Why Bankline?

Alan Rawlinson
12th April 2011, 18:31
Time for a new thread maybe....

There were some of us who had the Bankline nominated or chosen for us by our respective college or nautical school, but the majority surely chose the Bank Line, and what's more, stayed for trip after trip.
Why?

It was well known that other lines had better food, shorter trips, a better image, maybe, and kudos or prestige. The folk there scoffed at the Bank Line, or smiled in a superior way, so why didn't we just join them?

I know the answer in my case ( sad git - no, not really!) It suited me perfectly, looking back, and as these threads show, I have suffered the pangs of nostalgia as much as anyone. There was a certain something (in addition to the routes and adventure) which is hard to define, but definitely existed. The nearest I can get is to say that there was a steadiness of purpose and practice which meant that we were a sort of family trogging round the world in a combatitive way, overcoming obstacles, and awaiting the next challenge, before finally reaching the pay off. It felt comfortable and rewarding, somehow. Anyone have a view?

John Farrell
12th April 2011, 18:34
I think you have the makings of a very good thread Alan and one I will be reading with interest.

TonyAllen
12th April 2011, 21:01
As I said a while ago on another thread I was on the blue funnel for 5 ys and regretted not joining other companies. my eldest brother was a bank boat cook and having read so many posts from ex bankies I can understand why you have so much affection for them,it seems every trip was an adventure all round the world and have enjoyed reading about them Regards Tony

Alistair Macnab
13th April 2011, 16:33
In my case, my father's boss was the brother-in-law of the Company Secretary of the Andrew Weir Group but we did not know this. After applying in vain to the usual 'liner' companies and not knowing where to turn next, my father mentioned to his boss that I wanted to go to sea but that I was still at high school, had he any advice? He said his brother-in-law worked for 'some shipping company' in London and he would ask him if there was anything he might do. The result was that when the brother-in-law was on a holiday in Ayr along with his wife (my father's boss's sister) I was interviewed and eventually received a letter from Captain Scobie accepting me as an apprentice to Bank Line. Up till then, I had no idea of the company nor had even heard of them. But haste to the Carnegie Library and a shufty in the Journal of Commerce revealed a fleet of forty ships calling at all sorts of exoticically-named ports. Reference then to Talbot-Booth's Merchant Ships showed me ship descriptions including the (gasp!) White Ships. I was hooked!
Why did I stay? For the first full year in the extended maiden voyage of the "Fleetbank" (1953) I would probably have chucked it in because the Mate made the Apprentices' life a living hell with his twisted way of belittling us and always making us believe we were useless and constantly in the wrong, but during the second year of the same voyage, I must have grown up because the constant harrassing ceased to bother me and I began to enjoy the voyage (India-Chile and India-River Plate and return to Calcutta via wheat, nitrate and bitumen cargoes).
The result was that I came home after 23 months and 5 days, fell out with my mother (I was not the school boy that had set off two years' ago) and immediately wrote and asked for another ship right away! Scobie sent me to Belfast to stand by the fitting out of the "Laganbank" and the rest, as they say, is history! By the way, we arrived at Southend Airport by Manx Airlines from Port Sudan(!) on the very day the old Lord died, so it was a sombre office when we called in en route to home.

Hamish Mackintosh
13th April 2011, 18:30
Alistair Would you have knowledge of the Bankline Glasgow office employees? The reason I ask is- Iwas at a highland games in Santa Rosa( Cal )in the late eighties and I had the priviledge of meeting the chief of the clan Mackintosh, Lachlan Mackiintosh who had spent some years as a commander(?) in the RN, and during our conversation I mentioned Bank Line, he perked up at that, and said did I know his daughter, who was employed by Bank Line, and I'm sure he said Glasgow, as he mentioned she was a frequent visitor to his home at Moy Hall (south of Inverness),however she was married so her name would be changed,sadly Lachlan passed away in the early ninties regards H

Andy Lavies
13th April 2011, 22:17
Why Bankline? It was the first shipping office I walked in to after doing a bunk from school and hitchhiking 400 miles. "Ettrickbank" was in port and shy an apprentice. Off I went to start 50 years working afloat.
Andy

jimthehat
13th April 2011, 23:23
Why Bankline? It was the first shipping office I walked in to after doing a bunk from school and hitchhiking 400 miles. "Ettrickbank" was in port and shy an apprentice. Off I went to start 50 years working afloat.
Andy
Why bank line/ cos my school sent me there .Then I got comfortable and stayed until marrage reared its head and i went to the ferries.

jim

IBlenkinsopp
14th April 2011, 09:37
Well, it was close to the beginning of the alphabet of the list of shipping companies taking on cadets, I remember the strap line' It's not plain sailing with the Bank Line'
nice pun and it certainly wasn't.

