Website www.elderdempster.co.uk

Dunkwa
18th January 2009, 20:54
Hi, I run a small website at www.elderdempster.co.uk about my time at sea as an R/O.Some of material may interest you. Anyone got images of West Africa you'd like to share? or indeed other views of the ships I list Thanks for looking = Mike

Mimcoman
20th January 2009, 02:17
Hi, Mike:

Nice site and I enjoyed the description of GFRE's equipment. Agree with your assessment of the R50M!

Diddley-da-di-dah
Bill

enfieldforever
7th October 2012, 23:10
Yo Shipmate I sailed on RFA tug Earner 1959,would be interested in talking to you...I thought I was the last survivor!!! enjoyed your info and photos.Good luck...

Rogerfrench
8th October 2012, 15:43
I sailed on some of the ships that you did. Specifically:
Sekondi: April - August 1960
Aureol: April - July 1962
Eboe: July - September 1962
Onitsha: August - November 1963

Were we shipmates, perhaps?

I can't agree with your description of the Onitsha, I thought she was a fine ship. Maybe there was something adrift with your accommodation!

enfieldforever
8th October 2012, 17:22
Yo Shipmate...I only sailed on the RFA Earner (as per my post!)..think you have sent the wrong post to me....You naughty man..

brian3
8th October 2012, 17:54
enjoyed your site brought back happy memories of the onitsha

R651400
10th October 2012, 03:35
Dunkwa..Thanks for the intro to GFRE and a radio room slightly after my time.
Never had any problems with the Type M auto-alarm which I believe carried the name "Yeoman."
As ED's was a subsidiary of Blue Funnel wonder why they were never direct employ and it begs the question did Marconi allow their R/O's to continue with a specific shipping if they wished or if the shipping company requested?

Ron Stringer
10th October 2012, 09:39
it begs the question did Marconi allow their R/O's to continue with a specific shipping if they wished or if the shipping company requested?

In my time (1960-2002, with the first six years at sea), in general the people involved in the supply of R/Os were pretty pragmatic. They had the job of keeping all the balls in the air and trying to keep everyone happy. In the mid-20th Century, each major UK depot and the larger overseas depots) had a staff clerk who operated fairly autonomously, so there was some degree of variation from place to place. Later the assignments were more centralised.

If a Master (via the shipowner) requested that specific R/O be (re)appointed to his ship, I never heard of that request not being followed. Similarly a request to remove an R/O was never refused - the customer was always right.

The staff clerk had a difficult job in trying to match the number of R/Os seeking ships with the number of ships requiring R/Os. Sounds simple but you have to put in the pot things like sickness, earned leave, study leave and the need to train and upgrade the skills and qualifications of the workforce (to meet changes in technology and legislation), domestic emergencies, personality clashes aboard ships away from home for long periods, the logistics of moving people around the world (even when jet travel eventually became the norm) to remote outports. And of course the problem of the very nature of the job, which on most ships meant that the R/O worked entirely alone, not as part of a team, which tended to produce strong characters who were self-confident and often self-assertive. A somewhat heady brew.

The best staff clerks managed to provide the R/Os with ships that they were happy with, while still managing to man the ships of the less attractive companies and runs. Somebody had to sail on the Baron boats and with Chapman & Willis and many of those that did so had a good time in spite of the reputations that went before them.

Not everyone could be the Chief R/O on the latest passenger liner, or on a cross-Channel ferry that allowed him home with the family every night. Most R/Os would have a preferred run, or type of ship and was prepared to ask for it. Where possible the staff clerk would go along with their requests (it made his job so much easier) but since most ships had only room for one R/O, he couldn't place every request for a particular ship - the guy already on there would have objected!

Problems arose because of the shipping industry's endless cycle of boom and bust. Freight rates went up a little and they all rushed out and placed orders for new ships and ceased scrapping older vessels. Suddenly a lot more R/Os were needed. Until it was possible to train new R/Os (after completing a college course and obtaining the necessary qualifications, each R/O had to spend 6 months' sea-time under supervision, prior to being able to fill one of the vacancies created by the shipping boom) there was a shortfall. Normally this was met by keeping R/Os on ship for longer than normal e.g. by recalling people from leave before their leave was up - very unpopular with R/Os - or withholding paid study leave, which was also unpopular.

