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. For further information contact Don Crellin on 01925 485939. Published for the Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers
Contents 1 Chairman’s Page 2 Merchant Navy Day Arrangements and Comments 3 Stockpot 4 5 6 7 8 Manxman 9 Poem 10 Wavertree 11 Quiz 12 Oh So Cold 13 Indie Page 14 -- -- -15 Vindi Page 16 Swinging the Lead 17 First Trip Nightmare 18 Come and Join Us 19 Debauchery 20 The Navy’s Here 21 Ugly Mugs 22 Gravesend Grandees 23 Thanks for Nothing 24 -- -- -- -25 The Brothers Lee 26 -- -- -- -27 Paddy O’Brien and the SS Fabian 28 -- -- -- -29 Quiz Answers 30 Obituary 31 Dark Standard 32 A Tribute to the Non-Combatants Back Page Sea Queen Items for publication should be handed to the editor (If you can find him) or sent to; - Pat Moran Editor, Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers Newsletter, All members’ entries for the Obituary or Sick and Hurt notices will be published if submitted. All other items, if written for your magazine, get into it, get it written.
The cover picture shows the Liverpool Pilot Boat Walter J Chambers in all her pomp and glory. It was commissioned to mark the retirement in 1988 of that most esteemed of Liverpool Pilots, Philip Hockey. Philip served aboard her for six years and holds very fond memories of that time.
The picture on this page is much sadder being taken on the day she left the Mersey for Dunkirk to become a Pilot Boat there. Flying the Tricolour, Liverpool blacked out, no working boats, to much smoke and No 3 pennant indicating outward bound.
2 Merchant Navy Day By the time this issue is on sale Merchant Navy Day will be upon us once again. There are a number of changes this year due to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool refusing to attend the Service. Let’s have a really good turn out to show Madam Lord Mayor what the people of Liverpool think of the seafarers who fed us during WW2. The men and women of the Merchant Navy who fought their way across the Atlantic to bring us the essentials of life, who left more than 33,000 of their fellow sailors dead in the sea, never to return. Many of the veterans in Saint Nicks Church will be of similar years to our “Lord Mayor.” They and our “Lord Mayor,” were children in 1939 when the war started. Soon they were, at sea while still children. It seems so short a while ago we paid tribute to four boys from the same class in Florence Melly School who died together in SS Almeda Star. Their second day at sea in 1941 aged fifteen years, still children, dead. They would have been eighty now, the same age as our,………. well, best leave it there. If our Lord Mayor should choose to attend the Merchant Navy Day Ceremony, she will hear the service close with a veteran saying the words; -At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them We, who were too young to serve in WW2, will be on the Pier Head for MN Day. We will remember the people who fed us, even if others do not.
Merchant Navy Day Arrangements The service will start as usual in the Liverpool Parish Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas at Noon on Sunday 3rd September 2006. Please be seated in the church by 11-45am. Standard bearers assemble in the Churchyard at 11-30am. Standard Bearers seats in the church will be reserved by Sea Cadets sitting on them until they are required. At the end of the church service the Standard Bearers will form up in front of the Alter and facing the South Door, that is the door into the Churchyard. The Rector will lead the Standard Bearers out of the Church into the Church-yard, followed by the dignitaries, the congregation and Sea Cadets who will assist any casualties” A band will lead the procession into Chapel Street and follow a Police vehicle to the MN Memorial on the Pier Head. The official wreath will be laid by a Veteran followed by wreaths laid by representatives of Nations having Memorials on the Pier Head. MN Association wreaths and private tributes will be laid at the end of the Service. All those participating in the MN Day Service are invited by the LRMS to a reception and Buffet in the Eldonian Village Hall afterwards.
3 Stockpot The extended Rowan family to whom we pay homage on the inside back page must have been devastated by the number of family members lost as a result of the war at sea. There was a strong tradition of seagoing, “down below,” in the Vauxhall area of Liverpool. In the big coal burners a young trimmer would expect to have brothers, cousins, uncles possibly dad and maybe granddad as head of the Black Gang. Their family homes would be within shouting distance of each other and the effect on such a tight community when a big ship was lost. must have been appalling. The family will now be scattered but some may still live in Vauxhall. If anyone knows them, or of them get in touch we would like to get their thoughts on record.
The Watering Holes are drying up In Liverpool, the old dock pubs are closing at an alarming rate. The Talbot and the Elm House the last pubs on Derby Road Bootle have closed and are for sale by auction, supposedly as going concerns. They may reopen but the Dock Board are said to be buying all the land they can get on Derby Road, so don’t bank on it. The Elm House was one of the great sailors pubs, usually full of Blue Star, Clan Line, Furness Withy and Papayanni crews, as well as those off the tramps discharging grain into the Alex. Silos’. It was also a great “shore gang pub because of all the rigging lofts around it, West Coast Stevedores, Mersey Insulation, J D Insulation, Lamport's, Harland’s, Sesco, Rea’s. Smith Coggins and the “China,” the list goes on, oh such nostalgia, such emotion, must stop or the tears will “short out” the computer. On the Dock Road, north of the Pier Head and in Bootle, there are now only three pubs, The Atlantic; famous a few years back for banjo bands, next door the Iron Horse, for country and western music, and further south the tugman's pub, the Bramley Moore. The Atlantic and the Iron Door rise and fall in popularity but the Bramley Moore must be in danger as the tugs are being moved into the secure docks to stop them being hi-jacked by Al-qaeda and used to attack the Birkenhead Ferry. The great “sailing day” pubs of the North End are all closed, the Elm house as mentioned, the Dominion at Canada for ED’s PSNC, Harrison’s, Strick's and Cunard, however the whorehouse still prospers round the back, on fishing Euros no doubt. The most famous of all, “Mabel's,” has gone so completely there are big arguments where it used to be. All the Coaster pubs are gone or closed the A1 at Lloyds. The Good Hope at the Clarence, bought by an ex seaman who hated the sea so much he renamed it the Farmers Arms, Bobby Boom Boom’s Victoria he managed between robbing banks and getting DRs’.
