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Old 10th January 2008, 20:40
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Hugh Ferguson Hugh Ferguson is offline  
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Signing on in 1907
........everyone was now assembled; and at a nod from Mr Thomas (chief officer) he (the clerk) began to read in a monotonous sing-song voice friom the document before him:-
".........s.s. Clytemnestra, bound from Liverpool to Yokohama, and (or) any other port or ports within the limits of 72 degs.N.Latitude, and 65 degs. S.Latitude, trading to or from, as may be required, till the ship arrives at a port, or final port of discharge, in the United Kingdom, or continent of Europe, between the river Elbe and Brest, for a period not exceeding 18 months, as the master may require........."
I was listening intently, but, looking around saw thay no one else was paying the least attention. It was all the same to them whether they "signed on" for San Francisco, Sydney, or Shanghai. It was a twice told tale to them.
And truly it mattered little whether they listened or not; for from the wording it was obvious we could be sent anywhere a ship could sail.
The sing-song voice seemed to act on them like a soporific. It went on indefinitely, reading more and more rapidly and indistinctly.
Suddenly it stopped; and then in a natural voice the clerk said:
"All members of the crew to be on board before mid-night on the 12th Jan."
This seemed to be the part they were waiting for. They all woke up. "get ready to sign now", the clerk said briskly. Then the clerk said, "You, doctor!" and pointed to a column. In five seconds I had signed away my liberty for eighteen months, agreed to abide by a mass of regulations I did not understand, and to sail on a ship I had never seen...................

And from this voyage a book resulted that was so successful that the author was tempted to give up medicine and become an author. Instead, he did both!
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