LIVERPOOL RETIRED MERCHANT SEAFARERS MEET EVERY THURSDAY AT THE ELDONIAN VILLAGE HALL VAUXHALL ROAD LIVERPOOL
“PUT YOUR GO ASHORES ON” AND COME ALONG TO MEET SOME OF YOUR SHIPMATES FOR A FEW HOURS OF REMINISCING And “SWING THE LAMP” WITH FELLOW MEMBERS ABOUT YOUR GREAT DAYS AT SEA.
TS VINDICATRIX ASSOCIATION LIVERPOOL BRANCH
Meetings are held at The Liverpool Arms, James Street, Liverpool next door to James Street Underground Station near the Pier Head Meetings begin 7.30pm on the second Monday of each month. We hope to make contact with as many T.S. Vindicatrix personnel as possible, you do not have to join us, but if you do you will be made very welcome and who knows, you may meet up with someone you trained with. Published for the Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers,
Contents 1 Chairman’s Page 2 Club Committee 3 Stockpot 4 Golden Rivet 5 Bob Burns Book Review 6 Cruel Sea 7 Quiz 8 Apes and a Tiger 9 Vindi Page 10 Little Tony 11 Greetings From Fremantle 12 Charlie’s Angels 13 The Stowaway 14 -- -- -- -15 Travelling 4th Class 16 -- -- -- -17 Indie Page 18 -- -- -- -19 Not Wanted on Voyage 20 -- -- -- -21 Votive Ships 22 Mariners Shrines 23 Handsome Youths 24 Ugly Mug 25 Atlantic Conveyor 26 -- -- -- -27 Obituaries 28 Tribute to Joyce 29 Thoughts On a Liverpool Seaman 30 Quiz Answers Back Cover Bar Lightship Planet Items for publication should be handed to the editor or sent to; - The Editor, Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers Newsletter, Eldonian Village Hall, Burlington Street, Liverpool L3 6JL. Members’ Obituary or Sick and Hurt notices will be published if submitted. All other items, if written for your magazine will get in, so get it written. Editor Pat Moran. Graphics Editor Tony Rainford Published for the Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers
Frontispiece. Not a very interesting Photograph, but the Pool played such an important role in our lives its going had to be marked by a front page picture
Dear Members and Readers Since the last edition of our magazine we have had a most glorious spring and an awful summer. I do hope it has not spoiled your holidays. As an extra treat the Club is having a “Day Out” in Blackpool on Tuesday 2nd October so that is something to look forward to. On behalf of your committee I wish you Good Health and Good Cheer Alf Bordessa
Red Lion Tavern drawn 1840 by artist Magenis, later to be worked up into a painting. The Red Lion was next door to the Trawler (see Stockpot Page 3) and a more “up market establishment” being much patronised by PSNC officers attending the nearby office in James Street for their end of voyage interview. Both pubs were in what was called Sea Brow; they were Georgian buildings with a big brick archway between them, possibly to allow a coach and horses through. This terrace of buildings was one of the gems of Liverpool Georgian heritage and stretched from James Street into Canning Place to South Castle Street. It was largely undamaged in the Blitz while all around was flattened. The City flattened it to make way for the Inner Ring Road that never got built. (The Trawler is just off the drawing to the left. There were two upended gun barrels either side of the arch to stop the coaches hitting the walls. The gun barrels were said to have been captured at the Battle of Waterloo.
Page 2 Club Committee The club committee members take many of the decisions that affect the day to day running of the club. This being so it is only fair that the club members should know who is on the committee.
Chairman, in charge of Acts Vice Chairman in Noise levels, signs cheques. charge of shouting
Counts Money signs cheques, growls.
Your editor being a Spook does not have a Reflection or image and cannot be photographed, just like Dracula
Tells lies, exaggerates
Extortionist runs raffles
Flags, the door and Keeper of the Peace
Rumours bad jokes and Spot the Ball
Page 3 Girl, Christmas Draw and Toy appeal
Sells doubles, upsets John Woolam
Page 3 Stockpot To make up for the horrors you have just had to put up with we publish here a photograph of the delicious Megan, the best glass collector and “Cheerer Up” in the club.
The Pool is gone, it is no more, reduced to a pile of rubble and carted away to the tip, this really is “THE END.” The Mission is to follow soon and the Trawler has been gone many years. These three buildings formed the Golden Triangle for the twenty thousand seafarers registered on the Pool. Built just after World War 2 the Pool was the clearinghouse for all seafarers seeking a ship. Those “in the know” would arrive midmorning and go into the “Mish” for a cup of coffee and to find out what ships were “going through.” This information they got from the Greenhorns they had sent in first to face the three Inquisitors Rep, Van and Winkle. Having left time for any Baron Boats or Smiths of Cardiff to be filled up they would stroll across the road and look for something going to BA, Valpo or Californ-iay. Then back to the Trawler for a few scoops and home. By 1972 the “great days” were going fast. The passenger Liners were gone Blue Funnel had an entire fleet “up for sale” and the rest were in decline. By 1982 it was all over, it was that quick. The Pool building became the office of the Catholic Pictorial and other subversive publications. None of the people working there in later years had any idea of the buildings history. Not so our people. After the Dutch War Memorial was unveiled on the Pier Head Billy Bell could be seen outside banging on the door inviting Slater to come out and have his block knocked off.
Page 4 Golden Rivet for Sale The Golden Rivet is up for sale, £100,000 is needed to bring SS Manxman back to Liverpool. To raise this kind of money will not be easy but it can be done. There are thousands of rivets in Manxman and they are going to be sold for £1 each. The hull plates can be bought for £1000 and one has already gone. Manxman lies derelict, lost and unloved in the Pallion shipyard in Sunderland, she must be saved. When in Liverpool she will be brought back into working condition and sail on coastal cruises. This will cost millions but that money can be raised. The hardest part is getting the money to bring her home. Selling the Golden Rivet by auction in Garlands should raise a few bob.
Bar Lightship Planet is now berthed on the East Quay of Canning Dock and looks terrific. She has a six-month “stay of execution” on her eviction from her Liverpool home. Her future still looks very dicey but she is better situated now than a month ago. With HMS Whimbrel looking good and Daniel Adamson going strong we might end up with a decent collection of historic Liverpool ships berthed in Liverpool city centre rather than amongst the Sierra Metallica scrap heaps.
