Penang & Port Swettenham

Sow-Sow-La
27th March 2007, 13:30
Port Swettenham & Penang - (What a Difference 35 Years Can Make)

On the 2nd of March this year (2006), my partner and I travelled to Manchester airport. It was touch and go whether we made it, due to heavy snow showers in North Wales. From Manchester we flew with Malaysia Airlines on a 12½ hour non-stop flight to Kuala Lumpur. 12½ hours from cold snow to tropical heat. I almost needed a ‘Good Morning’ towel to tie around my head as a sweat rag. We stayed in K.L. for 5 days, during which, we made a half-day trip to Port Swettenham. The name Port Swettenham no longer exists, as it’s now called Port Klang, but for this tale I shall still call it Port Swettenham. We caught an early train from K.L. Central Station, and made the 45 min journey to Port Swettenham Station. This was the first time ever for me to get excited about visiting the place. I had only cursed my visits here in the past. The last time I was here was on the ‘M.V. Protesilaus’ in August 1970, when I was homeward bound for the last time before swallowing the anchor. The railway line has now been extended to within about half a mile from the Mission. When we walked out of the station I approached a taxi driver and tried explaining that we wanted to go to the Mission. He didn’t understand. When I mentioned ‘swimming pool’, he knew where we wanted to go. We then got into his taxi, and after a few minutes we pulled up at the ‘Royal Selangor Yacht Club’ (which has a swimming pool). I thought this place was a bit posh for ‘Sweatbox’. I spoke to the doorman who knew exactly where we were looking for. He explained to the taxi driver, who then drove us to the Mission. As we approached, I recognised the building even though it has changed a lot. It is much bigger, having been extended, and seems quite run-down compared to how I remember it. The old bar area has been converted into office space, and alcohol is no longer sold on the premises. The actual swimming pool has not changed at all. It is still kidney shaped and the warm clear water is just as inviting as ever. I only wish I’d taken my swimming costume and towel that day. The large diving board has gone, and there are no tables and chairs around the pool area. I had taken with me some old black & white photos of the pool area and football field, taken in the 60’s. I showed there to some members of staff who had gathered around, but only one person was old enough to remember those days, and he had great fun telling the others about those times and the changes. The football pitch and goals are still there, and the buildings surrounding the field appear to be unchanged. Whilst standing on that field, I thought of the times we played matches against the tally clerks and other ship teams. I also wondered, where, after doing a days work, did we found the energy to run around in the heat and humidity that I was now feeling, and I was now just standing still. We then walked from the Mission towards the port and I saw that the Kampong has gone, replaced by large concrete pillars supporting a fly-over heading to the container terminal. The Jungle Bar was nowhere to be seen. The ‘Port View Restaurant/Bar’ has gone, though you can still see the broken chunks of cemented bricks and blocks scattered on top of the muddy bank leading down to the water’s edge. The old jetty where the launch would drop us off when we went ashore, and later pick us up when we were full of Tiger or Anchor, is now in ruin and no longer in use. It’s still standing but the steel and wood skeleton is looking quite sad. I wondered what had become of Spangles, the watchman who stood watch on our gangways. There are still lots of little boats around the jetty area, and they reminded me of the times we had to use them to get back to the ship when we had missed the last launch. Some of us paid the owner for this service, whilst others (so I believe) would borrow them and leave them tied to the bottom of the gangway. If you stand on the bank by the old jetty, facing the water, and look to the left, there is now a bridge crossing that stretch of water, and there appears to be a lot of industry down that way. The only ships at anchor where we once anchored are now small service vessels. There is a new jetty alongside the old one. It was at this new jetty that we boarded a long and narrow fast ferry which took us through the creeks to Pulau Ketam (known as Crab Island). As this fast ferry left Port Swettenham we headed out towards where the Deep Water Point berths once stood. The old berths are gone, replaced by a huge container terminal, with new road and rail links. As we sped by I was able to count at least 25 large container cranes, and 6 container ships alongside. When we reached Crab Island, we left the ferry and wondered into the village which is built on stilts, and has wooden boardwalks as walkways between the buildings. In one of the little restaurants there I had some lovely tiger prawns and nasi goreng, washed down with a couple of bottles of Tiger. I was in heaven. When we arrived back at Port Swettenham jetty we walked to the railway station. As we walked along, so many memories came flooding back. The heat, smells, sounds, monsoon ditches, scurrying chit-chats, and the sound of crickets. Reading these may not sound exciting, but when you’re there, they are all so real.
From K.L. we made a 50 minute flight to Penang where we stayed for ten days. The hotel was 35 minutes from Georgetown, (a £4 taxi ride, or 80p by bus). On one trip into Georgetown I walked through the old China Town and Little India, down towards the docks. That area has hardly changed. The buildings and streets are just the same. If the traffic could have been replaced with 1960’s cars, I could easily have been back in that era, or walking along Anson Road in Singapore. There’s more traffic now with lots of scooters and motorbikes whizzing around. There are still plenty of trishaws about, used mainly by tourists these days. (Apparently, Penang and Malacca are the only places where you will now find them in Malaysia). The Odeon cinema is still in Penang Road, but now it only shows Indian ‘Bollywood’ films. When I walked to the old clock tower, I approached a couple of trishaw men and showed them some old black and white photos taken in that area, and a photo of a ‘bluey’. The elder of two recognised the ‘bluey’ and even named a few ‘blue flu’ and ‘glen’ boats. He also remembered the Ben and Maersk ships regularly calling there. I then hired him to run me around. For 45 minutes he pedalled me around old Georgetown, the dock area and along the front past the Weld where we used to catch the launch if anchored out. The Weld is now part of the Penang Sailing Club. He pointed out where the old bars used to be, such as the Railway Bar, City Lights, Liverpool Bar, and Piccadilly, all now gone. We pulled up outside the Hong Kong Bar which is the only one left, but unfortunately was closed due to a fire last year. There was a security grating across the entrance but the inner doors were wide open. Through the grating I could see all the furniture, the bar, pictures and military plaques on the walls. Apart from some smoke damage, which didn’t look too bad, the place seemed alright. A bit of cleaning and decorating would soon have it restored. The Mariners Club is now closed and awaiting redevelopment, but sadly not for seamen. After being dropped off (and I gave a good dropsy), I ventured inside the dock gates. I sweet-talked the dock police sergeant who allowed me to enter the docks to look around and take some photos. The old Godowns (sheds) are still there, also the quay and bollards which we once tied up to. The only ships docking here now are passenger liners and ferries, (all cargo ships now use the Butterworth side on the mainland). One ferry goes from here to Belawan, on a 4 hour crossing. It was from this dock we later embarked on boat excursions. One of these excursions was an evening cruise on a pleasure boat, sailing past Georgetown, Butterworth and under a new 4½ mile long bridge which now links Penang island to the mainland. Due to high tolls for crossing the bridge, the old Penang/Butterworth ferries are still doing a roaring trade. The other excursion was a 2½ hour, fast ferry trip to the island of Langkawi. The outward trip was nice, as there was a very warm breeze with a slight spray from the bow. It crossed my mind, that when I was homeward bound on my last deep sea voyage all those years ago, little did I think that in 35 years I would again be sailing up the Malacca strait, and passing the same islands. There were lots of little fishing boats and the sea was strewn with the usual flotsam, coconuts, palm leaves etc, but alas no discarded dunnage, cargo mats or gash from a passing ‘bluey’. Langkawi is a nice holiday resort island, and is duty-free. We bought 2 bottle of Gordon’s Gin at £4 a bottle. On the trip back to Georgetown I saw the sun set, which was as beautiful as I remember with the sky, sea and clouds all lit up, and far in the distance, lightening strikes over the mainland. After it had gone dark, the breeze was still very warm but clammy, and although it hadn’t rained, the humidity made everything wet to touch. As we came into Georgetown the quay was illuminated by the Godown arc-lights, and alongside was a small lighter unloading sacks of something or other under ‘cluster’ lights. I could well have been leaning over the focsle bulwark, or on the poop rail, waiting to throw a heaving line ashore from a ‘bluey’ arriving after dark.
All taxis are now air-conditioned, in fact most indoor places are. You can still find the odd high ceiling rooms with the old fashioned rotating fan hanging from the ceiling. It’s only in these types of buildings you see the chit-chat lizards scurrying along the walls, probably due to the air-conditioning being too cold for them. The air-conditioning is very good for reducing mosquito bites, but sitting outside, especially in the evening, the mosquitoes are still a problem. In fact I don’t remember ever being bitten as much as I did during this visit. My blood must have sweetened with age. I was told by one of the locals that due to global weather changes, Malaysia is hotter now than when we went there all those years ago. It has been too long between visits for me to make any comparisons. All I can say is, it’s still very hot out there. The words ‘Selamat Datang’ (welcome), are everywhere, and I had not forgotten the only bit of Malay I learnt- ‘satw, dwa, tiga, ampa, lima’ (1,2,3,4,5). There is a limit to how much we may want to relive the past. I certainly wouldn’t want to be screwing-down deep-tank lids in Port Swettenham or Singapore, rubbing Stockholm-tar onto stays, climbing under winch beds to paint the insides, soogeeing deck-heads in cold weather with the soogee running down inside my oilskin and soaking my shirt and jumper sleeves. But what I experienced on this holiday was pure nostalgia. I came home with a good bronzy, which I didn’t have to toil for, and with no white flip-flop marks on my feet.