Eddie B.

Alex Salmond
14th April 2011, 10:20
Time for a new thread maybe....

There were some of us who had the Bankline nominated or chosen for us by our respective college or nautical school, but the majority surely chose the Bank Line, and what's more, stayed for trip after trip.
Why?

It was well known that other lines had better food, shorter trips, a better image, maybe, and kudos or prestige. The folk there scoffed at the Bank Line, or smiled in a superior way, so why didn't we just join them?

I know the answer in my case ( sad git - no, not really!) It suited me perfectly, looking back, and as these threads show, I have suffered the pangs of nostalgia as much as anyone. There was a certain something (in addition to the routes and adventure) which is hard to define, but definitely existed. The nearest I can get is to say that there was a steadiness of purpose and practice which meant that we were a sort of family trogging round the world in a combatitive way, overcoming obstacles, and awaiting the next challenge, before finally reaching the pay off. It felt comfortable and rewarding, somehow. Anyone have a view?

Hi there,
Not to hijack the thread or anything,just as an aside.In David Nivens autobiography "The Moons a balloon"he writes about his days in the Army and when he was getting ready to leave Sandhurst the cadets were given a questionaire to fill in which they were asked to name 3 regiments they would like to join in order of preference so being a wit, as he thought,he put
1/Household Cavalry
2/Royal Scots
3/Anything else except the Highland Light Infantry
so of course where did he end up??
but he loved his time in the HLI so maybe we should make our own minds
you obviously loved your time with Bank Line ,to be honest for all my time at sea I never knew much about this Company what was supposed to be so bad about them?where did they go?
Alex

Alan Rawlinson
14th April 2011, 10:21
On being told I was destined for the Bank Line at school, I rushed off to the Seamanship room where there was a book with a long folded pull out diagram of the ( then) new Eastbank, in colour! Wow - couldn't believe my luck, and although my chums were heading for ( I remember) Union Castle, and one for BP Tankers, it was always Bank Line for me - the sooner the better!

Looking back after 60 years, it was so much better than my wild adolescent imagination could conjur up at that time..................

Winebuff
14th April 2011, 11:00
British Shipping Federation sent me for 2 interviews, Silver Line and Bank Line. Bank Line offered me a job as Eng Cadet and I took it.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.

John Farrell
14th April 2011, 11:07
I think many on the site will agree the benefits of Bank Line. The legendary long trips scared me off although I have done several 12 month trips (thats a message I hear you BL men say!

Alan Rawlinson
14th April 2011, 13:23
Hi there,
Not to hijack the thread or anything,just as an aside.In David Nivens autobiography "The Moons a balloon"he writes about his days in the Army and when he was getting ready to leave Sandhurst the cadets were given a questionaire to fill in which they were asked to name 3 regiments they would like to join in order of preference so being a wit, as he thought,he put
1/Household Cavalry
2/Royal Scots
3/Anything else except the Highland Light Infantry
so of course where did he end up??
but he loved his time in the HLI so maybe we should make our own minds
you obviously loved your time with Bank Line ,to be honest for all my time at sea I never knew much about this Company what was supposed to be so bad about them?where did they go?
Alex

Hi Alex, Greetings from Cornwall...........

Re the last part of your posting with the Q's

Have to be a bit careful here, but the Bank Line was a rock solid, big, (50+ ships in my time) liner and tramping company, that visited most corners of the world, on a regular basis between ( what was it?) 60 N and 55 S. Didn't miss the Arctic or Antarctic so no problems there. The company was run to a good standard, so any outside criticisms were misplaced, but I suppose the odd rust streak in an out of the way port conveyed a poor impression. There were Bank Line regular haunts, like the magic of the remote Pacific Islands, never to be forgotten, and the surreal ( for me) goings on, all along the S American coastline, both East and West. Then there was the delicious uncertainty of not knowing which direction, or continent you were heading for until the the news filtered through. It was heady stuff for some uf us.

