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I was an indentured apprentice with Houlder Brothers in 1948. I served in the S.S. Fraser River, S.S. Duquesa, M.V. Hornby Grange and finished my time in the S.S. Barton Grange
After that I sailed as third mate in the T.S.S. Hellenic Prince carrying migrants from the Mediterranean to Australia.
Then to M.V. Crosbian ( Ellerman Papayanni) -- Scandinavian run.
S.S. Lancastrian -- Mediterranean run ( Ellerman Papayanni)
S.S. Ardetta -- home trade (British and Continental)
S.S. Greypoint -- home trade (Coast Lines Limited)
M.V. Wyuna -- delivery voyage from Glasgow to Port Phillip , Melbourne.
MV Kootara -- Union Steamship Company -- Australian coast.
M.V. Kopua -- log trade between Australia and New Zealand.
M.V. Coromel -- blue-cod fishing off the Chatham Islands
Notice that the ships get smaller and smaller -- the Coromel was only 113 tons gross.
Last edited by Dogstar; 22nd August 2008 at 05:49..
Welcome aboard from the Philippines. Enjoy all this great site has to offer
"Imagination is more important than knowledge". A. Einstein.
Dogstar, from Michigan, a warm welcome to Ships Nostalgia.
Good to have you onboard.
I wouldn't be surprised if you ran into some old shipmates here.
On the Run in Tiger Bay
On the Run in Tiger Bay
Now, there's a saying that: "There is no fool like an old fool!" I think that saying should be changed – -
and here’s why …
When I was young enough to know everything, or almost everything, that was about the age of sixteen or seventeen long years. I was one of four apprentices on a ship called the Hornby Grange.
Our good ship had just arrived in Britain after a voyage to South America -- Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Rio de Janeiro. And we boys were ready to stretch our legs and look around, now that we were safely tied up in the Port of Cardiff -- in Wales.
Charlie Geegan and I, dressed to kill in Harris Tweed sports jackets and well-creased trousers, were just going ashore when we walked into Sharkey Williams, the Chief Officer.
"Where are you two going?"
"We're going into Cardiff, Mr Williams."
Sharkey Williams sniffed and looked us up and down " Well, keep out of Tiger Bay! There's more races and religions living there, than a box of monkeys. They tell me there were five murders there last week! Keep out of Tiger Bay! "
"Yes, Mr Williams. We're just going into Cardiff..."
"What's that stuff on your heads?" Sharkey Williams said. " It's running down around your ears. "
"Brylcreem, Sir." Charlie said.
"You two go into Tiger Bay, smelling like that, -- and they’ll cut your throats before you can say Welsh Wales!"
We went down the gangway, and when we were well clear of the ship, we looked back at the thundering and rattling winches, and the runners clanging and banging against the derricks, as cargo was unloaded. The lights came on, and flooded the decks with light all ready for the night’s work. We were happy to get away from the noise and the clamour that was our home.
Charlie said: "That Sharkey Williams should keep his nose out of other people's business! He’s a sickly sadist!"
We boys hated Sharkey Williams! He was the sort of chief officer, even his old Welsh mother would have found hard to like.
Sharkey Williams had put us four apprentices washing down the alleyways as we went into the Magellan Strait. There was snow on the mountains of Tierra del Fuego. Our hands frozen and blue in the soogie-moogie buckets -- but Sharkey Williams believed that boys should suffer for their sins and do the worst kinds of work, in the worst kinds of weather -- it gave them a backbone, he said!
"Does he think we can't keep out of trouble?" Charlie asked.
We were used to the Docklands of the wild and watery world. In Buenos Aires, and Montevideo and in Rio de Janeiro -- we always got back to the ship. Passed all those cafes and bars with their flashing lights and the shouts and screams and the jingling, tingling pianos.
And outside, the gay and gaudy girls standing and calling:
Nice girls inside!
I love you, Johnny -- I love you mucho"
" Sharkey Williams is a Welsh pig!" Charlie said, as we walked on to Cardiff Town.
There we found the Starlight Ballroom, or was it the Palais de Danse?
The Starlight Ballroom was safely in the heart of Cardiff City -- well away from Tiger Bay. It was a delightful place for two young apprentice boys from a visiting ship.
Here was a magic ballroom full of Welsh girls waiting and wanting to dance the night away. Glittering lights flashed all around from the high ceilings -- turning globes, with a thousand little mirrors reflected light around the ballroom and speckling the dancing couples with ever-changing patterns of light. A good change from the clatter and banging of the ship's winches and the wintry nights working under glare ship’s lights.
There, we would stand quietly at the side of the dance floor and, when a dance was announced, we’d go politely up to one of the girls and ask her: "Could I have the next dance, please?"
And then we would whirl around the floor doing the quickstep or the waltz or the foxtrot – what the foxes thought about the whole thing we’ll never know! And then there was the girl…
I danced with this girl called Shirley a couple of times. She was brown and beautiful with dark hair and flashing eyes.
Two dances later, she stood close to where Charlie and I were positioned, I found out that she spoke Spanish – as well as English with a Welsh accent. This was unusual and unexpected. In Argentina and Uruguay everybody spoke Spanish and no English. In Britain everybody spoke English but no Spanish! Here was a beautiful girl who could speak both languages. I think we were falling love!
