A Song About Gravesend Sea School

MelodyFaye
15th April 2012, 19:03
Hi, I'm a bit of an unlikely new member to this forum - I'm a Celtic folk/rock songwriter from America, but I am also fascinated by history, and history of the sea especially.

I just finished up a song about the boys of the Gravesend Sea School and I hope I have done my research well and gotten all of my facts straight! But, I would like to do a bit of a fact check before I go record this song, so I can correct anything I've gotten wrong.

My biggest question is, how long did it take to complete training in the early 60s? This is when the song takes place and, well, there's nothing worse to a history writer than to get the dates incorrect...

And, because I wanted to represent all those who attended, I tried to write about things that everyone did. After researching, the things I included in the lyrics were the lifeboat drills, promenade marches and getting a haircut after arriving - pretty general stuff, but if there's anything I've missed, I'd love to know, I might be able to work it into the lyrics.

Thanks in advance, I'm looking forward to hearing any answers you've got!

Jim Mclaughlin
30th August 2012, 13:35
Dont know about the 60s but approx 3 months training in the 70s.
Daily routines-
Polishing and buffing of wooden dorm floors every morning.
Sunday dorm inspections.
Small hours dorm raids.
The special tea with a touch of bromide.
Kit inspection before being allowed ashore ie: Gravesend town.
Special friendships with the local girls.
The end of term going away disco, many a tear shed.
Iam sure others will have imput for you
Jim

paisleymerchant
30th August 2012, 14:47
Might be an idea to post the lyrics you have so far ,

I was at Gravesend in the 70's, but I doubt that it had changed so much from then

It was an experience !

Hamish Mackintosh
30th August 2012, 15:38
Twelve weeks for deck trainees and eight weeks for catering, Sweeney Todd the barber (who all trainees had to visit unless one already had no hair) Mr Plumb the chief steward(and I believe the chief instuctor, he had the most to say anyway)who made everyones life miserable, and Captain McKellar the man in charge of the whole thing in the early fifties-sixties

MelodyFaye
30th August 2012, 18:30
Thanks for your responses! A lot of what you've all said goes along with what I've written into the lyrics, based on my research, which is great...and, here are the lyrics:

The Mermaids and the Music Box

April 22, 1963
He left home in the morning ready for a life at sea.
Sixteen years and two months old, he was a sea cadet and all,
His greatest fascination fixed on his first port of call.

So they sent him off to Gravesend with a dozen nervous boys
And upon arrival he was greeted with the noise
Of old hands shouting, “Ciggies, mate?” while being pushed into a queue
To get a haircut. Some lads legged it home before the day was through.

Now like the deckies on the jetty
And the tired boys on watch,
He’s awake and hunting mermaids through the fog in Tilbury docks
As they sing seducing lullabies
That rise out of the Lock.
He’ll grow up fast by living here in the navy’s Music Box.

And again this morning, he is toppled out of bed
For a march along the promenade as the rain pours on his head.
He’d have jacked it in last week but for his pride he’s holding fast
And during lifeboat drills that afternoon, he sees a mermaid sliding past.

Now like the deckies on the jetty
And the tired boys on watch,
He’s awake and hunting mermaids through the fog in Tilbury docks
As they sing seducing lullabies
That rise out of the Lock.
He’ll grow up fast by living here in the navy’s Music Box.

June the 14, 1963
He proudly holds a discharge book stamped “Catering Trainee.”
The days were long and food was scant, but now he’s merchant navy grown.
“Ta-ra,” he says. “Me Gravesend boys, the sea’s me brand new home!”

And like the deckies on the jetty
And the tired boys on watch,
He’s awake and hunting mermaids through the fog in Tilbury docks
As they sing seducing lullabies
That rise out of the Lock.
He’ll grow up fast by living here in the navy’s Music Box.

If you'd like, I'd love to hear your thoughts - anything that could use changing to be more accurate, etc. I'm in the process of recording this song now and it's shaping up to be a real Who-like rocker.

Thanks again, Jen

barrow-boy
30th August 2012, 19:13
On arrival he would have been greeted with "Peanut" not ciggies mate.

Jim Mclaughlin
30th August 2012, 21:14
A lot of your lyrics Iam sure we can relate to. Minor point a sea cadet is officer in the making. No cadets at gravesend sea school I was at.

MelodyFaye
31st August 2012, 00:01
Thanks for reading through the lyrics. Was it ever the case that a cadet could be at Gravesend? There are two instances in my notes - "some boys had been sea cadets while others couldn't even swim" and "a cadet could make a leading hand" - they were direct quotes, so I must have read it somewhere.

gypcoll
13th July 2019, 11:41
I was there in 58, never heard the expression *peanuts*, we were greeted with the expression *you aint never going home new boy*, there were no cadets in my time, you could be made leading hand, bosun, bosuns mate, these depended on your exam results toward the end of your course

David W
13th July 2019, 16:15
The reference to cadets, probably means the lad referred to had been a member of the SCC-Sea Cadet Corps, before applying to join the Merchant Navy.