Faced with the prospect of a ship in port requiring an R/O by sailing time tomorrow morning, what could a staff clerk do when the only R/Os on his books were on leave or on a company training course? He would contact the ones nearest the end of their leave or course and ask if they would help him out by joining the ship. He might get refusals but you can be sure that the guy who accepted the job received "brownie points" and was well-treated by that staff clerk in future appointments. Like all human interfaces, cooperation generally produced the best all-round results. Future requests from those who were not prepared to cooperate could expect somewhat less receptive consideration from the staff clerk.

During the following shipping slumps, the problem was trying to keep everyone on ships, rather than sitting at home on full pay, with Head Office breathing down your neck about the cost you were incurring by not getting each man off leave and back to sea. Juggling material in a "just in time" operation is not easy but juggling men is almost impossible. They cannot just be ordered to go somewhere, they cannot always get to a particular place at the time required by the shipowner and when do they arrive they may not be willing to stay.

The best staff clerks could do all those things and keep most (not all) their R/O and shipowner "clients" happy. One or two less capable ones concentrated on just meeting the customers' demands and paid less attention to the interests of the R/O's. They quickly became known and were avoided by R/Os where possible. This in fact worked against those staff clerks since they had a reduced "pool" of men to choose from and met more resistance to their requests for help. But they alienated a lot of R/Os, to the disadvantage of the Company and it remains a mystery how they were allowed to continue in their jobs. I know of only one that was censured in my time, although I heard many stories of some others and their poor behaviour.

Mind you, on the other side of the balance, the files showed some outrageous behaviour by R/Os both aboard ship and ashore but I never heard any stories about those from the staff clerks. When we tell tales of incompetence and venality, it is always the other guy who is the villain.

stocksie
10th October 2012, 16:18
Well said Ron. I did,nt want a round the world with coaldust and bulk sugar with
"hungry Hains" but it got me 2 R/O with Jack Masterman on "Kenya" nor did I
want a 6 month trip up the gulf with no aircon "Nigaristan" but it got me a shore job!! Say hello to Stan P if you are still in touch.

R651400
10th October 2012, 17:00
#8. Ron, thanks for your erudite reply and taking the time to explain in detail a situation more complex than I as a direct-employ R/O could have imagined.
Have to say at the time and armed with only a 2nd class PMG it felt a privilege to have been accepted by Blue Funnel though with hindsight it would have been nice during my sea-time to have sampled a wider variety of British shipping companies.
Maybe you don't agree on this point but better still to have had all of them direct-employ.

Ron Stringer
10th October 2012, 17:28
We can all only speak from personal experience, since we were not able to try every ship during our sea service. Speaking personally: I always got the type of ship that I asked for, I always got all (within a day or two) the leave due to me, I was sent on equipment and other courses that I didn't ask for but enjoyed immensely, I got all the paid study leave that I requested.

I didn't get to choose my first ship where I did my supervised 6 months but it was a great ship on a great run. Later I had a run-in with a staff clerk whilst on a radar course and (I believe) was the one taken off the course for a pierhead jump as a result of his displeasure. Worked out well for me because that was a 12-passenger (good feeding) ship on regular 6-week runs to Western Mediterranean ports - the sort of ship that married guys were willing to kill to get on. Regrettably I had to leave after only one trip because my father suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised while we were coming across Biscay on the way home. My relief was arranged at the first UK port and a taxi was waiting on the dockside to take me to the railway station.

Thereafter the ships that I joined were all good ones and I would not have any hesitation about going back to them. When I got desperate for money, my subsequent ships were tankers, as requested. When I got enough money in the kitty and became tired of the attractions of Ras Tanura or Sidon, I said that I wanted to leave the sea and was immediately offered a job ashore as a technician.

Looking back, I can't see how I would have been better treated by any employer - better paid, maybe, but not better treated.

