Ledbury = 1948-1961 - Ships Nostalgia
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Ledbury = 1948-1961

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  #1  
Old 14th July 2009, 13:21
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Ledbury = 1948-1961

I joined Ledbury in November 1957 in Newport Mon.
It was my first trip to sea straight from 6th form at grammar school so no pre sea training.
The master was Tommy Head and the mate was Harold Barratt from Huddersfield. The third mate was a chap called Pearce from Bristol, son of a building contractor I believe.
The chief engineer was on his retirement voyage and was called Hateley. The second engineer was Danvers Reaveley from Stockton. Danvers had been in a boiler accident and the skin on his face showed signs of this incident. The third engineer and electrician ( 3/E usually did both duties on these DC ships) was called Tommy Wright and was from Dundee. The J/E was Chris Barnes from Liverpool. Just out of his time at A and R Brown engineering of Liverpool.
The 4/E was from Darlington Bill ...... whose surname escapes me.
The chief swd was Frank Carlaw fron London and the bosun Albert Mehsin from Cardiff. The crew were from Newport and were a good hardworking lot.
We loaded general and steel coils in Newport then proceeded to Swansea for tin plate before departing for Buenos Aires via St Vincent in the Cape Verde's and Montevideo, Uruguay.
After discharge in Buenos Aires dock 4 we proceeded up river to Rosario. I recall vividly the pilot slowing the ship down during transit to avoid the wash flooding some of the wooden houses built on the bank very close to the river edge. I also recall seeing around two dozen horses running along the bank with the ship. They were running along open pampas and appeared to be quite free.
The second voyage on Ledbury was from London to Gdynia in Poland to load coal for the power station at South Dock in Bs As.
We had a change of personnel with a new Chief Steward called Christie and from Liverpool. During the voyage he gave us regular Board of Trade limejuice ( diluted) to keep away scabies!!! The new cook was a Pole called Jan Bruska.
The bosun was also replaced by a fine man called Bill Burman from South Shields.
On the passage to Gdynia we passed through the Kiel canal where I believe some of the ship's papers were deposited before we proceeded under pilotage along buoyed channels swept for mines. Gdynia was under a foot of snow with loudspeaker music blaring over the port ( common in communist ports).
The discharge of the coal took around ten days in Bs As so we had eventually about a month on the coast. I loved it.
The next voyage the master was Don Murray who replaced Capt Head. for one voyage.
Ledbury of course was an American Liberty ship design with a triple expansion engine and DC power. She managed 9 to 10 knots average. The toilets were communal with bat wing doors. The showers were also communal.There was not much in the way of luxury but the beds and cabins were comfortable enough. There was no gyro compass just two magnetic one steering, one navigation. The sterring was a wooden wheel and telemotor. The lifeboats were on rope falls and no engines in the lifeboats.There was a small 9 inch dia radar.
The galley was coal fired and the donkeyman filled up the coal store every Saturday morning. The potatoes were kept outside on the boat deck in a large slatted storage box. The bridge rang the watch bells as appropriate day and night.Lookout stood on the foc'sle and repoted ships via bells, one stbd, two port, three dead ahead. In bad weather he was brought to the bridge wing. In rain or poor visibility, the OOW also was obliged to stand outside in order to hear any whistle signal from another vessel. There were of course only three very small windows in the bridge front to see out of. I completed six voyages to the River Plate on this vessel and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. After some leave I joined the Hornby Grange, refrigerated meat ship, also trading to the Argentine.


Kevin Campbell
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Old 14th July 2009, 13:42
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Kevin, an interesting account and thank you for posting it. In passing TAG Head's son is a member of SN.