4 In the far North End the Caradoc and St Winifred are all boarded up; they were never popular with seafarers and only got their business because they were near the gate. Remember that freezing walk from the Aussie/New Zealand berth“ Dowies” on the West Gladstone, down Pneumonia Avenue to the dock gate. Any pub would have done. Of all the great pubs near the Pier Head only the Pig remains, but for how long. Tom Halls has gone, so have the Trawler and the Red Lion. Even the Mish is to be redeveloped, but not as a “Bag Shanty,” as first reported. Finally that den of iniquity and double dealing,” The Pool” is the head Office of the Catholic Pictorial, always was a place of fairy tales, or nightmares. We cannot go any further south as your editor’s mother told him “you get stuck in a pot and eaten if you do,” so we stay clear. Now for a report on some pubs we still frequent, The Glass House continues to serve the best pint in town despite the smell of paint. Vandals are reported to have broken in and painted it while George was away. Our much lamented late Chairman, Frank Murphy first visited the Glass House in 1928 and said in 2002 it was the same paint job. PJ's’ gets more and more crowded but is still a good deal, a great pint in the Penny Farthing is back down to £1-15, the Crown is cheap and popular. Both Beehives remain popular but the prices are creeping up, Albert continues to be persona non-grata in the Punch, he is barred out, well done Albert. Mad Monday in the Blob, continues to be the high point of Liverpool’s social week. The Fire Station is closed, as seems to be the Barcelona, McHale’s American Bar and the Vernon, is there something tragic going on here. The Marlborough serves a good pint at just over a £1 as does the Queens, but the quality varies. The Globe is OK but Little Coopers was said to be getting expensive, however, it must be remembered entertainment of that quality don’t come cheap. We paid £2 a pint in Big Coopers recently and not late in the evening, the Grapes was even more expensive. Leaving the Marlborough in Slater Street we called in the Tea Factory to see how the aesthetes and intellectuals fared, not to well it seems, a pint of Czech Lager costs £3-00. One of our number recently returned from Prague, says the same lager costs 15p a pint there. Lesson stay clear of the Ropewalks. We have not been in the Lisbon, Beaconsfield, Ned Kelly’s or many of the other sailors watering holes lately, let us have your reports on them and we will start a society column. We did visit the Adelphi recently and saw a lot of old faces, pity. Question, Who was Tom Hall and did his pub have any other name, we don’t know, can anyone help. Who was Mabel
5 Slave Streets Liverpool councillor Barbara Mace suggests we rename any streets called after people who traded in slaves. These include Rodney Street, Penny Lane, Tarleton Street and Exchange Flags? Bold Street, Basnet Street, Bird Street, Parr Street, Cases Street, Dickson Street Gregson Street, Geldart Street, Leigh Street, Parker Street, Park Street, Shaw Street, Smith Street, Moss Street, Falkner Street, Earle Road, Lawrence Road, Great Newton Street, Benson Street, Blackburne Place, Brooke’s Alley and Blundell Street. But is Blundell Street named after Bryan Blundell who was not a slaver or his family who were, is Penny Lane named after James Penny or because you had to pay a Penny Toll to pass along it and does it matter now anyway. The city is nearly bankrupt and paying out to put new nameplates throughout the town centre will finally bust us. These streets are named after the people who made Liverpool and they did it by making it the most prosperous port in the world. They traded in every commodity including slaves and this is a matter of shame for the sins of the past but the slave trade was never the main trade of the port that always was and still is, the trade to New York. The slave trade eventually failed because it was uneconomic. It was banned in 1807 and in the following years the trade of the port “took off.” The merchants and ship owners had to find other businesses, and these turned out to be much more lucrative, particularly the trade with West Africa. This produced ED’s and a right “hard bastard,” Sir Alfred Jones who created the Banana trade and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, may be Liverpool’s greatest gift to the world. It should also be remembered for every buyer there has to be a seller and the biggest seller of slaves on the Calabar coast was King Accra. Do we have a move to find a new name for the Capitol of Ghana?
Slave Apology Richard Hawkins descended from Sir John Hawkins allegedly England’s first slave trader under license from Queen Elizabeth 1st recently led a party to The Gambia to apologise for the slave trade. He would have been better off going to Alabama or Jamaica to apologise to the descendents of the slaves rather than the people who sold them in the first place.
More Pirates England had no real seafaring tradition before the Tudors but suddenly they were building the best ships and sailing rings round everyone else. This was because the Monarchs, but particularly Elizabeth, granted them Privateers Licences or Letters of Marque to attack and capture the Queens enemies. Now they were the biggest narks afloat and not too particular as to whom the
6 enemy was, and she didn’t ask too many questions as long as she got her share. Her share of the booty from Francis Drake’s voyage round the world was equal to all the taxes collected by the Chancellor that year. All stolen from the poor old Spaniards and we weren’t even at war with them. Liverpool was right in there too. The first news of the Spanish Armada was brought by a Captain Brookes of Liverpool, who had just been released from a Biscayan goal, where he had been a guest of the French King after borrowing one of his ships….. and forgetting to bring it back. Liverpool did have close ties with Queen Elizabeth, the biggest narks in town were the Norris’s of Speke Hall, they were her “hatchet men” and it was a good idea to be where they where not. Another of Lizzie's scallies was Peter Easton, who had been given a licence to operate off Newfoundland but had first to escort the fishing fleet to the Grand Banks. On the way he “rescued” an Irish Princess from a Dutch Warship. She was going to get married in Holland but ran off with Peter’s first mate Mr Pike and settled in Newfoundland. In 1603 Queenie “Paid off” and so did her Navy, which left Peter and his crew stranded in Canada with no visible means of support: They had a ship, they had guns and powder so they carried on as before, “as pirates.” In 1612 they established a base in Newfoundland to raid the East coast of America the Caribbean and as far as the Azores. Mainly he raided around Newfoundland on one occasion plundering thirty English ships in Saint Johns. Oh come on, in 1612 there wouldn’t have been thirty ships in the whole of North America, this guy was the local hoodlum putting the “bight on” the fishing fleet who were drying their fish in Saint Johns Bay before taking it back to England. He is said to have had nine ships and 500 men, to have captured the San Sebastian, the richest Spanish Treasure Galleon ever taken in the Caribbean and fought off a French Fleet when bringing her back to Newfoundland. Easton captured Sir Richard Whitbourne, Admiral of the fishing fleet and the Governor of Newfoundland. He tried to get him to join the scam without success and after eleven weeks sent him back to England with the promise a big dropsy for the King if he got a pardon. After two years he had heard nothing and fearing the King would send a fleet to attack him he built a new and impregnable base for his, forty by ships “Fed up” waiting for the King, The bold pirates set out in pursuit of the Spanish Treasure Fleet. Catching them in the Azores he captured three galleons “brimming with treasure” the richest prize ever. In 1614, with £2 million in gold he sailed for the “Free Port” of Villefranche in Savoy where he became “Duke of Savoy” Married the Boss Lady became a Marquis, built a big house and lived happily ever after.
