15 March 2004

First Draft: South Shields. A Good Samaritan

I thought over the Examiner's proposal and although it was scant on detail I thought I had nothing to loose, besides I had not been across on the ferry to North Shields before. I found the address on the piece of paper and knocked at the 3 p.m. appointed time and a lady opened the door, enquired my name and led me into a front room and I came face to face with the Examiner.

He was tidying some papers and suggested that I sit down. Then he turned and faced me, He then told me I needed some one to one tuition, if I didn't get it I would probably fail again. My faults had to be monitored and corrected, if I didn't all I would do was compound them.

He suggested that I think it over and he left the room for me to ponder his words. Quickly I came to a decision and on his return I indicated that I would be happy for some help with my dilemma.

He then suggested I put on a pair of headphones and he would send me a test piece of Morse at the regulation speed of 20 words per minute. On completion he took my copied piece and scanned it. Then he tried me for a few minutes of coded letters... groups of 5 random letters, then the same with 5 figure groups of figures. He then said to change places and I sent Morse to him and as he listened he made notes as I pounded away on the Morse key. After a while he sat back and indicated that I stop sending Morse.

He then told me he could straighten me out for the next Morse exams in just over 3 months and if I failed again there was a further Morse exam in 6 months when I would be re-sitting the Theory papers.

Then on the dot of 4 o'clock the door opened and his wife came in with a tray and afternoon tea.

Every Saturday afternoon for 12 weeks I caught the ferry across to North Shields and turned up on the Examiner's doorstep promptly at 3 o'clock. I practised for an hour under the Examiner's watchful eye and promptly at 4 o'clock his wife would bring in afternoon tea. He certainly straightened me out during those 12 weeks. He showed me with my left-handedness how to best position myself when sending. Over the weeks he brought me up to send and receive perfect Morse at the regulation speed and then on to and above the regulation speed.

Towards the end of the 12 weeks he pronounced that I should sail through the examination with flying colours, but to remember everyone can trip during an examination. There was always a second chance in a further 3 months when I would re-sit my Theory papers. On our last session he wished me good luck and said Goodbye, he would not be the examiner for the next Examinations.

Yes, as the Examiner predicted I did sail through the Morse re-examination with flying colours. I never saw the Examiner again, I cannot remember his name now at all, and if prompted I would still not remember it. I could have called him Mr. This or Mr. That when writing this piece but I thought it I would leave it just as I now remember him... The Examiner.

In today’s world I would have phoned him immediately with the good news of my pass results but in 1950 as I had written before, telephones were not the norm in private homes. He would have known the results the next morning; all the Examiner's used the same offices. But that is not an excuse, I could have caught the ferry across to North Shields and told him personally.

That was a long time ago in fact 54 years ago when I was almost 17 years old. I still puzzle as to why the Examiner took me under his wing. Over the years I have had all kinds of theories as to why he did it, but to this day it still puzzles me. After a bout of going over the reasons I usually come back to the same conclusion. He was simply a Good Samaritan... there was someone in need... it just happened to be me.

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