Mark
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Old 14th July 2009, 19:50
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Good God Kevin.
You must have that written down somewhere or else you have a phenomenal memory. I remember my first ship, a mini bulker out of whitehaven to Casablanca with the potatoes in a slatted locker aft of the wheelhouse. Not much fun getting them in heavy weather. Also an oil fired galley which the cook managed to blow up one day.
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Old 14th July 2009, 20:52
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Nice that she has her own thread; here is a small thumbnail to remind you of her.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Ledbury-02.jpg (51.0 KB, 38 views)
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Old 14th July 2009, 21:06
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Kevin
Many thanks for that excellent description of your time in 'Ledbury', although inevitably different in various details it exactly describes my own, and I'm sure many other, memories of those days so long ago. Containers and FOC may have improved efficiency for the owners, but for the general mass of seafarers so much has been lost (including all our jobs !)
Ian
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Old 14th July 2009, 21:51
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I pinched a bit about her from that "Tongan Quiz", where in we had:
A Liberty Ship (Ship Design: EC2-S-C1), built in 1943 by Bethlehem-Fairfield, and named SAMDAK whilst under British Government control. Thence re-named JOHN RUSSELL POPE for the US Government. Sold after the war, in 1947 to Moller Line she was re-named ALPHA VAAL and in turned bought by Houlders in 1948 and re-named LEDBURY. Houlders kept the ship in their fleet until 1961 when she passed to the Polish Government in 1961 as KOPALNIA CZELADZ, where she remained until 1973 when she was broken up.
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Old 14th July 2009, 22:07
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Yes Leo, I forgot to mention that on arrival at Liverpool which was our usual UK port of arrival the mate used to be shouting from the foc'sle head to the shore gang on the quay before we were alongside, trying to find out all the news. The boss of the shore gang was a chap called Whelan, I think he was irish and there was Jimmy O'Brien and Billy Astle, the shore carpenter.
They handled everthing from then on regarding discharge, shifting, lowering the topmast for the MSC it was going to Manchester.
I remember the superintendent in those days Mc Laughlin. I was with him once in the cargo warehouse on the quay and he rang the London office to speak to them about something or other, when they put him through he removed his bowler hat whilst he was speaking to them and replaced it when the conversation ended.
The relief crew used to be Bert Crewe, Ronnie Angel, Owen Roberts,Machlachlan aka silver fox, Chris Kinnear etc. Some of them were probably on relieving duties a bit later on in the 60's. Then there was Terry Harding at the Newport office who used to take the master and chief and chief steward for a good night out in the Exchange pub in the high street the day before sailing.
Happy days. Kevin
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Old 14th July 2009, 22:13
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Ledbury

I knew Harold Barratt. He was on the Ledbury for an exceptionally long time. Something like 14 years. He had a nephew also a Houlders time served man whose name has gone - poor old grey cells! They both ended up with British Rail out of Harwich
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Old 15th July 2009, 16:51
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Hello Duquesa,
thanks for that. Harold was a decent man to me as apprentice. He went from Ledbury to Westbury on the maiden voyage I believe and then was promoted master on one of the small ore carriers but he turned it down after joining in Port Talbot I believe. I heard that he went to Australia to a job in one of the ports down there so your news is new to me.
He had a relation with Houlders called Horne I think it was.

