Blue Flue Shore Gang

Phil Saul
21st October 2008, 03:03
Upon completion of a three month voyage in the P boats we were allowed 12 days leave.
At the end of the leave period the catering crowd had to report to Vittoria Dock to join the shore gang engaged in storing the various Bluies prior to them sailing deep sea.
We worked on the gang until our own ship returned to Birkenhead after coasting and then joined her to go deep sea.

Lunch times were spent in the snug in the Wheatsheaf, on Corporation Rd, or if we were offside with Fran, the barmaid, we drank in the Royal next door.
The entire day was spent trying to do as little work as possible and trying to avoid Mr Sparrow and Mr Dewhurst, the catering superintendents.

The shore gang was only made up of catering staff, as the deck crowd only turned up on sailing day or shortly before so can anyone enlighten me as to what the deck crowd did during the period between leave ending and them rejoining to go deep sea.

Was there a shoregang for deck crowd (I don't recall one) or were they paid an allowance whilst on extended leave ?

Although I knocked about with quite a few of the deck crowd while at sea I never thought to ask what they did during that period and just assumed that they were working in other ships, but as most Bluies left from Birkenhead and I never saw these guys around, that can't have been the case.

Anyone got the answer.
Regards Phil (Thumb)

Pat Kennedy
21st October 2008, 08:02
Phil,
It was a little different for the deck crowd. when your paid leave was finished, Mr Greenwood would normally offer you a coasting job, if you were going back for another voyage. Very rarely you could get in the shore gang for a while, but Big Sid, the shore bosun at the time, was very choosy as to who he had in his crowd. Otherwise, it was unpaid leave.
Pat

TonyAllen
21st October 2008, 13:59
My god. Mr Sparrow, when I was sent by the pool to Oddessey Mr sparrow took me to one side and gave me a lecture on what was expected of me now that I was to join the "China Boats" I was only a galley boy not a cadet.However the shore gang was one of the greatest times with some of the best lads you could wish to meet Ronnie Baker Alan Pugh Ronnie Clark Brian Yates Arthur Graham Jimmy Mcintyre Bill Johnston Chef Alf brierly Chef
Arthur Feeney Baker. I dont think I met anybody that I did not like

jmcg
21st October 2008, 22:29
Phil,
It was a little different for the deck crowd. when your paid leave was finished, Mr Greenwood would normally offer you a coasting job, if you were going back for another voyage. Very rarely you could get in the shore gang for a while, but Big Sid, the shore bosun at the time, was very choosy as to who he had in his crowd. Otherwise, it was unpaid leave.
Pat

Pat

How did one get into the shore gang. There were untouchables- and until you were safely locked in before entry to the river they held court. It amazed me how thorough and confidently they lashed deck cargo. No long lengths of wire left and bulldog grips on the correct way. Usually drums of Anti Knock Compound from United Octel. Subsequently OCTEL chartered purpose built tankers - Else Ann was one.

In some ways they were completely anonymous - as deck crowd joining you rarely had anything to do with them but their presence was felt until the final lock in.

Unpaid leave? Not so sure about that as applicable to me. I always had a "bunce" when I responded to that telegram from Mr G or Mr E. Never really understood what it was for and I did not ask any questions. It was in "chit" form and had to be cashed in at the cash office. Do you recall?

Happy days.

BW

J

Pat Kennedy
22nd October 2008, 08:16
I got in the Birkenhead shoregang one time. My father was seriously ill and I approached Mr Greenwood and asked him could I go in the gang temporarily. He sent me down to Vittoria dock to see Sid Bainbridge, who grudgingly allowed me to join his crew.
They were all ABs with many years experience and I was very much an outsider, being only a young EDH. I stuck it out for about six weeks, then went back to sea.
You will, I'm sure, remember how the shore gang would be out in force for a docking, ten men to each rope as they walked the ship through the locks. There was a strict pecking order here, the newest member, ie me, closest to the edge of the wall struggling with the soaking wet section of rope, to the oldest member carrying the heaving line. Thats what it was like with every job, the new guy got the dirty, heavy work all the time.
I believe the Liverpool shore gang was a 'happier ship', but Birkenhead was no fun.
Pat

jmcg
22nd October 2008, 09:01
Was there a dedicated BF shore gang in Glasgow?

