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  #1  
Old 27th February 2018, 00:45
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Coincidence

Coincidence: Just heard that Radio Officer Sandy McIvor has died. He was in his 90s so it had to be. Sandy and I go back a long way. In the 1950s I was posted to Wick Radio/GKR in Caithness. At that time my dad worked in the Inspectorate of Fighting Vehicles in Manchester. One of his workmates was a guy called Ron Deardon. In conversation dad told Ron that his son, me, had been sent to Wick Radio. To which Ron replied, “My mate, Sandy McIvor, used to work there, ask your son if he knows him. And, of course, I did. He was my workmate.
This revealed a fascinating story. Sandy and Ron were radio officers in the M N during the war. At one stage they both ended up aboard separate ships in the same convoy. They were both torpedoed and ended up in their own ship’s lifeboat. Then they were both rescued by the same Canadian warship that had gone hunting for survivors, taken to Canada where they became friends, then shipped back to Blighty in the same vessel.
They both went back to sea but stayed in touch. Shortly after the war Sandy spent one of his leaves at Ron’s house in Manchester. There he met a German girl called Rose, who came over to England as a student and lodged in the house next door to Ron. They fell in love. Then, with much opposition from Rose’s father, they married. Ron was the best man at their wedding. Then Ron came ashore and ended up working alongside my dad. A decade later, 600 miles of the north, I ended up working alongside Sandy who had also come ashore.
This story says a lot about human nature. Straight away after the war, Rose, from Munich, came to Manchester to study. Sandy and Ron, survivors of the Battle of the Atlantic accepted her without question. Rose told her father, “accept this Brit or lose me.” Sandy married her, Ron was best man. Sandy and Rose went to her father’s house every year on holiday
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Old 27th February 2018, 01:39
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Charlie

I first met Sandy at Dundee Wireless College in 1946 when we both had Special Certificates and were studying for 2nd Class. The next time I met him was when I went to Wickradio in late 1953. Although his wife was called Rose, her real name was Rosetrout. I got married in early 1954 and we regularly visited each other. I stayed at Wick for just under a year and got a voluntary to Portishead.

Is Rose still alive?

Ian
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Old 27th February 2018, 08:25
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I thought it was about a London and Rochester vessel
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Old 27th February 2018, 08:54
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Nice story,thanks.

Geoff
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Old 27th February 2018, 12:38
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In the late 1960's working at Ferranti, I met Alastair Mowat whose father at that time was wotking at GKR.
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Old 27th February 2018, 19:51
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I thought it was about a London and Rochester vessel
So did I, now there's a.....oh, never mind...
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Old 27th February 2018, 20:05
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I did two weeks DD at GKR to cram in as much overtime as possible. Don't think I came close to Sandy though !!

David
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Old 28th February 2018, 11:41
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Thanks for updating us Charlie and a great bit of history from you. Very sad to hear of Sandy's passing.

Went to see Towering Inferno at the cinema in Wick once. On the way out we met Sandy & Rose. Sandy & I went to our respective homes, picked up our overnight supplies & met each other a short while later for nightshift! After that I went home to sleep - Sandy was known to go fishing after a nightshift!

Ian, Rose passed away in 2013.
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Old 28th February 2018, 11:53
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Sandy & Rose in the front of the 2008 picture on this page http://maritimeradio.pro/uk/gkr/2008-reunion.htm
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Old 1st March 2018, 01:21
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Hi Ian - Good to meet you here. I arrived at GKR after you left. Though I did lots of Christmas DD at GKU over the years. So maybe we have met indirectly before.No Rose has gone now. Apparently she was quite ill for a number of years. As far as I know she died 4 or 5 years back. But that timing is by no means accurate. Some ex GKR characters I often wonder about, who all went to GKU, are Gerry Smythe, John Donelly and Johnny Care. Do you know anything about them?
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Old 1st March 2018, 08:48
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Hello, Charlie. Good to meet you too.