What’s Gone
You don’t get a bottle of Tiger, Anchor or F&N in shops when shopping. Conny-onny tins with string.
All our old drinking haunts. (Today’s young seamen, what few there are, prefer modern disco clubs and night clubs. I didn’t see any Betel Nut stains anywhere. There is a strong ‘No Smoking’ policy in most places. The men now relax by sitting on chairs and seats instead of squatting on the ground, and most no longer wear sarongs, preferring trousers or jeans. Everywhere, especially cities, seems cleaner, with less litter in the streets and in the monsoon ditches.
Still There
Tiger Balm and Singapore Gin Sling. Rubber and palm plantations. Squatting toilets can still be found, but are rare. As you walk past shops, you still get “Come, look-see. You buy cheap my shop”.
There are still plenty of small Kampongs and old houses with rusty corrugated tin roofs out in the country and on the outskirts of towns and villages. ‘Straits Times’, is now the same size as our Daily Mail & Express, but without ship movement lists by Mansfield’s, Guthrie & Co, Straits Steamship Co, or any other company we remember. The monsoons are the same, with the warm and sudden heavy downpours which stop just as suddenly and everything quickly drying out.

Shopping
You still barter for Taxi’s, trishaws, at market stalls and shops (except those shops in modern shopping malls, where prices are fixed). Market stalls haven’t changed much, apart from selling more up-to-date goods. You still see the odd Indian stall selling what we remember, such as Tiger Balm, nail clippers, combs, shoe polish etc. Instead of the old primus pump-up lanterns which used to hiss, the stalls now have fluorescent strip lighting, powered by little generators. Penang now has a large Tesco supermarket.

