The Cenotaph calls and England expects,
Our people and public to pay our respects,
Agents of Forces are first in the queue,
To place on the step where garlands are due.
The Army the Navy and Royal Air
A trio together the Legion endorse,
Upright and firm on Remembrance Day,
Two minutes silence the regular way.
The Fourth service too must share in first laying,
Clear is the reason that shouldn’t need saying,
Then four in a line step back and salute,
When resting the wreaths in solemn tribute.
Our Merchant Navy should simply be there,
For giving a life at sea anywhere,
All who served we need to remember,
Equal as heroes this day in November.
Joe Earl Nov. 2013
THE GRUDGE FIGHT
THE GRUDGE FIGHT
There was no such thing as boredom aboard out training ship,
With officers abounding to give an ear a clip,
We couldn’t get away with much with discipline so tight,
Once an altercation became a full fledged fight.
Put to work one day, on a tank which must be filled,
A job involving water which accidentally spilled,
Myself and Terry Beagley set about each other,
A brawl took place so naturally while thumping one another.
Alas our scrap
was spotted by an officer on call,
Resulting in a `grudge` fight shortly watched by all,
The time was set for later - after evening stew,
Boxing gloves were found and seconds called up too.
The venue was an old barn set up as a gym,
Distempered walls were white, around the boxing ring,
One hundred boys or more waiting there so keen,
Me and my old rival told to make it clean.
He wore blue for Raleigh - the house for which he stood,
My sash was all yellow - fighting for old Hood,
An Officer of Seamanship was the referee,
He was known as Beaky - John Firth to you and me.
Our local rule for grudge fights - to decide the one to win,
Was three minutes to a round until a towels` thrown in,
We touched our gloves to shake hands then commenced to fight,
Continuing our differences that dark November night.
We both developed nose-bleeds we couldn’t stop at all,
So blood was spattered everywhere including round the wall,
Both of us were fifteen - fit and stubborn boys,
Still there was no winner as we fought amid the noise.
On and on we battled `till we could fight no more,
Raising up an arm each, the Referee called a draw,
Our arguments were settled, friction at an end,
Our respect was mutual and Terry now my friend.
This fight took place in 1956 while aboard the Training ship `Indefatigable` - it was talked about for a long time.
Terry Beagley became a Petty Officer Boy in charge of Raleigh Division
And I became Petty Officer Boy in charge of Hood division.
We met up again fifty years later and remained friends until his untimely death in 2010.
ARTIST FIND YOUR BRUSHES
ARTIST FIND YOUR BRUSHES
Please Artist find your brushes,
Get your pallet out for me
And paint for us a picture,
Of a clipper on the sea
A rakish topsail schooner
Canvas billowed tight
Bowsprit pointing over
Gulls in swooping flight
Running free or tacking
A pitching speedy craft
Black hull wet and shining
Bubbling wake abaft
She’ll be pushing for a record
Of passage time at sea
Racing home from China
And her cargo is rich tea
Slicing through the waves
Her bow extreme and sharp
Flying our red ensign
It’s the famous Cutty Sark
Please paint for me this picture,
This true historic scene
Where sky is blue with sunshine
And the sea a topaz green.
I reckon that I loved my work with energy and pride,
Aboard the old Apollo until our trade just died,
Redundant in my prime, my life could not redeem,
That’s the only reason I left the Bristol Steam.
It’s well I do remember that black and awful day,
When the Owners gave me orders to take my ship away,
They sold her to some foreigners so ending up my dream,
And flew a different house flag of unfamiliar green.
I sailed with other companies that answered to my call,
Losing touch with loyal crew - I missed them one and all,
I was the man that led the band with mighty high esteem,
Bur remember now the good old days aboard the Bristol Steam.
THE `COAL SCUTTLE` BRIGADE
THE `COAL SCUTTLE` BRIGADE
The war was on our doorstep, the Germans sent us hell,
With their mines and bombers - torpedo boats as well,
Through the E - boat Ally, our colliers braved the way,
Steaming round to London, mostly every day.
They came in coastal convoys from seaports in the north,
Vital coal the cargo - from Tyneside and the Forth,
Providing crucial energy for City and the Shires,
As well as fuel for railways, and domestic fires.
En route to power stations, with jetties on the river,
Thirty thousand tons a week they needed to deliver,
A voyage runs to Fulham and many a southern quay,
Like the one at Brunswick wharf and pier at Battersea.
Ships sent down from Welsh ports also braved onslaught,
Through the Hell Fire Corner making life so fraught,
Sitting ducks for E- boats from Goodwin Sands to Dover,
Fifteen guns at Cape Gris Nez lobbing shells right over.
Hardy Merchant seamen - experienced sea dogs,
Butted `tween the sand bars in frequent local fogs,
Defiantly they battled on, fought the harsh oppression,
While losses were horrendous in day and night aggression.
Through the wartime years, the colliers sailed the coast,
So many killed or injured giving their utmost,
These our unsung heroes of this battle of the sea,
I only hope you Southerners enjoyed your cup of tea!
The PADDLE STEAMER `BARRY`
The PADDLE STEAMER `BARRY`
Cheers to the pleasure steamer popular and fast,
With a jaunty rake of funnel and bunting from the mast,
Paddles swooshing easily foaming as they churn,
Leaving wake ruler straight, trailing there astern.
Her glossy shining paintwork of red and pearly white,
Flying proud the ensign on halyard whipping tight,
The cheering of the passengers leaning on the rail,
And jingle of the telegraph when about to sail.
The fascinating engines steaming hell for leather,
Captain`s orders from the bridge open to the weather,
Called upon in wartime years for such sterling work,
Plus helping out the Navy and Army at Dunkirk.
One such vessel of renown was the P.S. Barry,
Famous in the Great War for troops she had to carry,
Outstanding in Gallipoli and last from Suvla Bay,
Serving at Salonika toiled in danger`s way.
She was built upon the Clyde one hundred years ago,
Excursion fit for passengers on deck and down below,
Registered in Barry - in her early years,
Calling in the Channel ports mooring at the piers.
Ilfracombe or Weston, down to old Minehead,
Burnham and the Mumbles - then home in time for bed,
She gave so many people, hours of bracing pleasure,
Merrymaking families enjoying days to treasure.
Later on in `twenty-six she worked our southern climes,
Sailing out of Brighton and Hastings many times,
Then sweeping mines in `forty-one on a fatal run,
She perished in the North Sea, sunk there by the Hun.
It’s right recalling history of South Wales long ago,
Of local crew and seamen sailing to and fro,
For they worked the paddle steamers giving them their power,
In our favorite waters – from Bristol to the Gower.
The Paddle Steamer Barry was built for the Barry Railway Company’s fleet and sailed on May 24, 1907, before leaving the Clyde to begin her pleasure steamer career from Barry and the Bristol Channel.
Lost their lives on colliers but hardly given due,
Mostly served as firemen down the engine room,
Along with hardy stokers and trimmers in the gloom.
