I was asked recently "Why did you go to Sea?" ....... so I thought about it and this was my reply:-
I was brought up on a farm in in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales and in 1946 /47 we had an exceptionally hard winter. In the first time in living memory the sea froze for quite a few yards out from the shore.Even going to school was different for me, to reach the tramtrack .I had to walk ON TOP OF THE HEDGE as the snow was too deep
We had a herd of dairy cattle, and all our water pipes were frozen except for one in the kitchen, which we let run all night in the hope to keep it running, and on a couple of mornings I remember it was a" close run thing " as icicles had formed from the tap into the sink, but there was still a trickle of water, which we encouraged by breaking the icicle and putting hot water over the pipe itself until we had a flow of water.
The dairy cows were in great need of water, so we filled 2 gallon buckets with water and added sufficient boiling water to it so that the chill would be taken off the cold water.We could not boil enough water fast enough, so one of my jobs was to fill the buckets with cold water, then plunge my bare arms up to my elbows in the water and swirl it about until the heat from my arm had taken the chill off the water sufficiently, for the cows to be able to drink it without catching a chill and reducing their milk yield which was our main source of income.
We had to go into the fields to cut Kale for the cows..... that was another cold job. The kale was about 4 to 5 feet tall with thick stems and a canopy of large leaves which were full of ice and snow until you hacked the stems with a sickle , the the ice and snow cascaded on to your head and down your neck. Then you made the stems into bundles ( using frozen fingers ) then hump the bundles of kale across the ridged field to where the tractor was waiting, quite a way away as the the area by the gate had in previous weeks been wet, and the tractor tracks were very deep, but once the ice came the tractor could not get through as it was grounding on the ridge between the tyre tracks
We also had to feed the cows with Mangolds ( Swedes type root crop) they had been harvested in the autumn and stored in Cootches (Long "Barrow" like constructions ).A base of gorse topped with bracken and then straw, on to which the mangolds were heaped, then the same layers on the sides and over the top to protect the mangolds from getting damaged by frost.
We then at feeding time had to open the Cootch and with a pitchfork dig these rock hard Mangolds out one at a time, and throw them into a hand powered slicing machine ( the handle should have had a wooden sleeve but that had gone years ago so your hands were on the cold iron shaft instead . Not a great joy ) The sliced Mangolds fell into an old galvanised bath, which we carried into the shippen before we added flour which we had crushed and then mixed it to make a feed for the cattle as well as the horses.
One day I was going to Penrhyn Bay for bread from the shop near the " Toll Bar" and I insisted on taking my bike despite being advised not to by my parents because of the deep snow.Going was not too bad, but on the way back I was getting very cold and could not ride the bike because the snow was too deep so I got slower and slower.By the time I got to the farm gate I could only open the hasp by using my shoulder as I had lost all use in my arms.When I got to the house I could not open the door and had to head butt the door to get attention for my Mother to let me in.
Fortunately my parents knew that to thaw me out quickly could be dangerous so they immersed my shoulders and arms in a sack of newly ground flour which had been ground for the cattle the previous day, it was a good insulator and may have had a little residual heat from the ptrevious days grinding.
My mother gave me some" Sloe Gin" which she had made, and over the next several hours I thawed out. but even as slowly as it was done it was one of the most painful experiences of my life as the blood gradually started to resume its circulation.
It was after this time that I asked myself if I really wanted to "Follow in Father' s Footsteps" and become a Farmer. On reflection I thought not, and eventually went to sea.
AS THE SOFT OPTION ! ! ! which it was after having been brought up on a farm.
It was a wise decision as when I would have been 35 years old Lord Mostyn sold the land for building the new estate and I would have found myself without a farm and unable to buy one. At that time ( 1970-) it was £ 1,000 per acre and you could not make enough revenue from farming to support such a cost.
So "Going to Sea "had been justified as a course of action
Memories of my sailing days in
LONDON OVERSEAS FREIGHTERS
1952 to 1965
In the 1950's every family in the UK had a member who was either at sea, or had been to sea, or at the very least they knew of someone who had been to sea and therefore knew something about the life and maritime traditions.