Other people tell me that I was lucky and that they did not have such happy experiences, but I can only tell it as I saw it.

makko
10th October 2012, 17:58
Just to reply to the query on ED's - Blue Funnel, Glen and ED's were all "run" as separate companies even though there was a migration of sea staff between them. When you found your "fit", then it would appear that you stayed on that run/class. I never could confirm, but I think the naughty ones were sent to the "difficult" ships, such as Helenus which had been converted from a tanker to a car carrier - Many tales are out there about that one! Other migrations were to OCL, especially when the Bays were to be reengined and the migration was then back to the Ocean Fleets motor vessels for the steam guys. I do not know when agency radio officers began - It was however before my time as the radio school at Odyssey was not being used.
Rgds.
Dave

jimg0nxx
10th October 2012, 23:58
ref #7 ED's were direct employed, from at least 1962 when I went to sea with Marconi. I believe that until some time previous to that they contracted Marconi R/Os.

Jim

R651400
11th October 2012, 06:57
It was however before my time as the radio school at Odyssey was not being used.Dave...There was always a radio department at Odyssey run in my time by an ex R/O called Shuttleworth but only for repairs and stores never training.
As for Blue Funnel to ED migration? There's a picture in Clarkson's Blue Funnel of the 1914 built Pyrrhus flying ED colours in the 1930's and obviously sailing the West Africa route.
My impression is Blue Funnel using the 1st R/O as "purser" with little or no radio duties would have been totally unacceptable to any radio company especially Marconi and therefore they had to direct employ.

makko
11th October 2012, 15:26
R651400,
During my time (80's) it was always the ChStwd who handled the purser duties. I remember going foreign flag, first on Barber Memnon (Monrovia) and then Barber Priam (Panama) - On Memnon, the ChStwd was the legendary Ron "Motorbike" Griffiths. Arriving in Balboa and having just done the entire transit, finally FWE and ready for brekky, Ron called me up to the office. He said,"Just stand there a minute" and then took a mugshot of me for my Liberian papers! You can imagine how that photo turned out!

I must admit, I never asked if the Sparks was a company man or what. One Sparks that I remember well was Kevin Gaughan from Greasby. We used to get together when on leave, starting at the Coach & Horses which, incidentally, had been run for many years by my great aunt who then moved on to the Magazines in New Brighton.

I was referring to the migration of officers between the different companies rather than the ships. Although I officially joined Ocean Transport & Trading (Ocean Fleets), my first ship Phrontis (ex Pembrokeshire) was actually owned by the China Mutual Steam Navigation Company, so therefore a "real" Blue Funnel! The 77 M's were owned by Airlease Moorgate, operated by ED I think and those on the Barber Blue Sea run carried BF funnels! Crazy days.
Rgds.
Dave

R651400
11th October 2012, 16:07
Well after my time Dave!!
Actually the founding name was Ocean Steamship Co acquiring China Mutual in 1902 whose ships all had Chinese names.
In 1936 after the collapse of the Royal Mail group Blue Funnel acquired Elder Dempster.
China Mutual was a first for me as well in 1956 with the aging Melampus.
I believe after BF moved to one R/O and full radio duties the "purser" work was taken over by the male nurse and obviously later by the chief steward.
By this time I guess the plug-hole was well in the cross sights!

les.edgecumbe
11th October 2012, 21:46
We can all only speak from personal experience, since we were not able to try every ship during our sea service. Speaking personally: I always got the type of ship that I asked for, I always got all (within a day or two) the leave due to me, I was sent on equipment and other courses that I didn't ask for but enjoyed immensely, I got all the paid study leave that I requested.

I didn't get to choose my first ship where I did my supervised 6 months but it was a great ship on a great run. Later I had a run-in with a staff clerk whilst on a radar course and (I believe) was the one taken off the course for a pierhead jump as a result of his displeasure. Worked out well for me because that was a 12-passenger (good feeding) ship on regular 6-week runs to Western Mediterranean ports - the sort of ship that married guys were willing to kill to get on. Regrettably I had to leave after only one trip because my father suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised while we were coming across Biscay on the way home. My relief was arranged at the first UK port and a taxi was waiting on the dockside to take me to the railway station.