J.

Pat Kennedy
22nd October 2008, 09:30
Was there a dedicated BF shore gang in Glasgow?

J.

Yes, there was, but they were not so many, perhaps ten or fifteen of them. Their leader was a 'Teuchter' named Hector, who was held in high regard by those who knew him.
Pat

jaigee
22nd October 2008, 10:53
Slightly off subject, but did anyone know anything of my late uncle Les Bell?
He was a foreman or similar at Odyssey Works in the 50's, but in which department I am afraid I do not know.
Same old story, you only show an interest when it is too late.

jimmys
22nd October 2008, 11:54
When I first joined BF I was working in the Engineers repair squad on a turbine victory ship in Vittoria Dock.Cant remember name. We were taking out large steam pipes, they were going to Oddy Works for repair. Some of the shore gang were helping us sling them out into the truck.
I had just bought a wickerwork trunk and was looking for someone to cover it with canvas. I asked one of the Sailors in the gang who could do it. He said there are people who can do it but you need to ask the Bosun, they wont do it until he says so. Approx. transcript of conversation with the Bosun :-

Who are you------ Jimmy Smith
Where do you come from----- Glasgow
You an engineer-------yes
How long have you been in the Company---- a week
How long have you been to sea -----I have never been to sea
You want a box covered with canvas--- yes
What do you think this is--I dont know
Wheres the box--- Kingston House
A lot of bloody good its doing there!!! Bring it over here tomorrow.

I spoke to the Sailor again, and he said the Bosun is going to get it done for you. If he wasn't you would have been told to p**s off.

A right nice job it was to I had to give the lad who did it a nice backhander. It was worth it.

regards
jimmy

Pat Kennedy
22nd October 2008, 21:02
My god. Mr Sparrow, when I was sent by the pool to Oddessey Mr sparrow took me to one side and gave me a lecture on what was expected of me now that I was to join the "China Boats" I was only a galley boy not a cadet.However the shore gang was one of the greatest times with some of the best lads you could wish to meet Ronnie Baker Alan Pugh Ronnie Clark Brian Yates Arthur Graham Jimmy Mcintyre Bill Johnston Chef Alf brierly Chef
Arthur Feeney Baker. I dont think I met anybody that I did not like

Tony,
Did you ever come across those Liverpool Chinese catering crowd ? they only seemed to work Home Trade, usually on the 'P' or 'H' boats, and between ships they were employed in the shore gang. They were all madmen, scousers born and bred despite their looks. I coasted with them a few times as peggy and they were brilliant shipmates.
Pat

TonyAllen
22nd October 2008, 22:26
Pat. only once did I work with the Chinese shore gang as you say they mostly did the coast,soon as you payed off at Gladstone they appeared and took over left you in no doubt who was now in charge first thing they did was go straight into the fridges.Tell you what they were very sharp dressers and the girls loved them at the Grafton always had plenty of dough.thats because the down below crowed always brought loads of stuff back from HK
down in the lasareat for the restaurants that they were beginning to open up in the pool Tony

Phil Saul
23rd October 2008, 01:38
Phil,
It was a little different for the deck crowd. when your paid leave was finished, Mr Greenwood would normally offer you a coasting job, if you were going back for another voyage. Very rarely you could get in the shore gang for a while, but Big Sid, the shore bosun at the time, was very choosy as to who he had in his crowd. Otherwise, it was unpaid leave.
Pat

Thanks for that Pat.
It probably explains why the deck crowd changed so often on the P boats compared to the catering crowd.
If you weren't getting paid leave and had to coast to get any money you would probably stay with the ship you were coasting to go deep sea if a vacancy came up.

