FYI - there is a Facebook page called "GCOT in the 60's" and there are a few old souls lurking around there. In addition, there is a reunion taking place in GY for the PMG crowd circa '65-68. Details on the FB page...
https://www.facebook.com/groups/pgm.grimsby/ Held a reunion in GY in 2017, another planned for 2019Dear Cunarder,
Have tried to find the reunion info but I am not a Facebook user so probably looking in the wrong place. Appreciate your advice where to find it. I was at Grimsby 1963-65. (Glad I missed out on the sentry duty and gaiters!)
Hi AlanSome 40 years on, seeking any other ex GCFE/GCOT PMG students who were there between 1965 and 1968. I know there are a few around in the forums but I'm sure there must be more. Give us a call if/when you can....
Hi Malcolm (as we knew you - I think?)Hi Alan
I was a PMG student during that period. and would love to hear from you or any others.
Damn, I was their in 1965 and remember Bob BunceAlan,
I was a deck cadet there from 1961-63 then back again in '66 for second mates. A friend of mine owns a gallery in Cleethorpes and he was there along with his brother....Tyrone and Bob Bunce. Did you know them? I'll mention your name when I see them next.
Someone sent me an article about Pico Mills, so I'll try and track it down.
Thanks for those recollections, reminded me so much of formative times at GCOT 68/69Grimsby Nautical School......
This might be of some interest, an article that I wrote about my time at the nautical school!
Reflections on the Water Part 3
After several enjoyable pleasure trips on trawlers I had to make a decision as to what career to choose on leaving Chelmsford Secondary Modern School. Although I revelled in the trips to sea I began to listen to my dad’s usual erudite advice. He explained that while it might have been great at the time, it was spring and summer weather and not the harsh winter gales and freezing temperatures endured constantly by our hardy fishermen and it really was a ‘Different kettle of fish!’ He rightly pointed out that the money and the luxury cars ‘Down dock’ belonged to the trawler owners, fish merchants, salesmen and a handful of successful trawler skippers, whereas fishermen sometimes landed in debt after a poor trip after the ship’s expenses had been deducted. He suggested looking at the possibility of a life in the Merchant Navy, see the world and get paid at the same time!
This had often crossed my mind as a lad standing on Fuller Street Bridge watching the large merchant ships steaming down the Humber from Hull and Immingham making their way past Spurn Point before disappearing ‘Hull down’ over the horizon on their way to places with romantic sounding names in India and the Far East for spices and herbs, tea and carpets, Australia and New Zealand for wool and mutton and lamb. Then there were the regular runners to South Africa, the grey coloured hulls of Ellerman Hall Line, Ellerman Papayani Line, and the green hulls of Ellerman Wilson with their distinctive red and black funnels. Then there was Clan Line, Blue Funnel, Bank Line, Elder Dempster, Ben Line, P & O, the Baltic Trading Company, Bowater carrying paper, British India, Tate & Lyle…..the list seemed endless, (but sadly all gone now.) Perhaps this would be a more rewarding career after all! Slow but sure I made my decision, the Merchant Navy it was to be then.
I made enquiries about going to the nautical school at Nun’s Corner, whose principle was Captain Sid Keane. I’d met Captain Keane the previous year when I went along to South Parade School one evening to enrol with the Grimsby and District Junior Youth Orchestra with the idea of playing a brass instrument. It was here I was introduced to Sid Keane who played the tenor horn and Mr. Morley who explained that they really needed a G bass trombone player! I had to stand in front of them and sing, going through the Doh Ray Me stuff, how nerve wracking it was. However I must have made a favourable impression because I came home with a brand new gleaming trombone…..on the 3F! Once home and out of its case I blew into the mouthpiece and couldn’t play a note. As hard as I blew not a sound came out….the only sound was that of my parents and brother Andrew laughing! Dad was an experienced cornet and euphonium player and had been through all this before. He played solo cornet at the age of 12. I persevered slowly learning how to play and would have continued but ships and trombones were hardly bedfellows so reluctantly it was handed back…..my music career was over.
I began an eighteen month course at the college in the New Year of 1962, rigged out in my new battle dress navy uniform with its white peak cap. This was to prepare me for an apprenticeship as a deck officer with extensive training in the principles of Navigation, practical navigation, celestial navigation, and chart work, all trigonometry and spherical trigonometry, haversines and versines, sextants and lots of mathematical tables. Then the practical side, boat handling, splicing wires and ropes, knots bends and hitches, ship construction and ship stability. Evening classes consisted of art lessons, swimming and judo. It was at one of these evening classes in late October 1962 that out teacher, Captain Jack Strong, quietly suggested that we just sit and chat and forget about any lessons, for this was the height of the Cuban missile crisis. We genuinely did not know if we would be alive by the morning. We just talked nervously in hushed tones and I can remember vividly looking out of the window at all of the headlights of the oncoming cars along Scartho Road just hoping and praying that the Russian leader Nikita Kruschev would back away from Kennedy’s threat. We could not see it happening. Little could I have known that I would be in Cuba myself in three years time!
