14 November 2010

Sea Life 1951. The Modasa. London.

First draft:
Leaving Malta our next call was Tilbury Dock in London. Our passengers disembarked here and some of the cargo also, I think.
During our few days stay at Tilbury, over the weekend, I made the opportunity to visit my Aunt Florrie (Florence), she was my father's sister, who lived in nearby Rochester about 5 miles distant. She and her husband had moved from Cumberland to Rochester in Kent just after the end of WW2. I made the journey by early morning bus and they were more than surprised to see me. She had 2 children, my cousins, Valerie and Carl who were younger than I. I was made most welcome by the family and I finally caught the bus back to Tilbury in the late afternoon.

My aunt's husband, John Ritson was a close friend of my father's and he was also my godfather. He was said to be a very clever man who worked on seaplanes during WW2 based in the English Lake District . His son Carl Ritson following his father's footsteps, becoming an aircraft engineer. Eventually he went to Florida, USA to follow his profession.

We were now due to leave Tilbury and sail to Newcastle-on-Tyne, the Modasa's home port to discharge the remaining cargo.

Note: To be amended. My visit to my Aunt Florrie above may have been with another ship (British Piper), an oil tanker sometime later.  Maybe not.
Sea Life 1951. The Modasa. Homeward Bound.

First draft:
We left Lourenco Marques heading for Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar where we were to pick up our first passengers. We would also picked up more cargo, what it was I can no longer remember. Then onwards to Mombasa where we picked up the majority of our passengers and more cargo. Our ports of call were more or less the same as on our outward voyage with the exception of Marseilles, in southern France.

We then passed through the Suez Canal again and back into the Mediterranean. Following the north African Coast we made our way to to the island of Malta an additional port of call to pick up even more cargo and maybe an extra passenger or two.

. We stayed here only 12 hours. We were berthed close to the old town so, to stretch our legs, a few of us had a short exploratory walk through the old town with its narrow cobbled streets, small shops and cafes. I remember the buildings were high in these narrow streets  but the light coloured stone of the buildings seemed to reflect the daylight down into the streets making them quite bright. Leaving Malta our next call was Tilbury docks in London.

Notes and thoughts.

Now, remembering Malta I wish we could have stayed longer. There is much history here, going back to ancient times. As a school boy and later I did not care for History much at all, although I did enjoy Geography very much. As a boy, I would often dream of those faraway countries.

During my early 50s I became interested in genealogy and then the history of the county of Cumberland which is now Cumbria were I was born. This lead to the history of its peoples through the ages. My fathers people were yeoman farmers in the Wigton and Carlisle areas and I was able to get back to the late 1700s before I started to be unsure who was who. My mothers line was much easier to trace. They had not moved far going back to about the mid 1600s. They were in the main yeoman farmers and stonemasons.

4 November 2010

:Sea Life 1951. Lourenco Marques, Mozambique.

First draft
We left Dar es Salaam, heading south to Lourenco Marques now renamed Maputo. When we visited, Mozambique was still a colony of Portugal. The name change took place shortly after Mozambique became a republic. The old name has always seemed to me, since a small boy to have had a grand ring to it. From my eight birthday I have been a keen stamp collector with a few temporary periodic lapses. First stamps of the world, then British Colonies, then in my later years, theme related. The older stamps of Mozambique had only the name Beira wrote across the bottom. There was no country of Beira and it took sometime to deduce where the stamp came from. I found it eventually from a large school wall map, the word Beira jumped out then the name Mozambique. Looking further on the map lower down was the name Lourenco Marques, that name stuck in my brain, it now seems for ever!

Lourenco Marques was a long way from Dar es Salaam about 1500 miles or a little more, a few days steaming. If we still had a passenger or two on board I am now unable to remember or whether we still had cargo on board. I do remember we had cargo to load mainly large bales of hides, mostly cattle hides. I seem to remember wild cattle mentioned during loading, added to that we were not far from the South African border and the railway ran into Lourenco Marques from South Africa and down from the north also.

We, or I did, got quite a surprise when we got an invite to a cricket match... could we raise a team? The word spread though the ship. I don't think we quite made a team, we made up the eleven from spare British locals. In 1951 Lourenco Marques was a thriving port and railway junction. Then, British officials of kinds seemed to abound in all kinds of unlikely places. Oh, and the cricket match, I think we did managed to lose.

We were here 3 days, we all enjoyed  the hospitality of the local expatriates and the stories swapped.

30 October 2010

Sea Life 1951. The Modasa.

First draft:
Dar es Salaam means "Haven of Peace". Tanzania in the 1950s was called Tanganyika, and like Kenya and Zanzibar, British ruled.

We were in port here for about 3 days; most of the remaining passengers would disembark here.The majority of our remaining cargo was unloaded here, too. The town had a more Arabic feel in comparison to Mombasa. Of the population of  Tanganyika, 33% were estimated to be Muslim.