Best regards

Kevin
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Old 15th July 2009, 17:35
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Continuing with my experiences whilst on Ledbury as a teenager. The communication facilities in those days was minimal as I am sure many of the readers of this will be aware and have experienced it. We just had morse communication and radio telephone also but only if we were on top of a shore station. The radio op used to send messages via Portishead near Bristol, but sometimes he could not raise them if we were in the South Atlantic with poor atmospheric conditions. In that event he would try to get the messaages away via Capetown or somewhere like that. Many of the messages of course were in code from the Company code book. It was not until 1964 that we got a VHF set on the bridge and the first time I saw that was on Westbury.
Previous to that close communication with Lynas Pilot or Intersection was on the morse lamp.
There was never any work at night or weekends in those days and Sunday afternoons were sometimes spent leaning on the boat deck rail, recovering from the night before and watching the local families who used to walk with their families around the docks looking at the ships. On one occasion we had a couple of firemen coming back to the ship with a good drink in them and leaning on each others shoulders and swaying perilously close to the dock edge, then recovering and tottering on their way. A crowd of onlookers gathered to watch them and this seemed to annoy one of the firemen who immediately turned to the throng and dropped his trousers. The furure that this cause was remarkable. The families were frantically pushing their kids behind railway wagons to take them out of view.
The firemen used to wear jeans, a white tee shirt and a sweat rag around their neck. They used to fasten their belts with the buckle at the back, a custom from when they worked with coal fired boilers and the buckle at the front got hot. During the voyage they invariably mad a hat from duck canvas ( called a revie) . It was usually in one piece with a peak but often with eight panels with a button on top. Those who were good at making the hats did a trade making them for others in the crew.
Nights out in Bs As were good fun. Usually started with a visit to the seaman's mission for a few beers and a dance or two with the ladies. There were two missions quite close to each other, the Stella Maris in Independencia and the Flying Angel in Cochabamba. They were enjoyable places to go and I used to like it a lot. After the festivities at the mission were over we used to catch the 33 colectivo along Paseo Colon and get off at Viamonte where most of the bars were. In 25 de Mayo. Ther was the Texas Bar, the Lightship, the New Inn and the Night and Day I recall. During the evening the New Inn used to put on a short floorshow on the small square dance floor and there was usually a stripper and then a chap called George Murphy who was almost like Fred Astaire tapdancing etc. For the finale he repeated the feat wearing roller skates. He got a lot of applause for that but probably because by this time we were finding it difficult to stand up straight. The bars used to close about 3.30am and we trailed out usually to the Darsena Restaurant on Viamonte and Pelligrini corner where there was a parilla, steak egg and chips being the usual request. We used to have this succulent meal whilst gazing across the table at some chap fast asleep with his head on the plate and a knife and fork in each hand.
To get back to the ship in Dock 4 was only a short walk of 400 yards or so from there, but to go back to the New port dock C or D was a taxi ride. We tried to get a taxi as a group of three or so and avoided taxis with two people in the front. Attacks on lone passengers, particularly seamen did happen. The taxis were not regulated and were older American models similar to the Ford Pilot to look at.
On arriving back on board at about five o'clock it was into bed for a couple of hours and then up at seven to turn to.
After a week of this we were pleased to be going up river to Rosario to catch up on our sleep and to get our personal clothes washed ready to come back to Bs As fully refreshed.
In Bs As there were nice places to go, I remember the Copper Kettle in Lavalle which was a popular meeting place then, the Queen Bess in Santa Fe which was a piano bar with superb drinks and service, the Blue Horse in Suipacha was also a good late night venue. There was an Austrian bar on Av 9th July that had a full blown stringed orchestra where you could go for a drink and meal if required. In Corrientes there were confiterias with Tango singers and floorshows. It was just fantastic. Lavalle was full of cinemas showing most of the latest American, British and Foreign films. One of the cinemas had a roof that opened in the warmer weather. Others had air conditioning. Good parilla restaurants were in abundance like the touristy Palacio de las Papas Fritas and the more upmarket La Estancia to name just two but there were dozens of them. Furthermore many of these places were affordable for most seamen at that time ( 25 de Mayo excepted) so you could go out to see a film and have a drink and a meal without feeling it was too expensive.
Other weekends we would meet up with girls from the mission and go out to the Tigre Delta for the day or go to Vicente Lopez by the river and pass a few hours sunbathing or whatever. Boca Juniors stadium was close to the docks and good football could be seen there. Just outside the dock was Luna Park that had high quality boxing there on Saturday nights. Just before I first arrived there Dai Dower fought Pascual Perez there for a world title ( I think).
So it was a bit of a wrench when sailing day came. But there was the voyage home when we painted the ship from top to bottom and looked forward to arriving in Liverpool and a spot of leave.

Kevin Campbell
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Old 15th July 2009, 17:47
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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The part of the above recollections of the firemen took place in Bs As and not Liverpool. I did not make that clear in the narrative.