There were nine of us deck cadets and many radio lads. Our nine comprised of myself, Pete Antill, Pete Birley, John Turberville, Sandy Martin, John Enderby, Brian Cusack, Anthony Woolham and Alan Johnstone.
Captain Keane was of the ’old school’ and a bit of a disciplinarian and at 9am each morning we would parade on the lawn 9am at the rear of Tate’s shop on Nun’s Corner, and assemble in neat rows facing a large white painted flagpole. Here, on command the ‘Red Ensign’ and the hoist of the day were then broken out. We would salute, ‘Fall Out’ and walk back to our class-rooms for the days lessons. For some strange reason Captain Keane decided that we would all have to salute him every time we passed him and this raised eyebrows amongst the other teachers, all of which were ex-Merchant Navy officers. We weren’t happy at this sudden imposition so we looked into the regulations regarding saluting. We all smiled with a degree of smug satisfaction on discovering that it was the uniform that was saluted and not the person! Captain Keane only ever wore grey or charcoal suits and was livid on our refusal to salute him, but he was reminded the ‘Rules are rules’ as he so often stated! The other point of course was that we were not in any way part of the military, purely civilian. The matter was never mentioned again……..we just had to march and made to do ‘Square bashing’ much more frequently!
The college owned two or three ex-ships lifeboats that were on radial davits at the rear of the bus depot in the Alexander Dock, (opposite to where the Ross Tiger is now moored) and they had two GP 14 sailing dinghies, Poppy and Buttercup. Those boat work lessons were brilliant, I was in my element! These wooden clinker built lifeboats were heavy and ***bersome but we all looked forward to these sessions away from the confines of the classroom and out into the open air.
We would hoist the boat clear of its cradle by its falls, which consisted of a three fold purchase in the bow and at the stern, then lower the boat into the water, unhook the falls, take our positions on the thwarts (seats) pick up our oars and ’Toss’ them in the upright position, blade up, ready for orders to start rowing. In the early days many heads were clonked and bruised performing this task but we learned very quickly that wood was harder than flesh! Then would come the order, “Out oars!” so we would lower, drop or crash the oars down into the crutches…..not rowlocks as we were so constantly reminded, “That’s for girls on the boating lake!” We were taught how to row in unison and to follow the stroke oar. Quite a spectacle would follow, lots of splashing, falling backwards into the boat, oars jumping out of crutches and a lot of swearing, but gradually we got the hang of it and we formed quite a team and became capable of working up a good turn of speed. We also had to sail the lifeboats hoisting the tan coloured heavy canvas sails, which consisted of a dipping lug mainsail and fore’sle. I remembered one day in a stiff breeze, she started to lay over. It was on the tiller and automatically sat out on the gunwhale leaning out board. The next thing I heard was,”Get your body back inboard Farrow, this is a ships lifeboat not a bloody sailing dinghy!” Frank Priest senior was our seamanship teacher and he knew his stuff alright, he was an ex-coxswain who served in the Royal Navy on the HMS AJAX at the battle of the River Plate, one of the ships that took on the might of the German Battle Cruiser Admiral Graf Spee and his experiences were fascinating and we all respected him greatly. He taught us many knots and with some like the bowline he would make us tie behind our backs, saying that one day you might need to use this knot in a hurry in the pitch dark……but it will become second nature.