Newspapers carried details of the UK's current "Balance of Trade" figures, which specifically included the invisible earnings from shipping and insurance.
At the well patronised cinemas there were always the news films by Pathe Gazette which frequently covered marine incidents such as the "Flying Enterprise II" with her Captain Carlson and the Mate Dancy who leapt from the deck of the rescue "Turmoil" to board the stricken, and sinking "Flying Enterprise II".
THE FOLLOWING MEMORIES ARE IN NO WAY REMARKABLE FOR THE PERIOD.
The only reason for their being reproduced in type now (in 2003 ) is that the ink in the original diaries has started to fade and to become unreadable, therefore having "retired" and with the time available, it seemed a good opportunity to transcribe my recollections, so that in another 30 years a descendant might find something of "historical interest" in the way we lived at that time at sea in the 1950's - 1960's.
.....although if I had seen this photo before it might have made me think twice
Preparations for going to sea
Alan Mitchell + Ambrose 17 / 04 /1952 First day Joining First Ship
---in normal uniform
I was by now in the lower sixth form at John Bright Grammar School studying Botany/Zoology/Chemistry in preparation for taking up a career in forestry. The son of a friend of my mother's had made a job offer at his lumber camp in Sarawak, it would have taken several days by foot and boat to reach the camp and I would to wear high boots and long sleeve shirts because of the leeches, which were best removed by the application of the lighted end of a cigarette, or with salt I was told.
On the first Sunday in January I was reading the red covered Letts Diary for Boys which I had been given for Christmas and at 4.15pm I started to read about the Merchant Navy and found the Federation address. I told my parents of my interest and was told that if interested then I would have to find out about what was involved myself.
In February our own Doctor gave me a physical and in March my mother and I had an expedition to Liverpool so that I could be kitted out. We started by walking to the village for the tram or bus to Colwyn Bay railway station along with all the other people dressed in their Sunday best for that was what people did when travelling. On arrival at Liverpool, Lime Street station we got a tram then walked to the "Sailors Home", a large black building with many windows and many steps to the imposing front door, protected by the highest quality wrought iron gate, inside the building was a hollow square construction with balcony having more of the highest quality ornate wrought ironwork, the doors were of heavy wood and glass, all the brass being highly polished over a period of many years.We were directed to the first or second floor to the recommended naval outfitters where we presented the list of required essentials according to the Federation which included the following:-
Two sets of working denim jacket and trousers
Doe skin uniform
Battle dress uniform
Whites, shirt, short trousers, white canvas shoes and whiting for same
Uniform shoes (two pairs)
Uniform cap with MN badge
Uniform black gloves
Heavy weather gear, heavy black plastic long coat and souwester with long white woollen socks to go with the sea boots
Uniform black shoes with toe caps (two pairs)
Books such as Nicholls Seamanship, Concise Guide, Boatswains manual, Munroes pocket primer
All this came to £50 which at the time was a fortune in my eyes as it was almost as much as my father got as the farm milk cheque for the month and on which we depended so much at home.
17th APRIL 1952
I travelled to Liverpool by train in uniform on my own and found the agents for London & Overseas Freighters Ltd without difficulty, the Agents were S C Chambers (an ancient shipping agency located on the top floor of an office overlooking the 1937 tunnel entrance.) It was here that I met Alan Mitchell the other new apprentice from South Shields for the first time, we were both joining our first ship the London Pride at Tranmere and were to complete our apprenticeships together over the next four years.
When we were boarding the "London Pride" for the first time she was starting to discharge her cargo of crude oil, and we saw the officers indulging in horse play, throwing a crow bar at each other, when they saw it hit the deck and sparks start to fly they stopped !!! Some introduction to Safety at Sea and Tanker Good Practice!
Whilst the discharge was being carried out, we the "new boys" were sent back to Liverpool to buy items for the officers such as newspapers, magazines, tooth paste etc.
My first ship..."London Pride"