Film: Russian spy was wor Willy

Mark Rylance, left, as Soviet agent Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies.
Mark Rylance, left, as Soviet agent Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies.
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The film Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg, opens in cinemas this week.

The story has a connection with us here, especially in Cullercoats and Whitley Bay.

It is a true story.

A US air force captain, Gary Powers, was shot down flying a U2 spy plane over Russia in 1960. He was sentenced by the Russians to 10 years in jail.

The Americans eventually exchanged him for a Russian spy they held. The Russian spy was Rudolf Abel.

Abel was actually William August Fisher, known as Willy Fisher, of Cullercoats.

Fisher was born in Benwell, Newcastle, in 1903 and lived most of his young life in John Street, Cullercoats.

He won scholarships to Whitley Bay Grammar School and Monkseaton Grammar School.

At one time, he attended school in Blyth.

He then became an apprentice draughtsman at the Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend.

He later went to Russia and began a new life as a Soviet spy.

Fisher died in Moscow in 1971 at the age of 68.

There’s only one thing wrong with this film – Spielberg has given Fisher a Scottish accent.

We understand that fellow Sting, alias Wallsend’s Gordon Sumner, has already made the point to Mark Rylance, the man playing Fisher, that his accent should be Geordie.

Pat Lister

Whitley Bay