By TASC Member Tom Purvis (River Tyne Pilot Retired)

Around October 1938, my Father, (also Thomas Hall Purvis) one of the youngest First Class pilots at that time, boarded the ‘Kungsholm‘, one of Swedish America lines largest passenger ships.

Passenger Vessel Kungsholm
Passenger Vessel Kungsholm

Being full of trepidation of the task in front of him, he put the vessel to anchor and a few hours later entered on the early morning tide. It was a dark October morning, and whilst concentrating very hard and aware of this particularly high profile job, he noticed out of the corner of his eye an extremely attractive young blonde girl, obviously Swedish!

In a fleeting moment he did question who she was as passengers weren’t allowed on the bridge, he perhaps assumed she was the Captain’s daughter. After making fast and being able to relax he had a chat to the ‘blonde’, found her delightful and very easy to talk to.

As was customary in those days, the Captain invited my father to his cabin for a drink.  “Are you aware pilot, who that young lady on the bridge was?

The Young Greta Garbo
The Young Greta Garbo

Father was now expecting a “Keep your hands off my daughter” speech! But the answer was….Greta Garbo!!  Word got out and he was asked to take part in the equivalent of ‘In Town Tonight’ a well-known radio program of its time. I have a copy of the script and a note of his fee of 2 guineas (two pound two shillings)

I’ve attached a treasured photo of my Father boarding a British tanker. At the time he was almost 70 years old (they were forced to retire in those days at 70, this broke his heart) In fact within 6months of retirement he had a major heart attack and died when only 75!

Pilot Thomas Hall Purvis
Thomas Hall Purvis


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