12 January 2011

Sea Life 1951. Tynebank Joining Middlesbrough 01

First draft:
I did not manage to get my full 10 days leave. Just over a week after I arrived home an urgent telegram arrived from the Marconi Co. asking me to cut my leave short and sign on as 1st Radio Officer on the SS Tynebank at the port of Middlesbrough on December the 6th 1951.

Middlesbrough was about 50 miles south of Newcastle on Tyne. The shortest train route was from Kendal (Oxenholme) to Carlisle, change for Newcastle-on-Tyne then change for Middlesbrough.

I remember leaving on the slow early morning train from Oxenholme stopping at all the small stations on the way north to Carlisle to catch the fast express across country to Newcastle-on-Tyne. Then just a short wait to catch the connection to Middlesbrough. Yes, I made the connections OK. Then I caught a taxi to the docks and I was quickly deposited at the bottom of the gang-plank of the Tynebank. The taxi driver unloaded my bags and I gave the him my supplied voucher. An Indian crewman on duty at top of the gang-plank came quickly down and enquired “Marconi,sahib?”. I was evidently expected and I said “Yes”. He duly pulled out a whistle on a lanyard from his tunic and gave 2 short blasts. Two crewmen came down the gangplank quickly and when instructed, grabbed my bags and headed up the gangplank with them. I then went aboard to find my bags gone… somewhere. Standing before me was a smiling Indian steward who greeted me, and smilingly lead me to my cabin and my bags deposited by the cabin door. The steward heaved the bags into the cabin. He then asked me to follow him outside where he then opened the adjoining cabin door and there it was, the radio room. I went across to the chair and sat down looking all around me, noting the equipment. As I slowly spun the chair round the steward said a magic word, would I like chai, a word I knew well from my time on the Modasa… tea.

I returned to my cabin and started to unpack my bags, particularly my uniform to hang up in case it was creased. Another thing had been gnawing in the back of my mind on the train journey. I needed to get and change the braid on my sleeves of my uniform. Meantime the steward arrived back with a tray on which was a cup of chai and a covered plate with sandwiches, suddenly I felt hungry. He also had a message for me from the 1st mate. Would I go up to the chartroom when I had finished my chai to sign on the ships articles. Whilst the steward was there I thought it a good idea to ask if he knew of a shop or ships chandler’s nearby which sold uniform braid. I pointed to my uniform sleeves, his eyes lit up and he said that he would attend to it, get the braid and sew it on for me. He would call for the uniform later. I was a bit hesitant about that.

Finishing my chai I then made my way towards the bridge and chartroom. After signing on I found the 1st mate talkative, he told me we would be sailing tomorrow for the southern states of the USA, namely Louisiana and Texas ports then through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney, Australia and then for goodness knows where. We could be away for as long as 2 years, he told me. My heart jumped, I remember. In my excitement I almost forgot my question. I then explained my problem with the uniform and he asked which boy the steward was. I described him which was easy enough and he immediately recognised him. Yes, he is good and reliable boy said the mate. That set my mind at ease.As I made a move to the chartroom door he said that there was no need for uniform for dinner whilst in port, just after we sail.

I made my way back towards my cabin. The cabin, and wireless room were to the aft of the funnel and sitting on the top of the aft end of the mid-ships superstructure, and the door facing aft. I was up here alone. This was a common location for the radio room on older cargo ships. The reason was the lead-in of the aerial slung between the 2 main masts had to be completely in the clear of all objects. The down lead was an effective part of the aerial which was often known as a “T” type aerial. The down- lead was in fact, the main effective radiating element.

I unpacked the rest of my gear, putting it into the drawers’ under my bunk and in the wardrobe, odd and ends went into the small drawers in the unit below the mirror. I had a blue case and a dull orange coloured small trunk. Where I kept those I cannot remember. The trunk was old and came from Sharrow Bay and the case was presented to me by the Nelson’s of Kidside House as a going away present. I had them both with us when we came to NZ and they were still with us until recently.

The steward came by and picked up my uniform for alteration, the following morning it was with me again to wear when we sailed. I enquired the cost and thought it very reasonable. That night I remember, I slept well, it had been a busy, and exiting day.

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