The Sandheads Lament - Ships Nostalgia
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The Sandheads Lament

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  #1  
Old 20th July 2018, 21:07
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The Sandheads Lament

Hello chaps. I'm on with ch3 of book 2 of a seagoing memoir (book 1 is on Amazon as "The Best of Days"). I'm enjoying poking around in the fragments of 'factual' memory and adding imaginary bits of dialogue to help keep it lively.
This current chapter deals with the 1957 dock strike in Calcutta which meant that Mahanada was at anchor at Sandheads 5th - 29/30th August with up to 30 other vessels, apart from a break of a couple of days when we all had to flee into deep water to ride out a cyclone. We spread awnings to catch rain, and were rationed to a bucket a day.
I think Maihar was also at Sandheads and perhaps other Brocks, but cannot recall which. When we got to Kidderpore there was a fabulous party. Mahanada was awash with festive visitors from other Brocks.
I wish I knew what others of the fleet were in port with us. We were in Calcutta for 42 days turning round for the States.
Mahanada's skiffle group composed the Sandheads Lament to a Harry Belafonte calypso. It went something like:

All day, all night, agent-man,
He don't seem to give a damn.
Nobody here at Sandheads
Love de agent-man,
He don't seem to give a damn.

Alongside in Kidderpore,
We'll not give a fook.
We'll have a raving party
Instead of swinging round de hook.

Are there any of you fine gentlemen able to add anything to these events?

Also, I'm wondering what we did with our waste water, sewage and the like. Was it discharged into the dock, or did we have the means to contain it? I know Kidderpore dock water was poisonous - but did the visiting ships add to that state of affairs.

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Last edited by Harry Nicholson; 20th July 2018 at 21:11..
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Old 20th July 2018, 22:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
Hello chaps. I'm on with ch3 of book 2 of a seagoing memoir (book 1 is on Amazon as "The Best of Days"). I'm enjoying poking around in the fragments of 'factual' memory and adding imaginary bits of dialogue to help keep it lively.
This current chapter deals with the 1957 dock strike in Calcutta which meant that Mahanada was at anchor at Sandheads 5th - 29/30th August with up to 30 other vessels, apart from a break of a couple of days when we all had to flee into deep water to ride out a cyclone. We spread awnings to catch rain, and were rationed to a bucket a day.
I think Maihar was also at Sandheads and perhaps other Brocks, but cannot recall which. When we got to Kidderpore there was a fabulous party. Mahanada was awash with festive visitors from other Brocks.


I wish I knew what others of the fleet were in port with us. We were in Calcutta for 42 days turning round for the States.
Mahanada's skiffle group composed the Sandheads Lament to a Harry Belafonte calypso. It went something like:

All day, all night, agent-man,
He don't seem to give a damn.
Nobody here at Sandheads
Love de agent-man,
He don't seem to give a damn.

Alongside in Kidderpore,
We'll not give a fook.
We'll have a raving party
Instead of swinging round de hook.

Are there any of you fine gentlemen able to add anything to these events?

Also, I'm wondering what we did with our waste water, sewage and the like. Was it discharged into the dock, or did we have the means to contain it? I know Kidderpore dock water was poisonous - but did the visiting ships add to that state of affairs.

Attachment 187447
Not a Brocks man, but I was third mate on Bank Lines Isipingo and we had many weeks swinging around the Hook at Sandheads,then it was up the river to the grand kiddapore docks where we had another month or so, lucky we had the Calcutta swimming club to fall back on after we got fed up with the delights of Chowringi.
In those days I think that everything got discharged into the dock and river, what was the name of the box toilet that was slung over the stern for the dockers?was it the thunder box?

jim
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  #3  
Old 21st July 2018, 06:36
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Best of luck with the book. I have only a few bits of verse so far and am too busy at, 78, to start a book. I'm ferrying in the West of Ireland and trying to start a fall back career as a voice actor.
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Old 21st July 2018, 09:39
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Originally Posted by jimthehat View Post
Not a Brocks man, but I was third mate on Bank Lines Isipingo and we had many weeks swinging around the Hook at Sandheads,then it was up the river to the grand kiddapore docks where we had another month or so, lucky we had the Calcutta swimming club to fall back on after we got fed up with the delights of Chowringi.
In those days I think that everything got discharged into the dock and river, what was the name of the box toilet that was slung over the stern for the dockers?was it the thunder box?