Costs
A taxi ride costs approximately £4 for a ½ hour journey.
£3-80 will buy 2 pairs of ladies shoes. £6 will buy 1 pair of gents ‘Bata’ make quality leather shoes.
Tiger beer costs £1 to £1-50 per bottle, (depending on size), or £2 for draught.
F & N (Fraser & Neave) soft drinks cost 40p to 50p.
Cheongsams cost £18 for long ones and £12 for short ones.
A made to measure suit costs between £40 and £80, and a made to measure shirt about £10.
A 2 course meal, on average from £2 to £5. (Expect steak or lobster for £6).
A Hyundai hire car was £28 for 24 hours. The car consumed ½ a tank of petrol going around the island, and it cost £6 to re-fill.

Note of interest. I believe that the Chinese in Hong Kong still use bamboo poles as scaffolding when they erect buildings; however, instead of using vines to secure the poles together, they now use plastic cable-ties.

duquesa
27th March 2007, 14:32
Very many years ago, when I was a scrap of a lad, I frequently saw the name of Port Swettenham and never knew then where it was. Coming into Londonderry regularly in those days was a small typical Dutch coater called the "Tide". She was immaculate as many of them were. She was on charter to Nestle who had a factory some 30 odd miles away near Omagh. She was always reported in the local press shipping news as having loaded condensed milk for Port Swettenham. I presume she lugged it over to Liverpool where I further presume it was transhipped into Blue Flu or other company heading that way. I never found out. She ran that service for years and I lost track when I started seagoing. I don't believe I've heard Port Swettenham mentioned since and certainly never met anyone who had been there. Memories!

Hague
27th March 2007, 15:44
Very many years ago, when I was a scrap of a lad, I frequently saw the name of Port Swettenham and never knew then where it was. Coming into Londonderry regularly in those days was a small typical Dutch coater called the "Tide". She was immaculate as many of them were. She was on charter to Nestle who had a factory some 30 odd miles away near Omagh. She was always reported in the local press shipping news as having loaded condensed milk for Port Swettenham. I presume she lugged it over to Liverpool where I further presume it was transhipped into Blue Flu or other company heading that way. I never found out. She ran that service for years and I lost track when I started seagoing. I don't believe I've heard Port Swettenham mentioned since and certainly never met anyone who had been there. Memories!

Duquesa,
Recall sailing out of Birkenhead around 65 (she had McGregors so it must have been an 'M' boat) and proceeded to Dublin where we loaded Bagged Irish Malt in the lower holds of 2 & 5 and thence proceed on voyage. We discharged this Malt at Port Swettenham (Klang) where a Guinness factory had been constructed. The Guinness was labelled Bulldog Guinness and I think had a little more bite (pardon the pun). Around this time the local radio stations were forever extolling the virtues of this fine Irish beverage with a familiar 'jingle' Guinness Stout Bogoos Bagee. I assume the Bagoos bagee was Malaysian for 'is Good for You.

R58484956
27th March 2007, 16:20
Sow-Sow-La many thanks for your narative on PS & Penang, one of the best I have have read for months on here. Bought back the memories. Recently stayed at the E&O in Penang, not quite the same as in the old days.

duquesa
27th March 2007, 16:44
Always wondered why thousands of tons of condensed milk was destined for Port Swettenham. Must have been some kind of food plant there at the time that used the stuff.

Eggo
27th March 2007, 21:54
Your narrative took me back pleasantly to the pool at the mission where I spent some time.

R651400
30th March 2007, 07:21
S-S-L Many thanks for the memories.
Port Swettenham was my first port of call on the old Melampus in '56, she went to the knackers at Inverkeithing in '57.
PS was a just a wooden jetty on the Klang river in those days with space for two or three ships.
I remember "Australian Navy's" Burns Philps "Burnside" was alongside also a Trinder Anderson boat.
When we left Port Swettenham, skipper Alex Letty a taciturn Scot decided he didn't need the pilot and set off down the river with pilot boat racing alongside and the Chinese pilot screaming what the consequences would be if we went aground. Gin and tonics or bravado, Letty sailed on and we reached open sea without incident.
We did Malaya, Singapore, Borneo and Indonesia on that run, visited by Dyaks in their dugout canoes when loading teak logs as deck cargo on the Rejang River.
"Keep the head," being the standing joke.....

gdynia
30th March 2007, 08:05
ssl
Riverting story. Never managed to get to it on a ship always went to Singapore. Alot of ports worldwide have changed their names but can never change the memories

hawkey01
30th March 2007, 11:19
SSL,
Very enjoyable. That stirred a few brain cells. I was fortunate to visit both places a few times. On my last visit on Sarpedon in 1969 we even berthed in Swnam which I am sure did not happed in the past or maybe it did! There used to be a restaurant in Swettenham that sold the most amazing curried crabs. Seem to remember it was where the shore launches etc use to land us. Name has gone. Also spent New Year celebrating in a big Planters Club somewhere inland. So that is were the Jungle bar was. I had completedly forgotten that gem. Hazy memories of some Scandinavians in there being troublesome after a few bevies. Soon pacified with another beer. Yes just thinking about that last trip and the ports just flow like a travel guide. Liverpool - LasPalmas - Durban - Penang - Swettenham - Singapore - Xsinkiang - Otaru - Manila -Cebu - Singapore - Penang possibly called at Swettenham homeward as well but cannot remember - Trincomalee - Colombo - Durban - possibly Las Palmas - Lisbon - Liverpool. Think that trip was near 6 months, extra long as we were in China a longtime in the ice!! and Red Guards. Seem to also recollect that we were the first Bluey to go back after the Glen Line arrests and other Bluey troubles. Great memories, thanks for the posting.
Regards
Hawkey01(Gleam)

Fergus 62
30th March 2007, 12:49
SSL
Great yarn bringing back great memories. Sailed through both Penang and Port Swettenham four times in mid 1960s on the City of Glasgow. Recall last homeward trip we were sched to arrive London on Christmas Eve. On arrival at Port Swettenham (recall only 3/4 berths) our berth was occupied by a Ben Line ship which fouled her prop with a mooring rope, took a day to clear berth before we could go alongside to load. Origional second mates calculation of eta London Christmas Eve was spot on but thanks to Ben Line and delay at PS we picked up the London Pilot at Brixham mid morning Christmas Day, berthing Boxing Day morning !