Kevin
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Old 16th July 2009, 11:09
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Do you remember the Blue Comet Bar Kev. When we had ran out of our sub(which we only got once a week) they would let us drink on the slate until we got the next weeks sub. The Flying Angel used to arrange BBQs for us which were a marvelous treat and lots of the girls came along as well.
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Old 16th July 2009, 11:25
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Ledbury

Hi Kevin, yes, he was an extremely easy to get along with chap. Quite reserved. You have jogged the old cells and are quite correct. Dave Horne was the name I'd mislaid and he was Harold's nephew. Also a first rate guy. I have no knowledge of the Australian job you mentioned but Harold certainly worked for the old British Rail as I sailed with him many times. Dave Horn also. Thanks for the memories.
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Old 16th July 2009, 11:32
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Ledbury

Kevin, I have just scrolled back and read your BA narrative. What an amzing memory you have. I remember all those places now - VIVIDLY - but they have been out of my thought process for many years. That Lighthouse bar, my god, what a state we were in when we fell out of that place. To spend the next day hoisted up on one of the kingposts on the "Duq" with bucket of paint and the Mother & Father of all hangovers was not great and I feel queasy now thinking of it. The Copper Kettle was quite an oasis of respectability. Papas Fritas, wow.
Thanks again.
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Old 16th July 2009, 16:09
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Hello Leo,