7 CORRECTION. Villefranche is in the middle of France, Savoy is in the Alps, the Free Duchy of Savoy was part of London, the only Spanish galleon captured by the British was the Cacafuego, the Manila Galleon by Anson, the only treasure fleet to be captured was by a Dutchman but it sunk in a storm off Florida. What a load of rubbish and you complained about Redburn.
Dinsdale / Dimsdale In our last edition we showed a picture of pretty Miss Rothsey at the wheel of the Dinsdale. Well her name was not Rothsey but Rothers and she was the captain’s daughter of the sailing ship Dimsdale, built in Derry for Henry Iredale and Co of Liverpool. Very little is known of her, which is surprising for she was a big sailing ship. Her one claim to fame is that she knocked down a lighthouse in Australia and drowned the two keepers. If any of our Australian readers can fill that story out we will print it. There is a photograph but it’s not good enough to print. Again if anyone in Aussie can supply one, thanks!
Wairangi Yes, Yes we know. We print 300 copies of the newsletter and have had 200 replies telling us we have got it wrong. We will tell you when we get it right
Assassin Loose in Eldonians A despicable attempt was recently made to eliminate your editor with a pepper sandwich. Suspicion has fallen on a large round person who sits by the back window. Luckily the attempt failed but the editor had to hang his tongue out to cool all night. Beware of large rotund persons with large wet Subway sandwiches.
Manxman The Manxman saga continues, reports she is lost, has sunk in Sunderland, been towed to Holland or has been rescued by “Sound Bite Mike, non are true but all is not lost.” The Manxman Preservation Trust still has hopes she can be saved but it is becoming difficult to find out the truth. She is on offer on E-bay for a reported £120,000-00 but this is an unrealistic figure. She is a derelict wreck in Sunderland Harbour, presumably attracting dock dues, and Sunderland Council want to see the back of her. She could easily capsize and become a danger to navigation in the river Wear; she could in fact block the harbour. She is not worth anything as it will cost more to tow her away than she will fetch as scrap. The only realistic future for her is to be taken over by preservation Trust such as the one in Liverpool. Sunderland Council will happily cancel the outstanding harbour dues if it means getting shut of her. They just want her gone.
8 Manxman 2 Manxman must be the most photographed ship in recent times, if not forever. The picture below is kindly supplied by our regular correspondent and editor of the Liverpool Nautical Society Newsletter John Shepherd.
Manxman at Princes Landing Stage with Empress of Canada astern of her.
The six tugs are there just to irritate the Stagemaster who had a thing about tugs taking up to much space on the landing stage. He limited the number of tugs that could moor there at any one time. The limit was strictly applied even when there were no other ships on the stage. However he could not stop them tying up abreast of a tug already moored to the stage. They did this regularly just to annoy him; â€œrafting offâ€? as many tugs as the tide conditions allowed. The most tugs recorded lying abreast of each other at the Landing stage was thirteen.
Malta Story During World War 2 more bombs were dropped on Valetta than any other city including Dresden and Berlin. Malta was besieged and the Merchant and Royal Navies fought heroic actions to get convoys of supplies through to the island. Enough food did not get through and the ration was so small that the population and garrison were actually starving. When the Ohio convoy did get through the ration was increased slightly. Soldiers in a Royal Artillery Battery were given a small tin of steak and kidney pudding each. They could not finish the tin as their stomachs had shrunk so much.
9 Poem The following poem is one of many supplied by Steve Teare, Chief Sparks of the Incredibly Ancient Order of Retired Radio Officers who are trying to “Save the Planet.”
ODE TO THE PLANET Since nineteen hundred and sixty, on station at the Bar A beacon for the sailors. Homeward bound from near and far
Held fast by a four-ton anchor. For twelve long years or more She bravely faced the elements. Seventeen miles or so from shore. For almost a quarter millennium. There’d been a lightship at the Bar Standing Guardian over the Mersey. In peacetime and in war. She may not have been an “Empress”. A “Monarch” or a “Queen” But a friendlier blip we’d not seen. Upon our radar Screen. Many ships have passed her. From fast liners on their way. To weary tramps and coasters. Even whalers in their day. Little Isle of Man boats. Passing daily to and fro. Like a mother hen she’d watch them all. As on their way they’d go. Many thought that she was nameless. Or just the lightship at the Bar But her real name was “PLANET.” Soon to shine just like a “STAR.”
Wave Goodbye Wavertree
Sailing Ship Wavertree 3300 tons
R W Leyland of Liverpool, Builder Mordaunt of Southampton 1905 Unconfirmed reports say that the full rigged ship Wavertree of Liverpool is up for sale. She has been fully and lovingly restored by expert volunteers in the South Street Maritime Museum, New York. A sailing ship enthusiast found the derelict hull of Wavertree up the River Plate some years ago. He bought it for $10.000, and offered it to Liverpool. He got turned down, nothing new there then. New York snapped her up and restored her to pristine condition. South Street Museum is probably the best in the world but there are reports that the big exhibits are for disposal. These include Peking, one of the Hamburg’s “Flying “P’s” and Wavertree. If true it is all very sad but the Museum does stand on the most valuable piece of real estate in the world. If Wavertree is “up for grabs,” this is one piece of Liverpool Heritage we must get home. Good people are trying to preserve Liverpool’s heritage, fighting to save HMS Wimbrel, Royal Iris, Manxman, and Planet. The Wimbrel battle is won, she is coming home. Planet is hopeful, as for the rest, it seems our masters do not care. It costs too much is the usual cry, well a “pox” on that, Wavertree we must have, Big Sue wants her and what she wants she gets!