Rgds
Fergus62

peteratow
30th March 2007, 21:53
SSL,
Very interesting article. Was 10 years with Ben Line 1963-73 so was at PS and Penang many times. Your description of these places brought back many memories long forgotten. As you state, goodness knows how we did a days work, played football, had a swim and then had a few "Tigers" at PS without any ill effects. Suppose youth had something to do with it!

wully farquhar
31st March 2007, 12:44
Most enjoyable article,i was with the Ben-Line for a while in the sixties and we used to call into what was then Port Swettenham,did'nt think much of the place but did have some good runs ashore,a swim in the mission pool and the odd game of football,aye happy memories right enough,thank you for the story.
Wully.

blanco123
7th April 2007, 22:18
Thank you, have not thought about the Hong Kong bar in years, I remember sitting in the back room with the owners family watching the tele holding hands with one of the daugthers and getting a black eye in the swimming pool,and how did we ever get back from the Jungle Bar?

KIWI
7th April 2007, 22:52
Never been to either port but your posting is great reading.Brings back memories of Bombay & Singapore.I am sure the sounds & smells are there too.We never fully realised what havens the Missions were.Kiwi

Hague
8th April 2007, 00:51
Remember the Stella Maris in Singapore in vicinity of No.5 Gate (Tanjong Bahru). There was a Dutch Priest in charge by the name Father Bergmann. This is around 62-65. Always visited the ships and good company. Often wondered what happened to him.

DURANGO
8th April 2007, 18:02
SSL,
Very enjoyable. That stirred a few brain cells. I was fortunate to visit both places a few times. On my last visit on Sarpedon in 1969 we even berthed in Swnam which I am sure did not happed in the past or maybe it did! There used to be a restaurant in Swettenham that sold the most amazing curried crabs. Seem to remember it was where the shore launches etc use to land us. Name has gone. Also spent New Year celebrating in a big Planters Club somewhere inland. So that is were the Jungle bar was. I had completedly forgotten that gem. Hazy memories of some Scandinavians in there being troublesome after a few bevies. Soon pacified with another beer. Yes just thinking about that last trip and the ports just flow like a travel guide. Liverpool - LasPalmas - Durban - Penang - Swettenham - Singapore - Xsinkiang - Otaru - Manila -Cebu - Singapore - Penang possibly called at Swettenham homeward as well but cannot remember - Trincomalee - Colombo - Durban - possibly Las Palmas - Lisbon - Liverpool. Think that trip was near 6 months, extra long as we were in China a longtime in the ice!! and Red Guards. Seem to also recollect that we were the first Bluey to go back after the Glen Line arrests and other Bluey troubles. Great memories, thanks for the posting.
Regards
Hawkey01(Gleam) I found your article very interesting where you write about being in Sarpedon in 1969 i sailed in a few blueys but my last ship was the shaw savill ship Athenic i joined her in Auckland in july 69 went across to the states then got orders to take her out east to the breakers in Kaoishiung i was the last man to steer Athenic as we entered the berth at the breakers we moored alongside Sarpedon which was in the proces of being broken up this would have been around late november 69 .

ernhelenbarrett
12th April 2007, 12:19
Happy memories of Port Swettenham and Penang, visited both places many times with Ben Line on the old BenVrackie (ex SamAffric) and BenCruachan
in 1948-54 during the Malaysian Emergency and had many a swim at the Mission, also remember the outdoors Cinema, wondered why the locals took an " brolly", soon found out whenthe rains came down!!. We couldntg get ashore much due to the Communist Activities, a couple of our Cadets on Benattow were shot in Penang, but the Article sure brought back memories
Regards Ern Barrett

hawkey01
12th April 2007, 13:01
Durango,
sorry taken a while to get back on this. Yes have just had a look in my discharge book regarding dates. I joined Sarpedon on 25th Nov 1968 and signed off 16th April 1969. So not quite the 6 months I mentioned but near 5 months. As far a I can remember after coasting she was to depart for the scrap yard. Dont know if she went out with cargo or light ship. She would have arrived out there sometime May/June I expect. Always sad to see these vessels go to scrap but she had a long career and there were many things wrong with here and I seem to remember that we had a lot of cement boxes etc. Happy memories of a tremendous sea ship.
Hawkey01(Jester) (Jester)

Captain America
29th November 2008, 16:31
I am new to the forums, so reading the old topics and replying will tend to "bump" them. Not always a bad thing! The description you gave of Swettenham really brought back memories for me. Has anybody bounced up the channel because their vessel had limited draught? Our first officer said we had about 6 feet under the keel and we couldn't lower the Sal log. I vividly remember a couple of visits to the mission. I remember most the feeling of relaxation sitting back with a beer. And let's not forget the rain! Great memories stirred by your piece. :)