I don't remember the Blue Comet Bar but I remember being always short of cash. Subs were once a week as you say but we also got a cigarette issue once a week also and I used to sell mine to the stevedores.It was 100% profit and kept me going for a couple of days. I remember on the Ledbury someone was taking the bacon slicing machine ashore to sell it when they met the master at the foot of the gangway coming back on board.
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Old 16th July 2009, 16:17
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Hi Duquesa,
thanks for reminding me of Harold Barratt. He was mate on my first few trips to sea and he was a reserved and did not converse much but he had a kind heart. He used to like going to the cinema and then a meal in Bs As and usually back on board for half past ten.
You talking about painting the samson post and feeling the effects of the night before, I remember in 63 I was in the British Hospital briefly and they brought a young man in to our ward who had broken both his legs when he fell off staging on a Blue Star boat. I remember he was still glassy eyed when they brought him in.
In the ward I was on there were a couple of foremen or some sort of managers from estancias in the camp arrived with the shakes. They had been having a spot of leave in Bs As and been hitting the bottle. They were both tough looking guys and one was called Dillon and was of Irish descent.
Kevin
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Old 16th July 2009, 17:12
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Outward bound on the Ledbury the mate had me working under the foc'sle head with the deck crew making rope strops from 2" rope ready for the bagged cargo in Argentina. We were also making spare runners for the derrick putting a hard eye and locking splice into it.
We also used to stow all the bolts of burlap we used for seperating different cargo and shippers in the after peak space.
About three days from the Plate we would help to rig the heavy 25ton ( heavy for our ship) derrick at number 4 hatch. No. 4 winches for the runner and topping lift and snatch blocks to lead the wire guy ropes to no.5 winches.
We used to do quite a lot of maintenance on the way out such as stripping snatch blocks, greasing the topping lifts and runners and greasing the hatch bar connections.
In port we used to clean hatches with all the deck crew on the job.. Occasionally a hatch beam would be unshipped and we'd run up the spar ceiling to get out of the way ( what health and safety?) Then when the hatch was clean we'd go with chippy to clean the bilges and hat boxes then fir burlap the full length of the bilge to prevent grain entering. Ledbury did not have shifting boards for loading grain but we used to use the saucer system packed with bagged grain. We also had to ensure that the grain was trimmed right up into the corners of the hold to prevent shifting. There were no feeders to the holds but we never seemed to encounter any problems carrying grain.
In Rosario where we usually loaded grain the grain trimmers used to turn up at seven in the morning ( some on horseback) and the foreman would pick out who he wanted for work that day.It was a tough system but they did that in Bs As also when selecting labour.
Sometimes arriving in Bs As we had trouble getting alongside on some of the berths due to lack of water but normally we went to the New Port dock where there was more depth.
At the end of the quays in the New Port there used to be a flying boat service using Short Sunderlands or possibly Sandringham aircraft. The passengers were ferried out by launch to board the aircraft. The aircraft used to take off and land inside the breakwater, sharing the stretch of water with the shipping. Later the flying boats were dispensed with and replaced by hydrofoils. I think the destinations were mainly to Uruguay.
In South Dock when berthed next to the Anglo frigorifico there was an outdoor parilla with a long table, benches and a sort of tarpaulin roof. Sometimes at lunchtime we used to go there for a steak or steak sandwich straight out of the frogorifico instead of eating on board. It was superb. We also used to buy packs of steak to take home with us, putting it in the freezer until arrival at Liverpool or London.
To get into the Boca from South Dock there was a small rowing boat that would ferry us across the Riachuelo river as it passed under the huge bridge, the name of which escapes me. It was not very safe coming back late at night on the boat if it was crowded and if you had had a drink.
Talking about drinking. In the Bs As docks there used to be about one death per month of seafarers falling into the dock and drowning. Some was because of drink I suppose but others were people falling off staging whilst working. It was normal practice to paint the ship overside whilst alongside prior to the voyage home.
I recall one occasion in dock 4 when the crew of the vessel astern complained about being served lamb for Christmas dinner. They got in touch with their mates on another ship across the dock and next thing half a dozen of them were swimming across the dock to the pilot ladder rigged for them having been invited for some turkey I suppose. On a few occasions we used to get deck crew from tramp ships like Chapmans and others of similar ilk who used to come on board looking for a feed.
I was once laying stern to in North Basin, lines ashore aft to the quay and two anchors down when a pampero blew up one quiet Sunday afternoon. Ships were breaking free and slewing across the dock in every direction. Fortunately for us everything held but there were few of us onboard to tend the ropes and I seem to think there was a panic on trying to get some steam on deck. We were fortunate not to sustain damage. The wind was sudden and ferocious.
We had quite a steady stream of men in those days going to the British Hospital for treatment and then going home on other ships DBS. Several were hospitalised with ulcers I remember.We had the occasional crew member went on the bottle down there and had to be put ashore with alcoholic poisoning. Some had appendicitis and things like that. They were always well cared for. The senior surgeon at the British hospital at that time was a Dr Bilfeld. He was unfortunately killed in the 60's when his car collided with a stationary vehicle.
I remember being in dock 4 when the Comet airliner came down on a sales tour...that would be 1958. It flew around the centre of the city quite a few times and attracted interest in the dock area because it was probably the first jet airliner many of us had seen. It was flown by Cunningham the chief De Havilland pilot according to the BA Herald. The stevedores were wagging their fingers at us because I think one Comet had been lost in the mediterranean a few months earlier. But Aerolineas bought a few I think.
Another time when I was down there Stirling Moss won the Argentine Grand Prix in a Cooper Bristol I believe it was, he finished with balding tyres according to the press, but managed to beat Fangio.
Just outside the dock, next to Luna Park at that time was a garage owned by Emilio Gonzales who had been a prominent Argentine racing driver along with Fangio. Fangio was from Balcarce near Mar del Plata.
There was plenty of hard work in thise days but plenty to see and do also. For a young lad who was fit and suited by the life it was unbeatable.

Kevin
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Old 16th July 2009, 17:30
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian6 View Post
Kevin
Many thanks for that excellent description of your time in 'Ledbury', although inevitably different in various details it exactly describes my own, and I'm sure many other, memories of those days so long ago. Containers and FOC may have improved efficiency for the owners, but for the general mass of seafarers so much has been lost (including all our jobs !)
Ian
Thats right Ian. We probably saw the best days when we were at sea. I loved a good old five hatch cargo ship. For a young lad it was marvellous ( for me anyway).

Kevin
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Old 16th July 2009, 17:34
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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Ian re Ledbury

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Kevin
Many thanks for that excellent description of your time in 'Ledbury', although inevitably different in various details it exactly describes my own, and I'm sure many other, memories of those days so long ago. Containers and FOC may have improved efficiency for the owners, but for the general mass of seafarers so much has been lost (including all our jobs !)
Ian
Hello Ian, thanks for your memo. We had the best period at sea with good old five hatch cargo ships, some interest, some time in port and something about the design and fittings to interest us on passage. I enjoyed every minute of it, well , nearly every minute.