jim
Thanks, Jim. The swimming club was a relief - cool drinks around the pool. Amazingly, still restricted to Europeans in 57. Do you recall if Isipingo was anchored with all the rest waiting at Sandheads that 1957 Monsoon season? Such small details do help a story.
I'm obliged to have your recall of the waste water arrangements. I expect such would be unlawful these days.
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Old 21st July 2018, 09:58
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Best of luck with the book. I have only a few bits of verse so far and am too busy at, 78, to start a book. I'm ferrying in the West of Ireland and trying to start a fall back career as a voice actor.
You've an active life, Robert. The late seventies can be a fruitful time to begin writing your stories and getting your verse together. Should you ever begin, I can recommend software called Writeitnow by Ravenshead, a UK company:

https://ravensheadservices.com/creat...hoC5EUQAvD_BwE

Harry
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Old 21st July 2018, 11:57
Riccarton Riccarton is offline  
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Harry, from memory Maihar was anchored at Sandheads around the dates you posted, being my first Brocks ship.
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Old 21st July 2018, 14:21
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Harry, from memory Maihar was anchored at Sandheads around the dates you posted, being my first Brocks ship.
Thanks, Riccarton. That's useful. Perhaps you came aboard Mahanada - we had a party when we finally docked - the ship was overwhelmed with visitors, some where stiil around at breakfast. I found one visitor sleeping it off in our motor room. Cliff Watson (have I got the name right?) was chief r/o - I wonder what became of him.
Did you ever sail as chief sparks on Mahronda?
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Old 21st July 2018, 22:58
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Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
Thanks, Jim. The swimming club was a relief - cool drinks around the pool. Amazingly, still restricted to Europeans in 57. Do you recall if Isipingo was anchored with all the rest waiting at Sandheads that 1957 Monsoon season? Such small details do help a story.
I'm obliged to have your recall of the waste water arrangements. I expect such would be unlawful these days.
Sorry Harry,It was probably oct 57 before we got to Sandheads.Immediately after 2nd mates on16 sept I was flown out to Dakar to join the Isipingo,I arrived late pm and we sailed at midnight lightship for Calcutta,
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Old 23rd July 2018, 11:39
Riccarton Riccarton is offline  
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When we finally got to Calcutta, Maihar moored in the Hoogly opposite the Calcutte swimmung club, before later moving to Kidderpore Docks.
Did two trips with Cliff,1957/58 and a third in 1959 on Maihar's 100th voyage.
I was 1st R/O on Mahsud, Matheran, Martand and Elizabeth Holt deep sea.
Also on Media, Parthia and other Cunard ships in the summers I was at college.
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Old 23rd July 2018, 15:48
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When we finally got to Calcutta, Maihar moored in the Hoogly opposite the Calcutte swimmung club, before later moving to Kidderpore Docks.
Did two trips with Cliff,1957/58 and a third in 1959 on Maihar's 100th voyage.
I was 1st R/O on Mahsud, Matheran, Martand and Elizabeth Holt deep sea.
Also on Media, Parthia and other Cunard ships in the summers I was at college.
Thanks for that, Riccarton. I had wondered if you might be the bright chief r/o I sailed with on Mahronda Aug- Dec 1959. I wish I could recall his name. The company entrusted him with a box of early transistors to design a semi- automatic Morse key, among other things. He was Scottish, and had brought his bagpipes to sea. In a bar in Brownsville, Texas, the owner served us free drinks so long as the piper stood in the corner and played. Cutomers flocked in - when we arrived there were only a couple of quiet drinkers.
But, sadly, I don't recall his name.

I'm writing a memoir chapter on Kidderpore. Another void in my venerable brain concerns the cargo we discharged at Calcutta. I vaguely remember crates of radios but nothing else just now. Any recollections as to cargo, anyone? Once the grey matter is triggered, things do return after a fashion.
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Old 24th July 2018, 14:19
Riccarton Riccarton is offline  
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Aug-Dec 1959, I was still a 2R/O on Maihar.

Did the BoT Radar Cert in 1960 and 1R/O from then on.

Bagpipe playing is not an attribute I could ever claim!