Boudicca Congratulations are in order to Pamela Brown, Battle Axe of the Atlantic and sailor’s friend. After leaving the King George Fund for Sailors she took a post with the Athenaeum Club, an establishment in Church Ally catering to the needs of the intelligentsia. Only months into the post and Madam has been made Head Serang of the establishment. She’s had captives roped to her chariot wheels, so what comes next, sitting on the Town Hall roof with a fork.
Cunard Yanks The Philharmonic Hall was the venue for the world premier of the Cunard Yanks movie. This was the tale of four young stewards and their experience of New York in the late fifties and early sixties. Much of the film was shot by the boys themselves at the time with movie cameras they had bought in NY, such things as were beyond the wildest dreams of the folk back home. Indeed as the boys say at that time England was black and white whilst New York was Technicolor. The movie is good and well worth a viewing. Don’t expect too much, it is what it is, the impressions of four kids in Wonderland and if there is a bit of exaggeration so what! The reception afterwards in Kirklands “Fly in the Loaf” was good fun with the great and the good posing away like mad. Your editor attended at the invitation of Alfie Hincks and sat in his box. There was no free drink, thanks Alfie.
Page 5 Bob Burns In the same week Cunard Yanks was premiered our good friend Bob Burns published his Auto-biography “From Liverpool to New York.”To a Scalyback like your editor, Bob’s life story is one of high adventure. He started work in a ship surveyor’s office, where, being the youngest he had to type out the surveyor’s reports. Approaching eighteen and qualification for a khaki suit with pay at 28/- a week he quickly shipped out in Bibby’s Empire Hallidale where being the one who could spell he became the ships writer. Bob progressed ever onward and upward in the catering department till he arrived in the rarefied atmosphere of the First Class Dining Saloon as a waiter. Having become a Cunard Yank Bob was exposed to the delights of New York and these he liked very much. Enticed ashore by the promise of untold wealth in the shape of huge and guaranteed dropsy’s, Bob backed out for a job in the Four Seasons restaurant, still “hash slinging” but in the classiest restaurant in New York i.e. the World. The promise of huge tips was false, they were not huge, they were gigantic, so much so that Bob was able to invest in several businesses with fellow scousers, the place seemed to be infested with them. Bob eventually left the Four Seasons to run several bars of his own. Before leaving he totted up that he had met President Kennedy, two emperors, a fistful of royals and more movie stars than you could shake a stick at. Mr Burns had acquired a Mrs Burns, Margaret who joined him in New York to help run several successful businesses. After four years both were struck down by that most painful of conditions, Home Sickness, there is no cure, so back they came to Liverpool. Once home Bob set about transforming the pub scene in Liverpool. He bought some of the most famous pubs in the town and ended up with a chain of hostelries that reads like a “Time Out” list of the places where one must be seen. At the back of the book is a list of thirty-four pubs Bob owned and they are without doubt Liverpool’s finest. Unfortunately your editor has been barred out of several in the distant past. Bob Burns has now retired from transforming Ale Houses into Fun Houses. Perhaps some of the “highly priced importees” running the many Quangoes masterminding the “regeneration” of Liverpool might have a word with Bob Burns; he might give them a few tips on how it’s done. Verdict, Good book, good pubs, wrong ship, sack your subby Bob.
Owd Jack It is good to see Jack Brotheridge back in the club after his recent illness. He has had a rough time of it since Christmas ending with a collapse in Skipton Market with what turned out to be Gall Stones, very painful. All is OK now they stuck a hose down his throat and sucked them, out just like the Leviathan sucking sand up in the river.
Page 6 The Cruel Sea Eldonian Village Hall Friday 3 August Jack has just had a starring role in the Everyman Theatre production of the Cruel Sea. This is a play based on the experiences of five merchant seafarers and their families in World War 2. Two years ago Jack, Bill Smith, Alan Morton, Hugh Parry, Bill Dixon and Bob Lang and about twenty other “old salts” were interviewed in depth and their experiences formed the basis of an exhibition that appeared in all the major maritime museums in the UK, including Liverpool. This has now been turned into a play, part funny, and part tragic. Like Cunard Yanks this is the experience of four kids but in vastly different circumstances, the Cunard Yanks were bound for heaven, these kids for hell. For once the producers have got it right and the show is well worth going to see. It will be performed at many venues throughout Merseyside in the next month. The cast are bringing it to the Eldonian Village Hall on Friday 3rd August 2007 at 8pm. See you there. Liverpool’s Finest (see Page 29)
Four of Liverpool’s finest, presenting a print of Mersey Memories to the Captain of the Apollon ex Empress of Canada on her last visit to Liverpool. Line up from left Peter Farrell, John Melia, Captain Apollon, John Woolam, Tommy Atherton Sadly John Melia and Tommy Atherton have both “Crossed the Bar” since this picture was taken. Empress of Canada was the last of Liverpool’s liners to go to the breakers. Only one of her sisters is left, the Britain or the England, after that Finis!
Page 7 Quiz 1. Which was the first Premier League team to win at Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium? 2. What is missing from: - Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry, and Tyrone? 3. What have Blackpool and Dublin got in common? 4. What was unusual about the Blue Funnel ships Hecuba and Hebe? 5. What are the present day names of the Irish ports of Kingstown and Queenstown? 6. What was Titanic’s final port of call on her maiden voyage? 7. Titanic had two sister ships, what where their names? 8. What was the name of the White Star Line head office in James Street? 9. What Liverpool Shipping Company bought it off the White Star Line? 10. Who bought it off them? 11. What were the Devils Bones in Nelsons Navy? 12. What was a Bombay Spread? 13. How many Captains does the Queen Elizabeth 2 have? 14. How many officers are or were there on a merchant ship? 15. What is the oldest ship still afloat? 16. Who built Liverpool’s first Landing Stage at the Pier Head? 17. What was the name of Liverpool’s first catholic church? 18. What is it called now? 19. The Kings Ferry was Liverpool’s first ferry, where did it sail from and to. 20. Why is West Derby so called?
