It Could Have Been an Ill-Wind!

We thank TASC Member Brian Smith for this short recollection that occurred during his sea-going years.

Here we are in April 2020 almost confined to barracks because of C-19, not the ‘Happy New Year’ I wished for so recently. Being in lockdown is an ideal time for a little reminiscence into the past when I was a rufty tufty sailor. The wee tale I am about to tell is a true story and I will give it the title ‘It Could Have Been An Ill Wind’.


It was in August 1976 that I joined the good ship ‘City of Liverpool’ in the port of Liverpool, not surprisingly I can’t remember which dock!. After a few days loading there we sailed coast-wise to London to complete for a voyage on the Strick-Ellerman service to the Arabian Gulf. Once again I’m not sure of the dock, but probably Millwall;  and on completion duly sailed for foreign parts. Whilst we were crossing the Bay of Biscay, the ‘Old Man’ came to see me with the news that we had on board the ashes of an Ellerman Line master who’s wish was that they were scattered at sea off  Cape Finisterre or thereabouts.

Came the day for the good deed to be carried out, barely round the Cape and a fine sunny morning it was too. Available officers were assembled in full uniform on the Port side abaft  No.5 hatch and the urn was secured to a board suitably draped with a flag. The order was given to stop the main engine then the ‘Old Man’ said a few words from the good book, you can picture the scene the officers (including myself) were facing aft tucked in near the aft end of the accommodation block, then was the urn and aft of that was the old man’s wife complete with camera, a couple of snaps to send to the family of the deceased was a kind thought. It was at this point that Janet as she was called remarked that it would be better if we  were aft of the urn because of the light for the camera so we changed places with her and carried on with the service. A few more words then the cap was removed from the urn and the board was tilted to discharge the ashes to the deep a lot of which were blown back on board but forward fortunately to where we had been standing minutes earlier, how lucky was that?.

I hadn’t met the deceased gentleman before and was pleased I didn’t meet him on that particular morning. By the way I think Janet needed a shower and a change of clothes after the ceremony.


Brian Smith

April 2020.

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