One of our Bank Line colleagues has written an excellent account of the development of the company over the years, and which is posted in the Directory section of SN. Well worth a read for those interested.

There was nothing wrong with the company, but I think it fair to say, it was a no frills ( as opposed to thrills) set up. Long voyages were the norm, the lottery of personalities on board much the same as any other shipping company, except you were with them for longer - just like a family after a while.

Cheers

Abbeywood.
15th April 2011, 06:09
Why Bank Line. ?
I spent my first 4 years at sea with Houlder Brothers, running back and forth to the River Plate and up the Rio Parana to Rosario. However during that period I had the opportunity to take part in the delivery of their 'Rippingham Grange' to her scrapping in Hokkaido, Japan. This voyage opened my eyes to the fact that there was bigger world out there and the seeds of adventure fell into place.
I decided that I would do a bit of 'tramping' and, for no specific reason, I joined Lord Inverforth's merry men. on the 'Eastbank', to the Pacific Islands and back. Only 5 months but I decided I quite enjoyed it, so stayed to join the 'Marabank', in 1964 and eventually left her in 1966 having completed 28 months in the ship with a three week leave break.
Perhaps I was lucky, but I certainly had no regrets in joining the Company and saw a damn sight more of the World than if I had stuck with Houlders. I certainly did not hesitate to recommend Bank Line to any of my later colleagues in Bibby Line, who were seeking adventure, especially if they were without ties at home.
Having mentioned Bibby's, I joined them in 1967, by which time they too had become a chartering company and had abandoned their routes to the Bay of Bengal ports, so I ended up doing the same sort of ports as Bank Line, world -wide, with the exception that the voyages were only of approx' 6 mths duration.
Alas, all that is now in the past and Bank Line is just a memory, but, judging from the number of respondents to these threads, the memory lingers on.
My regards to you all. Pete' Lambert, 3rd Eng'

pete
16th April 2011, 11:01
Why Bankline ?? A Birthright I suppose. As I grew up I was surrounded with Bankline memorabilia. My Father having served as apprentice with them and then remaining with them during the ‘20s and ‘30s. Further from 1944 to 1946 my mother worked as live-in housekeeper for Capt. V Harper who was retired from Bankline and living in Southbourne. (His image is posted under “Elmbank” on this site). After the war Dad moved to G.S.N.C. where he stayed until retirement and I often went on coastal voyages with him mostly on the Royal Daffodil during the summer months. As by now I have “The Sea in my Blood” as it were, I went to The School of Navigation, Southampton for a Year and Joined H.E.Moss and Co’s Tankers Ltd. to complete my time. Having obtained my 2nd Mates Ticket I was, by now, fed up with Tankers and wanted a complete change so after trogging up and down Leadenhall Street for a bit I found myself on the August doorstep of 21 Bury Street where I was introduced to the biggest Con-Artist in Bankline by the name of Mr R.J.Ludlow, if I recall correctly. “Have you a ticket?” sez he, “Yes” sez I. Arm around shoulders “Come this way son and sign here. Only a 4/5 month trip son, South Pacific and Back on what we call the Copra Run”. I knew Bankline were famous for their long voyages so I wasn’t fooled and joined the Laurelbank arriving home 13½ months later with enough seatime to sit for Mates. I was hooked.
Why did I stay ?? I was comfortable within that family group and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it........pete(Smoke)(Pint)(Thumb)(Pint)

Alistair Macnab
16th April 2011, 19:02
Alistair Would you have knowledge of the Bankline Glasgow office employees? The reason I ask is- Iwas at a highland games in Santa Rosa( Cal )in the late eighties and I had the priviledge of meeting the chief of the clan Mackintosh, Lachlan Mackiintosh who had spent some years as a commander(?) in the RN, and during our conversation I mentioned Bank Line, he perked up at that, and said did I know his daughter, who was employed by Bank Line, and I'm sure he said Glasgow, as he mentioned she was a frequent visitor to his home at Moy Hall (south of Inverness),however she was married so her name would be changed,sadly Lachlan passed away in the early ninties regards H

Hamish....