Hugh Ferguson
29th November 2008, 17:22
Thanks for posting that Sew Sew La, fascinating account!
My first time to Swettenham was in late 1946 when, and also wherever you went, there was much delay. My ship was the Samcree and it was Radar Robb's first command. He believed in bringing a bit of fun to those endless hours waiting for a berth, and whilst we were at anchor he thought it would be a good idea to test the line throwing apparatus. As some may remember in a Liberty ship this resembled a small cannon with a lump of cast iron about the size and shape of an old deep-sea lead. This infernal machine was trundled out onto the boat-deck and made fast to the rail with most of the length of a heaving line! Put a double charge in said Radar-well, orders is orders and all was ready. We stood well back and, I think it was the mate, pulled the lanyard. There was one hell of a bang and the infernal machine took off across the deck as if it had'nt had any mooring whatever. Before the many turns of the heaving line parted it bent the rails it was moored to and gave the funnel one hell of a whack leaving a dent in it which I'm sure she would have carried to the breakers.
Incidentally, outward bound we had a dusting in the Bay of Biscay and when she was completely discharged in the next port, Singapore, there was discovered so much structural damage that she was ordered straight back home and returned to the U.S.A as being unserviceable, and that despite strengthening when newly purchased. Maybe that was why the Samcree was a Blue Funnel ship which no-one ever seems to have heard about.

I forgot to mention that the weight, which we had expected to see splashing into the water, disappeared into the jungle!

Bill Davies
30th November 2008, 09:56
I noticed a phograph in gallery of a China boat on the buoys in Port Swettenham. I only remember Swettenham as a Port where you made a 'running moor'. Once or twice a tug would be employed on sailing due the ship swinging the wrong way resulting in foul cables.
PS: Danton never mentioned this!!!

Graham McMorine
7th December 2008, 19:45
Great article which brings back vivid memories of the first two ports I called at as 7th eng. aboard the "Astyanax " in 1965. Remember well, coming back from a visit ashore, the fight that the 3rd & 4th engineers had over payment to the trishaw driver, who had been with us all night in Penang. Many questions asked when we got back on board as the 3rd eng broke his nose and wrist. Wondered what the heck I`d let myself in for. ahhhhhhh, happy days.

Trader
8th December 2008, 02:10
I noticed a phograph in gallery of a China boat on the buoys in Port Swettenham. I only remember Swettenham as a Port where you made a 'running moor'. Once or twice a tug would be employed on sailing due the ship swinging the wrong way resulting in foul cables.
PS: Danton never mentioned this!!!

Hello Bill,
I remember going on the buoys at Swettenham, it sticks in my mind as it was the first time that I had seen it done. Hanging off the anchor, punching out the pin on the joining shackle (was it a"sphile pin"?) and hanging a massive mooring shackle to the chain. It was quite a hot job especially in Swettenham. I seem to remember doing it in Hong Kong as well.

Nice report Sow Sow La it brought back a few memories. I did six trips on the Bellerophon and two on the Astyanax between 1952/56 so went there quite a few times.

Alec.

Bill Davies
8th December 2008, 08:29
Alec,

Thanks yours.
Mooring to the buoys Homeward bound in Hong Kong I remember well but buoys in Swettenham..I'm not too clear about. There is an inkling there but not much. Memories are of the 'running moor'. I am sure it will come back one day.
Brgds .

Bill

PS: You are right about the 'spile pin'

Amy
14th July 2009, 16:46
Hi there - this is a bit off-topic but I am researching a book about my grandparents who are Chinese-Malaysian and was wondering if any of you can help me. I've been told my grandfather travelled between his hometown in Sarawak and Hainan Island (China) by ship in the 1930s. He came from a poor Chinese family.

Any ideas about what kind of vessel this might have been? How much it would have cost? The length of the trip? Any help you can provide or direction you can point me in would be very much appreciated!

Amy

Hugh Ferguson
14th July 2009, 18:20
Can it be true that I once saw the Pamir in Swettenham-or did I dream it?!?

R58484956
14th July 2009, 19:10
Greetings Amy and welcome to SN. Bon voyage.

Thread ~25

George Simpson
15th July 2009, 10:47
Happy memories of Port Swettenham we had New Year there 70/71 on my first ship Ben Cluech I remember as the youngest onboard the Captain said it was my job to ring the New Year what can I say I was lead astray and missed it by 15mins Mate kicked my bum and the Cadet had a moan as he had to get out of bed to do the needfull. Who goes to bed on New Years eve was my thought? Oh well thats life. I remeber the AB's introducing me to the local delights that night Oh what memories.

Pat Kennedy
15th July 2009, 12:24
Happy memories of Port Swettenham we had New Year there 70/71 on my first ship Ben Cluech I remember as the youngest onboard the Captain said it was my job to ring the New Year what can I say I was lead astray and missed it by 15mins Mate kicked my bum and the Cadet had a moan as he had to get out of bed to do the needfull. Who goes to bed on New Years eve was my thought? Oh well thats life. I remeber the AB's introducing me to the local delights that night Oh what memories.

There were local delights in Port Swettenham?
Tell me more, I was there a few times late fifties-early sixties, and there was nothing to do except play football with the tally clerks, who always won!
Pat(Thumb)

johnb42
15th July 2009, 12:49
Sad to hear that the Port View has gone. Had many enjoyable meals on the balcony there.

TonyAllen
15th July 2009, 18:55
Like you pat the only delight of port swet I recall was playing football and a few cold ones after in the mish,dont remember ever winning a game between 55/60 Regards Tony Allen

Pat Kennedy
15th July 2009, 21:11
Like you pat the only delight of port swet I recall was playing football and a few cold ones after in the mish,dont remember ever winning a game between 55/60 Regards Tony Allen

Tony,
Those tally clerks were unbeatable on their home ground, they played two or three times a week and trained every day, whereas we hadnt kicked a ball since leaving Birkenhead three weeks earlier. Plus the fact that we drank as much beer as we could and they didnt drink at all, and you have a total mismatch. It was Man Utd v The Rose and Crown.
Getting beat 10-0 was my personal best! I was left half, and didnt get a kick in that particular match.
Pat

holland25
15th July 2009, 21:40
The football teams used to return aboard suffering from heat exhaustion. They got no sympathy from the OM who said it was self inflicted. I reckon they must have been nutters running around in that heat. Mind you in the 1950s there wasnt much else to do in Port Swettenham.