The first landing stage being put into position in 1849
Page 8 El Tigre Another little gem from Handsome Jack Brotheridge, During WW2 many British, refrigerated merchant ships, loaded in Buenos Aires Argentina. This great city, a blaze of lights, with its bars, theatres, and girls was a great place to be. The ships crews frequented the very popular seamanâ€™s mission under the famous Canon Brady who had run it for some time. There was another man equally well known, El Tigre an Argentine of about nineteen or twenty who was always at the door, (the shoeshine boy). Every week there was amateur boxing, very popular, as all the ships had a boxer. The Fresno Star, my ship, had Kid Chocolate, a fireman from Liverpool. The Viking Star* was in BA. with us and she had a very good boxer from Tiger Bay, Cardiff. So it went on, each ship had its champion. As soon as Canon Brady announced the boxing and put the blackboard up, El Tigre was the first to chalk his name on the list. He was only a lightweight, but a natural fighter, a fantastic man in the ring. I was in Fresno Star on the River Plate run for two years including a long spell in BA, while she was being repaired. In all that time he was never beaten. He would fight anyone of any weight and was very popular with all the seamen of those days. They will all remember him with great affection. I would love to know what became of him. ** *Stan Mayes was in Viking Star at this time. She was sunk on the way home. Do you have any memory of these events Stan? Get in touch, we havenâ€™t heard from you in ages. ** If we have any readers who know what happened to El Tigre, get in touch
Apes demobbed Legend has it that if the apes leave Gibraltar Britain will loose it. This being so, when Winston Churchill was told their numbers were down he ordered apes be drafted in from Morocco. He ordered a squad of soldiers be detailed off to look after them. They were to be victualled from army stores but this made problems for the army bureaucrats as there was no provision for feeding apes in army regulations. But they could feed soldiers so the apes were given army numbers, added to the garrison strength and the books balanced. In the army cutbacks of 1982 the soldier guardians of the apes were withdrawn. The apes were given a suit, a white fiver and demobbed into the care of the local authority where they are thriving and causing a nuisance raiding the tourist beach in Catalan Bay for ice cream, candyfloss and doughnuts. The beach has to be closed periodically while the police round them up and cart them back up the Rock.
Peter Sarsfield on Jankers, 1959 Vindicatrix figurehead, picture Peeling spuds on Vindicatrix. Peter taken in the West India Docks is still seagoing. prior to 1928. Famous Old Boy
Ollie the most famous Vindi boy of all, with Jimmy Burns and Manny Gillat
Tony Cooney, centre page with his guitar onboard RMMV Canarvon Castle
Mission Line Up
Current line up of mission officials, from Left to right, Bill Porter Chaplain BISS, John Wilson Chief Executive MMS, Sean Draper Asst Chaplain MMS Russell Eastham Shipwrecked Mariners Society, Peter Devlin Stella Maris.
Page 11 Greetings from Fremantle Letter from Jimmy Bray Secretary of the Western Australia Retired Seafarers who visited us recently bearing gifts that were not camel droppings. Dear Pat---I would like to say thanks a million for the introduction to your association whilst on my short stay after 21 years A.W.O.L. To me it was a happy eye opener to see how the rich pensioners live on the canal. A special thanks to the members who made me go to the Glass House and made me drink, and made me miss my tea. Thanks again comrades you done a good job. Thanks go to Billy Bowers and John Melerangi for showing me the sights of the town and some funny drink called Aussie White If any of your members are passing through Western Australia I would be only too pleased to return the compliments and show them the art of drinking the amber liquid and seeing some of the sights. Here is our latest Maritime Journal, also our MUA of the West Australian Branch. Our MUA Federal Elections are over and I am pleased to say the same three officials were returned for the next four years, so they must be doing it right—Secretary: Chris Cain (ex Garston), Asst Secretary: Ian Bray (my son), and Deputy Secretary: Keith McCorriston. Pat, I will put to the members the points we raised regarding Mail out, ashes scattering on the Mersey, invitations if in Liverpool or elsewhere. I’ll close now. Till I hear from you. Once again thanks to you all for your hospitality Jimmy Bray Secretary Treasurer 2-4 Kong Alley North Fremantle WA6159
Jimmy Bray, sat on the right on the Quarterdeck with the “usual suspects”
The Bard of Walton “Charlie Hobson” entertaining two visitors from NSW OZ Sisters Connie Jones and Dorothy Harris long time ex –patriot Scousers back home to see the folks. Dorothy and Connie are the daughters of Lawrence Feeney marine engineer with Harland and Wolff and Chief with Hall Line of Liverpool, (Ellerman’s City Boats). The two girls have been out in Ozzy for forty-three years. You don’t look very sunburned girls. Come back again but don’t leave it so long.