Well below the waterline to a rolling beat,
They did not have much prospect, working there below,
When a U-boat shot his tin-fish and set the ship aglow.
Wearing gear I mentioned and sweat rag round the neck,
They faced the cold Atlantic, storms, or raging fires,
Perchance to gain a lifeboat afore the ship expires.
Pay was stopped without delay leaving kin with now`t,
They were unsung heroes and defence was mighty thin,
Waiting for a big bang, and plates to crumple in.
Of hardy merchant seamen from around our coast,
In Holton Road a monument, stands for all to see,
A tribute to those brave men who sailed to keep us free.
My brother John’s a seaman and once he said to me;
“I`ll tell you of a voyage in my early days at sea",
The ship was the Consuelo - in ’46 I’m sure,
I was a young apprentice and relatively pure,
The Continent was starving - the people needed grain,
So we went to fetch a cargo from Canada’s domain,
Sailing from the Humber and through the Pentland Firth,
Fifteen knots on Yorkshire coal the engines showed their worth.
Heading North of West on that hot midsummer’s day,
Making for old Montreal just eight long days away,
The weather was so perfect - horizon very clear,
Earning pay while on the way as Belle Isle Straits drew near,
In time we raised Newfoundland, her coasts on either side,
Chancing fog and icebergs - went on our risky ride,
Of course we had no radar then, but steamed on through the night,
Came tomorrow morning - what a marvellous sight.
The Straits are frozen over for six months of the year,
But this June day the fish could play and whales were basking here,
Sunlight off the growlers when my trick at the wheel,
Accompanied by herring gulls and green winged Arctic teal,
Close to the Long Range Mountains, with snow up to the peaks,
We could see the polar bears fishing in the creeks,
Also spied the white fox straying from its lair,
Encouraged by the temperature warming up the air.
There were several sightings, of caribou and moose,
Midst ever-changing colours and trees of mighty spruce,
Taking in the scenery while running with the tide,
The view was truly awesome - my eyes were open wide,
Towards the Gulf of Lawrence, through the Straits of Labrador,
No other craft were thereabouts but porpoises galore,
I was so very fortunate to see nature at its best,
Even hardy seamen were visibly impressed.
I thought that I must tell you of this voyage of delight,
The beauty of these latitudes from morn `till fading light,
Wish everyone could see it - make believers of us all,
If aboard an ocean freighter, from Hull to Montreal.
Old sailors like to drink a bit, and talk of days of yore,
To greet the hands that sailed the ships, that now have gone before,
These lads have seen the best of men, and often times the worst,
But now they love a drink or two, to quench their salty thirst.
Recalling nights in foreign bars when they stood upon the table,
To sing the songs of sailor men that were heard for ‘most a cable
Reciting verse like Dead Eye Dick, Magrew and Eskimo Nell,
The rousing words of ballads, and of Kipling, they would tell.
It’s swell to go out with your mates again to have a drop of cheer,
To recall the days of a dinner time session, when still in your working gear.
Yes, it’s good to meet another crew, and those from a previous ship,
To have a yarn and a laugh once more, a tot, and a merry quip.
A storm, a fire or injury, whatever lay in store,
Was covered by resourcefulness, you’d never see ashore.
These are the times they talk about, and recall with honest pleasure
“Come on Bo’s another one - here’s a double measure.”
They rode the mighty oceans when the seas were rolling white,
And they saw the hungry days, when the land was out of sight.
Then came wondering home again, no matter where they’ve been,
Sighting whales and flying fish where the blue sea turns to green.
So it’s wonderful to chew the fat, right up to seven bells,
To argue with your ‘shell-back’ friends, ‘till the Landlord loudly yells.
They remember ports in distant lands, the one’s well known to sailors,
And the hand-stitched suits they swaggered in - made by the Chinese tailors.
It matters not, what rank you were, when the barman takes your money
Or how they spin the hyperbole to make the facts so funny,
It does ‘em good to swing the lamp and talk of many things,
For they will chat to anyone, from lonely tramp to Kings.
The wife, she says “your crackers” to go sinking pints once more,
But in her heart she knows - when you roll through the door,
That you’ve sailed the Western Ocean, and your time was not in vain,
‘Cause those old men were shipmates - brought back to life again.
They wear the berets of white my friends, the wear berets of white,
For they sailed on Russian convoys, wondering day and night,
If they’d reach their destination in Murmansk further north
Chancing Hitler’s bombers or submarines sent forth.
Hauling vital cargoes men were sorely tried,
Carrying on regardless though many went and died,
Seventy -eight, the convoys that counted up the cost,
As there and back they lumbered, many ships were lost.
The wind would howl and shriek, round ice upon the yard,
In fog, snow and violent storms, life was pretty hard,
Plodding on laboriously, guarding round the clock,
Sleepless nights and piping cold until they reached the dock.
They risked their lives steadfastly, in dreadful bitter climes,
Long ago, but Veterans recall those vivid times,
That’s why my friends I mention it, for they have earned the right,
To proudly wear a beret in the shade of Arctic White.
This Island race has many sons who natural went to sea,
Saltwater in their veins stemmed from our history,
They did not sail to fight a war or oppose the mighty Hun,
These merchant men were hardy souls they did not want a gun.
But when the conflict started and the nation called to fight,
The mariners of Britain were targets day and night.
From Galley boy to Master, of the liner and the tramp,
From Engineer to Bos`un - all men that swung the lamp.
Even though civilians, from the shires and from the town,
They turned and did their duty to the public and the crown,
Torpedoed, bombed and shot at, they carried on their trade,
The lifeline of the country - with a seagull serenade.
They brought fuel and ammunition so the aircraft could defend,
Food and goods were ferried until the bitter end,
The price to pay was heavy to haul those precious tons,
With only guts to fight with - of our seafaring sons.
Life at sea is fraught enough with peril every quarter,
But try a bomb right through the plates and crushing tons of water,
This may come at any time while toiling or repose,
With little chance and many dead - we will remember those.
For six long years they persevered and hardly went ashore,
Everything was given - you could not ask for more,
They did not seek publicity or actively dissent,
Just climbed aboard and steamed away wherever they were sent.
When the war was over - the foe called it a day,
Our Mariners shipped out again - in their peaceful way,
Now when you see a monument to our fighting kin,
Salute our Merchant Navy - and our valiant crews within.
There was a large log cabin down on the River Plate,
Frequented there by `Tankermen` - at a steady rate,
It was famous for its revelry as every sailor knows,
On the coast of Argentine` a - and they called it `Tanker Joe's`.
The Oil berths were far away from the mainstream of the town,
The only socialising was in this cabin painted brown,
Inside the barred up windows with the curtains hung by cords,
Were basic chairs and tables, with dust across the boards.
No shortage but, of beer and rum, and shelter from the sun,
And local steaks so juicy, in a fresh baked country bun,
Motley crews assembled, with wages there to burn,
Each man at his table - there to take his turn.