Thereafter the ships that I joined were all good ones and I would not have any hesitation about going back to them. When I got desperate for money, my subsequent ships were tankers, as requested. When I got enough money in the kitty and became tired of the attractions of Ras Tanura or Sidon, I said that I wanted to leave the sea and was immediately offered a job ashore as a technician.

Looking back, I can't see how I would have been better treated by any employer - better paid, maybe, but not better treated.

Other people tell me that I was lucky and that they did not have such happy experiences, but I can only tell it as I saw it.

(Applause)Pleased to read your account of MIMCo Ron, very realistic. I do get fed up with the band wagon moans of doing the company down. I had similar experience with MIMCo ~ not all good, but hey where is it all good???

Bob Murdoch
30th October 2012, 11:03
(Applause)Pleased to read your account of MIMCo Ron, very realistic. I do get fed up with the band wagon moans of doing the company down. I had similar experience with MIMCo ~ not all good, but hey where is it all good???

Hi, Les,
Quite agree with you. Only did a couple of years with Marconi before going out to N.Z. but was well treated and enjoyed my time with them. Incidentally, did my 2nd three months as a 2nd on the same ship as Ron. Great ship, great run bummer of a chief.
Cheers Bob

purserjuk
31st October 2012, 09:38
When I was with ED's I sailed on several Henderson Line "K" boats where the R/O did the ship's acccounts etc. As Purser's Writers we were only concerned with the cargo paperwork except for the Kroo labour accounts which we looked after. However, I sailed on the "Bhamo" for four consecutive voyages and the R/O refused point blank to do the accounts. The "Old Man" asked me to do them and I found doing them was an excellent grounding for when I was promoted to Asst Purser-in-Charge. Incidentally we had a Burmese crew which was a nightmare converting rupees to sterling etc.

R651400
1st November 2012, 07:27
Like Blue Funnel, Paddy Henderson R/O's were direct employ and extra-curricular duties such as accounts and cargo paperwork were the norm.
Your ED R/O was obviously radio company employ and would not generally have been remunerated for this type of work.

Varley
1st November 2012, 11:03
As a Macaroni man I don't know if it was 'general' but the clerical bits I picked up came with an owner's bonus. My interests lay only with the kit and I would have sooner had more of that and less of the typewriter.

7912bob
9th December 2012, 00:20
I sailed on ED ships from about 1961 and was direct employ although the radio accounts were handled by mimco, as far as purser work was concerned I only did it twice when seconded to BF for two trips, I had to threaten resignation to get back to ED ships which to me seemed a much more relaxed regime. Sitting in an office doing cargo plans is not my idea of being a sparks. To add insult to injury the electrician was in charge of the radar and on one ship he hadnt a clue so I ended up doing that as well, still once back with the monkey all was well.(Hippy)

R651400
9th December 2012, 03:36
There must have been a change in employment policy circa 1960 as I never heard of any ED/BF interchange in my time.
I recall ED's had their offices in AH's India Buildings but was run as a completely separate entity and it would be difficult
to recognise they were actually owned by Alfred Holt at all.
Agree with your sentiments on Blue Flue's 1st R/O duties and which more than anything else was my reason for leaving.
Have mentioned somewhere else on SN about BF leckies servicing the radar, most not knowing the difference between
a klystron and magnetron.
As for getting back to ED and West Africa with BF always to the Far East, I know what my choice would be every time!

Varley
9th December 2012, 09:27
You cannot tar all E/Os with the same brush!

Those that came from some particular industries were well educated electrically. Unfortunately there was no certification structure that ensured that all were.

Many from both tribes could not recite (therfore presumably able to use) the three phase power equation. Now, without cribbing, can you? Not essential on DC ships I admit but not so anything I sailed on (I did do a little chug around the bay on Devoniun but that is the only DC board I have ever been near except at college - a thing of great beauty, too).