No, I did not know any of the three men you mention.

If you would like to read about my time at Wick and Portishead, you should get a copy of my book LAST VOYAGE AND BEYOND which is available on Amazon in both Kindle and print formats.

Best Wishes

Ian
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Old 1st March 2018, 11:57
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Charlie,

I knew Gerry and John at GKA. Not sure about J Donelly but Gerry died some years back.

Neville
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Old 4th March 2018, 20:51
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Hi Ian If you're still about. I remember another RO who went to GKA - Mike Pete or Peat... I believe he reincarnated as an overseer. Do you know of him?
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Old 4th March 2018, 20:54
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Ah yes... Sandy Mowat OiC... Nuff sed
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Old 4th March 2018, 21:00
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Hi Hawkey... Thanks for that. I was sorry to hear about Gerry. His wife died when the children were very young. His wife's sister married one of the ROs from Wick. By the way, do you remember Mike Peat/Pete or know what happened to him? Cheers Charliue
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Old 4th March 2018, 21:48
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#13 . No, Charlie, I didn't know him. Did you get a copy of the book?
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Old 4th March 2018, 21:58
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No Ian. Sorry, I didn't. I'm still busy trying to push my 3 books on Kindle. But nobody is interested.
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Old 4th March 2018, 22:18
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Originally Posted by david.hopcroft View Post
I did two weeks DD at GKR to cram in as much overtime as possible. Don't think I came close to Sandy though !!

David
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Hi David - Nobody, but nobody, ever came anywhere near Sandy. He'd do a nightshift followed by a dayshift or a dayshift followed by a nightshift and, Like Bob says, then go fishing. Thing is, he was tall. And when the overtime rota went up and everyone dashed to the board to claim their spot, he'd lean over the other blokes and tick all the creamy bits. He was on higher take home pay than the prime minister back in the 60s. We all said he'd be dead within months but he went on forever then got decades of retirement in. A phenomenon.
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Old 4th March 2018, 22:36
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Thanks for updating us Charlie and a great bit of history from you. Very sad to hear of Sandy's passing.

Went to see Towering Inferno at the cinema in Wick once. On the way out we met Sandy & Rose. Sandy & I went to our respective homes, picked up our overnight supplies & met each other a short while later for nightshift! After that I went home to sleep - Sandy was known to go fishing after a nightshift!

Ian, Rose passed away in 2013.
Hi Bob, great to bump into you again. Yes... I always felt a lot of respect for Sandy and his like. I'm sad now that I didn't show it more. But in those days they were just workmates with various opinions. But there we go. I still keep in touch with Tom Freeman from GKR. He lives out in Watten and is going great guns, walks and cycles miles. His wife is poorly though. I'm in Christmas contact with Bryan Richards and Brian Yarwood from SI. Brian seems to be in fine fettle, skiing and travelling and what have you. Brian on the other hand is beginning to feel the years. But he's still a fab watercolour painter and I have an impressive number of his Christmas cards. I believe Paul Vohra went to Valhalla a couple of years ago. I'm in rude health. Hope you and the other SI lads north of the border are the same. Please pass on my KRs if you are in touch - Charlie
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Old 4th March 2018, 23:12
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Hi Charlie,

Always good to hear updates about our old colleagues.

Was up in Wick last year for a friend's 40th wedding celebration. Sad to see state of the radio station building. It is in use as a business premisis but very far from it's old pristine self! Same can be said for the old coastguard building.

I think workmates are a bit like family, you don't necessarily connect with their personal history until you"re somewhat older, by which time you've missed the chance to talk to them! We certainly worked with some very interesting people.

Of the north of the border S.I. lads, I think there's only Jim Campbell, Dave Hepworth, Bill Moffat & myself left. Bill moved down south a few years ago to be closer to family. Dave also moved south a couple of years ago for family reasons and now lives in Yorkshire. Jim is still around the Aberdeen area and I'm still in the Glasgow area (although writing this in Dublin where my younger son stays).

