Sparks

zebedee
27th August 2011, 18:35
In its wisdom, the Hain Steamship Co. leased their communication equipment from the Marconi Company. This meant that we had a new Radio Officer every trip and of the dozen or more that I encountered only two made sufficient impression on me for me to remember them! Not surprisingly, the first one that I encountered is one of them. As I spent much of the second half of the voyage on day-work I was a frequent evening visitor to the radio room for mutual entertainment, after the little traffic had been dealt with. According to George W., his father had three tins of nails, one tin for nails “as found”, a second tin for straightened ones and a third tin for those which had been de-rusted and were ready for use. However, more interesting was the event in Hull on arrival in the UK. The Customs rummager spotted a small gap between the top of George’s wardrobe and the deck-head. As this gap was really only noticeable with the aid of the ubiquitous mirror and torch it was eagerly pounced upon; and he found it to be full of tobacco tins! “You didn’t declare any of this.” He crowed. “Of course not,” answered George “they’re all empty!” Naturally the rummager reacted with disbelief, fished them all out and opened every single one. Finding nothing but a few forlorn shreds of tobacco he was not best pleased. “What game do you think you’re playing?” he demanded. “No game at all.” George replied: “My sister is a teacher in a kindergarten and these Benson & Hedges tins are the perfect size for the children to keep their pastels in.” Off went the irate rummager to vent his spleen on some poor unfortunate.
Years later, jumping ahead out of context, I was appointed Second Engineer for the first time and for my fifth trip on the Treleven, coincidentally Bill was making his last trip for Marconi before he retired. It transpired that when he left school he was apprenticed to be a grocer. (In those days. and up until the 1950s, grocers knew about what they were selling without having to read the wrappers!) After a while he was sent together with the other apprentice to fetch a whole railway wagon load of block salt back to the shop with the aid of a horse and cart. Opening the centrally placed wagon doors they loaded the cart and took several loads to the shop. By the end of the day they had “tunnelled” their way through to the opposite side leaving nice vertical walls on either side. Next morning they discovered that the wagon had been moved. As all we seafarers know, the technical term for moving railway wagons is “shunting” and this is achieved by hitting the wagon(s) with the locomotive. In this case the violent acceleration caused the floor to be littered with broken blocks of salt. The shop manager was not at all pleased and when they had fetched all the salt to the shop he made them drive around Swansea crying “Cheap salt for sale”. In the course of this enterprise they passed the office where Bill’s father worked and he heard them. When Bill arrived home that night his father explained in no uncertain terms that he had not apprenticed his son to be a street hawker and what did Bill intend to do next. Bill decided to become a radio operator and spent the rest of his life with Marconi. As all Hain's ships were single operator vessels they were fitted with auto-alarms to cover off-watch emergencies. In the tropics electrical storms would raise false alarms. After the second or third awakening some operators switched the auto-alarm off. (Aren't they glad I don't remember individuals.) Bill, being a proper professional never ever did. No matter how often it awoke him he checked thoroughly before re-setting it and returning to his interrupted sleep. "It might be us out there one day." he remarked to me. Practically all his time was spent on tankers, enjoying good food and spacious accommodation although none of them took him to New Zealand or to Japan. However some time previously he had made one trip with Hains on one of the three steamships which did take him to NZ.! I had been offered “A short trip to the Caribbean”; I got it but it was to Cuba to load sugar for Japan once again. Bill was of course delighted. When we arrived I made a point of showing him the Ginza in Tokyo before letting him see the Motomachi in Yokohama. In his opinion these sights were vastly superior to both Times Square and Piccadilly Square at Christmas. Naturally we then loaded grain for home in Australia, but that’s another story.
I'm not sure that this post is in the most appropriate forum, but l hope that it will be appreciated anyway. Zebedee

waldziu
28th August 2011, 21:45
As we said in the RN, a good dit, Zebedee

septiclecky
13th September 2011, 20:06
Remember when I first went to sea in 1979 we had a sparky who was nearly 65 turned out that during WWII he had been sunk twice by U-Boats glad when I sailed with him the wasn't a war on.

sparkie2182
13th September 2011, 20:09
So you sailed with heroe.............

Something to remember.

zebedee
21st September 2011, 21:43
So you sailed with heroe.............

Something to remember.

Greetings, sparkie2182, I am at a loss to understand your suggestion that I sailed with a hero. I assume that you are referring to Bill. I am certain that he would never have thought of himself as a hero; rather he would probably have described himself as a perfectly ordinary radio officer/operator doing his job to the best of his ability. If this meant repeatedly getting out of bed to verify that the auto-alarm really was malfunctioning and that there was nobody "out there" in distress; then that was he had to do. I do not ever remember discussing his wartime experiences but maybe they influenced his attitude to such things but we can never know. Lionel

Macphail
21st September 2011, 23:08
I have sailed with many fine Radio Officers..
But when they got on the key, dit a da dit.
A Marty Fieldman charactor came out.
The mad look, crouched over the key.
Looking at the strength of signal light.

All gone'

John

jim garnett
22nd September 2011, 06:04
On my first trip the sparks was on his first trip at 18. He was from county Kerry and definitely believed in leprechauns.He hadn't actually seen one but his uncle had.He was too naive to make up the story, and genuinely believed it.A nice lad all in all,but how he was going to survive the rigours of sea life worried me.
Jim Garnett

Norm
24th October 2011, 09:48
Sparkys were Irelands main export along with Guinness.