Would you believe it? I never was in the Glasgow office of Bank Line. I passed it many times as I lived in Ayr and regularly traveled to Glasgow also I went to the Royal College of Science and Technology and got all my tickets in Glasgow. But I never went into 102 Hope Street. I saw the brass plate on the door and the window screens on the first floor with the house flag on them but never had any cause to venture into these hallowed premises.

Incidentally, I knew Roger Loads when I was at sea and eventually replaced Brian Loads in New Orleans. Their father was, of course, the marine superintendent in the Glasgow office.

Ships that pass and missed opportunities......!
Alistair.

Alistair Macnab
16th April 2011, 19:30
On being told I was destined for the Bank Line at school, I rushed off to the Seamanship room where there was a book with a long folded pull out diagram of the ( then) new Eastbank, in colour! Wow - couldn't believe my luck, and although my chums were heading for ( I remember) Union Castle, and one for BP Tankers, it was always Bank Line for me - the sooner the better!

Looking back after 60 years, it was so much better than my wild adolescent imagination could conjur up at that time..................

Alan....

I wonder that you are not thinking of the colour pull picture of the "Cedarbank" in "Seventy Adventurous Years"? As a matter of fact, the ship is misnamed. The depiction is certainly one of the first three "Copra Boats" from Harlands in 1953 ('Beaverbank'; 'Nessbank'; 'Fleetbank') because she is shown with bridge wing cabs. These cabs were only on the first three and were discontinued in 1955 when the "Cedarbank" came out. "Foylebank" and "Laganbank" were also cab-less as were all subsequent Bank Boats built anywhere.

Having sailed on the maiden voyage of the "Fleetbank", I fondly think the pull-out picture is actually of my first ship! The last Bank Boat to have bridge wing cabs!

Hamish Mackintosh
17th April 2011, 01:46
Hamish....

Would you believe it? I never was in the Glasgow office of Bank Line. I passed it many times as I lived in Ayr and regularly traveled to Glasgow also I went to the Royal College of Science and Technology and got all my tickets in Glasgow. But I never went into 102 Hope Street. I saw the brass plate on the door and the window screens on the first floor with the house flag on them but never had any cause to venture into these hallowed premises.

Incidentally, I knew Roger Loads when I was at sea and eventually replaced Brian Loads in New Orleans. Their father was, of course, the marine superintendent in the Glasgow office.

Ships that pass and missed opportunities......!
Alistair.

Thanks for that Alistair.Just a shot in the dark on my part rgds H

Alan Rawlinson
17th April 2011, 09:04
Alan....

I wonder that you are not thinking of the colour pull picture of the "Cedarbank" in "Seventy Adventurous Years"? As a matter of fact, the ship is misnamed. The depiction is certainly one of the first three "Copra Boats" from Harlands in 1953 ('Beaverbank'; 'Nessbank'; 'Fleetbank') because she is shown with bridge wing cabs. These cabs were only on the first three and were discontinued in 1955 when the "Cedarbank" came out. "Foylebank" and "Laganbank" were also cab-less as were all subsequent Bank Boats built anywhere.

Having sailed on the maiden voyage of the "Fleetbank", I fondly think the pull-out picture is actually of my first ship! The last Bank Boat to have bridge wing cabs!

Alistair,

No, I think my 'Eureka ' moment was 1950 or early 1951 before the 70 Adventurous years was published.? I think it was a book with different fleets in it, probably published in 1948,9 when the Eastbank class were in pole position, so to speak..

RayL
17th April 2011, 23:07
Don't forget Marconi-employed R/Os like me, who simply had the good fortune to be assigned to a Bank Line ship.

I hated radio-telephony so I was delighted when I discovered that there was none aboard the Speybank. After the giant tanker I'd been on, the voyage details often seemed quaint and improvised - a bit like sailing with Captain Cook; e.g. the tethering mid-river while we were at Gravesend, and the iron knives we carried for bartering with New Guinea natives.

