apart from in an American comics,” said Derek Jago, of Bishop Auckland.

He was responding to last week’s plea which was to explain why someone on our reproduction front page from 1964 should have been described as a “spider man” – this seemed to be a job description that everyone in the 1960s understood, for the Echo passed over it without any clarification.

“I have heard it used in two ways, both for construction workers,” continued Derek. “Firstly, I remember it being used to describe “steeplejacks” who built and repaired the thousands of factory chimneys that once studded the British industrial scene.

“Secondly, and I suspect the origin of the name, it was used to describe the steel men who worked hundreds of feet up constructing the massive skyscrapers in American cities.

“You often see photographic murals of these men gracing the walls of gents’ hairdressers. One particular shot shows a number of men sitting on a girder eating their sandwiches.”

David Walsh, in east Cleveland, agreed, and even offered a theory about why the spider man in 1964 was reported to be scuttling back from Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, to attend to some newsworthy mishap in North Yorkshire.

David said: “I dimly recall that ‘spider man’ was a name linked to steel erectors who often worked at height on big industrial buildings, like power stations or high rise office blocks. There are two big power stations, Cottam and West Burton, just outside Gainsborough, so I guess that is why he was lodging down there.”

Having established what a spider man was, we needed a picture to illustrate what a spider man looked like.

Derek’s right – anyone who has ever been in a barber’s shop has, at one time, stared at a picture of spider men eating a packed lunch on a swaying girder miles above the city.

And then we remembered a picture of a Teesside spider man. It features in a book published this summer entitled Old Middlesbrough, by Paul Chrystal, and the publishers have very kindly allowed us to reproduce it here.

The Teesside spider man is standing on a rather thin looking beam, hammer in hand, cap on head, while constructing the Tees Newport Bridge in Middlesbrough in the early 1930s. The bridge – the first large vertical lift bridge in Britain – was officially opened on February 28, 1934, by Prince Albert, the Duke of York who became King George VI.

So this is a picture of a Tees Valley spider man going about his business as only a spider man can.