I am a Sagittarius. Means I get straight to the point. On the other hand I get stuck in and can’t get easily withdrawn.
1. Early Years
I was born in Manchester, England but my early memories were about life at Deep Clough, Derbyshire where I grew up. We lived in a semi-detached house in a valley about 7 miles outside Glossop Derbyshire, deep in the Pennine district.
2. Teenage Years
At 11 years old, I went to West End Secondary Modern School because I failed the 11 plus exam which decided whether you went to grammar school and on to university, and if you failed, you went to secondary school and learned trades.
I left school at 15 and enrolled in a technical college in Manchester training to be a Merchant Navy Radio Officer. My cousin David had already done the course and was travelling the world and sending postcards back home so I decided to do the same.
My father had always dreamed of owning a pub in the country, having a variety of cheeses on the counter and serving a nice drop of ale to a customer. Suddenly without much warning, we were moving to Ashton-under-lyne to a pub on the corner of a dirty street, opposite a cinema, with another pub on the opposite corner. Hardly what you would call countryside.
The pub was going nowhere and our family were all sick of living in the city, so the next move was to Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, Southwest Wales.
We had somehow bought a house near the Strumble Head lighthouse overlooking the Irish Sea. The green rolling hills and winding laneways with blackberry hedgerows was a breath of fresh air to our clogged up city lungs.
6. Sea-Going Employment
My cousin David had given me one of his radio officers uniforms and my mother had altered it to fit me as David was a good deal taller than I. It was an expensive black doeskin double-breasted jacket and trousers and the cap fitted perfectly. The sleeves were emblazoned with one gold stripe with green trimming which indicated a junior Marconi radio officer.
7. Empress of Canada
After three trips on the M/V Baron Kinnaird from Liverpool to Tampa and back, Marconi’s gave me a months leave.
My parents were of course suitably impressed and my status rose higher. The pedestal was raised a few more notches. I bought them a new fridge and a new colour TV replacing the old B&W contraption which you could hardly see.
I also bought a second hand Austin mini van and got my L plates. I started driving as much as possible with my father so I could pass the test as soon as possible.
However before I could make any further plans, I received a telegram from my employer advising me to join the Empress of Canada in Liverpool. A passenger ship, wow!
8. South American Adventure
After the Empress of Canada, I was posted to the M/V Crispin, a Booth Line vessel which was based in New York and sailed between Canada, the Caribbean Islands and Brazil. The ship hardly ever came to the UK so she would be my home for the next 12 months.
But first I had to join the ship in New York and Marconi’s had booked me a cabin class ticket on the RMS Queen Mary. What an amazing trip! I took the train to Southampton excited at sailing on one of the famous Cunard Queens.
I arrived in Hull at the dead of night, drizzling rain and cold. It was Monday 9th January 1967 around 8pm when I climbed up the gangway of the M/V Hollybank. Escorted by the officer of the watch, I made my way to the radio officers quarters.
Too tired to do anything else I crashed out and decided to introduce myself the next morning. The ship wasn’t due to sail until later in the day and there would be ample time to get acquainted.
10. Civil War
The Austin mini had to go I decided after I triumphantly passed my driving licence. The car I had my eye on was at the front of the show room in Fishguard. It was a canary yellow Triumph Vitesse, 2ltr six cylinder 2-door coupe. My father and I went in for a test drive. Wow such acceleration! It had triple SU carbies and a wonderfully throaty roar emanated from the exhaust.
A thinly disguised road racer, it had rack and pinion steering, woodgrain dashboard, and racing steering wheel. It really pushed you back in the seat with plenty more power on tap. Just the kind of the thing for the twisting, winding Pembrokeshire roads.
11. Working Freelance
The telegram from Mr DeKonning said go to Sheerness and join M/V Nahshon. Very cryptic, so I rang him and confirmed the vessel was an Israeli registered ship berthed at Sheerness. It was 19th Feb 1968 only ten days after I had left Marconi’s and I was on a train south.
It seemed to always be winter time when I was joining or leaving a ship and this time was no exception. The chilling wind cut through my coat as I lugged my well-travelled suitcase up the gangway of the Nahshon.
The profession I had pursued for the past nine years had taken me to all continents and many countries. I had loved every minute of it and could not imagine myself doing any other job. I could move from one company to another at will as there was a high demand for radio officers at that time as it was compulsory for ships over 1600 tons to carry an R/O. However when I arrived in Melbourne in the winter of 1973, I didn’t imagine that I would never set foot on another ship.
My transfer to Townsville was for two years and after saying “yes” to Ken Stone, things started to move pretty quickly. There was not much time for goodbyes so it was rather an awkward situation when it came time to leave. I said goodbye to Tuhi and the gang, packed my things and headed north in the maxi.