These tough men were sailors, and firemen from below,
Many short of schooling and their education low,
But when it came to ballads and other verse in force,
So able was their talent it showed much fine resource.
One by one they took the floor and gave us their rendition,
(Some of them were worse for wear, but most in good condition)
`There wasn't any music, the words were spoke in hush,
The audience respectful - emotions turned to mush.
`With plenty of encouragement they spoke their party word,
It was so very wonderful - the best you've ever heard,
`Maggy May`,` Bull De Mare` and the `Lady that's known as Lou`,
Also `Rudyard Kipling` and tales from `Miller` too.
From Flanders Fields Where Poppies Grow`, was there among the first
And `Take Me East Of Suez Where A Man Can Raise A Thirst`.
Titanic` verse, `John Masefield`, and `The Bards` great works as well.
`Sam Magee from Tennessee`, and the tale of `Eskimo Nell`,
Some things you don`t forget and this was one event,
Etched into my memory, the summer day I spent -
Among shellbacks hard as diamonds who opened up their souls,
When stood upon the trestle, acting out their roles.
`These mariners of England filled my heart with pride,
When I was a young man, with these men by my side.
Innocent as choirboys they recited favourite prose,
I well remember that day - down at `Tanker Joe's`.
(Previously named P.S Barry also P.S.Waverly)
Launched; 1907 Sunk; 1941 Rediscovered; 2010
There was a team of divers that found a sunken wreck,
Eight miles away from Sunderland on the North Sea deck,
It was the sweeper Snaefell - all trace lost `till now,
Since bombed and sunk in `forty one by damage to her bow.
She was launched as P.S. Barry when built so long ago,
A well-loved paddle steamer scheduled to and fro,
Her glossy shining paintwork was red and pearly white,
Her bunting and the ensign on halyards whipping tight.
She gave so many people a time of bracing pleasure,
Merrymaking passengers enjoying days to treasure,
Registered in South Wales in her early years,
Calling at the channel ports to cheering from the piers.
Outstanding in the Great War for aquatic chores,
Transporting at Galliopolli many men and stores,
Dodging mines and shells in the Dardanelles campaign,
Earned this speedy lady everlasting fame.
Later on in `twenty six she steamed our southern climes,
Sailing out of Brighton and Hastings many times,
There she was the Waverly - famous just the same,
`Till the second war arrived and changed her name again.
She then became the Snaefell minesweeping for the navy,
Paintwork now a drab grey and daubed a sort of wavy,
When called again she answered, with urgent crucial work,
Withdrawing many troops from the beaches at Dunkirk.
True, our hardy mariners steered her through the rough,
Kept the old girl going, when the going was so tough,
Like other paddle steamers that thrust ahead with pride,
A mortal wound, her time was up - she crossed the bar and died.
Her paddles rest in mud and murk but once stirred up the foam,
Her binnacle of dented brass no more a compass home,
Her long sharp bow is mangled iron - the engine-room a tomb,
Alas the fate of Snaefell, when a German bomb went `boom`.
I`D LOVE TO SAIL ON A TRAMP AGAIN
I`D LOVE TO SAIL ON A TRAMP AGAIN
I would love to sail on a tramp again on a voyage north to south,
Steaming off to warmer climes from ports like Avonmouth,
Perhaps to stand as lookout on a lonely fo`c`sle head,
A weather eye for other craft with sidelights green and red.
Warm enough for comfort, on a balmy night,
In seamens` gear of tee-shirt, bleached in cotton white,
A faded pair of dungarees - well scrubbed old blue jeans,
On my feet the moccasins, I’d bought in New Orleans.
I’d love to keep a watch again on a gently pitching ship,
Nothing else for miles around on a foreign going trip,
The brilliant stars on a dark night humbling to the soul,
A freedom known to seamen bracing with the roll.
The sea is always there and always will remain,
Though my life has been - so cannot go again,
I will sail the world once more, conversely as it seems,
Pacing on a lonely deck - only in my dreams.
BARRY DOCK - LOADING COAL
BARRY DOCK - LOADING COAL
Barry Dock was opened in eighteen eighty nine,
Crucial was the need, at that specific time,
Exporting coal most everywhere, Barry had no peer,
Exceeding even Cardiff, along the coast near here.
pits within the valleys, the black stuff rumbled down,
By railway through to Cadoxton and on to Barry town,
The owners sent the captains with their empty ships,
To load these bulky cargos, underneath the tips.
The collier pumped out
ballast and gangway put ashore,
Then took on her freight, with a dusty crashing roar,
One by one the coal trucks were emptied down the chute,
While hard men trimmed the vessel and cargo holds to suit.
Finished off and loaded, the Mate
would note her draught,
The crew turned-to, washing down, hosing fore and aft,
Shifted to a lay-by berth or mooring side by side,
Battened down and ready, to sail the ocean wide.
Agents and the chandlers, seen bustling back and fore,
Across the dock, the boatmen, sculling with an oar,
Tugs hooted out their signals towing craft about,
Most sailing or arriving until the tide ran out.
Time maybe for a pint or two in the old `Chain Locker`,
With a tattooed shipmate, or local friendly docker,
Twice a day locks were manned, around high-water mark,
Pilots sent to waiting ships, ready to embark.
It wasn’t just the coal cargoes that made the place well known,
A fine repair and dry dock was famous on its own,
Grain mills and a cold store stood nearby on the land,
Ammunition loaded, fire brigade on hand.
Vessels moored at anchor, from Breaksea Point to Sully,
Till summoned by the Dock Master always in a hurry,
The Port was home for many ships travelling blue highways,
And the best of Merchant Seamen, in those yesterdays.
From A RUSSIAN CONVOY
From A RUSSIAN CONVOY
A cargo ship is steaming into the Bearents Sea,
Heaving, rolling, pitching, bound for Murmansk quay,
The previous night in awful plight, her convoy had been scattered,
Best-laid plans are history now as slim defence is shattered.
Arctic storms are frequent, floating mines abound,
Dodgy is the compass and ice floes all around,
Watching out for U - boats and torpedoes mortal run,
The only means of fighting - an antiquated gun.
The fog and snow - sixty below, in the freezing winds,
Sodden clothes and eyes are froze staring through the `bins,
High on deck lifelines rigged to struggle fore and aft,
Shipping seas all over, in deeply laden draught.
Through a gap a spotter plane at distance overhead,
Homing in the Stukas with spectre of bloodshed,
Vital cargo must get through - vehicles and tanks,
Ammo with the aircraft and stores for army ranks.
Seldom war quite like it, in all our history,
Knowing that our chances are only two from three,
Even berthed in Russia the bombs fall every day,
Twenty minutes flying time - the Germans have their way.
There is no special thanks, for this appalling run,
Facing awful weather and unremitting Hun,
Many Merchant Seamen never make it through,
Giving all for Country in this year of `42.