Steve Williams stuck his finger in poor old Bernie’s Ice Cream, SHAME
The Stowaway A true story by Gerry Rooney
New York June 1957 It was on this a beautiful sunny day that we docked at Pier 92 on the Cunard Liner RMS Scythia. I was working as a winger with my friend Derek Tobias. We both had good shows coming over; also we were running the gambling. So with a fist full of dollars down the gangway and off to the Sally Army to see what we could pick up to bring home and sell to make a few bob. Any way we bought a brand new washing machine, or so we thought. It turned out to be a dishwasher. Whoever heard of a dishwasher in 1957? We couldnâ€™t sell it so gave it to a Liverpool docker, told him it was the latest Yankee washing machine. I often wondered if his wife washed his clothes in it. While in New York, who should come onboard but my oldest friend and indeed my best man Vinnie McArdle. He had been working on the Queen of Bermuda but got fed up and jumped ship, then decided to pay a visit to his sister Lily and family in Carolina. Then he came back to New York. Here the story begins. Vinnie wanted to come home with us 4th class. OK, no problem, but his brother Sonny was also on board as librarian, if he got caught I could deny that I knew him but Sonny couldnâ€™t, so we decided to transfer his passage home on the Lizzie which was sailing that day. So I went onboard and got it sorted with some trusted friends. Bunk, food and drink no problem or so I thought. I took Vinnie and suitcase onboard, bid him bon voyage, and see him in Liverpool. Several hours after leaving New York, unfortunately for Vinnie, a catering officer who knew him, saw him, and the game was up. He was taken to the Chief Master at Arms who was instructed by the skipper that he was to be taken off with the pilot at the Ambrose Lightship and handed over to the emigration who would no doubt put him on Ellis Island for deportation, never to return to the U.S.A. No more Market Diner for Vinnie. However the pilot, a nice guy listened to his story. Vinnie told him he had friends on the Scythia who would look after him. The pilot told him when
Page 14 they got alongside to disappear. He was off that gangway quicker than Linford Christy. Straight back to the Scythia to give us the bad news. It was time to put Plan B into operation. Vinnie had to come home with us 4th Class; we had a night pantryman, Tony Carroll, a good guy who agreed to let Vinnie keep his bunk warm while he was on night duty. So far so good. Or so we thought. The best laid plans of mice and Seamen. Sailing out of New York on a lovely summers day, fair wind, calm sea, homeward bound. All the bloods sitting down in the restaurant having dinner. Vinnie making himself at home in the forward Pig, having a few pints with some of the off duty A.B’s when the ships hooter goes, Man Over-board! Finished with engines then everyone in the restaurant, passengers, waiters are all looking out of the starboard portholes and we all see this guy swimming like Johnny Weissmuller on hitting the water. He must have had second thoughts about what he was missing on board. Next we see a lifeboat passing the port hole and who should be sitting in the middle of it but Vinnie, going to the rescue with the volunteer off duty A.B’s. Nothing Vinnie wouldn’t do in the future would surprise me. Sonny who witnessed this said, “I need a drink badly” and went to the Pig. Wondering what they were going to do next, anyway the lifeboat got to him and on hauling Johnny Weismuller onboard his watch fell off. A kind A.B decided to mind it for him. He must have forgotten to give it back. I saw him a week later wearing a gold Rolex with a big smile on his face, a just reward I thought for helping to save a life. The officer in charge of the rescue wanted to know who Vinnie was. It was explained to him that Vinnie was a seaman travelling home passenger, having a drink with some old sea friends when the call went out for volunteers to man .the lifeboat. The officer thanked him for his help in saving a passenger’s life. but there is more to come. Freddy Jones who was working in New York, an ex seaman, had been coming down to ship for a pint with the lads, must have got a bit homesick and decided to book a passage home with us at the last moment, only this time Freddy was a fare paying passenger thank God, but in his hurry packing he left his good shoes, so he came down the cabin to borrow a pair to go to the ships dance. Anyway Vinnie had a nice pair, which he liked, so off he went to trip the light fantastic in the stowaway shoes. Now whoever heard of a stowaway rescuing a passenger and a passenger borrowing shoes off a stowaway? The rest of the trip went fine, although I half expected Vinnie to be invited on the captain’s table to thank him for his bravery, and Vinnie would have gone. Vinnie got a V.N.C. off the Queen of Bermuda; he should have got a V.C. off the Scythia. Those were the days my friend, those were the days.
Page 15 Travelling 4th Class Without any doubt the best writer of Tab Nabs about the Liverpool Sailors was Ken Smith in his fabulous book Mr Merch. It is all in there, the stunts, rackets, dance halls and boozers. The captains, the cooks, sailors and wingers KP’s, and QMs’s and even the “girls?” All the Yanks, real and Cunard counterfeit too. Read it, it is still around the second hand bookstalls, you will see yourself or your shipmates on every page. The following story deals with the same subject as the previous one, illicit travel at the expense of Sir Percy Bates. Before flying as a member of a B.O.A.C. cabin crew I sat with a pal of mine in the taproom of Yates’s Wine Lodge. As usual the place was frequented by “lil ol” wine drinkers, and was cheerful with the sound of laughter. Bright too, with the colourful noses that illuminated the bar. Florrie Flanaghan, who was older than grass, was on her third large white and was launching into her special rendition of “Don’t go down the mine daddy” much encouraged by my pal Vincent. He loved to hear people sing and abetted his fancy by telling the would-be vocalist that he was a big variety agent. This in Florrie’s case, more than helped to clear the larynx and when she finished singing half an hour later, Vincent bought her another large white and promised her a spot at the Liverpool Empire. Vinnie was like that; he was a man of the world, a much travelled seaman who’s home was wherever he hung his hat. When I left the wine house he was trying to coax an old guy to drink a glass of wine while standing on his head. After making flights to Jamaica, Bermuda and a few more spots around the Caribbean I eventually landed at New York Kennedy Airport and was taken from there to a stop over at the Shelton Towers Hotel on Lexington Avenue and Basin Street East. With some time to spare I decided to re-visit my old drinking haunt on West 50th Street. The only change I noticed from when I went to the Diner as a seaman was the large front portals, they were now even wider to entice the crew members who passed, or didn’t pass, on their way up town. There were no ships alongside the piers when I went inside and I was somewhat surprised to see my pal Vincent talking to Cadillac Kate who was almost a part of the furniture in the Market Diner. When I asked him what he was doing in the Big Apple, Vincent said “Lunches, I’m doing lunches at the Four Seasons Restaurant.” He then told me he had just served Zsa-Zsa Gabor and a party, which included Johnny Mathis and Daryl F Zanuck with a cold consommé and a Waldorf salad. “Look what they bunged me,” he said with a grin as he waved three twenty dollar bills in the air.
Page 16 He went on to describe the Four Seasons as being a most lavish and exclusive restaurant, and I thought, “not bad,” when the management of this fabulous establishment had chosen his dining room staff from ex-Cunard * men living in New York. “This’ll do for the vacation in Palm Springs,” said Vinnie, as he stuffed the greenbacks into a billfold. “The weathers always reliable on the Pacific coast, and the orange juice goes well with the Bacardi!” Mind you he never actually took that vacation, partly because he was too fond of La-Dolce-Vita in New York, but mostly because the United States Department of Immigration had other plans for him. Somehow, they’d found out that Vinnie had entered the country as an illegal immigrant. It was not too difficult for someone to hide aboard a big ship, and there were many who took a Forth Class passage to America. According to my one-time shipmate, this particular adventure was started with a mere whim, thought up at the very same wine house where we had often sat together. Strolling down to the Pier Head, Vincent borrowed a white coat from an acquaintance, grabbed a bag of linen about to be loaded aboard the Britannic carried it down to the linen room, then disappeared into a nearby glory-hole. When the captain’s inspection was carried out at sea, he simply popped into the night steward’s cabin and remained undisturbed until the inspection was over. As the staff manager of that famous restaurant was himself once a forth class passenger, it wasn’t all that difficult for Vincent to get a job. We stayed in the diner until three o’clock in the morning, then went for a few drinks in Maxie’s Sans Souci. I left as the first light of dawn was breaking over the skyline of Manhattan. The juke-box was playing “My funny valentine” and Vinnie was telling Kate, who could sing a bit, that he was going to arrange a “spot” for her at the Liverpool Empire. Wonder who that was all about. *The staffing of Boston, Manhattan and later Las Vegas restuarants caused a good deal of diplomatic hassle throughout the time of the transatlantic liners. From the start of Cunard’s first mail service to Saint Johns, Boston and later New York the loss of first class waiters was a problem. It was not so much the men “backed out” to work ashore, more that they were enticed by the restaurant owners with promises of big money (not easy) in tips, promises that were usually kept. The rich American diners liked the Liverpool waiters style, service without servility, friendliness without familiarity. The loss of skilled waiters was so severe that Cunard prevailed upon the British Consul to complain to the Dept of Immigration but to no avail. Considering who owned and who dined in these restaurants this lack of success is not surprising.