I'd been warned that this company would stretch the 2-year articles to the maximum but amazingly it was all over after five months. I don't know why this happened. There was a total crew change at both the start and finish of the voyage.

Macphail
17th April 2011, 23:41
I was a wandering star, professional 3rd Engineer, Bank Line had the excitment of a tramping company. Trading in exotic ports with all the trappings.
As a single man at that time I had a good time.
Then it happened, I found the love of my life in Sydney.
Thank you Andy Weir.
48 years of happy bliss now.
http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/149459/title/larchbank-auckland-196/cat/500

All the best,

John.

(K)

johnb42
18th April 2011, 00:21
It is all very simple really, Alan.
There was a kudos to saying "I'm a Bank Line man", that no other Company (bar none) had. There are still hordes of seamen out there (getting old now, yes) who would give a right testicle to say they had sailed with the Bank Line.
Thankfully my wedding tackle is in tact because I did, and am still proud of it.

pete
18th April 2011, 12:29
Thanks Johnb42 I think that explains it perfectly. "I was a Bank Line Man for 15 Years and proud of it!" is a phrase that my beloved has got a bit sick of over the past 15 Years. .....pete

China hand
18th April 2011, 19:20
It was not a bad mob to sail with. When you went for your tickets, at least "orals", the examiners knew you had paid your dues. Some of the immediate post war masters were a bit weird, but then again, some of them had been through some pretty hairy times.
All over the world I have met that raised eyebrow and "you sailed on Bank boats then?".
I met better AB's than Kalassis, better QM's than Seacunnies, but, bye and large, Bank Line tought me my trade. I refined it elsewhere, but plain shipsense was learned there, and I'm grateful.

Donald McGhee
24th April 2011, 05:56
I started with Donaldsons of Glasgow, but they went into liquidation in 1967. I was accepted by Bank Line (no other bugger would have me) as an Apprentice and finished my time with them, sailing on Teviot, Inver and Marabank.

I am priviledged to have served with Bank Line and look back on the good times with great fondness.
So, from a steady, regular Western Ocean run to deep sea tramping, what a culture shock in the beginning, but great for helping a kid grow up. There were some real sods and some great men as well, good trips and bad ones, old ships, new ships, all sorts, but all helped to mould me and I still surround myself with maritime, particularly Bank Line, memorabilia. Long live the memory!

Slainte (Pint)

Waighty
3rd May 2011, 12:12
Served my time with Ben Line, failed 2nd Mates writtens 1969, went to Shipping Federation for temp job and sent to Bank Line for 6 weeks on the Rowanbank coasting; loved it except deep tanks maybe having had my fill of those in Ben Line!

Came back to college, went to Bury Street where Russ Ludlow said I'll pay you two months money at Uncert 3/0 salary if you promise to come back. Duly passed my 2nd Mates and joined Avonbank as 2nd Mate! Had a great time, the company were very supportive when domestic problems rose; left in 1983. Excellent outfit and I'm sorry they're gone.

Chris Isaac
3rd May 2011, 12:59
Never sailed with Bank Line, spent all my time as one of those "superior" passenger ship men who looked down on Bank Line.
Having said that I spent many a happy time in port with a Bank boat, always great fun.
If I had my time again I would give Bank Line a try!.................now where is my blue mess kit?

Didge
9th May 2011, 16:15
Why Bank Line?? Ha ha, they were the only outfit that required a full length photo of you, not just head and shoulders! I though there must be a cunning reason for this, but never did find out.

Orals - check - when doing tickets we were in for the shortest time. Also we had to help out the seamanship lecturers at college many a time especially when it came to a full on description of wood and canvas hatch covers.

Length of trips - check - my last trip was 16 months on the Clydebank (82 - 83), round the world 3 times. I enjoyed not only the tax, but also the seatime advantage for my Masters.

Nostalgia - check - my 2nd eldest is currently with Bibby Line who had the cadet management contract for Bank Line. He was due to sign on a bank boat just as the company closed for good and he was quite upset not to be following his dad's footsteps round the islands.

