At our January meeting of the shipping club, one of our senior members, Alan Johnson, whose latter part of his working career was spent as a senior lecturer at the famous South Shields Marine School and who currently in his retirement enjoys the subject of Local History.
Well, he handed me a couple of interesting documents to have a look at A Passenger List and a Menu
dated February 12th 1930 for the luxury passenger liner RMS “Majestic”, part of the White Star Line. He told me that these are the property of a good friend of his, Ann Robson and the documents had belonged to her father who had come into possession of these documents when he sailed as a passenger from Southampton to New York on this ship in order to join, as far as known, a Furness Withy ship in some American port.
Going back to the beginning of the story A Family Remembered and the two documents from the Majestic, I thought it may be interesting to take a closer look at this ship; since it was at the time the largest ship in the world and before being renamed Majestic, this fine vessel was built by the Germans at their Blohm & Voss shipyard and named Bismarck. So here it is…
RMS Majestic (II), at 56,551 tons, the largest ship the White Star Line ever owned, was originally called Bismarck and belonged to Germany’s, Hamburg American Line. Bismarck along with two sister ships, Imperator and Vaterland, were intended to rival White Star Line’s Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, and Cunard Lines Lusitania, Mauritania and Aquitania.
In 2003 in my early retirement from a career as a naval architect in shipbuilding and offshore construction, armed with only three old photographs of S S Glenroy from the family album, I decided to build a 1/96 (note the imperial scale!) model of the ship which had been my grandfather’s home and his life for 6 years.
Two years after he left deep sea with Livingston & Conner to join Stevie Clarke in 1914 in coasting colliers taking coal from Tyne to Thames, he learnt that Glenroy had been wrecked on 10th Feb 1916 on the coast of what was then French Algeria at a place called Les Falaises, in ballast from Malta to Bougie to pick up a cargo of ore.
In May 1968 I was appointed Second Engineer of the Ellerman Lines ‘City of Durban’, one of the so called ‘Big Four’ and spent the two following happy years sailing between the UK, South Africa and Mozambique. It was a ten week round voyage followed by three weeks or so leave and I completed eight consecutive voyages before leaving her for the very best reason of all – promotion. It was normal procedure that if you kept your nose clean and did a good job, your next move would mean a light tap on the shoulder – a chief’s job. She had to have at least two chief’s tickets on board for the passenger certificate, each of the four vessels carried 107 passengers and they were very popular and always sailed with a full complement and full cargoes too.
In the Autumn of 1988, I was sailing as chief engineer on a bulk carrier which was British owned, registered in Gibraltar and managed from an office in London. I had been attached to her on and off since February 1987 and had sailed previously on two others of the same class, so you could say that I knew my way around. She was one of a group originally built for Jebsens about 1972 of 22000 tons and propelled by 18PC2V Pielstick diesels. This particular vessel had been sold and chartered back to Jebsens and was carrying Jebsen cargoes at the time.
In the Summer of 1976 I was appointed Chief Engineer of the ‘City of Liverpool’, she was built circa 1970 at the Robb – Caledon yard at Dundee and was propelled by a Doxford 76J7 engine of 17500 bhp. Both the ‘Liverpool’ and her sister the ‘Hull’ had their faults, some major and some minor. Firstly the Bridge Control system on both vessels was totally unreliable and was never used during my tenure. I believe it was a GEC system but don’t quote me on that, after all it is some thirty six years since I last sailed on them and this is all from memory – the only thing I can verify are the dates from my ‘Discharge Book’ – oh they were the days lads !. The next item which caused a little frustration was the machinery monitoring system which was a Decca Isis, it just didn’t like the Persian Gulf in the Summer season, as soon as you stuck your nose through the straits of Hormuz spurious alarms would appear but fortunately it seemed to settle down when it became accustomed to the heat. From what I remember the fault lay in the transducer cabinets which were subjected to the heat of the engine room, they were fitted with small fans which just circulated hot air. However this wee story is about a very minor fault I came across on the ‘Liverpool’, which caused some annoyance and some laughter as it turned out.
In the Spring of 1975 I was appointed Chief Engineer of the ‘City of Hull’, one of Ellerman Lines modern cargo liners. She was built in 1971 by Robb – Caledon at Dundee and was propelled by one of the loves of my life – a 17500bhp 76J7 Doxford engine. I was really looking forward to the experience as at just four years old she would be well run in and settled down. It was Ellermans first venture into the world of automation and mine too so very exciting days lay ahead. As a point of interest, there were three of the class built, two at Dundee with Doxford engines and one on the Clyde with a Sulzer engine. I sailed on all three and my favourite would have been the Clyde built vessel with a Doxford engine – just to be awkward. I had a bit of a gripe against an unknown fellow from the Dundee yard which could be the subject of another wee tale in the future.
We are indebted to Bill Griffiths, editor the Newsletter of the Portishead Small Boat and Sea Angling Club for this story of Portishead Radio.
1995 saw the 75th anniversary of long range maritime radio communications in the United Kingdom, which started from humble beginnings in 1920. Broadcasting to ships had been taking place since the early days of radio; the General Post Office (GPO) long wave stations at Poldhu and Caernarvon had been conducting two way traffic with ships within a few hundred miles of the United Kingdom prior to the First World War. However, no long-range system existed until 1919 when the GPO and the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company agreed to convert a redundant Imperial Wireless Chain receiving station at Devizes in Wiltshire.
On the Shipping Club’s recent joint outing to Windermere, myself and two other members had the good fortune to share a table for lunch with a lovely couple from the Liverpool party. I think parts of the ensuing conversation are well worth recording.
We were sitting awaiting the arrival of our friends from the Anchorage Club. As they entered; we beckoned to this lady and gentleman and invited them to join us – assuring them that all three of us were fluent in ‘Scouse’. That seemed to do the trick, they promptly sat down and introduced themselves as Joyce and Jim to which I replied that we were John…, George…, and before I could say Brian, Joyce quickly remarked ‘And you must be Ringo!’- After that there wasn’t a dull moment throughout lunch and until we departed for our trip on the lake steamer.
By TASC Member Tom Purvis (River Tyne Pilot Retired)
Talking with Tom Purvis the other day, he remarked on how seeing his father’s photograph on our website, reminded him of the following story…
He was piloting a small naval vessel up to Newcastle quay, and, as is the ‘Navy Way’ they always berth head-out, ready for a quick get-away. A Tug was ordered to help swing the sweeper and tow up stern-first from the swinging area at Tyne Main. It was common practice (and still is) for the commander to have ‘His Pilot’ (usually a junior officer) control the vessel. However, normally when a tug is involved-and especially when towing stern first, for the river pilot to take over.
But in this case the Captain asked my father if his pilot could carry on. As they approached the berth the officer shouted to the tug ‘Varst tow tug’the accent not being native to the North East Coast! The Captain was none too pleased when the tug appeared to ignore his command. Father stepped in and shouted ‘Eeasy Ower Jimmy’To which the tug quickly responded. You can imagine the look of disbelief on the officer’s face! …He had assumed that the crew on the tug spoke English!….wrong!!