I think it was the 2000/2001 football season when Sunderland fans (i.e. Mackems or Plastic Geordies) turned up at the Riverside ,Middlesbrough’s football stadium, dressed in gas-masks and protection suits. This was because of Teesside’s alleged pollution from the huge chemical complexes which keep a lot of Teessiders in work (as well as a canny few Plastic Geordie commuters !!.)
I’m reasonably sure it was the Mackems who coined the term Smoggy. This was then also taken up by Newcastle fans (Geordies).When Geordies intended turning in 2003 dressed in gas masks. Boro officials banned it on the grounds that it was insensitive, given the war in Iraq. Boro fans were opposed to the ban claiming that most Geordie and Plastic Geordie football fans are considerably bonnier wearing gas masks.
In the 2002 Aufwiedersehen, Pet TV series, which was set on Teesside (although no Teeesside characters were allowed to be shown !), the Tim Healy character introduced the term ‘Smoggy’ to the wider TV audience. This provoked some protest in the readers’ letters column of the local paper Evening Gazette. However others felt it shouldn’t be taken too seriously suggesting it was just all part of the North Country tradition of banter and mock tribal rivalries. Many ‘Boro supporters began adopting the name themselves.
It’s perhaps worth noting that most regional appellations started out as insults. A ‘Tyke’, for example originally was a nasty little mongrel, a ‘cur’ but now Yorkshire folk are proud to claim the name. In Victorian times ‘Geordie’ was also an insult caricaturing a rustic simpleton. Mackem, the name for Wearsiders probably originated in the Tyneside shipyards where Geordies disparaged the Wearsiders saying ‘mak’ and ‘take’ for ‘make’ and ‘tak’.(Does this mean Geordies are ‘myeckums’???) Anyway now Sunderland folk are so proud of the name Mackem they are even campaigning to have it included in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Harry Pearson wrote in his book ‘Far Corner’ ‘People from Tyneside are Geordies, people from Sunderland are Mackems and people from Teesside are—well-Teessiders . Now, however, the coining of the name ‘Smoggy’ has given us a kind of ‘tribal parity’ with the Geordies and the Mackems. As for being sensitive about a slur on our industrial heritage I am not ashamed of living in the economic powerhouse which puts bread on the table of much of the North East and North Yorkshire as well as Teesside itself.
QUESTION Who did the Geordies go to to build them a bridge so that they didn't have to swim across the Tyne?
ANSWER Dorman Long of Middlesbrough!
Surely you've heard that Geordie song
Aa canna get tae my love if Aa wad dee,
For the watters o' Tyne come bewixt her and me
So there Aa was stannin wi' a tear in my ee
Till the Smoggies cem an built a bridge ower it for me