Pride - check - I always got a lump when reading Notices to Mariners and finding the corrections were submitted by so and so from such and such bank. Or to read the Admiralty Sailing Directions where it said... these islands are visited twice a year with stores and fuel, and to know that you are that crew visiting those islands, supplying their life line.

Kudos - check - there are a few old hands in Conwy marina who knew what being on a bank boat meant and we all enjoy a few pints swinging the lamp...

pete
9th May 2011, 20:35
Hi Didge...I know what you mean about Seamanship and some tutors who could lose their way at times. The thing is mate we had done it and therefore had the "Hands On" experience, especially with regards to stevedoring, (S.Pacific) One funny little thing comes to mind, we were being taught the mysteries and intricacies of the Gyro Compass. With Sperry he knew his way around but the Brown "B" no way. Luckily there were a couple of us who new them well. Again "Hands on". NOTHING is better........pete

Alan Rawlinson
19th April 2012, 19:40
Why Bankline? is the question...

Here is sort of poetic answer for the Bank Line experience in the 50's!

On joining a Bank Line ship in the UK mid winter

It doesn't seem so long ago,
the winches hissing, clanking, in the snow
A lovely smell of warmed up oil and steam,
and Copra resting on the beams.

Hoses, cables, boards, and battens,
strewn around in a random pattern.
There was nothing quite like a Bank Line ship
home at last, from a 2 year trip.

See the cabins, mostly white
narrow bunks and quilts tucked tight,
Then the tea, thick and treackly
brought by stewards, ever so meekly

An alien world, but it should be known,
some of us, we called it home.
After discharge, we steam away
Foreign going, and a fun filled day.

Alan Rawlinson
6th February 2013, 14:01
Never sailed with Bank Line, spent all my time as one of those "superior" passenger ship men who looked down on Bank Line.
Having said that I spent many a happy time in port with a Bank boat, always great fun.
If I had my time again I would give Bank Line a try!.................now where is my blue mess kit?


This reminded me of a good friend, now close to the 80 mark , who often wistfully talks about how close he came to joining the Bankline, and who went to BI Line instead, complete with his copy of the ' Malim Sahib's Hindustani ' He had joining instructions for the Corabank - which was a Liberty ship in the fleet. Might of been a tad different !

Aberdonian
6th February 2013, 16:47
[QUOTE=pete;506098]After the war Dad moved to G.S.N.C. where he stayed until retirement and I often went on coastal voyages with him mostly on the Royal Daffodil during the summer months. QUOTE]

I sailed with a large carpenter called Tarzan in GSNC Sheldrake. An old company man, he earned his nickname by diving overboard to rescue a passenger who had fallen from the Royal Daffodil. Incidentally, another old GSNC hand in the Sheldrake was bosun Bill Berry, a man who started his sea career as a boy in the old Thames sailing barges.

Why Bank Line? An uncle, who had begun an apprenticeship with the company in 1940, encouraged me to apply. No interview; all Captain Scobie required was a full length photo proving I was a standard-issue kid and my certificate from navigation school. Certainly no regrets.

Keith

Alistair Macnab
6th February 2013, 18:18
To a youth from a farming community dying to go to sea, the lure of the harbour at Ayr was a huge daily draw especially when I was a student at Ayr Academy right on the edge of all the maritime commercial activity.

Looking at the old newspaper "Journal of Commerce" and their weekly reports for readers wanting to know where their family members were, only the Bank Line reports had ships being posted in such exotic places as Yandina, Tarawa, Cochin, Wallace Bay, Bahia Blanca, Lourenco Marques and so on - to a romantic like me, this was the irresistible call of the sea! And looking into Talbot Booth's, they actually had a huge fleet including passenger ships!

Wow! I was smitten!

Applying to Andrew Weir's and letting it be known that I had decided on my course of action, revealed an amazing circle of enablers of whose existence I had not been aware. The Ayr harbour master spoke warmly of Weir's and my father's boss actually had a brother-in-law who worked at Weir's. After all that, it was full steam ahead to Bank Line, joining a new-building in Belfast and as they say, that was that. After 28 years of working for Bank Line afloat and ashore and getting my first command when I was still 28, it was a sad day when the company followed all the other general purpose cargo ship operators into oblivion. It had been a 'family-run' company and now it was not.