I took more interest in the cargo carried on the homeward leg. Outward the few things I can recall were parts for steel work being provided by Britian and Germany. Explosives from ICI loaded in Milford Haven and discharged at Diamond Harbour.
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Old 28th December 2018, 18:37
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Sandheads

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
Hello chaps. I'm on with ch3 of book 2 of a seagoing memoir (book 1 is on Amazon as "The Best of Days"). I'm enjoying poking around in the fragments of 'factual' memory and adding imaginary bits of dialogue to help keep it lively.
This current chapter deals with the 1957 dock strike in Calcutta which meant that Mahanada was at anchor at Sandheads 5th - 29/30th August with up to 30 other vessels, apart from a break of a couple of days when we all had to flee into deep water to ride out a cyclone. We spread awnings to catch rain, and were rationed to a bucket a day.
I think Maihar was also at Sandheads and perhaps other Brocks, but cannot recall which. When we got to Kidderpore there was a fabulous party. Mahanada was awash with festive visitors from other Brocks.
I wish I knew what others of the fleet were in port with us. We were in Calcutta for 42 days turning round for the States.
Mahanada's skiffle group composed the Sandheads Lament to a Harry Belafonte calypso. It went something like:

All day, all night, agent-man,
He don't seem to give a damn.
Nobody here at Sandheads
Love de agent-man,
He don't seem to give a damn.

Alongside in Kidderpore,
We'll not give a fook.
We'll have a raving party
Instead of swinging round de hook.

Are there any of you fine gentlemen able to add anything to these events?

Also, I'm wondering what we did with our waste water, sewage and the like. Was it discharged into the dock, or did we have the means to contain it? I know Kidderpore dock water was poisonous - but did the visiting ships add to that state of affairs.

Attachment 187447
On SS Maihar we lay at Sandheads 14 August 1957 until 31st August, having had to shift ship twice due to other ships dragging anchor down on us. I think the Mahanada would have just gone in before us as when we arrived at Calcutta my pal Rankin Sinclair, he was either 4th or 5th engineer on her, was already in. His brother was 2nd Eng. in the malakand at same time. At the time we lay at sandheads the Nourse Marjata was close by, I only found out later that al lad from my home village in Shetland was R/O on her.
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Old 29th December 2018, 14:49
Aberdonian Aberdonian is offline  
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Sandheads

Looks like I was in good company since I lay anchored at Sandheads in the Liberty ship Tielbank for a lengthy period starting from Aug 11 1957. Our two apprentices caught rats as a diversion. The Old Man rewarded them with tins of Woodbine cigarettes based on size of each daily haul.

Keith
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Old 30th December 2018, 12:28
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Originally Posted by japottinger View Post
On SS Maihar we lay at Sandheads 14 August 1957 until 31st August, having had to shift ship twice due to other ships dragging anchor down on us. I think the Mahanada would have just gone in before us as when we arrived at Calcutta my pal Rankin Sinclair, he was either 4th or 5th engineer on her, was already in. His brother was 2nd Eng. in the malakand at same time. At the time we lay at sandheads the Nourse Marjata was close by, I only found out later that al lad from my home village in Shetland was R/O on her.
Last I heard Rankin was in New Zealand - but that was a few years ago. Rankin did weight lifting, I recall, and was partial to glasses of hot water as part of his fitness regime. I wonder how he is faring?

Due to a broken arm (fractured humerus) I contrived ten weeks since, I'm making laboured progress with vol2 of my sea memoir. Here is a fragment where I try to capture the atmosphere on Mahanada once we docked in Kidderpore after the long sojourn at Sandheads. It may not be exact factually but is what floats back out of the mists of memory:

