THE recent debate about whether to preserve the blast furnace at Redcar as a monument to Teesside’s iron and steel industry prompted Steve Gibson on Tyneside to look out a curiosity which he found among his father’s effects.

It is a piece of steel stamped: “Piece of the first rail rolled by the North Eastern Steel Co. Ltd. Middlesbrough. June 1, 1883.”

“I don’t know how this came to my dad,” says Steve, “whether it is through his paternal side, Gibson/Dalkin, or his maternal side, Moore/Nelson.”

Middlesbrough led the world in the production of pig iron in the 1860s and then, through Bolckow Vaughan, began in 1875 converting to the production of steel.

The North Eastern Steel Company began in 1881 and by 1889 was producing 132,000 tons of steel a year – it must have been a big player, as Dorman Long was only producing 100,000 tons.

In 1903, the North Eastern was taken over by Dorman Long, which in 1914 became the largest company in Britain with 20,000 employees. In 1929 Dorman Long joined with Bolckow Vaughan to become the largest steel producer in the UK.

But can anyone tell us anything about the North Eastern?