The best years of my life (so far) were spent in Bank Line. These years actually prepared me for subsequent careers in logistics, business, and teaching. Not too shabby for someone whose only documented learning is in celestial navigation!

Johnnietwocoats
6th February 2013, 23:54
To a youth from a farming community dying to go to sea, the lure of the harbour at Ayr was a huge daily draw especially when I was a student at Ayr Academy right on the edge of all the maritime commercial activity.

Looking at the old newspaper "Journal of Commerce" and their weekly reports for readers wanting to know where their family members were, only the Bank Line reports had ships being posted in such exotic places as Yandina, Tarawa, Cochin, Wallace Bay, Bahia Blanca, Lourenco Marques and so on - to a romantic like me, this was the irresistible call of the sea! And looking into Talbot Booth's, they actually had a huge fleet including passenger ships!

Wow! I was smitten!

Applying to Andrew Weir's and letting it be known that I had decided on my course of action, revealed an amazing circle of enablers of whose existence I had not been aware. The Ayr harbour master spoke warmly of Weir's and my father's boss actually had a brother-in-law who worked at Weir's. After all that, it was full steam ahead to Bank Line, joining a new-building in Belfast and as they say, that was that. After 28 years of working for Bank Line afloat and ashore and getting my first command when I was still 28, it was a sad day when the company followed all the other general purpose cargo ship operators into oblivion. It had been a 'family-run' company and now it was not.

The best years of my life (so far) were spent in Bank Line. These years actually prepared me for subsequent careers in logistics, business, and teaching. Not too shabby for someone whose only documented learning is in celestial navigation!


Alistair
Not too sure why Bank line. There were 16 of us at Navigation School in Belfast and quite a few went with Head Line which was a local company who only seemed to monotonously trek the North Atlantic winter and summer. I had a few Uncles who sailed as deck crew with them from time to time and they advised me against them. So I ended up with Weirs...Don't regret it although on occasion I and others were not always treated well.

On a brighter note I have just received the book, Seventy Adventurous Years, about Bank Line from an acquaintance in Belfast.

The pull photo of the ship at the back of the book is the Cedarbank. My last ship with Bank Line. Lucky me...

dave boy green
18th November 2013, 21:52
Why Bankline? It was the first shipping office I walked in to after doing a bunk from school and hitchhiking 400 miles. "Ettrickbank" was in port and shy an apprentice. Off I went to start 50 years working afloat.
Andy

Capt Azard (or Azad) was in charge of pre-sea training school at Liverpool Poly up Mount Pleasant and he recommended them and gave me a reference and the rest was history although I was not impressed by the pain I had to go through to get a dental certificate. I had not been a regular visitor to the dentist (they scared the s***s out of me then) so there was work to be done to reach an acceptable standard

Strath101
19th November 2013, 20:06
I wanted to see the world and various ideas on how this could be done came and went then I saw an advert for a job at sea, which I didn’t get but they pointed me in the right direction. By luck I had served a suitable apprenticeship so after classification interview the merchant marine office gave me a list of companies with advice on which ones would be best suited so I wrote to 11 of them. A telegram arrived a few days later from Bank Line saying ‘Attend Glasgow Offices ASAP’.

I was on a train and in the offices that afternoon, which was a Friday and was asked two simple questions -are you working (no) are you free to join a ship (yes). So then they said I would be joining the Sprucebank as 6/E in 5 days’ time in the USA and I need to get everything sorted by then. Everything being Passport, Visa, Discharge Book, Medical etc - all went well and was on the plane 5 days later with no idea what I was letting myself in for.

So the answer to the question why Bank Line – it was the first company to answer my letters

Alan Rawlinson
20th November 2013, 09:37
I wanted to see the world and various ideas on how this could be done came and went then I saw an advert for a job at sea, which I didn’t get but they pointed me in the right direction. By luck I had served a suitable apprenticeship so after classification interview the merchant marine office gave me a list of companies with advice on which ones would be best suited so I wrote to 11 of them. A telegram arrived a few days later from Bank Line saying ‘Attend Glasgow Offices ASAP’.