If once you were a Tankerman you recall those torrid days,
Of seamen at their best and worst in so many ways,
You steamed those tankers up the gulf to where the deserts meet,
To load the oil in Aberdan shimmering in the heat.
You sailed `em up the Red Sea or Maracaibo lakes,
Or out the port of Galveston in the southern states,
You may have worked for Esso or the British tanker fleet,
The tramps of John. I. Jacobs or the `T 2`s once elite.
With no domestic fridge, and air scoops made from drums,
Jaspers feeding nightly on old discarded crumbs,
A saucer for the butter for it melted right away,
Flying fish upon the deck at the dawn of day.
Tanker men were `nutters` in mariner’s folk lore,
Imprisoned in an `oil can` and rarely went ashore,
So it wasn’t so surprising they were characters or quaint,
Eccentric were the Pump men - as teetotallers they ain`t,
You’ll not forget cleaning tanks by `Butterworth` or `pigs`,
The daily tot of welcome rum and duty free the cigs,
But Tankermen were seamen and knew the ruddy score,
Convinced the truly madmen were them that toiled ashore.
TELL THE CHILDREN
TELL THE CHILDREN
A Special breed of men my friend - a special breed of men,
I’m talking of the convoys and remember once again,
Seventy years have passed proving what we owe,
Our debt is all the greater from all those years ago.
Our Mariners endured, intrepid and low paid,
With stubborn sense of purpose carried on their trade,
Still they served our country sailing there and back,
Hauling vital cargoes in times that looked so black.
These doughty Merchant Seamen knew their cruel fate,
If struck by cunning sea-wolves lurking there in wait,
If they lived to tell their story and strived to stay afloat,
They struggled on with hardships aboard an open boat.
Life goes on of course, we age, and youngsters grow,
Ask them about the convoys find out what they know,
Show them our Red Duster, explain our island race,
Shed light upon the Nelson touch and put the seaman’s case.
Spell out the wartime rations and shortage of supplies,
Clarify the fight they had risking of their lives,
Tell them of the oceans and lifelines to supply,
Our Children have their freedom and should know the reason why.
THEY DID NOT MAN THE BOMBERS
THEY DID NOT MAN THE BOMBERS
They did not man the bombers that rendered cities dead,
Or hurricanes and spitfires in dogfights overhead,
Nor fight the war as infantry pushing at the front,
Or as marine commandoes or paratroops that jump.
They did not form in ranks, divisions or platoons,
Or march along to `eyes right` with regimental tunes,
Civilian crews of seamen sailed to do their bit,
On coastal runs or convoys until their ship was hit,
A kitbag on the shoulder after travelling on the bus,
They stepped aboard a gangway with the minimum of fuss.
There was little recognition for men that risked their lives,
But heroes just the same as in trenches or the skies.
They sailed away on oceans with a puny little gun,
To face the lethal U-Boats sent out by the Hun,
They brought the cargoes home then returned fo more,
Flying our red ensign all throughout the war.
On POPPY DAY
On POPPY DAY
On Poppy day I march again,
In wind or shine, sometimes rain,
For those who went and fought in wars,
Then gave their lives for some just cause.
Perhaps they fell in foreign lands,
Or lost at sea with all hands,
Each one answered freedom’s call,
Remember them - God bless `em all.
In silence then I blink my tears,
Side by side with medalled peers,
A surge of tribute uppermost,
At the sounding of `Last Post`.
On Poppy day we march again,
Stepping out to band’s refrain,
Veteran’s bearing justly proud,
Passing by the loyal crowd.
LUCKY JIM ?
LUCKY JIM ?
Now Lucky Jim went off to sea, a year before the war,
He was the luckiest man, I think I ever saw,
For he was shipwrecked several times and managed to survive,
Men foundered all about him but he ended up alive.
Sailing on a tramp when torpedoed by the Hun,
He was forced into a lifeboat and fired on with a gun,
Drifted for a while but not so very long,
That plunge was the first, so he called it number one.
Next, a loaded freighter exploded by a bomb,
He made it to a life raft and found the ship had gone,
He’s not sure how he reached it - doesn’t have a clue,
But eventually was rescued - that was number two.
Then he joined a coaster that hit a floating mine,
Dumped in freezing water and just picked up in time,
By a passing trawler that hauled him from the sea,
A bit of hypothermia - and that was number three.
Another U boat sunk him, off the coast of Spain,
Steaming in a convoy our Jim was saved again,
Jumping off a liner sent to the ocean floor,
Then bending on to flotsam - that must be number four.
The next ship was a tanker that went up in a blaze,
This time he found a raft and clung there in a daze,
Under burning oil, he’d had to duck and dive,
Losing many shipmates - now this was number five.
He abandoned one of Hogarth`s as it sunk beneath the waves,
Hurt and very hungry he fought a gale for days,
Yet again was rescued, though in a pretty fix,
But Lucky Jim - recovered - and that was number six.
When the war was over and things were not so grim
He told me of the sinkings and where he had to swim,
When asked his favourite digit his eyes rolled up to heaven,
"I’m not entirely sure young man - but I hope it`s number
A SAILOR`S LAMENT
A SAILOR`S LAMENT
Gulls have pecked my eyes out, fish have cleaned my bones -
A man`s recycled this way, in the locker of D. Jones,
Me and many shipmates, all were heaven sent,
To cross the bar in silence - in liquid monument,
Finished with our human form and all the earthly strife,
Now biding midst the briny in our salty afterlife,
Whether you just paddle, or sail across the sea,
Please treat the water kindly - it could be partly me!
ALFIE AND ME
ALFIE AND ME
Alfie and me on the poop deck jawing about the war,
We didn’t see it coming – we never heard a roar,
Tin fish blew our tanker up, then it wasn’t there,
Found ourselves in the ‘oggin after flying in the air.
The sea afire and burning – we were in the clear,
Just me and him went diving – nobody else was near,
Alfie found some flotsam – his arm hooked round a spar,
He could hear me swearing – I wasn’t away too far.
He flippered his way towards me and grabbed me by my shirt,
Bent me to the timber – told him I was hurt,
“Not a night for swimming” he bellows with a grin,“
Not” says I just gasping “wiv arf me ribs stove in”.
I feared of what would happen, striving to stay afloat
Atlantic cold – near freezing and oil had reached my throat,
Alfie was out of the stoke hold – a stubborn buggar was he,
(I was one of the deck crowd, he had cottoned on to me).
For hours and hours he held me, ‘most drowned and body aching,
Without a doubt he saved me, through the dawn a` breaking
I was finished with engines, ready to chuck it all in,
Alfie it was that chivvied, with jokes as bad as sin.
I figured we should pray, in case we might survive,
But he didn’t think that prayers would keep us both alive,
He said he knew no hymns, ‘cus he’d never shipped on liners,
What he reckoned was – a collection for the miners.