Succour
16th July 2009, 11:52
The name of the restaurant with the seafood was the Port View. It's still there.
Cheers.
Succour.




SSL,
Very enjoyable. That stirred a few brain cells. I was fortunate to visit both places a few times. On my last visit on Sarpedon in 1969 we even berthed in Swnam which I am sure did not happed in the past or maybe it did! There used to be a restaurant in Swettenham that sold the most amazing curried crabs. Seem to remember it was where the shore launches etc use to land us. Name has gone. Also spent New Year celebrating in a big Planters Club somewhere inland. So that is were the Jungle bar was. I had completedly forgotten that gem. Hazy memories of some Scandinavians in there being troublesome after a few bevies. Soon pacified with another beer. Yes just thinking about that last trip and the ports just flow like a travel guide. Liverpool - LasPalmas - Durban - Penang - Swettenham - Singapore - Xsinkiang - Otaru - Manila -Cebu - Singapore - Penang possibly called at Swettenham homeward as well but cannot remember - Trincomalee - Colombo - Durban - possibly Las Palmas - Lisbon - Liverpool. Think that trip was near 6 months, extra long as we were in China a longtime in the ice!! and Red Guards. Seem to also recollect that we were the first Bluey to go back after the Glen Line arrests and other Bluey troubles. Great memories, thanks for the posting.
Regards
Hawkey01(Gleam)

Moulder
16th July 2009, 15:37
SSL
Many thanks for this thread - Port Swettenham was my first ever run ashore on my first trip on the Benhope in 1971. We also called there homeward bound and suffered a fire in number 5 hold (Copra) so were there for a couple more weeks until we could get replacement CO2 bottles.

Steve.
(Thumb)

oceangoer
16th July 2009, 21:26
I remember playing Malay Railways at cricket there when I was on Diomed. Led by the 3rd Mate (Willie Worsnop) we beat 'em !
Let's see .. there was Duke Walker, Bo Evans, Bren Healey, Ralph Elliot, Mal Winspur and half a dozen others whose names have drifted off into the sunset.
A good couple of days.

Bill Davies
16th July 2009, 23:47
Can it be true that I once saw the Pamir in Swettenham-or did I dream it?!?

Subconscious thoughts of Swettenham I would say were a nightmare rather than a dream.

Barber Hector
19th July 2009, 16:46
Well I called at Swettybum umpteen occasions during my early years at sea. We used to be at the buoys and alongside. Always went ashore for a sight even though I wasnt keen on the place and the Port View and the Mish were obvious watering holes.
Playing the locals at football was always a disaster; due to their enthusiasm of thrashing the white men, we had to stop the games on occasion and count heads. 11 aside was considered mininum not maximum as far as they were concerned.
I liked watching the mud skippers whilse waiting for the boat to take us back to the ship.
An amusing thing. When VHF communications came in the local VHF station at Swettybum was Kelang. We felt a bit daft calling klang klang klang radio......
Thank you SSL for your detailed report which brought back nice memories of my earlier days at sea.

Macphail
19th July 2009, 21:44
Port Swettenham happy times...
Up to Klang village in the trishaw, race back with the trishaw man in the passenger seat. After everything closed we where told that we could get a beer in the Mar Jong casino, tried it, an upstairs place, Chinese only, the leckie was in the party, on our departure we passed a very large fuse box in the front hallway, the leckie pulled all the fuses, the casino was in full swing, blackout, mayhem, a screaming mob of Chinese brandishing knifes and cleavers chased us through the streets.
We hid in a garden and when everything was quite we made our way back to the ship.

John

Bill Davies
20th July 2009, 19:37
What happens when we get old?
I have just read about the 'buoys' in Port Swettenham and I have in the past had exchanges with Trader (Alec) about this very item. In my mind Swettenham' was 'Running Moor' with the usual 'lash up' on departure with tug assistance to clear the chains. I can visual going to the 'buoys' homeward bound in HK but PS ...no.

Macphail
20th July 2009, 19:55
Bill,
At the bouys PS 1964.

http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/149574/ppuser/29857

John.

Pat Kennedy
20th July 2009, 20:00
What happens when we get old?
I have just read about the 'buoys' in Port Swettenham and I have in the past had exchanges with Trader (Alec) about this very item. In my mind Swettenham' was 'Running Moor' with the usual 'lash up' on departure with tug assistance to clear the chains. I can visual going to the 'buoys' homeward bound in HK but PS ...no.

Bill,
I only ever moored to bouys in HK and Manila while in BF.
I saw mooring bouys in Shanghai, but we always went alongside there.
Pat

Bill Davies
20th July 2009, 21:37
Bill,
At the bouys PS 1964.

http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/149574/ppuser/29857

John.

Thanks John.

Tai Pan
23rd July 2009, 09:15
Glens always went alongside

Bill Davies
23rd July 2009, 09:48
Thanks John.

I am learning something new everyday.
Surprising how little I knew of the operational difference re BF/GL.
The big surprise being the amount of sailors they carried on deck revealed yesterday by 'bobby bluie'.

