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Thread: They Left School and Sailed The Ships!

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    Default They Left School and Sailed The Ships!

    Liverpool was built on its association with the sea, the Mersey was the gateway to the rest of the world and generations of Liverpudlians sailed through that gate, ploughing the oceans of the world bringing wealth to the nation.
    The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the pinnacle of Liverpool’s maritime history also its demise; fifty years ago Britain had the largest Merchant fleet the world had ever seen and the youth of Liverpool stood in line to follow their father’s, grandfather’s and great grandfather’s into that proud profession which gave them their identity as seamen in the British Merchant Navy.

    They started as young men and served in every branch of the industry, from Deck Boy to Master; three months at a National Sea Training School and they joined their first ship, they had a basic knowledge, from then on it was learn as you go and learn they did, coached by those who had joined before them.
    It was a proud profession with skills developed over hundreds of years, young seamen were multi-skilled tradesmen who never got the recognition they deserved. My father and uncles were all Liverpool Merchant Seamen and I followed them to sea, in 1951, as a Deck Boy on the Empress of Scotland and retired eight years ago as a Master Mariner.


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    About fifteen years ago I read about the QE 2 entering the Mersey and thousands of Merseysiders turning out to see this magnificent ship; thirty years prior to that you could have come down to the Pierhead almost any day of the week and seen as many as two ocean liners lying in the river. If the dock area, including graving docks, could have been seen as a straight line they would have stretched over twenty seven miles; Liverpool was one of the world’s great seaports and it used to be said there was a scouse on every Merchantman, if you didn’t go to sea one of your family members did and if they didn’t chances were you knew someone who did.

    They left school at age fifteen and sailed the ships, three years after joining the Merchant Navy a young man could have been on the wheel under pilot orders bringing the QE 2 into New York harbour. British Merchant seamen were amongst the best in the world, whether a Fireman, Steward or Able Seaman they knew their job and you took pride in what they knew, those wingers and waiters on the “big ships” were the best, they could lay a silver service, they knew which wine went with each course, plus they could confidently wait on royalty if required; if your Father, Grandfather or Brother went to sea you can feel proud, I know they were proud to be able to say, “I’m in the Merch!”

    The British Empire was built on the back of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, they sailed the oceans and seas of the world taking British produce to places many people have never heard of and returning with food for the nation; thousands of British seamen gave their lives during the wars; young men sailed away on lightly armed, and sometimes unarmed Merchant men, to face the German wolf packs and natures fury so that we could live in safety and comfort.

    In Liverpool they have monuments to those brave men who gave their lives at sea but what about the thousands of young men of the Merchant Navy who served, they too should get recognition for their service to the nation; we once had a monument called The Sailor’s Home in Canning Place but our city father’s saw fit to demolish it … It was the Fourth Grace and stood proudly as an emblem of all the men who, “Packed Their Grips and Went Away To Sea.”
    Last edited by phill; 12-18-2006 at 06:17 AM.

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Most of my uncles and cousins were in the Merch - one uncle was killed by a U-Boat. In those days every other hosue has all sorts of hand carved ornaments from all over teh world - large carved elephants, Japanese tea sets, you name it they all had it. All "from sea" - most never knew were it came from as it was just "from sea". Liverpool homes must have been the most ornamented in the world. It would all be worth a fortune now.

    By the time I came about the fleet was dwindling and heavy rumours that the South End Docks may close because of a new massive Container Terminal at Seaforth were about. The sea was not the place to go for a future. Most of the crews are to be "Coolie" crews they said. I did apply to Harrison Line but had the obligitory rejection letter.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waterways View Post
    Most of my uncles and cousins were in the Merch - one uncle was killed by a U-Boat. In those days every other hosue has all sorts of hand carved ornaments from all over teh world - large carved elephants, Japanese tea sets, you name it they all had it. All "from sea" - most never knew were it came from as it was just "from sea". Liverpool homes must have been the most ornamented in the world. It would all be worth a fortune now.

    By the time I came about the fleet was dwindling and heavy rumours that the South End Docks may close because of a new massive Container Terminal at Seaforth were about. The sea was not the place to go for a future. Most of the crews are to be "Coolie" crews they said. I did apply to Harrison Line but had the obligitory rejection letter.
    I'm sorry you didn't get to sea and I'm sorry the youth of today don’t have the opportunity, it’s all gone now, my generation were the last to experience those halcyon days of the Merch Boys … as sixteen year olds we were doing stuff other kids couldn’t imagine.

    A little story to illustrate Liverpool humour; going through the Suez Canal the south bound traffic would wait in a siding for the north bound ships to go through and it was usual for a seaman to enquire of the passing vessels, “Where’s yeah crew from” and one time, from a passing ship, came the reply in a broad scouse accent, “We’ve got whites on deck and scousers down below.”…

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    Quote Originally Posted by Waterways View Post
    Most of my uncles and cousins were in the Merch - one uncle was killed by a U-Boat. In those days every other hosue has all sorts of hand carved ornaments from all over teh world - large carved elephants, Japanese tea sets, you name it they all had it. All "from sea" - most never knew were it came from as it was just "from sea". Liverpool homes must have been the most ornamented in the world. It would all be worth a fortune now.

    By the time I came about the fleet was dwindling and heavy rumours that the South End Docks may close because of a new massive Container Terminal at Seaforth were about. The sea was not the place to go for a future. Most of the crews are to be "Coolie" crews they said. I did apply to Harrison Line but had the obligitory rejection letter.
    I'm sorry you didn't get to sea and I'm sorry the youth of today don’t have the opportunity, it’s all gone now, my generation were the last to experience those halcyon days of the Merch Boys … as sixteen year olds we were doing stuff other kids couldn’t imagine.

    A little story to illustrate Liverpool humour; going through the Suez Canal the south bound traffic would wait in a siding for the north bound ships to go through and it was usual for a seaman to enquire of the passing vessels, “Where’s yeah crew from” and one time, from a passing ship, came the reply in a broad scouse accent, “We’ve got whites on deck and scousers down below.”…

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