Always good to know you're doing well. Best regards.
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Old 5th March 2018, 00:43
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Hi Charlie,

Always good to hear updates about our old colleagues.

Was up in Wick last year for a friend's 40th wedding celebration. Sad to see state of the radio station building. It is in use as a business premisis but very far from it's old pristine self! Same can be said for the old coastguard building.

I think workmates are a bit like family, you don't necessarily connect with their personal history until you"re somewhat older, by which time you've missed the chance to talk to them! We certainly worked with some very interesting people.

Of the north of the border S.I. lads, I think there's only Jim Campbell, Dave Hepworth, Bill Moffat & myself left. Bill moved down south a few years ago to be closer to family. Dave also moved south a couple of years ago for family reasons and now lives in Yorkshire. Jim is still around the Aberdeen area and I'm still in the Glasgow area (although writing this in Dublin where my younger son stays).

Always good to know you're doing well. Best regards.
Thanks Bob. Yeah, my wife's aunt lives at Westbanks House, next to the bungalow facing where the laundry used to be. Was back there 5 years ago. The laundry's a car park now. The station was a mess then. All very sad. It's like the local hero down here, Max Boyce, says, "The pit-head bath's a super market now."
Like I say, pass my regards on to any of our scattered friends you meet. And you take care. All the best Charlie
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Old 5th March 2018, 02:14
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Here are excerpts from the section about Coast Stations in my book LAST VOYAGE AND BEYOND.

26 PORTISHEAD AND WICK

I was called for interview to the Overseas Telecommunications Department at GPO Headquarters in St. Martin's Le Grand, London outside of which stands a statue of Rowland Hill. The main part of the interview, as far as I remember, was the inevitable Morse test. After the interview I visited the Tower of London and, in the evening, went to see South Pacific on stage at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The GPO subsequently offered me a post. I wanted to work on the small station at Stonehaven (GND), but was told that there was already a waiting list for that station. There were vacancies at Burnham Radio and Wick. I opted for Wick so they sent me to Burnham which was, in fact, Portishead Radio Station which I had so often communicated with when at sea.

We all had to undergo a training period of about six weeks in what was known as the School. This was merely a big hut beside the main building and the two main activities were improving our Morse speed and learning to type. As I had learned to touch-type at night school before going to sea, this was like a holiday for me. The Post Office made you pass a Morse test at 27 wpm plus an interview board and language tests in both French and German before accepting you as an Established Civil Servant. Joe Wynn, a long serving Post Office operator nearing retirement, was in charge of the School. He was a pleasant man so that we enjoyed ourselves. Towards the end of the training, we were each attached to an operator on the Station and began to take part in the regular work. During this training period, we remained on 9 to 5 day work only. Then, just as I was reconciled to working at Portishead, they transferred me to Wick! So my motorbike and I got on the train again and headed for the far north of Scotland.

I arrived in Wick on Tuesday, 8th December (1953) and was to stay almost a year at Wickradio/GKR where the duty system was ridiculous. Bruce Mackie, the O/C (Officer-in-Charge), was a slim clean-cut dedicated Post Office man in his fifties who wore half-moon glasses. His experience of the sea had been time spent on a Post Office cable ship.

There was no rotation of duties. The duties were fixed so that, once you were told your hours for the week, that was it until further notice. My duty was changed a number of times, but all the duties I worked gave me neither a Saturday nor a Sunday off. The duties were based on whether the number of operators available was 14, 15 or 16. An example of one of these duties was 'Duty K' based on a working complement of 16 operators:

Sunday 12 - 6 pm
Monday 9 - 12 1 - 4.40 pm
Tuesday 8 - 2 pm 11 - midnight
Wednesday midnight - 9 am
Thursday Rest Day
Friday 5.30 pm - midnight
Saturday 12 - 2 pm 5 - 11 pm

I was also on duty on Old Year's Night and was due to travel south on the morning train to be married in Dundee. I was living in the Rosebank Hotel which was owned by Mrs Sutherland who reduced her rates to permanent guests. Knowing Scotland on Hogmanay, I asked Isobel, one of the waitresses/chambermaids, if I'd be able to get breakfast as usual when I came off duty in the morning. "Yes, that'll be all right," she assured me. "Are you sure?" I insisted. "Definitely," she said. And so I boarded the morning train not only tired but hungry. You could have stolen the Rosebank and everything in it that morning!