Alfie weren’t religious – he didn’t have to be,
Just a Merchant Seaman living his life at sea,
One o’ them men that won’t give in – fighting ‘till the end,
Lucky for me an’ proud to be his mucker and a friend.
By and by a ship came up with a Navy navigator,
He’d steamed away to chase a sub but marked our spot for later,
There’s only me and Alfie came through that mighty blast,
I spoke a silent prayer – for the mate who held me fast.
(From a true yarn told to me by Alfie’s mate some fifteen years after the event).
DEFENSIVELY EQUIPPED MERCHANT SHIPS
DEFENSIVELY EQUIPPED MERCHANT SHIPS
D.E.M.S. The Arming of Merchant Ships in WWII
The D.E.M.S. GUNNERS
They sailed aboard our merchant ships and manned outdated guns,
To defend against our enemies, Italians and the Huns,
They were gunners from the army or navy volunteers,
The rattle of the ack-ack was music to their ears.
Sea Ports kept artillery from the war before,
Handy now to give each ship to guard a little more,
Usually a Lewis gun they went and cheerfully manned,
But always took a hammer as it often stuck or jammed.
During those hostilities while trying not to drown,
Using Oerlikons or Bofors, to shoot the shells around,
They angled high for bombers that gave `em such concern,
Most likely from a four inch gun perched there at the stern.
Twelve pounders were the norm, set upon the bow,
That would be a three inch shell describing it just now,
They were standing by to shoot every minute of the hour,
In case a deadly U-boat showed its conning tower.
Mounted on the bridge wing, the fo'c'sle or the poop,
Ready for the action when bombers came to swoop,
They fired away at anything threatening with a will,
Showing loads of courage and not a lack of skill.
The two-man crews were legendary in annals of the sea,
Included in with seamen when naming pedigree,
They couldn’t stop torpedoes submarines would send,
But mostly those brave gunners stayed there `till the end.
Dedicated to Ted Thomas. D.E.M.s Gunner
Joe Earl Dec. 09
THE WESTERN OCEAN
THE WESTERN OCEAN
I’m a Western Ocean mariner and I’ll tell you if I can,
Of awesome winter weather encountered here by man,
The seas build up with fury over miles of storm tossed waves,
Hulls of ships are pounded and steering misbehaves.
Clouds are tattered rags amid the frequent squall,
Merging with the streaking peaks many storeys tall,
The air it feels like buckshot in the form of spray,
Wind is banshee howling, through rigging in the way.
A `hogging and a `sagging we ride the raging main,
Fore and aft with shaking mast the vessel wracks with strain,
Rolling and a pitching in vast and lengthy swells,
Thundering seas crashing down filling up the wells.
We dare not run before it - we’d poop our stern asunder,
We must not run along it - we’d roll ourselves right under,
The motion of a corkscrew she spirals up and round,
Crashing into head seas with a `whoomping` sound.
Half a mile from crest to crest in rolling hills of brine,
Ship trembling now but climbing - only just in time,
Arriving on a summit, we take a diving plunge,
Dropping down into a trough with stomach churning lunge.
The stern would lift, engine race, the screw would clear the water,
Speeding in its freedom - vibrating through the quarter,
Shovelled up the hawse pipes, a green sea thumps the prow,
Shooting tons to leeward off the flooded bow.
Battened down and hove-to waiting out the weather,
Standing tricks and watches working there together,
A sturdy ship beneath me and doughty crew beside,
A Western Ocean seaman takes it in his stride.
OVER THE SEA AND FAR AWAY
OVER THE SEA AND FAR AWAY
(To the tune of Over The Hills And Far Away)
Convoys formed - brave men aboard, battened down to go abroad,
Sailing out from friendly bay, over the sea and far away,
Perils faced from bomber’s run, torpedoes, mines or raider’s gun,
Seamen braced for come what may, over the sea and far away.
Keeping lifelines going strong, through a voyage fraught and long,
Storms and fog and icy spray, over the sea and far away,
Vital cargoes must get through, past a wolf-pack`s hostile view,
Under threatening clouds of grey, over the sea and far away.
Freighters ventured young and old, many die in ocean cold,
Liners, tankers, all were prey, over the sea and far away,
Day and night every crew, feared a bombshell from the blue,
Still they went to earn their pay, over the sea and far away.
Violent times whereupon, steadfast men and ships rolled on,
Duty called and had its say, over the sea and far away,
Remember well a seaman’s war, lest we forget on freedom’s shore,
Their Red Ensign flies today, over the sea and far away.
RAY PEARCE M.N.
RAY PEARCE M.N.
1925 – 2004
He never mentioned it before, not until this year,
Never wanted to – it disturbed and sprung a tear,
Torpedoed there in one ship – he had not told a soul,
When recalling his old shipmates in a dreadful waiting role.
For he was in a lifeboat with sixteen other men,
A few of them were injured – could do nought for them,
One of them was badly burnt, within his roasted skin,
Memory so traumatic – he’d felt so much for him.
He told a bit to you guys – now the time has gone,
These men died in agony departing one by one,
Two days in a lifeboat – death reigned there supreme,
Ray, he was not injured, but a lad of mere sixteen,
There were many unsung heroes in the war at sea,
This is one example – for it seems to me,
They carried out their duties, neither bragged nor spoke,
Seafarers with the Nelson touch – and mighty hearts of oak
(From an interview in 2003 with Ray and Age Exchange of London).
`Ready aye ready`
This Island place will always be a natural seaman’s home,
While protecting or transporting, cargoes o`er the foam,
The finest seamen in the world with training in their youth,
Must still uphold our heritage by skill and basic truth.
A good start is the Sea Cadets if twelve years old and keen,
To open up one’s options while working in a team,
Boys and girls are taught, in most things maritime,
Practical and theory from instructors in their prime.
What better for a youngster than marching to the band,
Or climbing up the rigging reaching high by hand,
Restricted not by race or creed, but challenges anew,
Nor politics or militants to steer another’s view.
Based upon traditions of naval origin,
Well founded are the virtues of discipline within,
They have the tall ship Royalist to hone their latent skills,
But now require a new Brig to learn from thrills
The need is quite imperative for a training craft,
For continuing instruction on a vessel fore and aft,
With training and encouragement the will is in their clutch,
Perhaps the birth of leadership and the Nelson touch.
We should aid our Sea Cadets and help them all to grow,
Feed them great potential - extend the status quo,
For Britain`s breed of mariners are the very best,
Stemming from our youngsters expressing interest.
Capt. J.S.EARL M.N.M.
(Ex Reading Sea Cadet Corps - Jervis Bay 1953- 56)
One thousand miles from nowhere, a tinfish hit its mark,
It’s target was a British ship which foundered in the dark,
The crew were killed or injured and could not stay afloat,
Just four of them were able to make it to a boat.
They watched their ship go down, upon a Christmas eve,
In a state of shock pondering their reprieve,
There they stayed and suffered - in tropic heat they sweltered,
Death was standing by them - no comfort and unsheltered.