Regards Phil (Thumb)

Phil Saul
23rd October 2008, 02:09
My god. Mr Sparrow, when I was sent by the pool to Oddessey Mr sparrow took me to one side and gave me a lecture on what was expected of me now that I was to join the "China Boats" I was only a galley boy not a cadet.However the shore gang was one of the greatest times with some of the best lads you could wish to meet Ronnie Baker Alan Pugh Ronnie Clark Brian Yates Arthur Graham Jimmy Mcintyre Bill Johnston Chef Alf brierly Chef
Arthur Feeney Baker. I dont think I met anybody that I did not like

Yes Tony, Mr Sparrow was a bit of a stickler for doing things by the book and everyone was terrified of him.
I can recall one day while storing a ship we were all in the messroom playing poker and had a pile of money on the table when Mr sparrow walked in, swept all the money off the table into his bowler hat and said "that's a donation to the life-boat fund."
No-one said a word, and there would have been a few bob on the table.
Everyone was moaning about the money but even the 'hard' men didn't have the balls to ask for it back.
He was quite a character but I always avoided him like the plague as he scared me to death and if I spotted him coming toward me on the dock I would nip through the sheds, which did not always work unfortunately.

Regards Phil (Thumb)

R651400
23rd October 2008, 05:47
Phil, thanks for this thread as it brings a new light into the BF experience. My recollections as a R/O were four months at sea, a months leave and now it appears the leave must have been graded somewhat. I had an email from someone a while back who was writing on Liverpool's Chinese and would have been very interested in posting 11.

jimmys
23rd October 2008, 08:05
Yes The Chinese crowd used to bring a lot of stuff back from Hong Kong and the East. A lot of it you injected or put in pipes and smoked.
They stashed in the engine room, the black gang rummagers did not like the engine rooms and the engineers did not like the black gang. Spanners used to drop. They used to have a few little spanners in the gang for show, they were wasting their time. They found very little. A nut to them was on the shoulderblades, they were useless down below.
The engineers were not involved in it but because of UK customs did nothing to stop it.

Does anybody recall the Mah Yong games of the Chinese shore gangs and crews, a sight to see.

regards
jimmys

Phil Saul
24th October 2008, 01:21
Phil, thanks for this thread as it brings a new light into the BF experience. My recollections as a R/O were four months at sea, a months leave and now it appears the leave must have been graded somewhat. I had an email from someone a while back who was writing on Liverpool's Chinese and would have been very interested in posting 11.

Leave equated to one day for every week you were away for the catering crowd until the '66 strike and I suppose varied by rank.
Following the strike it increased but I can't recall what it increased to.
I do know that prior to the strike work on the shore gang included Saturday mornings but that was abolished after the strike.
Having to work the shore gang on Saturdays was a real drag for me as I lived in Chester which was an hours bus ride away and Saturdays always cost me money.
As soon as we knocked off at Saturday lunch time it was straight into the pub for an hour and then I had to catch the bus home for an hour.
Unfortunately my bladder was only good for half the distance so I always ended up having to get off the bus at Great Sutton and duck into the Black Swan to use the loo, then have another pint while I waited for the next bus.
With the beer and the extra bus fare it turned into an expensive day for the sake of a couple of hours work.
And every week I swore I would not drink the following Saturday but always did and went through the whole process again.
I had a great mate, Mick Barber, who lived in Great Sutton and if he and I were on the shore gang together then the session in the Swan always turned into another lost Saturday.
The best things about the shore gang were breakfast in the dockers caff at Vittoria Dock and the lunch time sessions in the pub.
Happy days

Regards Phil (Thumb)

R651400
24th October 2008, 06:37
The leave must have varied by rank, I never really gave it much thought as I only did a double voyage on one ship, my last and one and only with a Liverpool crew. BF were tight in some ways but I always found very generous with leave. I've even phoned between ships to see if they had forgotten me. Your bus experience I can appreciate when visiting an old MN pal for a few jars. Modern buses with on-board toilets are much appreciated after such sessions.