Now that our secunnies (Lascar sailors) have unshipped the steel securing bars from the centre hatch, the carpenter nips his cigarette and drops it into his boiler suit pocket (he has a collection of nipped Woodbines in there, nicely maturing for some future time of deprivation). Hefting a mallet, he works his way along the hatch coaming to knock out hardwood wedges that secure the sides of the three layers of tarpaulin that cover the hatch boards. Without such tight, snug coverings a heavy sea might disturb the hatch boards beneath, bounce them out of position, so that the next wave could smash through to breach the hold -- many ship losses begin with hatches stove in. Chips, our carpenter from Middlesbrough, gathers the the wedges into gunny sacks and staggers away to his workshop accompanied by an intelligent young secunny he's chosen to be his assistant. The three-inch-thick wooden hatch boards are lifted and set to one side. The cargo is now visible: crates of machine tools and electrical equipment fill the lower hold. Above them, the secure chambers in the tween-deck reveal boxes of radios, record-players, crates of whisky, gin, expensive liqueurs, and wines -- highly-taxed luxuries for the expatriate Europeans and the influential rich Indians of Bengal.
That evening, after a sumptuous dinner of Mulligatawny soup followed by guinea-fowl curry served on white rice, with a poppadom to crush in the hands and sprinkle over, and a strip of Bombay duck on the side, we mop our brows and dab our lips with white linen napkins. Despite the stink and peculiar taste of Bombay duck, I've developed a craving for it. We each get one four-inch piece of the salted and air-dried bummalo fish from Bombay. I've given up asking why it's called duck after being referred to the long-gone Robert Clive of India who considered the pungency reminiscent of London newspapers after their long sea voyage to India, or being told it is a corruption of the Bombay Daak, the fast mail train that brings the cured fish to Calcutta -- at high speed because of the stench, they say. But Clive of India lived years before the railway came, and he called it duck, so I give up. After what I've seen of food preparation ashore, I have fleeting images of flies sucking at the juices of the fish as they dry in the sun, but . . .**No matter -- it is glorious.

We'd had a few gin and tonics before dinner and are in an expansive mood for what is to come. There's to be a party on Mahanada to celebrate release from Sandheads. The first lot to arrive are a boisterous gaggle from the SS Maihar; they lug cardboard crates of Tennent's lager. These fellows are off Brocklebank's oldest vessel, built in 1917 on the Clyde. At forty years of age she's a rarity on the seas; cargo ships are usually worn out at twenty-five and ready for the breaker's yard. The venerable lady has a tall 'woodbine' funnel (called so after the thin cigarette of that name) and old-fashioned tropical cabins that open directly onto the deck, rather than into internal, weather-protected passageways like Mahanada's. Maihar is famous for being the first ship to be cut in two so that an extra cargo hold could be inserted in the middle. Her officers have the reputation of being a mad lot.

Next to troop up the gangway are a crowd off the Malakand, another Brocklebank steamer. Like Maihar's chaps, they make for the cabins of their opposite numbers. The laughter soon begins, accompanied by gaseous hisses as cans of lager are pierced. I've soon got two junior radio officers ensconced on my day bed, fellows I've never met except by Morse, but they seem good sorts. Then a sparks from a Bank boat sticks his head around my door curtain. He's brought a few bottles of Tuborg, so he's made welcome. I don't know who invited him, unless my boss did so by signal at Sandheads. If that's the case, I wonder how many more will turn up. The Mahanada is fast filling with strangers. We four from my cabin begin to wander around the accommodation with empty glasses on the hunt for sounds of jocularity.
In cabins along the engineer's alleyway there's much back-slapping, ribald yarns and the reliving of old adventures. Soon the songs begin. We are outnumbered by Glaswegian and Liverpool engineers, fellows who served their apprenticeship in the shipyards. Accompanied by the squeaks and wails of a mouth organ, they sing at full strength, determined to have a fine night. I'm used to the competitive good nature of the Glasgow chaps. They are a mixture of Catholic and Protestant, not that they are religious -- far from it. However, they support rival Clydeside football teams; the Catholics are devotees of Celtic, whilst the Protestants follow Rangers. One Rangers fan is festive enough to sing The Sash:

It was old and it was beautiful
And the colours they were fine
My father wore it long ago
At Enniskillen and the Boyne.
It was there we slew those Fenian men
In sixteen eighty four
And on the twelfth I love to wear
The sash my father wore.

I wince. Despite the good humour of the gathering, that song can bring trouble. It's to do with the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It celebrates victory in Ireland for William of Orange and the English Protestant Crown against the deposed Catholic King James II.
A Celtic fan pours out scorn: 'Typical Ranger's gob-shite, that is! The battle of Enniskillen wor 1689, and the Boyne wor 1690!'


.... I'm open to suggestions - so please comment if it prompts any thoughts.
regards
Harry
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Old 4th January 2019, 18:31
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A correction to the above. Maihar was not the vessel altered: A Google reveals it was Manipur and Magdapur shortened in Smiths Dock on the Tees in 1935. My error - due to the passing of years.
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