Indie Page It Was No Picnic by Robert Jones
Robert Jones 1930-2007. Robert was born in Liverpool in 1924 the youngest in the family with two older brothers and a sister. His mother died when he was seven and being the youngest he was the family pet. He did a two-year course in seamanship onboard TS Indefatigable finishing just as the War started. Still being only 15 years old he was sent to stay with an Aunt in Caernarfon where he was to continue his education in the local Grammar school. On a visit to his family in Liverpool Robert met a childhood friend Mike who asked him to sign his papers for the Merchant Navy as he was under age and no one would do it. Robert obliged and Mike returned the favour. They were both just fifteen at the time. They shipped out together onboard the Hilde Park, Robert as engine boy. They had not been at sea long when they were torpedoed Robert being hurt and wounded. They were picked up and brought back to England for rest and recovery. They didn’t get much rest and after being patched up were shipped out again in the Norwegian Kattagat for Montevideo via the Cape. The ship was caught by the German raider SS Michel on 20th May 1942 when only two days from Montevideo. Robert had just had a shower and changed his underwear when the ship came under fire from an unseen enemy. In the pandemonium that followed he found himself manning the ships 4.7 gun in his underpants. They stood no chance, the Michel was armed as a cruiser and with a German Navy crew of 400. So Robert got another wetting and was wounded again. Kattagat had got off the RRR signal, “I am being attacked by a surface raider” but the German still at great risk to his ship, stayed around for several hours to pick up men from the water and look for more survivors. The survivors were brought on board Michel fed clothed and the wounded treated. The German Commander said, “You are now PoW’s, I am sorry but this is war. They were on Michel for three weeks during which time they were put over the side on scrambling nets to paint the ship and change her appearance. The Germans continued to enjoy themselves “bumping off” a few more allied merchant ships. More prisoners were brought onboard and the ship became crowded. One day they were ordered up on deck and found themselves close alongside a massive supply ship that had been the British Speybank,t had been captured by the Germans and put into service as the Doggerbank. . The prisoners were transferred to Doggerbank, which then set sail for destination unknown but apparently not in Europe.
Page 18 Things were less comfortable in Doggerbank as the prisoners were kept battened down in the holds. They were allowed out for a short while at night for a breather and to empty toilets. At night Robert had to sleep between torpedoes stowed in the hold. After five dreadful months onboard Doggerbank the prisoners were home sick, ill, and in very poor physical condition. It was about to get worse, much worse. They were ordered up on deck to be landed in Yokohama, Japan. The prisoners were transported across Japan in overcrowded cattle trucks, without food, water or any toilet facilities. Arriving somewhere, they were then made to row all day to the PoW hell camp Fukuaka. They stayed at this camp for three and a half years and were fed three cups of rice a day. They had no water to wash, no clothes or bedding except old newspapers and these were alive with bugs, fleas and lice, as were the PoW’s Robert was put to work in the Yamoto iron ore factory in Nagasaki. He had to walk ten miles to work and ten miles back again each day. He vividly remembered the day the second atom bomb was dropped, he did not hear it but it blew him off his feet, “it blew us all sky high.” When the Americans released them, they sent every mortal thing out of the planes with red, white, and blue flags attached and told us not to eat too much. The British arrived and gave him a gun he didn’t know how to use. During his three and a half years in the camp Robert had beri beri, dysentery, pneumonia twice, tropical ulcers, skin complaints, been beaten with rifle butts, put in a hole for five days without food and starved all the time Robert said that after his release “We eventually got home to England via planes and ships. I went first to Canada to recuperate. The Americans and Canadians were marvellous. When I arrived home, I was to learn my father was dead and my home had gone so eventually I went back to sea. My friend Mike survived and we always said our experience had certainly been no picnic.” Robert was decorated by the King of Norway for his wartime service. Robert married Eleanor and they lived in Borehamwood for forty plus years. They were “not blessed with children. Robert nursed Eleanor in her last years until she died in 1999. Robert spent his last year and a half in Cecil Johnson Court were he received first class care. He went into Barnet Hospital with an aneurysm, survived a major operation and intensive care but died a couple of weeks later of septicaemia. The Indefatigable Old Boys Association has organised Robert’s funeral. His ashes will be brought to Liverpool and scattered on the Mersey from the 2pm ferry on Sunday 2nd September 2007, immediately after the Merchant Navy Day service on the Pier Head. The ceremony will take place off Rock Ferry where Indefatigable was moored in Robert’s time. All are invited to take part.