In November, 1954 my name came to the top of the transfer list for Portishead and I readily accepted the offer. A six-day week was worked at all the coast stations, but the split shifts (cf. the Saturday of Duty K above) plus the fixed duties were, perhaps, peculiar to Wickradio and certainly did not exist at Portishead.

The hardest work I did at Portishead was when we operated a 'work to rule' for more money. When we were operating normally, we didn't operate according to the rule book i.e. Ship's call sign 3 times de GKL 3 times, etc. It was just as I've stated above; GNCS GKL sent only once with even the 'de' omitted. The big passenger liners were on the seas in these days and ships such as the Lizzie (GBSS) and the Mary (GBTT) had scores of telegrams to send and no time to waste. During the 'work to rule', it was GBSS 3 times de GKL 3 times, etc. and I could sense the amazement/disbelief of the guy at the other end when I worked my first passenger ship under these conditions. I could picture his face and what he said to a colleague in the radio room about this 'new boy/twit' at Portishead until it dawned on them all that they were dealing with a reformed Portishead. Complaints began to pour in from the shipping companies - just imagine the Queen Mary showing up at Southampton without Cunard knowing exactly when she would berth - no pilot in readiness, no trains to convey passengers up to London, no etc. etc! And it was the same with the outgoing traffic. The gummed strips of telegrams were spewing in from teleprinters and coiling up in the tall elliptical metal containers beside them. It was controlled chaos if that's not a contradiction in terms! And it couldn't go on. A representative of the Inspector of Wireless Telegraphy arrived at the station and, somehow or other, the matter was resolved although I have no recollection of receiving more money.
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Last edited by IAN M; 5th March 2018 at 02:25..
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Old 5th March 2018, 10:02
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Going back to the overtime bit, I annoyed Mr Mowat one day when I was sat on 12mcs doing nothing and getting paid ED rates !!

David
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Old 5th March 2018, 11:11
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Charlie,

Yes knew Mike Pete and as stated he was an overseer at GKA. A popular fellow and generally well liked. I feel a bit like the angel of doom - Mike contracted cancer and died about two years back.
Paul Vohra as stated previously - died.
Others mentioned above - Dave Hepworth and Jim Campbell, Bryan Richards all RO's with me at various stages at GKA. Had contact with Bryan at Christmas and have to say in his photo - he was on a roof in Germany - doing some work for his son at their holiday home! Looking very well.

Neville - Hawkey01
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Old 5th March 2018, 21:01
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Originally Posted by IAN M View Post
Here are excerpts from the section about Coast Stations in my book LAST VOYAGE AND BEYOND.

26 PORTISHEAD AND WICK

I was called for interview to the Overseas Telecommunications Department at GPO Headquarters in St. Martin's Le Grand, London outside of which stands a statue of Rowland Hill. The main part of the interview, as far as I remember, was the inevitable Morse test. After the interview I visited the Tower of London and, in the evening, went to see South Pacific on stage at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The GPO subsequently offered me a post. I wanted to work on the small station at Stonehaven (GND), but was told that there was already a waiting list for that station. There were vacancies at Burnham Radio and Wick. I opted for Wick so they sent me to Burnham which was, in fact, Portishead Radio Station which I had so often communicated with when at sea.