11 Quiz 1. Who was the first President of the United States of America? 2. Who are? Elias Boudinot, Thomas Miflin, Richard Henry Lee, Nathan Gorman, Arthur St Clair, and Cyrus Griffin? 3. What was the Whiskey Rebellion? 4. Where was Chorley Court and who was born there? 5. What do the Americans mean when they say ”put your John Hancock there.?" 6. What Wild West gunfighter refereed a World Heavyweight? Championship fight? 7. What was New York Called before in was called New York. 8. Who founded it? 9. What was it called when he bought it from the Indians? 10. Who made Kitty Hawk Famous? 11. Why is Kitty’s Amelia famous? 12. How many docks are there in Liverpool. 13. What is the biggest building in Liverpool? 14. What’s Missing? Coburg, Highland Home, Seven Steps. 15. What was White Star Lines first action on learning the Titanic was sunk. 16. What Liverpool Building was known as Britain’s Front Door? 17. What famous film star greeted his fans from its first floor window? 18. What two shipping companies started from Liverpool butchers shops? 19. Whose ships carried brandy from the Charante to the Albert Dock? 20. Where in Liverpool was the Dock Railway?
Oh so Cold
During a very severe frost in 1850, the Woodside ferrymen received a temporary addition of 2s.6p. to their weekly wages. As the weather moderated, it was intimated that this would be withdrawn. Two of the town officials, however, were nominated for an increase of salary to be derived from the money discontinued to the men, who accordingly organised a strike, and as each mans wages was tendered to him on the next pay day he returned it. The ferrymen then refused to work the boats, and for three hours there was no service between Birkenhead and Liverpool, the Commissioners wisely giving way, and yielding the concession. Well we won that one. Woodside gets its name from being the edge of the “mighty Forest of Wirral” that covered the land from Chester to the Irish Sea. According to the ancient poem "From Chester until Hilbree, A squirrel can hop from tree to tree," Now it would have to go back on the train. Britain has tilted some time in the not very distant past and the West Coast Is now considerably lower. There are myths of sunken kingdoms in Cardigan Bay dating from about King Arthur’s time 600ad. We don’t have such myths as no one lived here at the time, it was all forest. At dead low water petrified tree stumps can be seen from Birkenhead to Meols and from Liverpool to Hightown. Staying with forests, West Derby gets it’s name as it is, or was, the western end of the Forest of Derby. This stretched from Hundred End near Tarleton to meet up with Sherwood Forest and was the abode of outlaws, who were decidedly not Robin Hood.
13 Indie Page 1 Most of Indefatigable’s treasures and silver plate are held in the Old School but not all. A silver cup presented more than 100 years ago by the Liverpool Pilots Association as a rowing prize was returned to the redoubtable old pilot Philip Hockey. Philip who besides being the Lord of the Heavenly Host (the pilots) was also Head Serang in the RNLI around these parts, The cup was put up as the prize in an annual sculling race between the New Brighton and Hoylake Lifeboats. Unfortunately life has become too serious for the RNLI to indulge in such frivolous activities. All the Lifeboatmen’s spare time is now taken up with, learning to use, training for, and practicing rescues with the new “Hi Tech” equipment now coming into use. Hoylake were the last winners of the cup and it stands proudly on the Lifeboathouse mantelpiece.
Muriel Eady presents the cup to the first winning crew in 1997. Muriel was Treasurer of the Ladies Section of the OBA mainly being wives and family of the old “inmates.” The Ladies expertise at extortion was so refined, apprentice Mafioso were sent to study their methods. Unfortunately no-one saw fit to record details of the precise methods used to raise so much money for the OBA, so painlessly before the Ladies Section was abolished. Something about babies and bathwater maybe?
Indie Page 2
Gleesons Bar Kilrush Ireland Sorry boys, Ma Gleeson hasn’t relocated to Kilrush, it’s just the latest quest of the Indie Explorers Club in search of the lost Irish sock mines. No luck the Banshees’ hid then in a fog. They got a fleeting glimpse of Lake Killarney, through the trees and found that B&B prices had doubled in two years. A visit to Ma Crockys in Kilrush, the music capital of Ireland on the only night of silence in the year and then to the cliffs of Mohan that fall a thousand feet sheer into the storm tossed Atlantic. The local gods were still angry and brought down another fog so they saw nowt. The place was alive with French kids on a cultural exchange but they weren’t very cultured preferring to play football in the car park. A very nice Irish lady stopped playing her harp to tell us the French kids came from Finesterre, where Thousand foot cliffs dropped sheer into the storm tossed Atlantic.
AGM 2006 It was a pleasure to attend this year’s Indefatigable Old Boys AGM as it was held in the old school after break of several years. A glorious day started with a tour of the old school in Llanfair PG, visiting the scenes of past torment and travail. The present pupils at the school get treated just as hard as the OBs but this lot get paid for it. The school is now the Joint Services training centre for mountain rescue instructors and they have to be tough. The recent attempt to climb the difficult side of Mount Everest was planned and launched from the school. Unfortunately it had to be called off very close to the summit due to unstable snow and avalanches. Rocks have been cleared from the slipway so maybe next year we can take Indefatigable herself to the party.
15 Vindi Page The Vindi’s annual “Thrash,“ is once more upon us so there will be mass exodus to Sheerness. The RSPB will out in the streets of Warrington feeding the birds. Have a good time boys we can’t be with you but will be in spirit or maybe spirits. Bring us back a monkey. Collecting Dole Money at the Vindicatrix. On the subject of collecting “Dole Money” during our time at the Vindi, I can remember the two-table system performed in the recreation hut in the camp. During my stay as a “Deckie” in 1949, my kit account records that I added £4:14:0 to my £5 Deposit, and after the deduction of £6:8:8 for my kit, I paid off with the princely sum of £3:5:4. I think that any dole money was dependent on how much you had contributed in “stamps” on your card during any employment you had, prior to joining the Vindi. Leaving school at 14 and joining the Vindi when I was turned 17, I had three years of contributions. I can’t remember if the initial “signing on” was done at the camp or if we had to troop down to the little Labour Exchange, by the Post Office. I think that some must have done, as witnessed by the many names inscribed on its red brick wall that are still visible to this day. Taken from the Vindicatrix Association Ditty Box but we don’t have a name
Graffiti on Dolehouse wall
Gravesend Memorial Plaque A ceremony was held recently to commemorate the National Sea Training School for boys in Gravesend. Several LRMS members were present when the Mayor of Gravesend unveiled the Memorial Stone to the school..