I was on a train and in the offices that afternoon, which was a Friday and was asked two simple questions -are you working (no) are you free to join a ship (yes). So then they said I would be joining the Sprucebank as 6/E in 5 days’ time in the USA and I need to get everything sorted by then. Everything being Passport, Visa, Discharge Book, Medical etc - all went well and was on the plane 5 days later with no idea what I was letting myself in for.

So the answer to the question why Bank Line – it was the first company to answer my letters

Prompt attention, with the minimum fuss seems to have been a successful technique for those recruiting for the Bank Line ships, and nothing wrong with that. The lack of interest and distant approach to staff could be unnerving however, and there are a few examples I know of. In my own case I left the company, and some 4 years later when at a dead end, re-applied to be taken back. All I got was a telegram in the usual format " Join M V Beaverbank with full kit etc etc.." Amazing nonchalance. Were we nothing but the necessary certificate?

As a postscript I would say that given the chance to switch companies mid term, I would have had no problem deciding to stay put.

Alistair Macnab
20th November 2013, 16:40
I have heard many stories about the seemingly personal indifference to individuals at Bank Line's crew department. It seems to me that some explanation is due as these negative comments were often commonplace.

It's true that having the requisite certificates were the driving force behind officer employment but that decision was not crew department but superintendents' departments.

In the 50s, the crew department was basically a clerical operation and it was in following years that it grew to be an important section of ship operations under the leadership of Ken Berry. Believe it or not, Ken was the entire Merchant Navy negotiator for special "Crew Repatriation" fares with airlines starting off with BOAC/British Airways and going universal.

It was the Crew Department that started the Newsletter and subsequently the Magazine.

If the communications to individual officers was terse rather than "warm" it was more a result of corporate culture than anything else.
It was exactly the same in my own experience. Offer of first command was just as "cool" as when I was sent to Belfast to join my first ship as Apprentice! Even promotion to Assistant Marine Superintendent in New Orleans was intimated by a message that said something like "have your bags packed and be in readiness to take up the temporary position in New Orleans...."

If the appointment communications were short and to the point then it was just something that history or lawyers had perfected over the years. It was not intended to be off-hand or insulting but just "business-like".

Alan Rawlinson
20th November 2013, 17:57
Was the ' mechanical' approach to personnel a hallmark of the Bankline, or did other companies adopt this wooden approach? Would love to hear from members who moved on to other companies. It was not something I experienced elsewhere, so I suspect it was a home grown culture which had a life of its own. It definitely hurt some sensitive individuals, including Masters, that I know of.

I worked in a senior position in the Swedish shipping company, Brostrom, and the relationship with all staff, seagoing and ashore, was very much based on selection by competence AND personality. Management would take a keen interest in the individuals to be appointed, satisfying themselves that they were suitable in all respects. The standard joke about anyone a bit reserved or reticent would be that they were ' from the far north of Sweden' and therefore a bit thick! but appointment was never mechanical.

Incidentally, the method adopted by the crew department in the Bankline might be the explanation why some unsuitable and/or inadequate Masters managed to be re-appointed time after time.

China hand
20th November 2013, 19:46
It wasn't only the Bank Line. It was a whole age of economical use of communication. Years later, I had a telephone call from an office suit telling me that Captain China had been rude to the office girl on the email by sending "new computer, where, when?" When I explained that stuff about five letter codes and word groups and Sparkies and telegrammes and saving money, I could almost see him yawning and itching to get back to his laptop.

Andy Lavies
20th November 2013, 20:59
After passing Masters I looked for a change of tack. My interview with Captain Cantell for a job as Mate in British Railways IOW ferries lasted two sentences - "Have you got your ticket?" and "Start at 0700 tomorrow!" He was as terse when altering my status from "temporary" to "permanent" status some months later.

Andy

dave boy green
20th November 2013, 22:43
Alisair
I know what you mean. I have most of my appointment letters and telegrams and they are abrupt and to the point; no waste of typewriter ribbons there. I found it in line with thinking in those days and this was reflected in friendliness between apprentices and sailors being frowned upon. However there was a lot to be learned from the crew. Some 20 years later when i had returned to the sea and became Chief Mate I adopted many of the bank line methods with apprentices, basically if you cant do it how can you tell the crew to do it later when you are in a senior position.