Not wanted on voyage By Tony Rainford
As all seamen know; to have a VNC – voyage not completed – in their discharge books, was perhaps, a worse character reference than a DR –decline to report, which was generally for bad conduct. Such an entry (VNC) in a seaman’s book was a statement of his un-reliability, and that could mean bad news for a steward’s future employment, especially if a passenger cruise ship was going through the pool. Therefore, if a member of the crew didn’t fancy sailing on the ship he’d been assigned to by the pool, a strategy had to be employed to avoid sailing on her if the trip didn’t appeal to his temperament. The favourite ploy of most who wanted to get off the ship, without spoiling their book with a VNC, was to arrange for a member of the family or a friend to send a telegram to the ship with some dreadful news e.g. “The dole has offered your father a job and he’s suicidal. Come home quickly and bring some Woodbines. Mam”. This sort of message or something far worse generally invoked the sympathy of a Chief Steward with the coldest of hearts and it usually meant that arrangements were made to get a crew replacement for the grief stricken steward. And so it was for one steward aboard the Shaw Savill ship Northern Star. He had been working alongside her for about a fortnight in Southampton and the work-by suited him to the ground. She was feeding, even though he claimed subsistence and he slept on board, a cushier number you couldn’t get. Then one morning when he turned to, he got news that the ship was signing on and was getting ready to sail in two days for an immigrant run to ‘down under’. He thought he would be working by for another week; he had no intention of sailing in it. In a state of shock he phoned his best mate in Liverpool and asked him to send a telegram to get him off the ship. Danny; “I’ve got to get off it Jim. I don’t want to be heading for Australia and running two sittings of twelve immigrants. It’s a nightmare”. Jimmy; “What do I put in the telegram”? Danny; “You’ll think of something. The ship will be sailing on Wednesday at 3.00pm, so send the telegram at about 12 o’clock before they lift the gangway”. Jimmy; “OK, Dan, leave it with me”. Sailing day arrived. Danny felt confident that his mate would send a telegram so he went to the cabin and started to pack his case. Although the morning dragged, 12 o’clock approached and passed, and the clock was ticking. No telegram! He started to worry, “Don’t let me down you arsehole” he thought. “I never could rely on you for anything, but please, please, don’t let me down this time”
Northern Star 12.30pm still no news, “Where’s the telegram, Jesus, why hasn’t he sent the telegram”. Despair was setting in. Wild thoughts started to build up in his head “I’ll go and see the ship’s doctor and tell him I’ve got a dose or appendicitis and he’ll put me ashore” Just as he was going to put his emergency plan into operation, a crew member told him that he was wanted in the purser’s office. “Good old Jimmy, I knew I could depend on him, that’s what mates are for” he said to himself, he was elated. Up he rushed to A deck, taking the stairs two at a time. Slowing down and composing himself just before he got to the purser’s door, he knocked and entered. The purser was expecting him for he had the envelope in his hand “Ah, there you are steward; a telegram has been delivered for you. I hope it’s not a bearer of bad news. Even so, I thought that you should open it yourself” Danny already knew the answer but he had to go through the pretence of not knowing its contents. With fumbling hands he took the telegram off the purser, tore the message out of the envelope and stared at it. “This can’t be for me, there must be something wrong” he said with disbelief. He was stunned. This wasn’t the message he was expecting. His face turned ashen, he staggered and slumped into a chair, the paper falling from his hands. The purser, taken aback by this reaction, picked the telegram up and read out loud; “Bon Voyage Dan, Jimmy”
Page 21 Votive Ships A member has asked where are the model ships made by an LRMS member and presented to Liverpool Parish Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. Our very good friend and former Rector, Canon Nicholas Frayling, very reluctantly had them removed as they were regularly stolen or damaged. They are now on display again in the arches of the North Isle of the church. As can be seen, they are in a relatively safe place.
Votive ship on display in the North Isle above the Lady Chapel, A Votive Ship was an offering to God seeking his protection for a ship going on a perilous voyage from which she may not return. Two hundred years ago that was any deep-sea voyage. The merchant, who, in those days owned both ship and cargo, would have the model made and hung above the Altar seeking Gods blessing on the venture. Often the merchant was also the ships Captain who seldom made more than two voyages being either “set up for life, ”lost at sea, to a fever, or piracy. The costs and profits of a voyage to India, China or the Spice Islands were so great that the return of a shipload of spices* would make the fortune of a merchant, whereas the loss of a ship would bankrupt him. The Votive Ship models were not of the highest quality, never-the-less they were expensive. With the successful return of a ship, the shipowner, would surreptitiously remove the model, have it altered to resemble the next vessel to be going, “On a Venture” renamed and rehung in the church. Now all we need to do is find out who made the models and who asked the question? Answers please to the editors. *Before refrigeration spices were used in cooking to disguise the taste of half rotten meat. They were so valuable that a nutmeg made of gold would have been cheaper than a real one.
Page 22 Mariner’s Shrines The original Church of Saint Mary del Key that stood on the site of our present church was the first building in Liverpool. Prior to 1207 when King John created Liverpool there was nothing here. The workmen sent here to build the castle would first have built themselves a house to live in, and then they would build the castle. It was a religious age so a Priest would have lived and worked with them. He would say early Mass every day before work started, he would also have an evening service at the days end so the house was also a place of worship. The first hint of a church on the site is 1227, which is, also the date given for the building of the Castle. Liverpool was a military port servicing the Kings armies in Ireland. As that place was in a permanent state of revolt there were frequent expeditions to pacify* it resulting in lots of ships visiting Liverpool. Building materials and supplies would have been brought in by ship, as there were no roads. As the town and port grew so did the demand for food and materials and that meant more ships and visiting seamen. With the building of Saint Nicholas Church in the 14th Century the site had two dedications to the sea, first to Saint Mary as Our Lady Star of the Sea, and secondly to Saint Nicholas as the patron saint of sailors. The sea being a dangerous place the sailors would look for some “Higher Being” to “Put the Word” to God to look out for them. The shrine to Saint Mary was inside the church. It was probably at the East end of the church, by the present entrance as the site of the Altars has been changed over the years. The shrine to Saint Nicholas was outside on the West end of the church below the tower. It was to these shrines the mariners would bring their Votive Ships.