They finished all the bully beef and licked the milk cans dry,
One of them had died by now as forty days went by,
The remaining three were skeletons - living, just - but weak,
When picked up by the Navy could not stand or speak.
Three weeks on, saw them home - recovered bit by bit,
Replacing all their papers and Merchant seaman’s kit,
One man was a mate of mine - let’s just call him Bill
I’d met him there when rescued and very very ill.
I thought I’d go and see him - take him to a pub,
Found his home in Liverpool and thereby lies the rub,
I knocked the door - his wife came out - told me that her Bill,
Bored with life ashore - refused to bide there still.
Ten days only he was home - then he said to me,“
I’m signing on again Old Girl” and went off back to sea.”
Derived from a story told on the radio in one of the ever-memorable postscripts narrated after the B.B.C. news during 1941 by Frank Laskier - from his book of transcripts;
My Name Is Frank.
Have you heard of Mrs Drysdale? - no reason why you should,
Unless you were a Vindi Boy recalling pretty good,
She’s the smartly painted figurehead from your training ship,
Which started life in `93 down a launching slip.
Many thousand old boys have memories of her,
Men from Vindicatrix I’m sure will all concur,
Training there was tough, discipline a blast,
But the making of a seaman from boy to man at last.
They came, perhaps, from cities, a village or the plough,
And grew aboard the Vindi - with Drysdale on the bow,
Learning by the hard times, the hunger and the strife,
The hale and hearty culture and friends made there for life.
The lads were taught seafaring ways, `afore they went abroad,
Instilled in them the values, that helped them stand assured,
Eventually they sailed away, each with doughty crew,
Plying trade around the world where the `duster` flew.
They joined the ranks of steadfast men, who kept our commerce flowing,
Withstanding foe and stormy seas when the winds were blowing,
All for one and shipmates - when the devil knocks,
Stemming from their early days hard by Sharpness docks.
A kindred spirit bonds them, by sailing `neath the stars,
The sea their life and laughter when living under spars,
Boldly then, they stood the worst, in peace, or war convoys,
Nothing less would one expect - from Vindicatrix boys.
Many thousand seamen were sunk by diverse means,
In wartime by a bomber or more likely submarines,
Perchance to reach a lifeboat amid the death and strife,
Hoping to be picked up conserving precious life.
With a ship abandoned (the Owners stopped your pay)
In truth the only real chance was rescue right away,
Survivors of such numerous crews were cast adrift at sea,
Not knowing of the end result whenever that would be.
Mal de mer was commonplace, in the troughs and peaks,
Exposure and the trauma went on for days or weeks,
Misery intense with sunburn and the thirst,
Hypothermia, overcrowding, or weather at it’s worst.
No comfort on the wooden thwarts, feet were always wet,
Capsizing or plain madness an ever constant threat,
Salt water boils so painful in unrelenting spray,
And the need for bailing, constant every day.
The usual fare were biscuits a bit too dry to munch,
Unless crushed up with tinned milk, pulping them for lunch,
Perhaps if they were lucky there was Bovril pemmican,
Or Horlicks formed in tablets issued to each man.
Still not enough for voyages with survival at the fore,
Firm energy required for handling of the oar,
The wooden boats unwieldy, difficult to sail,
And progress near essential for ending their travail.
Fantastic feats of seamanship and courage went unsung,
Even after wartime when victory bells were rung,
Providence would play her part in this longest war,
In a vast and angry ocean a long way from the shore.
CAPE HORN - The Voyage of The FLORENCE
CAPE HORN - The Voyage of The FLORENCE
I love to hear of windjammers sailing round the Horn
Of iron men and wooden ships, billowed canvas worn
The roaring of the Forties, hardened bucko mates
Of flying fish, albacore, and salt beef on the plates
One ship was the Florence - an ocean going hound
Thirty men aboard her, San Francisco bound
This old but sturdy vessel cast off on the tide
Coal was loaded earlier from further up the Clyde
A motley bunch made
up the `crowd` plus a `pier head jump`
`Schooner rigged` were most of `em but all could man the pump
It was not for the wages they signed on as a crew
But for dogged British seamen the only trade they knew
A hard life then for officers
and men before the mast
Fighting nature’s elements round their world so vast
A five months haul to `Frisco, by the winds own power
Watch and watch unless called out, bell struck on the hour
Some weeks of the voyage, were in part
Weather fair and holding by Equator’s line
Brilliant stars above `em, Jupiter at dawn
Overhauling heavy gear ready for the Horn
Swapping yarns in dog watches while puffing on a pipe
Gently swaying mastheads pointing at the night
Tranquil days of sailor work, barefoot days were here
With spectre of the southern climes as the Cape drew near
Soon they met the greybeards, the fury and the sound
Thundering seas unfettered that went the globe around
These towering seas against them with a slant upon a sail
Trying to beat to windward under squalls of hail
Weeks and weeks it took them fighting hard in awe
Doubling back and crossing, the courses held before
Eventually a friendly wind helped them full and by
A north-west course now possible beneath a leaden sky
Swaying on the footropes an A.B. took a clout
Stretching for the canvas when it bellowed out
Falling from the jack stay when struck by threshing sails
Dead before the water, he hit top-gallant rails
They couldn't go to find him by launching of a boat
For the chances of retrieval were risky and remote
The hands were getting weary now and longing for the shore
Work was very tedious and plenty more in store
“Just think a bit” I says to me, to check upon a notion
Of what it meant to deep-sea men a long time on the ocean
Subject to a discipline hard to find ashore
Rations poor and meagre but always wanting more
Rusty red fresh water sloshing in the tanks
Portioned was the last of it - so thirsty in the ranks
Discussions turned to fisticuffs while captive there at sea
The breaking of monotony seeks different scenery
A Yankee silver dollar
hammered to the mast
The prize for any lookout that spied the land at last
A good excuse to lay aloft to rest the salt cased brain
Raising of the spirits and easing of the pain
Till a shout of “fire” went up - the cargo was
Finding it deep seated, smouldering day and night
Soon was made a landfall just thirty miles away
From their destination in foggy Frisco bay
The fire was doused while anchored, then a berth secured
Among the many sailing ships that hove in from abroad
There in San Francisco, that place of booze an pimps
Several crew were lost to drink and hijacked by the crimps
Cargo was discharged there and holds cleaned up for grain
Port Costa was the loading berth then set off home again
“All’s well” seamen shout as sailing to the south
Heading for the Horn again and the Roaring forties mouth
Wind stubborn from the north west it blew a howling gale
Hot footing then before it with just a foretop sail
Wings enough for the strength of it now blowing up a storm
Not one could stand on the reeling hull, damage was the norm
Then a lull and fog came in, the Florence struck the ice
Bowsprit smashed and hull stove in - happened in a trice
Making best they could of it by the sun’s dim light
Set a course to Falklands’ Isle to put the damage right
Hiring men and riveters the Florence then made good
Spars culled from a previous wreck fashioned there from wood
The hulk of Brunel’s Great Britain beached across the bay
Part of Stanley’s scenery before they sailed away
The doldrums brought the blazing sun though sometimes it rained
Ten days of calm or few light airs, nothing much was gained
“More blooming days, more dollars” one of the seamen grinned
Small comfort to the Old Man who whistled for the wind
Later on they made their way, vessel running free
Approaching then the Cornish coast and a greying sea
Through the wreaths of fog, lookouts at their posts
Falmouth bound for orders further round the coast
Provisioned once again then sent to Ireland’s shore
Discharging port was Sligo then swept the holds once more
Eventually in Glasgow, hands required their pay
For their work on Florence, while sixteen months away
For the ancient mariner now watchman on the ship
A time of calm nostalgia - afore she sails next trip
The main mast and the rigging are quiet among the spars
Until she comes to life again and rolls them at the stars
MERCHANT NAVY STAMP OF APPROVAL
MERCHANT NAVY STAMP OF APPROVAL
Defeat was mighty close in the second greatest war,
Five thousand ships with cargos sent to the ocean floor,
Merchant men were slaughtered sustaining our lifeline,
The Country issued ration books so desperate was the time.