We all had to undergo a training period of about six weeks in what was known as the School. This was merely a big hut beside the main building and the two main activities were improving our Morse speed and learning to type. As I had learned to touch-type at night school before going to sea, this was like a holiday for me. The Post Office made you pass a Morse test at 27 wpm plus an interview board and language tests in both French and German before accepting you as an Established Civil Servant. Joe Wynn, a long serving Post Office operator nearing retirement, was in charge of the School. He was a pleasant man so that we enjoyed ourselves. Towards the end of the training, we were each attached to an operator on the Station and began to take part in the regular work. During this training period, we remained on 9 to 5 day work only. Then, just as I was reconciled to working at Portishead, they transferred me to Wick! So my motorbike and I got on the train again and headed for the far north of Scotland.

I arrived in Wick on Tuesday, 8th December (1953) and was to stay almost a year at Wickradio/GKR where the duty system was ridiculous. Bruce Mackie, the O/C (Officer-in-Charge), was a slim clean-cut dedicated Post Office man in his fifties who wore half-moon glasses. His experience of the sea had been time spent on a Post Office cable ship.

There was no rotation of duties. The duties were fixed so that, once you were told your hours for the week, that was it until further notice. My duty was changed a number of times, but all the duties I worked gave me neither a Saturday nor a Sunday off. The duties were based on whether the number of operators available was 14, 15 or 16. An example of one of these duties was 'Duty K' based on a working complement of 16 operators:

Sunday 12 - 6 pm
Monday 9 - 12 1 - 4.40 pm
Tuesday 8 - 2 pm 11 - midnight
Wednesday midnight - 9 am
Thursday Rest Day
Friday 5.30 pm - midnight
Saturday 12 - 2 pm 5 - 11 pm

I was also on duty on Old Year's Night and was due to travel south on the morning train to be married in Dundee. I was living in the Rosebank Hotel which was owned by Mrs Sutherland who reduced her rates to permanent guests. Knowing Scotland on Hogmanay, I asked Isobel, one of the waitresses/chambermaids, if I'd be able to get breakfast as usual when I came off duty in the morning. "Yes, that'll be all right," she assured me. "Are you sure?" I insisted. "Definitely," she said. And so I boarded the morning train not only tired but hungry. You could have stolen the Rosebank and everything in it that morning!

In November, 1954 my name came to the top of the transfer list for Portishead and I readily accepted the offer. A six-day week was worked at all the coast stations, but the split shifts (cf. the Saturday of Duty K above) plus the fixed duties were, perhaps, peculiar to Wickradio and certainly did not exist at Portishead.

The hardest work I did at Portishead was when we operated a 'work to rule' for more money. When we were operating normally, we didn't operate according to the rule book i.e. Ship's call sign 3 times de GKL 3 times, etc. It was just as I've stated above; GNCS GKL sent only once with even the 'de' omitted. The big passenger liners were on the seas in these days and ships such as the Lizzie (GBSS) and the Mary (GBTT) had scores of telegrams to send and no time to waste. During the 'work to rule', it was GBSS 3 times de GKL 3 times, etc. and I could sense the amazement/disbelief of the guy at the other end when I worked my first passenger ship under these conditions. I could picture his face and what he said to a colleague in the radio room about this 'new boy/twit' at Portishead until it dawned on them all that they were dealing with a reformed Portishead. Complaints began to pour in from the shipping companies - just imagine the Queen Mary showing up at Southampton without Cunard knowing exactly when she would berth - no pilot in readiness, no trains to convey passengers up to London, no etc. etc! And it was the same with the outgoing traffic. The gummed strips of telegrams were spewing in from teleprinters and coiling up in the tall elliptical metal containers beside them. It was controlled chaos if that's not a contradiction in terms! And it couldn't go on. A representative of the Inspector of Wireless Telegraphy arrived at the station and, somehow or other, the matter was resolved although I have no recollection of receiving more money.
Hi Ian - Thanks for that. I remember my interview at London HQ. The interviewer started with Stonehaven then went clockwise round the coast, Cullercoates etc, and told me the history of every station until he came back to Wick. Then he said "that's where the vacancy is!" Sixteen years later...
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