Bill

daijones
10th June 2014, 03:25
Fascinating piece! I'wring this on the balcony of our son's flat near Orchard Road in Singapore - it's 30 degrees already. Last visit here was 2011. My sea time was short and sweet, from 1961 - 1964 as a midshipman with Blue Funnel. Many happy memories brought back by your forums. I am from Manchester but have lived in Formby near Liverpool since 1976. Completed my civil service career where my seagoing started - in India Buildings! Hope to post more soon - I'm told we off now to be tourists in Chinatown and Sentosa.

Succour
10th June 2014, 07:13
Hello lads! Succour here.

How I have enjoyed the postings on this thread and Sew Sew Lah did a most enjoyable piece I must say.
After living here in Malaysia for the past 18 years (Never forgot the place and came back....thank you Blue Flue) these two places are close to my heart....and are revisited time and time again by this now old man, as I like to think it brings me closer to my old shipmates, and I can see their faces and picture them there.
When with Blue Flue I worked with so many great lads and I promised myself that one day no matter how late in life I would marry a china mans daughter....found the Chinese lads on the Blue Flue ships to be salt of the earth types, would give you a hearty greeting when you rejoined a ship for another voyage, and would never let you down unless there were exceptional circumstances at play. Julia and I have been married now for 16 years and she is the number one daughter of Mr Chin Ah Poy who was a government servant here under the time of the British administration. He worked in KL and was registrar of births and marriages for many years after service with the special branch during the Japanese occupation and Communist insurgence. He passed away some while back unfortunately. When I first met him I discovered he was an extraordinary man.
He was born in Ipoh the son of a chinese herbal medicine seller with a small corner store in Teluk Intan in the northern state of Perak, tin mining was big in Ipoh in those early years and the Chinese tin miners had many ailments as tin mining was dangerous and Malaria was widespread. He attended the Chinese Methodist school for boys. Every book he owned was earned by him coming first in reading and writing of English, and being rather good at maths by using an abacus, he could do Chinese brush painting and calligraphy and was very well read. Speaking Three languages:- English, Mandarin, Bahasa Malayu, and a good smattering of Tamil, the British were more than happy to employ such a lad and he was the first Chinese Affairs officer engaged by the British.
Essentially an intelligence Officer who by the knowledge gained from the Chinese villagers could predict the next moves of the Communists led by the famous Chin Pen.
On first meeting he asked me why I didn't have a car....having only been in Malaysia for 18 months I replied I hadn't saved enough money yet.....he looked at me sideways and said "Well I don't let my daughter walk in the hot sun, and I suggest neither should you".....first lesson taught.
A delightful old character who had a small fridge in his room stacked with bulldog Guinness and mini Cadbury chocolate bars. which he would share with me whenever I went for a chit chat with him.

Julia and I now live in KL at a place called Puchong and we visit the old mans grave whenever we pass the place.
Going through my old pictures of Penang and Port Swett, and once resized will post them and hope it will stir a few memories for the SN members.

I hope this wee story might have brought some pleasant memories as a contribution to the thread....Best wishes lads.
Succour

Farmer John
10th June 2014, 22:52
When we arrived back at Port Swettenham jetty we walked to the railway station. As we walked along, so many memories came flooding back. The heat, smells, sounds, monsoon ditches, scurrying chit-chats, and the sound of crickets.


After it had gone dark, the breeze was still very warm but clammy, and although it hadn’t rained, the humidity made everything wet to touch. As we came into Georgetown the quay was illuminated by the Godown arc-lights, and alongside was a small lighter unloading sacks of something or other under ‘cluster’ lights. I could well have been leaning over the focsle bulwark, or on the poop rail, waiting to throw a heaving line ashore from a ‘bluey’ arriving after dark.


These two quotes made my hair rise on end, so very evocative, I could smell the place and hear and smell it. You could write a book and not improve on this.

I love this.

We went to foreign lands, and maybe there are none left.

richardwakeley
11th June 2014, 03:34
A great resurrected thread! Brings back my own memories of the Port View etc. Have now read Sow-Sow-La's opening post, and realised that his last voyage to Port Swettenham homeward bound in August 1970, was my own first Blue Funnel trip. Next port was Colombo. I would love to ask him if he remembers the 2nd R/O on that voyage but, unfortunately, he has not posted here for over 7 years now.

beedeesea
11th June 2014, 14:40
Have you tried e-mailing him, Richard?

Brian

RayL
11th June 2014, 17:35
I just found this thread serendipitously but found it fascinating--thank you all. I clearly remember seeing all the blue funnels here and there on the horizon when my ship was anchored near Penang for a week or so in January 1967.

My interest in the topic stems from the final act in my sea career, which happened to open when the Bank Line ship I was on anchored at Penang with a cargo brought from Cairns. I was the R/O, and unbeknown to me there was bad news awaiting me for my mother had passed away suddenly at the age of 54 and they naturally hadn't felt able to radio it in the usual way.

I learned later that my brother had asked Bank Line to fly me home, but their hard, business-like answer was that I should in that case be made to pay not only my own air fare but also that of my replacement.

During our stay in Penang I had the local servicing and repair people in to deal with a fault on a piece of gear (the radar perhaps) and I became so friendly with the guy that he decided to treat me to a tour of the island in his car. Quite early in the journey, he looked in his rear-view mirror and informed me that it was payday and he was convinced he was being followed by an armed bandit who was after his pay packet. He drove to the grand house of the Police Superintendent who he knew personally, and mercifully we were given entry without delay. The presumed bandit also stopped outside the house, which of course gave credence to my friend's suspicions. The Superintendent wasn't home, but we were given sanctuary there until he arrived; by which time the bandit had given up and departed.

Penang, of course, will always represent a sad time in my life. I remember hiring a rickshaw bike to pedal me out of town and far enough into the countryside to let me climb a secluded hill where I could gather a few thoughts, but the man insisted on hanging around so that he could pedal me back so it didn't quite work out as I'd planned.