A crisis at the Home Front, foodstuff very short,
Rations and provisions scarcely making port,
Convoys steaming steadfast under Red Ensigns,
Faced demise from U-boats, the bombers and the mines.
There were many heroes on land and sea and air,
And thirty thousand Seamen gave their lives out there,
Transporting reinforcements, resources and supplies,
And fuel to fly the spitfires fighting in the skies.
Perhaps we should commend them by illustrating stamps,
With the freighters and the liners, the tankers and the tramps,
It would be a special tribute, rather overdue,
To mariners who manned them and a way to say thank you.
J.S.Earl Nov. 2009
Imagine you are on Welsh Back and picture if you can,
Attending our memorial unveiled by Princess Anne,
With her Royal pennant, flying there supreme,
A joyful day in every way the climax of a dream,
Leaning on the railings a waving Bristol crowd,
The regal standard bearers, smart and mighty proud,
Sea cadets and school kids, boy marines as well,
Officials in their finery and policemen from Bridewell.
All mustered here together, upon this cobbled strand,
`For those in peril on the sea` by Salvation Army band,
The Matthew moored alongside, in a handy spot,
Atop the poop a cannoneer set to fire a shot,
Invited guests and veterans all are standing fast,
With the duty bugler stationed by the mast,
A welcome said and prayers are read - our Padre at the scene,
Dedication carried out, by the City Dean.
The Princess lays a floral wreath - fashioned as an anchor,
With kind words she sallies forth - our Chairman duly thanks her,
Chatting on and running late she tarries `neath the trees,
When introduced to Mariners who’d sailed the seven seas,
They spoke of U-boat actions in the war against the foe,
The sinkings and endurance which only they could know,
So there you have the picture - as the public turns away,
Leaving thirsty shellbacks and those who forged our day.
They knew the satisfaction at the Last Post`s final sound,
On completion of their monument now on hallowed ground.
- When I regard this tribute, invariably I find,
Thoughts of merchant seamen - their deaths invade my mind,
“Now young Lad please tell me and drink this cup of tea,
Why are you so down and sad when you come home from sea?.”
“It’s just the seaman’s life Mother, and sailing on a scow,
Plus leaving all my family, that bothers me right now.”
“No, there’s something in your eyes young Man I’ve never seen before,
They seem to stare like I’m not there, please tell me I implore.”
“It’s just the brutal war Mother, when I steam across the foam,
Perchance to meet the enemy - a sitting duck alone.”
“There’s something in your heart young Man, I hear you wake at night,
In your dream I think you’ve seen, much more to give you fright.”
“It’s just the sight beheld Mother, at the slaughter of my mates,
Their ship disintegrated - torpedoed in the Straits.”
“There’s something in your face my Boy, that tells me what you know,
Stay at home refuse to roam, remain with me - don’t go.”
“Mother dear, be brave, I cannot stay with you,
Even though a `civvy` I have a job to do,
My place to be is the cruel sea, riding on the swell......,
With men like me, don’t you see? until we’re sent to Hell.”
“What will be the point young Man, what’s the use I say,
To risk your life in voyage strife to earn so little pay?.”
“Oh Mother dear ’tis quite clear, it’s not for wage reward,
You can be sure I’m a Seaman pure so I will sail abroad,
For they need our Merchant Navy to save our precious land,
Day and night we board our ships - without a farewell band.”
“So that’s what its all about my Son - our freedom to defend,
On unyielding Mariners - I know we can depend.”
“Sorry Mum, when beaten low and spirits start to sag,
Duty calls for Country beneath our Merchant flag ,
These are desperate cargoes that really must get through,
The time is near, I`ll pack my gear and join another crew.”
“Bless you Son, I understood when you took your ship to sea,
You sailed and died but went with pride to go down in history,
Old shipmates built your Monument on a quay down Bristol way,
It’s where I weep and talk to you - recalling our last day.”
THE SAGA OF THE FLYING ENTERPRISE 1951
THE SAGA OF THE FLYING ENTERPRISE 1951
It was the Flying Enterprise steaming to the west,
Her Master, Captain Carlson, was about to stand a test,
Christmas day in `51 he met a violent storm,
Standing out in history greater than the norm,
Days and weeks she hove-to, in heaving seas of green,
Tossing, wild and pitching, cracks on deck were seen,
In this mighty hurricane she rolled her beams close under,
And structural damage evident began to break asunder.
Four hundred miles past Lands End an S.O.S. was sent,
To save the crew and passengers now the ship was spent,
The troop ship General Greely came upon the scene,
And the Yankee steamer Southland, nearby on the beam,
could not launch the lifeboats, the list was too severe,
So jumped into the water as rescuers pulled near,
Ten passengers plus crew were saved, chilled through to the bone,
Leaving Captain Carlson aboard there, all alone.
the giant waves, to port she heeled and listed,
Included in her cargo was pig iron, which had shifted,
Forty-five degrees or more she lurched and there she stayed,
Failing then to right herself, on her side, she laid,
A deep-sea tug, the Turmoil, eventually came by,
The Mate of her, Ken Dancy, in a case of do-or-die,
Leapt aboard the stricken ship to give a helping hand,
Aiding Captain Carlson and his vessel far from land.
Those two men together in a Herculean
Hauled a cable inboard and made the tug all fast,
Steadily they towed her, slowly, every day,
Till closing near to Falmouth forty miles away,
The weather worsened once again then the tow-line parted,
Ship`s demise now obvious our heroes broken hearted,
Walked along the funnel, as it was laying flat,
Made it to a lifeboat, and that, my friends was that.
Two men well remembered for an epic of its day,
Maritime tradition and bravery held sway,
The sea’s a haughty mistress and frequently takes charge,
Testing all our seamen and mariners at large.