The old Gravesend Sea School, it has either been rebuilt or remodelled but at least the jetty and boat davits are still there.
17 First Trip Nightmare Sometimes it is not the first trip that is the nightmare, but getting there in the first place. Just so for the late and much missed LRMS member Owen Kitts. Owen had left school in Amlwch and done two years at the Indefatigable Sea Training School in Llanfair PG Anglesey. Being a crack bugler he had landed one of the plum jobs, deck boy bugler in Federal Lines cadet ship Durham. Given a rail warrant to Liverpool, a booking into the Sailors Home and 2/6d Owen left Anglesey for the first time in his life. Owen was not required for a few days so led a life of wanton depravity or as much of one as 2/6d would provide.
After two days he was ordered to sign on and join his ship before midnight, he was given another Half a Crown for his fare. Knowing Durham was in the Gladstone Dock and the Overhead fare was only 6d Owen had enough for another nights debauchery chasing girls with his mates in the Kardomah. Bidding the girls a fond farewell, Owen caught the last Overhead train to Seaforth Sands and there found that Dorset was indeed in the Gladstone Dock but was on the West Side, he was only half way there, the 2/6d was for his taxi fare to the Dowie Berth on pneumonia corner. The weather that night was what you would expect in a story such as this. Indie buglers were in demand from many shipping companies and Owen’s first trip turned out well. He was immensely proud to have been chosen to sound the “Last Post” at the ANZAC Day memorial parade in Auckland. He was terrified to play in front of the Governor General and thousands of veterans but it all went off well with no cracked notes. He got a chit for free milk shakes in the Bar X so he was a popular boy with the other Peggies.
Festive Board We thought our overseas readers might like to see more of our club
Mick Gallagher and visitors from Kiwi enjoy the goodies on the Sampson and Barlowâ€™s table. The folks are from left to right, Bridie and Nick Murphy from Taronga, Kenny Haymes, Mick and Jean Haymes from Christchurch NZ.,
The view from the stage to the bar. The Baddies all sit at on the back wall.The stage is to the left and the deckhands sit to the left again.
Bobby Willows table, heâ€™s the one with the pint, one of our younger members.
Come in and see us sometime, always a welcome Thursdays 1300 to 1900
20 On 1st July eight intrepid explorers from the Royal Navy’s recruiting offices crawled ashore in the Eldonian Village. Having “paddled their own canoes” 127 miles from Leeds to raise money for the Claire House Children’s Hospice, they were in dire need of refreshment. This was provided by our own ministering angel, Joan McGann, wielding a teapot and tab-nabs
Royal Navy Canoe Team about to set off from Leeds to Liverpool Event organiser C P O Ian Hardcastle writes thanking Joan for hospitality and says they raised £5000 for Claire House. Well-done Navy!
Putting on the Style Wally Gooch, seen on the left, bears the Standard of Gravesend MNA at a ceremony to unveil a memorial to the Gravesend Sea Training School, where 48,000 of you suffered before serving at sea During the war the Gravesend school moved to Sharpness, where even more of you suffered. Readers will have noticed that Wally is as always, the picture of sartorial elegance, complete with LRMS tie
21 Ugly Mugs Stan Mayes, LRMS member and founder member of the Gravesend MNA.
Stan aged 16 as Mate of the Thames sailing barge Scorpion. Right, at Tower Hill for MN Day 2005 with the wreath and a poppy fixed to the Viking Star Plaque.
Stan was torpedoed in Viking Star. The Captain and six of the crew were lost. Every year Stan fixes a poppy to her plaque on the MN Memorial Tower Hill
Our tie is seen in exotic locations, non-more so than Gravesend where Stan Mayes and his cohorts conduct a very active branch of the Merchant Navy Association. Stan and a few other subversives are members of the LRMS and wear their ties on all ceremonial occasion
Gravesend members at their club night in the local British Legion.
The British Legion in Gravesend has always been a good friend to our friends, for which we thank them. They even bought them their Standard. Seated on the left wearing his LRMS tie is Ron Brooks ex Glen Line and later Burrah Sahib of West African Terminals and the PLA. Next to Ron is his partner Rita, The handsome man speaking so eloquently to Rita is Stan Hanigan, a retired ships carpenter from P & O. Gravesend MNA likes to do things in style. They used to go to the Merchant Navy Day Memorial Service at Tower Hill by water. They would charter the Thames river launch Pocahontas to take them in all their splendour from Gravesend to the Tower and back. A journey a few of their forefathers made, but not the return, being in the hands of the press gang, Unfortunately Pocahontas and her sisters have been sold or “flagged out “ and are no longer available for this noble work. So it’s the bus for the boys so take your Kwells, it can be rough on the M2. Although few of us got ashore in Gravesend it always had a happy feel, the Round House beckoned or you’d just left it.
23 Thanks for Nothing The shipowners and the Government of Britain have an unrivalled record of generosity and care towards the families of men and women lost on their ships in wartime. It could be said that the welfare of seafarers and their families was constantly in the forefront of their thinking, it could be said so, but it was not so. The story of John Brotheridge, father of LRMS veteran, also, John Brotheridge, illustrates the attitude of HM Government and the shipowners to the men and women who sailed under the Red Ensign. Jack Brotheridge Senior had a bad war. He was Bosun of Papayanni’s small Market Boat, City of Lancaster, during the evacuation of Saint Nazaire.
Gun crew SS City of Lancaster. Jack’s father is the middle man, bottom row
City of Lancaster was anchored a short distance from the Lancastria, both were loading troops as fast as they could be brought out. Both were overloaded and under attack, Lancastria particularly so. The city boat captain moved to another mooring to get away from the big Cunarder; so fierce was the attack. Lancastria was hit by several bombs; one fell into a hatch full of airmen causing terrible carnage, another down the funnel was her death blow. She was Britain’s greatest maritime disaster, but it was kept a secret. Even today it is not known how many died in her but estimates are as high as 7,000. The evacuation of allied troops from Saint Nazaire was an epic equal to that of Dunkirk. Merchant ships played an important but usually unremarked role. Even the tiny City of Lancaster brought home over 2000 troops.