Votive ship on display above North Isle of church
Five kids starting out in life as Bellhops in Ocean Monarch 1955 This lot would have set a few hearts aflutter in the Gloryhole
The same five at the LRMS club in 2007, still there, still mates, all still alive. The boys are lined up in the same order in both photographs, from left to right John McDonald, Jim Slavin, Ron Gouldbourne, John McDermott, Brian Jones
Page 24 Handsome Youths In the summer of 1955 five lads, some just out of school, started work on the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company vessel “Saint Tudno.” At that time employment on the Tudno and her sister ships was considered to be the equivalent of time served in one of the national sea training schools. At the end of the summer season all five were referred by the Chief Steward to Furness Withy in the Liver Building who were interviewing crew for their liner “Ocean Monarch.” The ship was in the UK for her annual refit before returning to her operational base, which was Pier 95 in New York. NY. The five lads John McDonald Jim Slavin Ron Gouldbourne John McDermott and Brian Jones were successful and in due course went off to sea to complete their education in one of the finest finishing schools in the country, the Merchant Navy. The line up in the photographs, opposite page, shows the young hopefuls then and now. After almost twelve months of carrying the rich and famous in luxury to and from New York and Bermuda and the Caribbean Islands (and themselves living in squalor in a tiny six berth cabin) their first deep sea voyage came to an end. It was back to the UK to pay off, consider the future and show off the Yankee duds. The pay off table was the last time the five lads were to be together for more than fifty years. They all went back to sea after their leave was up, the cash gone, and reduced to smoking Woodbines. The paths of a couple of the lads passed fleetingly thereafter but over the years the contact was lost Until, in 2005, one or two of the group who were in touch thought it would be a good idea to make contact with the others and subsequently four of the five met up. The fifth member of the group proved to be elusive, Enquiries were made, an appeal made in the Echo but with no result. Some thought he was dead, others thought he may have emigrated, (he actually had but only 20 miles up the A57). Eventually in 2006 an advertisement was placed on the “Scottie Press” web site. It was immediately picked up by a Liverpool Lad in Salt Lake City, Utah, who knew the missing party but didn’t know his whereabouts, but knew a man who did. An E-mail and a phone call later and contact was re established and a meeting arranged, isn’t science wonderful. It was a great day. There was no awkward ness and the easy rapport was just as it was all those years ago. They are still catching up and meet regularly to exchange memories, sink a few Aussie Whites and recall the days when they were invincible.
Page 25 Falklands Atlantic Conveyor Memorial Charles Drought was Third Engineer in Atlantic Conveyor when she was sunk by an Argentine Exocet Missile in the South Atlantic. Charles recently visited the Falkland Islands for the 25th Anniversary of the ending of that war. We asked him for an account of his visit and this is his reply to the LRMS.
Charles beside the memorial to his shipmates lost in Atlantic Conveyor Dear Pat How very nice to see you last evening at the Everyman Theatre. Wasnâ€™t it a wonderful show and tribute to the veterans of the 1939 to 45 conflict? I enjoyed it immensely As discussed, albeit too briefly, I am enclosing for your perusal some photographs taken during my recent visit to the Falkland Islands as a guest of the Falkland Islands Government to celebrate with them their twenty five years of freedom after occupation by the Argentine Forces. You requested a photograph of myself, which I have included, the other two are the names of the fallen both on the Atlantic Conveyor Memorial propeller and also on the main Liberation Memorial which stands very prominently on the main road in the capital, Port Stanley. Let me have them back when you have finished with them, if you do not mind. My trip to the Falklands was a very moving experience for me, it being my first visit to the Islands in twenty-five years. I did not even get a glimpse of a penguin in 1982. It was a particular honour for me to be asked by HRH Prince Edward to assist him in unveiling the Atlantic Conveyor Memorial. We both unveiled the small Merchant Navy Flag together and then the prince ceremoniously
Page 26 folded it and presented it to me. I shall of course cherish it always. The ceremony was for me, the highest event for the whole week of celebrations. It also helped me to (Kill a Ghost) as it were. To see for myself the place where our lovely and well-found ship was destroyed, with such tragic loss of life, both MN and military. I thought I was there to remember my fallen shipmates, and also representing the Merchant Navy as well. I was wonderfully supported by the lovely mix of people who were chosen for the Falkland 25 celebrations. They included, apart from HRH Prince Edward, Lord and Lady Parkinson, Adam Ingram MP, Armed Forces Minister, Dr Liam Fox Shadow defence secretary, Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton MPsâ€™ Sir Rex Hunt, Falklands Islands Governor 1982, Bishop Stephen Venner Bishop of Dover and Falklands. Also the people of the Falklands Association They were all very nice people to be with and we all gelled together in support of each other in helping to make the week go off as smoothly as possible for our lovely hosts, the Falkland Islanders. Take care Charles
Memorial Service Atlantic Conveyor
On the evening of 25th May 2007 in the Churchyard of The Liverpool Parish Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas, a memorial service was held to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the loss of Atlantic Conveyor. Charles Drought a survivor laid a wreath in memory of twelve shipmates who died with the sinking of the ship. The wreath was laid twenty-five years to the minute when the Exocet missile hit Atlantic Conveyor. We will remember them.
Page 27 Obituaries The Liverpool Retired Seafarers regret to inform members that two of our much-respected shipmates have “Paid Off” for the last time. Terry O’Neill the scourge of the galley otherwise known as the Panda a good friend to many LRMS members. Owen Thompson, Gentleman Owen, the ultimate “Cunard Yank.” Dapper in dress, debonair in manner, staunch in friendship a true shipmate.
Friends and Relations Sheila Campbell wife of member John Campbell. Sheila was one of the faithful band of ladies selling draw tickets in the club on Thursdays. She will be sadly missed. The committee on behalf of the club wish to convey our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the departed.
Sheltered by the Rock of Ages Anchored by the Golden Shore Sick and Hurt Les Bailey, Billy Bell, Richie Burke, Jimmy Campbell, John Dargle, Jimmy Duggan, Joe Hutchinson, Tom Kelly, Margaret Manning, Kathy Townsend and Frank Travers. YOU ARE ALWAYS IN OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS. GET WELL SOON THE HUNT FOR THE MARKET DINER Eureka! We have been given three authentic photographs of the Market Diner and there is no doubt they are the genuine article as Cadillac Kate’s “Caddie” is parked outside. Joe Chambers took the original with a little Box Brownie in the “Glory Days.” Steve Bohanna and Bill Harrison have given us copies of the same photograph. The Market Diner has been getting a lot of coverage recently. It features very strongly in the recent documentary Cunard Yanks and in two articles in this edition of the Newsletter. Whatever happened to the Diner that opened on the Dock Road about four years ago? Opposite the Queens Dock, all 1950’s and silver. Did it just die the death like Harry Ramsden’s? Did anyone eat there? Report please.