The tragedy led me to re-contact an old girlfriend and our relationship struck up once more. A few weeks later, in Bremen, the whole ship's crew was changed after being aboard a mere five months--a remarkable happening for a Bank Line ship. Thus I decided (later) to leave the sea and not go back to my Marconi job. A whole new chapter of my life opened, and it all began in Penang.

Hugh Ferguson
11th June 2014, 21:16
Some photos I took of K.L. on a day off in 1946.

Farmer John
11th June 2014, 22:48
My memory is messed up, not just by time but by other things too, but, am I imagining this, were there others ports up past P S and Penang that you could end up visiting? I seem to remember doing about 2 to 3, very short transits, all out for docking standby as you would expect, and getting cumulatively knackered.

Aberdonian
11th June 2014, 23:09
My memory is messed up, not just by time but by other things too, but, am I imagining this, were there others ports up past P S and Penang that you could end up visiting? I seem to remember doing about 2 to 3, very short transits, all out for docking standby as you would expect, and getting cumulatively knackered.

In 1962 the Benmhor anchored off Rompin, on the east coast of Malaya for a single day in order to discharge explosives for coal mines in the vicinity. Six security men armed with shotguns came on board along with the labour.

We also called at Dungun where I think we loaded tin.

Keith

Succour
13th June 2014, 07:09
Hello SN Members.

Succour here.

Loved the pictures posted by Hugh, very nice to see KL as it looked in earlier days. Roughly where these pics are taken was at the Padang, with the cricket ground, and what was called the Spotted dog, (one member had two Dalmatians that used to sit on the Veranda and guard the Bar) This is known as the Royal Selangor club, and it has just celebrated it's 125 years of operation, providing sports and recreational facilities, as well as a nice restaurant and bar at which to tell stories and spin a few yarns. Although a private members club, The Royal Selangor can nowadays be visited during the day by participating in the KL City Heritage walk, which allows tourists to visit all the important and Heritage buildings surrounding the Padang. This is very popular and a very good way to get a brief history of this City which started it's life as a small tin mining town at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers. Hugh's picture of the Mosque shows the exact spot where all this started.
Currently putting together a set of pics taken at Penang and around the KL Padang which will post after resizing.

Enjoying this thread so much.
Best wishes lads.
Succour.

Hugh Ferguson
13th June 2014, 08:44
I've had a go at improving the KL pictures:-

Succour
30th June 2014, 06:10
Hello lads.

I have just got round to gathering some fairly recent pics of KL.

I'm sure Hugh will see some changes to the old place.

Sadly was unable to find the pics of the Mosque which is located at the muddy confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers where the whole thing started. Kuala Lumpur means muddy confluence in Bahasa Malayu.
The Building displaying the numbers 125 is the Spotted dog or to give it it's full title The Royal Selangor Club.
The white building with the minarets is the old railway station where you could catch a train to Singapore. Now there is a new KL Central railway station where trains can be boarded to Singapore and north to Ipoh and Thailand.

If I come across more pics in the future I will post them.
Also hopefully some Penang ones too. As we all get older it becomes increasingly harder to find things you swore you could just put your hand to.

Hugh when I stand close to the Padang I can picture you there as a young man. Kind regards Sir.
Succour.

Succour
30th June 2014, 07:14
Hello lads,

just when I thought I had misplaced some Penang pics lo and behold, up they popped.

Hope these few pics will bring back a few happy memories of nights ashore up Chulia Street at the Hong Kong bar.

The lad behind the bar is Peter who now runs the place with his sister. On the wall at the back of the bar are framed pics of their Mother and Father who most lads might remember from the sixties and seventies. They had a fire some time ago and lost some of their much treasured black and white photo albums of lads off various ships over the years. Some album's did survive however and are a great way to spend an afternoon of browsing trying to find a familiar face, lots of Bluey's of course, accompanied by a few Tiger beers it was great fun.

The Aussie air base is now closed, so Hong Kong bar is not so busy now, and Peter had a slight stroke last year but still greets his customers with a smile. They still have an old juke box and it felt like yesterday once more.

Sorry, the external pic of the pub fell over and not sure how to rotate it.

Cheers lads.
Succour.

makko
30th June 2014, 22:08
Thanks for the pics! Memories flood back. I found my Dad's signature in an old album from 58 or 59. Sad that a lot of memorabilia was lost but c'est la vie.
Rgds.
Dave

Mickdunn
1st July 2014, 03:23
Thanks for the article on pennang and p/s SSL.which I have just read today.
Memories came flooding back. I sailed on the 6 month old Melampus on New Year's Eve 61/62 as deck boy very excited couldn't understand why most of the crowd where crying! Found out over the years though.
I remember the smells and sights of both ports after reading your article.can you imagine dumping all that gash over the side now.?
One bad memorie was docking in Port Swettenham and finding one of blueys A/B'sin hospital having lost is leg below the knee the day before while lowering a Derrick it was court in a bight.blue funnel looked after him by getting him a job in Australia I heard later.well thanks for the memories mate.
Cheers mick dunn.

PADDY
4th July 2014, 10:35
That AB was Johnny Kaye. Story can be seen on this site:

www.bluefunnel.myzen.co.uk/bluefunnel/elpenor/elpenor.htm.

Paddy

Mickdunn
13th July 2014, 02:19
[QUOTE=PADDY;929618]That AB was Johnny Kaye. Story can thankbe seen on this site:

www.bluefunnel.myzen.co.uk/bluefunnel/elpenor/elpenor.htm.

Paddy[/QUO TE]