ROYAL NAVY SPEAK
ROYAL NAVY SPEAK
There`s a lot of things that seamen say - that seem to give `em pleasure,
They see the world and all about - and that’s not always leisure,
But the Navy has a language - they made it `most their own,
You’ll not always hear it though, unless Jack’s on leave at home.
To ring eight bells is crossed the bar or `dead` to shore side men,
`An if you heard of Jack with bumps of course-well that’s a wren,
Jack Dusty and Jam Bosun, they are masters of the store,
Jews march-past is check your purse after a night ashore.
They also speak of choppers - the ones that sort of fly,
Known as angry palm trees that go for a flutter-by,
The Jesus nut is the main one, that holds the rotor on,
And gattling gobs are talkers who chat too much or long.
Underpants are rompers, where the knicker python’s stowed,
Ready to use a playpen where `ere his girlfriends towed,
And the morning sickness, with the ladies dodgy tummy,
Then it’s called Egyptian flu `cus she’s going to be a mummy.
Bombay runners are `roaches that run around and sting,
Turd tank for the rectum, and wire is electric string,
Night fighters are the coloured chaps, neck oil is suds or beer,
Sparrow fart is the break of day and hat rack is the queer.
Hitler’s vittlers the catering staff, that bring the men some grub,
The pond is the Atlantic, raise the peepstick on a sub,
Humungus is enormous- that you ought to know,
An arctic fox is a frozen turd laying in the snow.
Stagger juice is rum, and squitters are the trots,
Porridge guns are bagpipes played by the friendly Scots,
A swindle sheet - an expenses claim or similar type of caper,
The circular file - a basket - one for chucking paper.
A great big pavement pizza when someone’s been a little sick,
And siphoning the python when you fancy pumping ship,
It’s the devil dodging Padre that’s called the amen wallah,
Also named the sin bosun and noted by his collar.
Plus the Irish hurricane - a flat calm I suppose,
Irish mail is a bag of spuds and snot box is the nose,
Henpecked is a hangover from drinking Famous Grouse,
Good-bye now from the hermit box - the Captains little house.
I’d like to speak of Trawler men that search the cruel seas,
Hunting for the fishes that dart off where they please,
To shoot the nets and haul `em in, toiling day and night,
Risking limbs and humour in oceans breaking white.
Skipper in the wheelhouse unshaven in his chair,
Wedged in with his coffee and chatting on the air,
Tending to his mission and watching out for ships,
Gulls are wheeling all about squabling for the bits.
Wet and water everywhere faces chapped and red,
Rolling and a pitching with spraying overhead,
Little change of clothing and soaking all the time,
Living in their oilskins amid the salty grime.
The gutting of the cargo and chipping of the ice,
Lacking sleep, uncomfortable, no lubber’s paradise,
Yearning for a dry bunk and warming bit of supper,
While freezing in the wind or rolling in the scupper.
Loud and noisy engines, pervading oily smell,
Dining on the `prime` they caught, every day as well,
Snagging of the gear then mending is a chore,
Still our island fishermen return again for more.
Whether in the Arctic or another scene,
Maybe out of Brixham, Hull or Aberdeen,
In wind and snow they sally forth into frequent squalls,
Accepting all conditions shooting out the trawls.
The nature of the job means uncertain pay,
Depending on the `fixer` and prices on the day,
A good catch shows a bonus when hauling safe and sound,
Thinking of a pint or two now they're homeward bound.
Hardy crews venture out to areas so vast,
Flying our red ensign whipping from the mast,
When you buy a bit of fish wherever it is sold,
Spare a thought for Trawlermen working in the cold.
Early morning Christmas Eve - preparing for the day
“Ho ho” said old Cory’s - “ you have to go away,
There’s a ship out there in trouble and the weather's pretty vile
A Dutchman’s lost his rudder and the Captain's lost his smile,”
Six good men were called up, and hauled away from bed
We rushed and manned the Portgarth up and sailed just on the ebb,
Steaming West at a rate of knots and baro. falling fast
Southerly gale upon the beam and spray above the mast,
M.V.Harns off Hartland Point, begging for a tow
Portgarth rolling wildly and seventy miles to go,
Two thousand tons of cargo ship and a load of steel as well
Wallowing there ahead of us hiding in the swell,
Horseshoe rocks abeam now, and our quarry is in sight
Riding to the weather and in a sorry plight,
Contact made on V.H.F. and Coast guard told the story
Making fast in storm force ten and the wind in constant fury,
Risking lives or broken limbs the chance we had to take
Get her home for Christmas lads or the holiday's at stake,
With hearts in mouths and lifebelts on we have our just reward
She takes a lurch and throws us all but we have a line aboard,
We pay out our wire and turn her round, and head on East by South
Bit by bit we’re winning now into the Channels mouth,
Wind and tide on quarter as the tow takes on a sheer
A tugman`s hell but we’re losing swell as the Devon coast draws near,
The job still fraught the line comes taught as we run the Easting down
All looks well but it’s hard to tell as nightfall brings a frown,
Three hours to flow, high spring tide and a storm force wind on hand
Hazards ahead - One Fathom Bank and the dangerous Culver Sand,
Disaster strikes the wire parts - “Captain, anchor down,”
- M.V. Harns is safe for now, at East Culver holding ground,
Portgarth`s gear is all a mess with spring jammed off the drum
The forward winch as well `kaput` - it’s what the weather’s done,
Head South now - Blue Anchor Roads so we may work on deck
Sheltered from the worst of it but hailstones down our neck,
It’s Christmas morn and we are sworn to bring this coaster in
Repair the wire and return to it - we are going to win,
Made fast again as daylight comes we surely have her now
But the cable cuts as the lead just rips and slices on her bow,
A tug came out of Cardiff with the Welshman’s dauntless crew
They also had a line aboard but parted two by two,
Another tug from Newport passed a brand new spring
Yet again we parted with a now familiar ring,
Then they sent Point Gilbert down - dancing all the way
Still atrocious weather, on this our Christmas day,
Sorted out our for`d winch and we'd spliced the line up tight
Also mended fax machine and the phone now works all right,
The Gilbert took hold forward, well and truly fast
Portgarth with a bridle aft and on our way at last,
The Hallgarth out from Cardiff to help us to deliver
Heading up to Newport to aid us up the river,
Things were pretty fraught again, as we cleared the Middle banks
And problems near the Bell Buoy as we start to give our thanks,
Our quarter line in the Dutchmans screw as he worked a touch astern
We cut it off and shortened up - put another out in turn,
The Gilbert sniffed the bottom which didn’t help at all
But the bow was towed from danger by the action of the Hall,
Eventually we moored her up - it was almost Boxing Day
Over forty hours without our sleep, the lads have earned their pay.
The Moral of this story - if you want your Christmas pudd-
Is never lose your rudder - or change your livelihood !