Tribute To Joyce Who can replace her this small dynamo Who will dictate now each year where we go? Who will organise who will be willing To take on the tasks left by our great friend Joyce Gillan A friend of us all with never a foe A beautiful lady a privilege to know The queue for the ferry a privilege itself By the people who loved her That turned out in great strength There were people in wheelchairs people on sticks Determined to be there to show their respect Then out on the river we sailed on the tide Family and friends to say our goodbyes Her ashes were scattered where she wished them to be Gone is the sailor back to the sea
Joyce, in all her pomp belts out a hot number during a ships concert onboard RMS Windsor Castle. Joyce should have featured as a member of your com- mittee but it was not to be. This is how we will remember her, itâ€™s our tribute.
Page 29 Thoughts on a Liverpool Seaman Among those who have made maritime history, the Liverpool seaman is prominently featured. He was an A.B. on Bligh’s Bounty, he was the captain of the Cunard “Queen’s,” he was a steward on the Titanic, a trimmer on a Tramp steamer, and first in the queue to crew the Q.E.2. A citizen of the world, the Liverpool seaman didn’t care where he hung his hat: a bar in Barcelona, a market diner in New York, or Mary Bessom’s Fortune of War that stood next to Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Mersey Mariner was often caught in a storm, in passenger accommodation on the Empress of Britain and very often found drunk as a skunk in his bunk. He could be seen in the wineries of the world, he was always in love, always on the ale and always in debt. He was a poet, a wit, and his conversation was embroidered with useless information and quaint quotations. A toff would tolerate a Liverpool seaman, a shipping line would employ him and his wife or girl would love him. He was a wizard at cribbage or seven card stud, he was generous; a big hearted bum with a belly full of booze, a reader of fine English literature such as the Spillane chronicles, the Beano and Men Only and when he sang his voice was a joyous mixture of Mario Lanza and a tortured turkey. He had a ready fund of old jokes and was able to dance with a pint pot on his head in the middle of the mad Atlantic. His main interests in life were the women in his life. He hated inspection, the “old man” or anything that went into or came out of the galley stockpot. The Liverpool seaman could cram a discharge book, pawn ticket, fifty pesetas, a cook’s ticket, some photographs, a comb and a condom into his back pocket. He had the gift of yarn spinning given only to those who had a special affinity with the sea. They called him a hero during wartime. Other times just a bum with a battered suitcase.’ However, whatever he was, he was one of the best things Liverpool ever produced. Thoughts on a Liverpool Seamen and Travelling Forth Class on pages 15 & 16 are re-printed from Ken Smith’s book Mr Merch by kind permission of Countyvise Limited 1 & 3 Grove Road Rock Ferry, Birkenhead, CH42 3XS. Mr Merch and a whole raft of other Maritime and local history books are available from the publisher at the above address. Did you Know THE PHAOMNNELL PWEOR OF THE HMUAN MNID Aoccdrnig to rsreeach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a ttaol mses and you can sitil raed it wouthit a porbelm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos noy raed ervey lleter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe, Aobsetuly amzanig
Page 30 Quiz Answers 1. Arsenal, you daft bat. Don’t ignore the obvious. 2. Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, together with the other six they form the Irish province of Ulster that consists of nine, not six counties. Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan having a predominantly catholic population became part of the Irish Free State when it was formed in 1922. The remaining six counties comprise what is “wrongly” now days called Ulster. 3. Their name, Dublin translates into English as Blackpool. 4. They were named after female characters in Greek mythology whereas the other Blueys were named after men. 5. Dun Laoghaire and Cobh. 6. Queenstown. 7. Olympic and Britannic. Britannic was fitted out as a hospital ship in World War 1 was mined and sunk in the Mediterranean. Olympic survived the war and was scrapped in 1936. 8. Oceanic House. 9. Pacific Steam Navigation Company. 10. The Vestey Group, Blue Star Line, Booth Line and Lamport and Holt. 11. Dice, strictly forbidden but widely played, if caught a flogging offence. 12. "An" elaborate version of the MN cap badge available in Bombay, worn by the more pretentious MN officers, a copy of the RN badge. 13. None, the rank does not exist in the Merchant Navy, the ship is under the command of the “Master” 14. One, the Radio Officer is the only one to appear in the “Articles” the rest are mates, engineers, pursers, stewards, and us scalybacks. 15. The Frigate USS Constitution, now in Boston Harbour, built in 1797 16. Lewis Cubbitt, founder of the construction company Cubbitts Ltd 17. Saint Mary del Quay, Saint Mary on the Quay. 18. Our Lady and Saint Nicholas, the Sailors Church, you should know that. 19. Warrington to Pool Lane in Liverpool. The “Kings Ferry” docked behind a small headland sticking out into the Pool in what is now Canning Place.
Newsletter Subscriptions Dear Reader if you wish to have a regular supply of this newsletter sent to you by post please send your name and postal address to :- John Woollam, Treasurer, Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers, 23 Ramillies Road, Liverpool L18 1EE, U.K. Subscriptions are £8 for UK residents and £12 for overseas addresses. You will be sent four magazines during the year. We thank you for your continuing support. Please make cheques payable to Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers.
Seafarers Benefits Advice Line
A FEW TIPS BEFORE WINTER ARRIVES Don't begrudge spending money on your own comfort, health and quality of life. You deserve it! The government's annual fuel allowance of ÂŁ200 is meant to be used for your warmth and comfort, and to ease the worry of the increased heating bill. The Winter Fuel Payments Help line is 0845 9 151515 If you are receiving a disability or income-related benefit, you may be able to claim a grant of up to ÂŁ2,500 for insulation and heating improvements. Call Home Energy Efficiency Scheme 0800 952 0600. If you receive disability and income-related benefits you can claim Cold Weather Payments if the temperature falls below ZERO C for 7 consecutive days. There is also the Staywarm scheme. For a fixed charge you can use as much gas or electricity as you need. 0800 1 694 694 Finally, if you are unable to pay your winter fuel bill, in the first instance contact your supplier explaining your problem and informing them that you are a pensioner. Good news worth remembering, is that electricity companies and British Gas have a policy of not disconnecting pensioners between 1 October and 31 March - so keep warm and don't panic.
Sea Queen Staying
Bar Lightship Planet on the East Quay of Canning Dock. Lets hope she stays.
Going is this wonderful view across the Canning Dock of the Liver Buildings and Dock Office. It is to be obliterated by some nasty glass boxes, even theskyline on the left will be hidden by the new X-rated museum. They are stealing the sky; truly we are fell amongst Philistines.