That particular winter was a harsh one and temperatures plummeted well below freezing and the Alexander Dock completely froze over. However, Alf Hodson senior was in charge of us one morning, surprising because he usually taught the fishing section. After looking at us assembled by the boat davits, shivering in the freezing cold he barked, “Get the bloody boat in the water sharpish…..the ship’s going down!” A string of expletives poured forth from his reddened face as we fumbled about our business quickly lowering the boat onto the ice. We all piled in the boat with Skipper Alf sat in the stern sheets, his booming voice telling us in no uncertain terms to smash the ice with our oars. Slowly we inched forward cracking the sheet ice as we rocked the boat from side to side. We soon warmed up with all the exercise as we put our backs into it and all became well with the world again. Alf was a well know trawler skipper as were his father and brothers and his own son Alf who followed in his footsteps. Alf senior was a man’s man and pulled no punches, saying it exactly as it was! He must have viewed us young lads with some distain and was bemused by our ‘Arctic rowing debacle’
In the summer of 1962 I signed on for another pleasure trip, this time on the Ross Kestrel and finally on the Atlantic Seal in April 1963. Then as our time at the nautical school drew to a close we all began writing to various shipping companies. I wrote to BP tankers, Tate & Lyle, Buries Markes and Shaw Saville, the latter wrote back saying that unless my father was a duke or an earl don’t bother…..or words to that effect! BP said they would look again depending on the results of my GCE’s. Buries Markes on the other hand sent me and Alan Johnson train tickets for an interview at Plantation House in London. So, on Friday 31st May I met Alan at Grimsby Town Station where we boarded the train to London leaving just before nine am and arriving at Kings Cross Station at 1.30. It was the hottest day in London for sixteen years and here we were in our suits and ties sweltering in the heat mooching around the city streets until out meeting at 3pm! Eventually we arrived at our destination, a very imposing building indeed then we took the lift to the offices on the third floor and were met by a smartly dressed young man who shook our hands warmly and showed us into a beautifully wood panelled room with models of the company ships in glass cases. He immediately put our nervous souls at ease and offered us cigarettes and coffee (How times have changed!) After quite a lengthy discussion and some home truths about the hard work that lay ahead, he thanked us and as was saying goodbye Alan blurted out, “Are we in then?” At which point he turned to us and said “Off the cuff you are, but I didn’t tell you, in a few days time you will receive notification from the company.” We both walked back to Kings Cross with our heads held high, elated but with a degree of nervous anticipation. My mind was racing on our way home. Our train didn’t leave until 6-50pm and the heat of the day was still lingering, even though the compartment windows were all open. Alan departed at Spalding on his way home to Wisbech, grinning as he said goodbye, we’d had a rewarding day together! I arrived in Grimsby at 10-30 after a long tiring day and when I reached19, Warwick Avenue, mam, dad and my brother Andrew were all waiting eagerly to see how I’d got on.
So, I would soon be at sea doing what I had been studying and training for, seeing the world. What I never foresaw was that I was about to embark on one of the toughest apprenticeships it was possible undertake and the drop out rate was one of the highest.
On the 10th June the letter of acceptance arrived at the college saying that we were to start as cadets on a date to be announced. One by one each of the nine of us ’Classmates’ received our letters, from various shipping companies, Gulf Tankers, Watts Watts, Ellerman Hall Line, Houlder Brothers, Denholm Shipping and so on. Our days together were drawing to an end, but there was one last major event ahead………..the annual ‘Regatta.’ This was held each year in the Alexander Dock and was arranged for the 19th June and would involve rowing racing, dinghy racing, skiffs, canoes, rigging sheerlegs on each side of the dock and rig up a breeches buoy Well, on the day before it was blowing a full gale and we had to row the lifeboat dropping marker buoys and rehearsing our rolls. It was tough going in that gale but we went through the routine of laying a kedge anchor then called it a day ready for a 7am start.
The following morning we picked up a varied assortment of shackles and ropes from the Victoria St nautical school then took to the water again in our boat and laid more marker buoys. Then the Regatta began. During a dinghy race, a mast shroud parted on one of the dinghies and had to be withdrawn. Brian Cusack (Cadet) almost had his wrist broken when an anchor dropped ‘accidentally’ by one of the radio lads! He had to retire. Then two of the lads were pushed in the dock from the jetty and the dinghy race turned into a water fight! (Guilty!). Then the main event…….the breeches buoy was set up and one of the cadets volunteered to cross the dock sat in it. Needless to say he was half drowned as we dragged him across the dock as the rope sagged and lowered him in! All did not go to plan!
As my time drew to a close thoughts of long months away from home loomed large. My mother took me to buy all the necessary uniforms and working gear I would need for long voyages away. We bought these items from Greenberg’s outfitters (Later Kevark’s motorcycles opposite the Palace Buffet) and Bernard’s on Cleethorpe Road. These consisted of two black uniforms with brass buttons, a battle dress uniform, black socks, black boots polish and brushes, peak cap and badge, white shirts with epaulettes, underwear, white tropical uniform (shorts) khaki tropical uniform (Shorts), dungarees, blue denim working shirts, belts, white shoes with (shoe white),Navy blue jumpers, sewing needles and cottons, leather palm & needles…..the list seemed endless, and then there was the knife, a Green River long flat blade, wooden handled job that was kept in a leather sheath on my belt. The expense must have been enormous and must have been a struggle for my parents to afford.
In late August an envelope dropped through our letter-box, it was instructing me to present myself onboard the bulk carrier LA PRADERA in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the morning of the 2nd August, 1963. Tickets for the train journey and the overnight ferry from Heysham were included. So this was it then? A ten month adventure lay ahead, but that’s another story!