24 Jack next sailed at short notice in Papayanni’s Estrallano, taking a Pier Head jump as the ship was short of an AB and in danger of missing her convoy. He had just come off watch when a torpedoe hit the ship. She went down in five minutes with a considerable number of casualties. He was in the water for a long time before being picked up by HMS Deptford. Although badly shaken he was not sent on sick leave but ordered back to sea almost immediately. He shipped as Bosun in the SS Lafian of Lever Brothers, United Africa Company. The story now in Jacks own words. My father Jack Brotheridge was Bosun of the SS Lafian. On the 24th September 1941 she was torpedoed by U-107. The U-107 also sank the SS John Holt and SS Dixcove both Liverpool ships on the same day. The Lafian was attacked at approximately 14-30hrs, an unusual time of day for such an attack. As U-boats invariably attacked at dawn, between 0400 and 0600hrs whenever possible, but of course they never missed an opportunity if it arose. The Lafian settled in the water and her two lifeboats were successfully launched and all the crew abandoned ship with Captain Phillips being the last to leave in true maritime tradition. As the boats pulled away Lafian turned over and sank leaving the lifeboats on a now deserted ocean, the battle having moved on. After a roll call and taking stock of the boats provisions and knowing there was little chance of anyone returning to their rescue, the boats in close company set off for the nearest land, at least 1,000 miles away, a formidable journey. I have not yet been able to establish how long they were in the boats but they were eventually picked up by a neutral American freighter and landed at the Azores (a group of nine isolated, beautiful, Godforsaken, volcanic Portuguese islands in the Atlantic). Immediately the ship was sunk, the crew became unemployed and unpaid “Distressed British Seamen” (DBS), so when they landed on the Azores they became totally dependent on the generosity of the Portuguese community, the Seamen’s Mission and the British Consulate, if there was one! As very few British Ships called at the neutral Azores during this period of the war the survivors were left to languish before they got a lift back to the UK., in this case via Portugal and Gibraltar. My father arrived home in March 1942, six months after being sunk, a very sick and shattered man. He was landed on a stretcher and taken directly to Broad Green Hospital were he died ten days later at mid day on Friday 20th March 1942, aged 46 years. Jacks mother applied for a war pension and Jack has still got the letter sent in reply by the Minister of Pensions, the editor has a copy. It tells her, as your husband did not die as a result of enemy action but from natural causes you will not be getting any pension. It went on to say it sympathised with her predicament and suggested she sue the shipping company. The Governments Treatment of Jack’s mother was not unusual, but it was “scandalous.”
25 The Brothers Lee Earlier this year we bid a last “So Long ” to Joe Lee. Joe spent his entire working life at sea, finishing a few short years ago. We gave him the usual short obituary because that’s how we do it. However, at the funeral, Joe’s nephew Stephen spoke a moving eulogy to Joe part of which we repeat below. We do this because it is good, witty, and a tribute to two LRMS members Joe and Eddie Lee. Eddie is happily still with us: -Joe was always up to something and we pick up Stephen’s eulogy where he gets into buying boats off the Navy: -Uncle Joe and boats go back a long way and we could be here all day swapping stories. His best scheme was to buy a cheap boat off the Royal Navy, do it up and sell it for a handsome profit. I had assumed because Uncle Joe, Uncle Eddie and Uncle Freddie had spent years away at sea they all knew something about sailing. On one of our early trips I asked Joe what his job was at sea. When he told me he was a steward I understood why the beds had been so well made. I then asked Uncle Freddie what he had done “the cooking” said Freddy, I’m in the galley. I never asked Uncle Eddie and still haven’t. I thought that while I never knew I could pretend there was some one on board who knew what he was doing*. This was at a time when the charts on board consisted of an AA road atlas of Britain. One of my first trips was to Caernarfon but we stopped for the night in Conway. We set off next morning for Caernarfon. Uncle Eddie was a great teacher. He always took time to explain to me the possible dangers in going through such treacherous waters as the Menai Straits. “You’ve got to go through at high tide, “ he said, once the tide starts to run it runs at five knots and we can only make four so we will have no control over the boat. “ That’s why everyone goes through at high tide.” This is when I noticed there were no other boats around. Once we had bounced our way through the notorious Swellies, I asked Uncle Eddie for a look at the tide tables. “There they are Look 17th June, high tide, Menai Straits 10:03 and it’s only half ten now.” I looked at the front cover which said “Tide Tables Liverpool Bay and North Wales Summer 1968, Price 1/6.” I can’t remember when this happened but I definitely had decimal coins in my pocket. “But Eddie, I said this is out of date,” The times change every year. “Not by much,” says Eddie. The quest for a new boat involved Joe, Eddie and my dad driving the length and breadth of Britain, visiting numerous dockyards and putting bids in on various boats. Joe showed me one of the catalogues. Item 1, Class 1 destroyer, one careful lady owner, The Queen, “A bit big that Joe.” “No, look at this one. Inshore taxi, sits 48.” and that’s the one he bought, the one that became the Lizzie Lee.
26 Whenever I got the chance I would go down to see Joe, Eddie and my dad** doing up the boat. They were having a great time but when Joe said that he intended to sail for France and then down through France in it to the Med I thought, “you must be joking.” But they did it; the boat was ready to sail for France. My dad had no intention of sailing across the Channel in it with them and though I tried to persuade him he said, “The first time I went to France was in a landing craft and I’m not wading ashore again.” Once it was over in France my dad joined them and they had some great times.
Lizzie Lee in her pomp and glory painted up and ready to leave for France. Lizzie Lee was a Royal Navy Harbour Launch Diesel (HLD) bought from Portsmouth Dockyard, for a derisory sum. She was one of hundreds built as “maids of all work” about HM Naval bases. They ran the mail, towed gash barges and carried passengers between ship and shore. They were designed and licensed to carry 100 passengers but this was reduced to 30 when it was found there was no room for 100 lifejackets. Regarding the “Doing Up.” your editor was intimately involved in this being regularly shanghaied onboard for “heavy lifts.” Most of the “doing up” was Eddie Lee’s work as Joe was still at sea at the time. When on leave he and John would come down to the Collingwood Dock to inspect Eddie’s work to date. They would then adjourn to the Bramley Moore Inn for “in depth” discussions of policy and design. Lizzie Lee’s “Doing Up” took two years and is an epic retold many times amongst Liverpool’s Boaties. She was a credit to “The Brothers Lee.” * He was a “Pantryman,” but good in small boats. ** A third and older brother.