When the dance finished, and we were outside the Starlight Ballroom, Charlie Geegan, me and the girl Shirley, she asked if we would walk her home. She said she lived in Tiger Bay. Now, that was on our way back to the ship – so that was that alright? So Charlie and I set out to walk her home!
She told us that she worked at the Spanish Embassy and mentioned that there had been five murders last week. We turned off the main road leading towards the docks, and into Tiger Bay.
We walked along through the darkened streets and under the flickering gas lamps. Ahead of us we could see the brighter lights around bars and night places. There were a number of dark figures moving around under the bright lights ahead.
Shirley warned us not to talk back to the boys ahead -- if they called us names, we were to say nothing.
Nothing -- Nada -- Niente!
As we walked towards the crowed, I don’t think Charlie Geegan or I wanted to fight the fifteen or twenty figures to be seen in the lighted area.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement to my left. Somebody had stepped out of the doorway and was walking very close behind me.
Instinctively I knew this person was a big.
Instinctively I knew this person was so close behind me that I could feel their breath on the back of my neck.
Instinctively I knew that I dare not turn around in case I was immediately struck down!
This was one of the most terrifying moments of my life!
We walked on … frozen faced … closer and closer to the gang of youths, who were shouting and jumping around under the shop lights -- who knows what was walking right behind?
And then, across the street, I made out two policeman walking in our direction. Policemen, we were told, always went around in twos in Tiger Bay.
The figure behind me suddenly seemed to have disappeared into a doorway – could I could breathe again!
As we came to the youths under the lights they recognised our companion, Shirley, and that they started singing, and shouting --
The Spaniard that blighted my life – tra-la-laa!
The Spaniard that blighted my life ..!
We looked down at our feet and kept walking, through the crowd of, shouting singing youths and out to the darker end of the street -- Bute Street.
We stopped in front of one of the little houses. Shirley said: "You must come in for a cup of tea."
She turned the key in the lock -- immediately a light went on in an upstairs room.
Shirley looked up at the light, pulled the key out of the lock, and shouted:
"Run, he's back! Run!"
The door of the house swung open. A man, a very big man, in his shirt sleeves, stepped out and came towards us. Charlie and I ran after the girl. We went back through the honking, shouting youths -- we ran on and on down the road -- and then it seemed, at last, that we had left the man behind.
We came to a bridge over a canal. The girl said: " Down here!" And ran down the dark steps and under the bridge onto the canal bank -- it was even darker down there without the gas lights.
We ran along the towpath, a high wall now on the right-hand side, and the canal shining in a faint light, on our left. Charlie Geegan wasn't with us. I suddenly thought, is this girl Shirley a decoy? Am I trapped here, on the canal bank, alone and blocked off at both ends of the towpath by thugs. Lured down here by a beautiful brown girl called Shirley Something?
We ran along the canal bank for all long way. Then, the girl led me back, up a flight of steps, and onto a road. There were a number of houses, set back from the road. She ran down the drive of one of the houses -- the lights came on -- a woman appeared under the lights of the open door:
"Where you been? Where you been?" the woman asked Shirley
The love of my young life, Shirley Something, disappeared into the house -- the door banged closed -- and I have never seen her again from that day to this!
Many years later, when I ran into Charlie Geegan, aboard another ship, in another part of the wide world. Charlie said: "Remember that business in Tiger Bay when we walked home with that girl called Shirley?
I said I remembered it well.
"Well, I’m sure that girl was Shirley Bassey " Charlie said. " I've been looking at her pictures in the news. She was born in Bute Street. -- that's where we were chased out of by the big fellow. She was born in 1937 -- the right age. She had the right name, Shirley. She often sang Spanish songs… Brian,” Charlie said. “You gave that great singer her real start in life. I'm proud of you!"
Charlie Geegan was one of the world's great liars, but I'm inclined to think he might have been right!
We paid off the Hornby Grange a few weeks later. When I got home I told my mother and father a shortened version of the story I’ve just told you.
My mother jumped to her feet, her hair standing on end – her eyes wide. She claimed that she had awoken, suddenly, in the night, about four weeks ago -- fearing that I was dying! She thought I was dead!
And here I was alive! Alive to tell the tale!
Was this telepathy?
Telepathy from Tiger Bay?
I’ll mention again the saying that: "There is no fool like an old fool!" I think that saying should be changed to “ There is no fool like a young fool -- especially when they're about sixteen or seventeen years of age!”
Last edited by Dogstar; 24th August 2008 at 20:57..
Hi Dogstar welcome noticed the Ardetta one of your ships I was on her 1958 skipper was Capt J. M. Cowrie Ihad an e mail from a Mr Methren whose dad was i believe 3rd mate I myself was an A.B did just 2 trips most of the deck crowd were continentals i think the bosun was Flemish I,will never forget the stink of the Manchester shi? canal much nicer the canal up to Ghent.Regards TomRoberts
Looks like I was third mate of the Ardetta in 1953 -- according to my discharge book.
What you say about the Manchester Ship Canal reminds me that the skipper of the Ardetta, at that time, lived near Manchester. He couldn't get home fast enough!
There were speed limits on ships in the canal so that the banks didn't get washed away. With this skipper, I've forgotten is name, we would go slowly through bridges and checkpoints, as a good ship should. As soon as we were out of sight of the bridge, he'd be on the engine room telegraph beating up the speed and churning up the Manchester Ship Canal -- until we came to the next set of bridges -- then we slowed down like goodies.
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