Pat Kennedy
24th October 2008, 09:09
Phil,
prior to 66, leave was given at one day per week away plus one day for every Sunday at sea.
Did you run into Jake Finn and Johnny Barton, a couple of catering crew from Wallasey? I believe both of them became Chief steward eventually.
Pat

Phil Saul
24th October 2008, 23:56
Phil,
prior to 66, leave was given at one day per week away plus one day for every Sunday at sea.
Did you run into Jake Finn and Johnny Barton, a couple of catering crew from Wallasey? I believe both of them became Chief steward eventually.
Pat

Hi Pat,
Thanks again for putting me straight on leave entitlement.
It was such a long time ago now it's hard to remember the exact details and I don't have my discharge book to refer to as I left it in the Westmorland when I skinned out in NZ.
Jake Finn was the 'saloon bobby' in the Peleus for my first 3 trips and Johnny Barton I used to bump into on the shore gang now and again.
Jake was a great guy but could be a right armhole on occasion.
If he was in one of his moods and he found a plate that had not been washed properly he made us boy ratings wash the lot again, and there were an awful lot of plates in those P boats !!
The only deck crowd that I can recall were Paddy Proctor, the bosun, and Billy Mehans (think that's how his name was spelt) an AB, who used to brag about beating up Daniel Farsons, the TV personality.
I was 'peggy' at some stage on my first trip, as the catering boys jobs were rotated every month to give us the experience and if it hadn't been for Paddy Proctor I would have ended up toast, as some of those AB's were real hard bastards and weren't averse to thumping a sixteen year old if the job wasn't done to their satisfaction. Fortunately, Paddy used to step in and stop it going too far for which I was forever grateful.
Other catering crowd I can recall were Paul Keller, the Black Cap Chef, who used to do all the special luncheons aboard ships in Birkenhead for VIPs, and Paul Maddrell, the baker in the Peleus.

Regards Phil (Thumb)

Tai Pan
25th October 2008, 11:02
The leave must have varied by rank, I never really gave it much thought as I only did a double voyage on one ship, my last and one and only with a Liverpool crew. BF were tight in some ways but I always found very generous with leave. I've even phoned between ships to see if they had forgotten me. Your bus experience I can appreciate when visiting an old MN pal for a few jars. Modern buses with on-board toilets are much appreciated after such sessions.

As an R/O I was always paid on leave, even between ships, Charlie Metcalf would give you some odd jobs to do, so we were always on pay regardless of how long.Two great men, Stan and Charlie.(Thumb)

Pat Kennedy
25th October 2008, 19:20
Phil,
I remember Paul Keller, but not the ship. Paddy Procter I knew by reputation only but it was a good reputation, and as for Daniel Farson, he had a pub in London I believe, somewhere near the Royal docks.
Jake Finn was a friend back in the sixties, we used to drink in the Primrose in Wallasey, and Jake organised my 21st birthday 'night out', which ended up in the Navy Club at Egremont Ferry. I lost touch many years ago after I got married.
Regards,
Pat

John Williams 56-65
25th October 2008, 20:12
Phil,
I remember Paul Keller, but not the ship. Paddy Procter I knew by reputation only but it was a good reputation, and as for Daniel Farson, he had a pub in London I believe, somewhere near the Royal docks.
Jake Finn was a friend back in the sixties, we used to drink in the Primrose in Wallasey, and Jake organised my 21st birthday 'night out', which ended up in the Navy Club at Egremont Ferry. I lost touch many years ago after I got married.
Regards,
Pat

Pat; Your mention of the Navy Club at Egremont in the ferry building, takes me back to a few great Saturday nights spent in there during the 1950s. I think it was there that I first heard Ken Dodd performing. Long before he became well known.

Pat Kennedy
25th October 2008, 21:34
Hi John,
Yes the Navy club was a good un, long gone of course, but I had a few memorable nights in there. It looked a right dump from outside but was surprisingly cosy inside. Another one was the Starboard Light by the old B'head market. Did you ever get in there? And that club over Burtons the Tailors in Grange Rd, the name has slipped my mind.
regards,
Pat