Brendan (Paddy) O’Brien and SS Fabian Who handed this story in is a mystery to us. If it was you please say so.
S.S. Fabian I joined the SS Fabian in Langton Dock Liverpool; she was loading for an unknown destination. We were a few days out to sea when a Fokker (Condor) plane flew low over the Convoy so low we could see the crew. We couldn’t do anything as all the ship had to defend herself was an old Bren gun that the last crew had picked up when the ship had taken part in the evacuation of St Nazaire. The Condor bombed an Elder Dempster ship. She did not sink but sustained heavy damage and had to return to the UK. After a few more days we sailed into a Force 10 gale that smashed the Port lifeboat plus the spurling pipes for’ard and flooded the chain lockers. The next day the convoy dispersed to their destinations and the crew started to repair the damage. The engineers fixed the spurling pipes, pumped out the chain locker and fore peak. I was on the 12 – 4 watch and had just relieved my mate at the wheel at 2pm when we were hit. I shouted WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS THAT to Mr Tuttle the 2nd Mate. “We’ve been hit,” he said, “go aft and check the accommodation. This I did without hesitation and grabbed my own lifejacket while there. Coming along the deck heading for the lifeboat I noticed the emergency life-raft had been damaged. I was helping to clear the fallen rigging when I noticed a severed leg and not thinking properly I threw it over the side. I then carried on helping to clear the rigging when I found the body of my friend AJ Murphy, I then went to help launch the lifeboat, the last person to get in was the Sparkes who said he had sent off the signal SSS and had jammed down the Morse key. As we pulled away from the stricken Fabian a submarine surfaced and began to shell the ship. The first shot hit the
28 bridge and the second hit the radio room by the funnel. I thought the gunners were pretty accurate but then they weren’t being shot at in return. The U-boat approached us and an officer in the conning tower told us to tie a rope to the sub. They gave us water and some cigarettes. I was holding the side of the sub and noticed they were taking photographs of us. One officer said “SORRY BUT IT’S THE FORTUNES OF WAR.” They gave us a chart and pointed out to some life-rafts and towed us as near as possible to them, then submerged and left us to arrange our own means of survival. We put up the mast and sail in the lifeboat and headed for the coast of Africa. Five days later I was on watch when I spotted a ship. I woke the others and the second mate confirmed it was a ship. We lit a flare and took down the mast in case they thought we were a submarine. She was a tanker, the British Statesman. I had the job of sinking the life boat and was the last to climb onboard. The officers went amidships and us to the fo’c’sle. We eventually reached Freetown where we stayed onboard a Royal Navy Depot ship Edinburgh Castle. We had to sleep on deck because of the heat and were eaten by Bombay Joeys, big tropical cockroaches. They liked the hard skin on the soles of your feet. After a week I returned to the UK onboard Port Lincoln as DBS. I kept a good lookout and had plenty of time to think about the sinking of Fabian. We had been using an old fireman as lookout as he could not do his job. They put a young seaman down below in place of him. If that young sailor had been on lookout he may have seen the U-boat and the terrible loss of life would not have happened. We landed in Gourock where we were met by a well-dressed lady who was handing out 10/- notes to us. I have often wondered why she did that. We went to get a train home at St Enoch Station where the people running the canteen wouldn’t give us a cup of tea, saying we were improperly dressed. When a local policeman told them what we had been through they “gave in” and we got a cup of tea. We boarded the train and the journey was hell, bitter cold, delays and snowdrifts on the line. We survived due to the kindness of a sailor who had a bottle of rum that warmed us up no end. The train eventually arrived at Edge Hill Station. I stayed in the Sailors home for a few days then decided to take my leave in Ireland. I boarded the Liverpool-Dublin ferry and off New Brighton Lighthouse, she hit a mine! I ended up in a lifeboat and met some friends whom I had known and sailed with before. We were picked up by a Rea tug and put ashore on Princes Landing Stage during an air raid. I later learned Fabian was hit by two torpedoes, one amidships, the other in the engine room killing my other friend JJ Murray who was the 2nd steward. Now in my later years I always think how lucky I am to have survived and my thought go to my two friends AJ Murphy and JJ Murray who are always in my prayers. Brendan O’Brien. AJ Murphy and JJ Murray, three of the men who fed you.
29 Quiz Answers 1. John Hanson, was elected President in 1781 when the United States of America was formed. He was unopposed. He and the following six Presidents were elected for one year only under the constitution at that time. George Washington was elected President in 1789 under the new and present constitution and served two four year terms. He was seventh. 2. The next six presidents of the United States 3. The new US Government owed a bundle. To raise money quick and pay off the debt, they put a big tax on whiskey. This set off a second rebellion with much protest and lots in the Clink. Thinking the tax unconstitutional and unfair to the poor, the rebels stormed the goals and set free their mates. George Washington quickly passed an Act pardoning the rebels before it all got out of hand. Shortly afterwards the French stormed the Bastille. “Monkey see Monkey do.” 4. On the corner of Dale Street and Byrom Street, now the HQ of the worlds biggest bookmaker. Robert Morris was born there, another renegade Scouser to make it big in the States. A patriot and rebel, he financed the Revolution, signed the Declaration of Independence, had the biggest bank in Philadelphia, owned half of New York and died in a Debtors prison. 5. Sign it, because John Hancock, who also signed the Declaration of Independence, took up half the page with his signature. 6. Bat Masterson. Wyatt Earp is also said to have done so. 7. Nieuw Amsterdam. 8. Peter Stuyvesant 9 Manhattan you daft bat. 10. The Wright brothers made the first powered flight from there. 11. She was the last slave ship to sail from Liverpool, supposedly. 12. One, Stanley Dock, the rest are below the High Water Mark. 13. The Tobacco Warehouse in the Stanley Dock. 14. The Baltic Fleet, they are the last four pub buildings remaining on the Dock Road south of the Pier Head, Only the Baltic Fleet and the Coburg are now pubs. You knew the Coburg as the Devil. 15. Stop the crew’s wages, the articles closed when the ship sank, exactly as most shipowners did when ships were sunk did during the wars 16. The Adelphi Hotel. 17. Trigger. Roy Rogers horse. 18. Blue Star Line and Nelson Line, (Highland Brigade, Laddie Etc.,) 19. The Charante Steamship Company, T & J Harrison’s 20. Underneath the overhead railway.