R651400
9th December 2012, 10:32
I wasn't aware anyone was tarring all E/O's with the same brush.
It was my experience only with those I sailed with and on one ship without an E/O the electrical work was carried out by the 3/E who was also given charge of radar maintenance and my findings were exactly the same.
Wasn't City & Guilds not some sought after qualification for shore based electricians?
Don't recall three phase ac equations being too high on my '54 PMG2 syllabus.

Ron Stringer
9th December 2012, 11:19
Only two of the ships that I sailed on carried an electrician. Even on a Shell tanker with a.c. supplies, in 1963 things electrical were looked after by the 3/E.

R651400
9th December 2012, 12:45
Cargo as paramount, BF circa '58 could be accused of slight overkill: Crew complement of old lady below..

Master, 3 - Mates, 2 R/O's, 4 - Middies, 4 - Engineers, Fridge Engineer, Electrician and very large 30-40 Singaporean Chinese crew.

Chief Steward

http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/182596/title/orestes/cat/510

eldersuk
9th December 2012, 23:52
Just for the record, EDs were never owned by BF who held a minority of shares which were acquired in order to keep the company afloat after the Kylsant debacle.

Later in the 1960s the two companies (and others) amalgamated to form Ocean Fleets.

7912bob
10th December 2012, 01:03
no need for elecs to get shirty, its just that a hell of a lot of sparks held bot maint. certificates and to me its only logical thats the guy to use

Varley
10th December 2012, 10:24
I wasn't aware anyone was tarring all E/O's with the same brush.
It was my experience only with those I sailed with and on one ship without an E/O the electrical work was carried out by the 3/E who was also given charge of radar maintenance and my findings were exactly the same.
Wasn't City & Guilds not some sought after qualification for shore based electricians?
Don't recall three phase ac equations being too high on my '54 PMG2 syllabus.

I don't know about '54 - wasn't that just anything that made a spark and poking little rocks with a small spring? - but by the 1960s most radio courses in technical colleges ran C&G alongside PMG/MPT as a matter of course (Colwyn Bay didn't hence my C&Gs came later and weren't Telecoms A or B). C&G, of course covered many topics and R/Os and E/Os would not have then studied everything in common.

Knowing so little about the rest of the ship, whether you are paid to fix it or otherwise, is NOT a badge of honour however common a trait (on every side of demarkations - artificial or otherwise).

richardwakeley
11th December 2012, 03:55
I actually liked doing the cargo paperwork in Blue Funnel as well as radio operating. My first go was on Cyclops, 1971-73, and as a "junior senior" I didn't have a 2nd R/O with me. We did immigration forms, crew cash advances etc., signed the boat notes and made up the deadweight distribution list at every port departure. Also made the cargo plans. I liked being involved with the cargo. Not normally required to do any tally clerk work. The Chief Steward did all the customs paperwork. Quite surprising really that Blue Flue sent us on all the courses, Radar, Marine Electronics etc. They certainly stood me in good stead when I joined Indo China and defected to the engine room and cranes.

R651400
11th December 2012, 12:14
Things were different with 2 R/O's and I was interested not one jot (using the term loosely) in the 1st R/O "purser" duties.

Bob Murdoch
11th December 2012, 20:38
I don't know about '54 - wasn't that just anything that made a spark and poking little rocks with a small spring? - but by the 1960s most radio courses in technical colleges ran C&G alongside PMG/MPT as a matter of course (Colwyn Bay didn't hence my C&Gs came later and weren't Telecoms A or B). C&G, of course covered many topics and R/Os and E/Os would not have then studied everything in common.

Knowing so little about the rest of the ship, whether you are paid to fix it or otherwise, is NOT a badge of honour however common a trait (on every side of demarkations - artificial or otherwise).

Your smiley face is too late! However, we old guys will forgive the you your youthful contempt for we ancient pioneers :) lol
I agree that knowledge of others jobs was an asset, but do not see what 3 phase had to do with radio.
I had my MOT Radar Tech's ticket before my P M G as I failed my Morse at my first attempt and did the radar as a fill in. Incidentally, in eight weeks.
However, sorry to have gotten off the subject. I did the purser work on NZ ships and enjoyed it and even more so the O/T it brought in. (K)
Cheers Bob