Whilst we waited anchored in the harbour for a berth a lone bum boat came out from the wharf loaded with goods and being a lone boat was allowed up on deck. He laid a large sheet out on the deck. Then from the boat below, with the aid of  helpers, hoisted up a number of baskets with selections of his wares. Our remaining passengers crowded round buying and bartering for various things; asking for this or that and he, instructing his helpers to heave this or that item up to him.

I noticed a few seashells on show. The elderly Arabic man noticed my interest and he picked one or two up for me to have a closer look. I asked him if he had any bigger ones, He indicated no but he could  get some for me, if I wished. I described the shape and size I required and he said he would return tomorrow. Walking away, I thought well he was just  being polite. I probably would not see him again.

Later, we berthed  and next morning Jock called me, he decided to do a few maintenance checks to the ships radio equipment. He showed me how to check over the transmitter motor alternator, a bit of grease here and there, tightening this or that. Then along to a large bank of batteries outside in a waterproof box used to drive the radio transmitter, whilst stressing the importance of  regular maintenance and topping up the battery acid with distilled water. I then made the mistake of saying to Jock that I knew all this from the Radio College tuition. Jock looked at me for a few moments, then he growled that he knew that, he was just empathizing the importance of the fact that when at sea our power had to generated completely independent of the ships power supply.  He went on to say that if the batteries failed or the motor alternator failed we were in serious trouble. If the main transmitter failed we had a standby, the same applied to the communications receiver. We could send out an advise message advising of our problem and get shore help when we reached our destination port. (The above is only a simple explanation). He told me later that he applied the above to each new 2nd Radio Officer to come aboard. Jock knew the consequences; maintenance usually, was quickly passed over at the Marine Radio College. Years later when I worked for British Civil Aviation and transfered to the Maintainance Unit Jock's remarks stood me in good stead.

 In the afternoon I stood by the rail watching passengers disembarking, officials coming on board, cargo slings bringing goods slowly out of the holds together with the general wharf  activity. It was hot standing in the tropical sun. Jock would be asleep as he usually was in the afternoons, so I retired and propped myself up upon my cabin day bed and read a book which I had from the ship's library. Sometime later there was a small knock and the cabin door opened, it was my cabin steward. He said with raised eyebrows of surprise, a man was here to see me. As I got up I saw the elderly Arabic man of yesterday standing behind him. I grinned at the steward and said OK, my visitor said he had some shells to look at. He unwound a cloth and put it on the deck outside my cabin door and proceeded to lay a number of large shells on the cloth. Two caught my eye immediately, both pink and white in a twisted cone form, blunt at one end and pointed at the other,  about 9 inches long and 4 inches across the base, just what I wanted. He had, I think 5 shells in all. I took the two cone shells,the others were too small or wrong shape.

I asked him the "how much" and the price he named seemed to me quite cheap, I said OK without trying to bargain. My purpose for the shells was to drill a hole in the middle blunt end and carefully hollow out the centre to make a lamp. I had once seen this done in a book with instructions how to proceed. I did this with the Radio Room tools and then procured the necessary parts from the ships Electrician. When the inner shell was hollowed out enough and the bulb inserted  the whole shell glowed with a varying soft pink glow all over. To complete the job I needed some glue to glue the bulb socket base into place. this lead me to the ships engineers who came up with just the thing.

There is a postscript to this story. After buying the shells from the Arabic gentleman I found to my dismay the shells were live. The question was what to do? I had plenty of suggestions, mostly dunk them in salt water and the fleshy part would come out seeking food. Dunk them in fresh water and it would kill them. I selected the salt water way. To get it to come out fully I found I needed to pin the shell upside down with a weight and quickly with a knife severe the fleshy part. Borrowing a sharp knife from one of the deck officers I quickly managed to cut the majority of the tongue out. As a boy who spent many hours fishing I was an expert at this operation. I then with a bent piece of wire managed to hook out a good part of the remaining flesh and left the 2 shells to dry in the sun for a few days.

I was able to do most of the above messy and noisy drilling away from the accommodation. Aft of our accommodation was a block of cabins part empty, and a few used by the Engineers at the aft end of the block. At the end of the block nearest me was a washroom of sorts with brushes, both scrubbing and sweeping and a sink and with, of all things... a salt water tap. During our voyage I had noticed the washroom didn't seem to be used. I moved my bits and pieces in. No one queried me.

One evening someone mentioned to me would I like to make up a six to hire a taxi for the evening and go down the coastal road (South) to a nice place for a drink...I said yes. Off we trooped. When we reached our destination we found the place closed, but lights on at the house. We were told that they were normally closed, off-season. If we were staying a while, they would be glad to open up the bar. A few minutes later a house-boy came out and led us a short way down towards the beach and opened up a circular bar and arranged a table for us. Sometime later the owner and his wife joined us with a few locals. We had an excellent time. Midnight saw us returning.

Many years later, as I write this in 2010 I looked on Google Earth and spotted the resort we had gone to. It now looked absolutely different. Where we had sat near the beach was now 2 large concrete multi-storey apartment blocks. I thought at first I must have been wrong. Checking the area again there was not another place it could have been. The lovely simple resort of long ago had been wiped out. I sat quietly in my chair and felt sad and not wanting to write anymore today.