30 Obituary The Liverpool Retired Seafarers regret to inform members that four of our much respected shipmates have “Paid Off” for the last time.
Pat Smith, Cook, resident of the Eldonian Village and brother of our redoubtable barmaid Rita. Rest well Doc, you will be missed. Ray Spicer, First Class Waiter, Raconteur, Playboy, Sophisticate and Innocent. A spreader of happiness, Thursday will no longer be so bright. Wing no more “bright bird,” the sky is empty without you. Terry Ferguson, after a long illness very bravely borne. Old member been house bound for some time. Another of the good guys gone, so long Terry. Michael Leydon, a member of the British and American Merchant Navies, the American Army and a veteran of WW2. So long Michael you will be missed along with your many tales of “Derring Do” SHELTERED BY THE ROCK OF AGES. ANCHORED BY THE GOLDEN SHORE
Sick and Hurt Richie Burke, John Dargle, Jimmy Duggan, Dickie Dunne, Joyce Gillan, Joe Hutchinson, Tom Kelly, Margaret Manning, John Melia Owen Thompson, Neal Scriven Frank Travers and Arthur Micklewright. YOU ARE ALWAYS IN OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS. GET WELL SOON
Thanks The sisters and family of John Ryder thank you for the good “send off” you gave John, when his ashes were scattered into the river Mersey. It was a very moving occasion and once more Mersey Ferries obliged “in bulk,” The family have made a generous donation to the club. It will be used towards paying for the band at the Merchant Navy Day Service on 3rd September. So when you hear the music! Think of John.
The Red Ensign flies at half mast for Ray Spicer. In recent weeks we have flown it for Pat Smith, Terry Fergusson and Arthur Ah Tow who have also “Paid Off,” for the last time. The practice of flying a flag at “half mast” as a sign of mourning dates at least from the “Joust” in the middle Ages. During the “Joust” the Knight’s shield bearing his coat of arms was displayed outside his tent on a lance. If a Knight was killed in the “Joust” his shield was lowered down the lance one shields width to leave space above it for that of the “Angel of Death,” who had come to conduct the soul of the dead knight to the “Place of Judgement.” Today the Ensign should be flown “one” flag width down from the masthead until the funeral is finished, for above it flies the “Standard” of the “Angel of Death.” The Angel is in attendance from the time of death until the final act of the burial service, this releases the soul of the deceased to go for “Judgement,” the flag should now be hoisted back to the masthead. . The Angel of Death in human form has no reflection so all the mirrors in the house were covered. To be in the room with another person and see they had no reflection was not good for you. You would know them for what they were and they would take you to somewhere” You may not want to Go.” Any reader who doubts this should remember the feeling of relief when the tension lifts after a funeral. This is because the heavy “Dude” who has been hanging around all week has gone home.
In this MN Day edition of your Newsletter we list the sacrifice of the Rowan family of “non combatants” to Britain’s war effort Rowan. Third Engineer Officer. EDWARD. Merchant Navy. MV Port Gisborne (London). 11th October 1940. Age 23. Panel 83 Rowan. Fireman and Trimmer. GEORGE. Merchant Navy. SS West Wales (Cardiff). 29th February 1941. Age 45 Panel 118. Rowan. Third Engineer Officer. JAMES. Merchant Navy. SS Leo Dawson ((Newcastle on Tyne). 13th January 1940. Age 36. Panel 64. Rowan. Fireman and Trimmer. JOHN. Merchant Navy. SS Samala (Liverpool) 30th September 1940. Age 26. Son of Edward Patrick and Gertrude Rowan, of Liverpool. Panel 91. Rowan. Trimmer. JOHN JOSEPH. Merchant Navy. SS Empire Endurance (Middlesborough). 11th April 1941. Age 20. Son of John Joseph and Mary Rowan of Liverpool. Panel 40. Rowan. Third Radio Officer. JOHN MALCOLM. Merchant Navy. SS Empire Amethyst (Middlesborough). 14th April 1942. Age 21. Panel 38. Rowan. Stewardess. MARY ELIZABETH. Merchant Navy. SS Avila Star (London) 5th July 1942. Age 50. Daughter of Luke and Mary Rowan. Panel 12. Rowan. Fireman and Trimmer. NICHOLAS. Merchant Navy. SS Avocita (Liverpool). 25th September 1941. Age 52. Son of Nicholas and Alice Rowan of Liverpool. Panel 13 Rowan. Fireman and Trimmer. NICHOLAS, Merchant Navy. SS Empire Lawrence. (Sunderland). 7th May 1942. Age 19. Son of Thomas and Emily Rowan of Liverpool. Panel 43. Rowan. Greaser. William. Merchant Navy. SS Eros (Belfast) 3rd September 1940. Age 56. Panel 48. Rowan. Fireman JOHN. Merchant Navy. SS Silvio (Hull). 21st December 1940. Age 63. Son of William and Barbara Rowan, of Liverpool. Buried in Kirkdale Cemetery.
Rowan. Fireman and Trimmer. THOMAS. Merchant Navy. SS Avoceta. 16th December 1946. Age 59. Son of James and Annie Rowan, Husband of Emily Rowan of Liverpool, Buried at Liverpool (Ford) RC Cemetery
White Star Liner SS Zealandic, later Shaw Savill, painted by R A Johns, a shipâ€™s carpenter from Sennen Cove Cornwall. He was worth painting himself.
These are the best flag makers in the world and very obliging. Albie stayed up and hand sewed a Blue Star house flag for the Kavanagh Memorial in Florence Melly School, and refused payment. The memorial is to the four boys lost in Almeda Star. If you are buying flags go to Albie, you wonâ€™t get them free but you will be surprised at the price of top quality flags.