Kevin
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Old 17th July 2009, 11:46
Kevin Campbell Kevin Campbell is offline  
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To continue, on my first trip to sea on Ledbury I used to go down the engine room in the evening for an hour and sit on the wooden bench next to the wooden desk where they had the engine log bound in canvas. I was absolutely fascinated just sitting watching the triple steam reciprocating engine running at 63 rpm. If you ever wanted to demonstrate to a pupil how linear motion was transferred to circular motion this was it. To watch those huge big ends churning away throwing the huge cranks in circular regular and almost silent motion was awesome. How these engines were produced in volume for the Liberty ships was a feat in itself. I was fascinated watching the greaser come along with his oil can and standing on a side platform, would
lubricate the crosshead bearing and the eccentrics whilst meticulously following the movement of the parts and applying oil from a spouted can and hitting the spot each time without ever coming close to touching the flailing parts. It was a skill. How those steam engineers must have hated it when the noisy, dirty, high maintenance diesels came on the scene. But they were more efficient with the fuel I suppose and gave suitable service speeds.
Thinking back about what I wrote yesterday about the Comet airliner sales tour in Buenos Aires, back in the early sixties only a few well heeled people flew. Most travellers to and from Europe and the USA went by sea. Royal Mail alone had the Andes, Alcantara, Highland Brigade, Highland Monarch and Highland Chieftain as regular scheduled passenger ships, although Andes and Alcantara did do some cruising in between. But Blue Star had the Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay Stars running regular schedules as well not carrying as many passengers as Royal Mail but I suspect quite a few. Then there was Houlders and South American Saint Line who carried a handful.
The Americans had the twin funnelled Moore MacCormack Lines Argentina and I think Delta had one sailing out of New Orleans. From Europe there were the Italian Liners and later from Royal Mail the Aragon, Arlanza and Amazon.
There had always been a vibrant sea passenger service to and from Argentina
but it is hard to visualize that air travel had not taken a hold on volume passengers until the mid sixties and the passenger fleets declined. It is not that long ago really.
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Old 18th July 2009, 11:01
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Hi Kevin.
Although only carrying 12 passengers, Houlder's Hardwicke & Royston Granges were invariably full during the years I served on them and we seemed to carry the same families time after time. I remember one Argentinean/Italian lady who traveled quite regularly and even came down to the ship to visit in Dock Sud and have a drink in the passenger's bar and often stay for lunch and we used to visit her at her house on the outskirts of Bs. As. where she treated us very handsomely. A far cry from what I suppose happens to-day.
Regards
Leo
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Old 18th July 2009, 12:38
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Royston / Hardwicke

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Hi Kevin.
Although only carrying 12 passengers, Houlder's Hardwicke & Royston Granges were invariably full during the years I served on them and we seemed to carry the same families time after time. I remember one Argentinean/Italian lady who traveled quite regularly and even came down to the ship to visit in Dock Sud and have a drink in the passenger's bar and often stay for lunch and we used to visit her at her house on the outskirts of Bs. As. where she treated us very handsomely. A far cry from what I suppose happens to-day.
Regards
Leo
Yes I can imagine that being the case Leo.
Some of the dry cargo ships like Oswestry Grange had four pax cabins and I can remember bringing the odd passenger back from Bs As on the Westbury in the sixties. I remember that the single fare in those days Bs As to Liverpool,
which was a voyage of about 18 days, ( on Westbury) was 108, which I suppose was quite a lot of money then.There was not a lot for them to do though on ships like that except read and sunbathe.But some people used to like travelling on cargo ships. I believe the actor Arthur Lowe who played the part of Capt Mainwaring in the Dad's Army series liked to spend his holidays doing voyages on cargo ships. He enjoyed the experience. Even today there are people seeking passages on normal cargo traders as a change from the usual planes or passenger ships.

Kevin
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