Having left Greenhithe in 1981 I continued with Turnbull Scott as 3rd and 2nd mate until 1985 by which time Turnbull's was pretty much folding its shipping operation. The fleet had been reduced from around twenty ships to half a dozen active and a few others laid up. If memory serves correct three were Hong Kong owned (Wheelock Marine) and the others were flagged out under either the Gibraltar or the Panamanian flag.
By 1985 I had been married for 2 years (some of you may remember Emma who used to visit Greenhithe occasionally - we have now been married for just over 18 years and have been together for just over 21 years), and when I received a call from Turnbull's instructing me to join my next ship I thought enough was enough, and wrote in a letter of resignation.
I have never regretted leaving the sea although I have many, many fond memories, and just occasionally hanker after a trip around the coast or across to the States and back. Turnbull's were understanding although my resignation was at short notice, and they had just put me through my Class 2 Ticket at Warsash.
In all the excitement of leaving I had rather stupidly omitted to find myself another job, so I found myself at the age of 28 living with self inflicted unemployment. I also had not got much idea of what I wanted to do for a career, but did come across some adverts for Computer programming TOPS courses. I duly took some aptitude tests, passed, and did a crash course in programming.
After that I got a job working as a programmer in ACT (Associated Container Transportation), where I worked from around 1985 - 1988. (If any Bills of Lading details went awry, or Containers went missing, it was one of the others there not me). I then moved to the Portman Building Society in Bournemouth where I have worked for the last 13 years, most of which has been as a Project Manager.
So much for my work life. On the way along a decided I would have a crack at getting a degree, as much for interest as anything else. I decided to study Open University courses, and mainly History of Art, covering in particular the Italian Renaissance and Modern Art and Modernism. I finished my degree in 1989 3 weeks after my first daughter was born, and so to another chapter.
Imogen is now 12 and plays U14 County Hockey and U13 County Tennis for Hampshire. When she was about 8 weeks old she was diagnosed as having holes in the heart, and was operated on when she was around 9 months old. Suffice it to say the operation went well. She has the sporting talent I would have liked to have had.
Isabel was born in 1989 is now 8, plays netball and tennis, has taken up the violin and is about to start learning the guitar. She has the musical talent I would have liked to have had.
Both the children enjoy school, and seem to do pretty well, occasionally even doing some work, which I guess has to be regarded as a bit of a bonus.
Needless to say I am delighted to be a father, which of course would not have crossed my mind as a possibility twenty odd years ago.
I have kept up sporting interests in a fairly desultory sort of way over the years. I stopped playing rugby after being knocked unconscious by a lower primate who had clearly not learnt the finer points of communication - like talking. I played club tennis for a while, got bored with that eventually so took up squash, and played a bit of Hampshire league. When Imogen was about 5 I found I was getting too tired (sleepless nights with young children), and probably too old, to do justice to myself so I packed squash in and started running instead.
I have done quite a few 10k and 10 mile races (the others did the racing), but more recently have just been doing the odd training run. Now I mainly do a bit of hockey coaching, which I got into because of Imogen, and I try to play golf, which I have neither the time nor the ability to play as well as I would like.
I have great memories of Greenhithe and the Merchant Navy in general.
Like Steve Foster I remember Mike Bailey (Tunbull Scott by the way) being keen on Bruce Springsteen, and in particular him and Alan Morgan singing Born to Run prior to any exams. I remember that a disproportionate number of girls at Dartford were dead keen on Mike which I was hellishly jealous of, but of course couldn't admit at the time.
I remember being with Paddy Shrimpton in Jamaica when he nearly broke his neck diving in water which was far too shallow, but which in the interest of trying to impress a couple of girls sunbathing nearby, he had a go at anyway.
I also remember Paddy diving off the ship almost on top of a passing shark, and being entertained (I was in the room next to Paddy on Phase 1) to endless repetitions of Jackson Brown's "Just a Little Bit Longer" (and I still think it's a great song).
I remember Tiny's posh sporty car which he took to Donnington and some of the bikers trying to kick it in, and I also remember trying to control his normally very placid temper during rugby matches - he needed some direction or would start beating up our side as well as the opposition. There was one match when Taffy got injured doing one great tackle too many, and Tiny got really cross - pretty scary stuff.
Stewart Hobbs used to do great imitations of Madness, and was really clever. He used to seem to breeze through everything with the minimum of fuss. I wonder if the biking contingent, Steve Foster (good bartballer), Chris Keene, Keith Denney (was unfortunately once sick over my laundry, but another of the clever ones for all that), and Brett Metcalf have maintained their interest in two wheels.
I have read Dick Weston's and Steve Foster's news from the MNC website with great interest. Dick lives nearby so I hope we might be able to meet up sometime. It may be my memory playing tricks but I always remember Dick being very civilised while others were losing their sense of reason, and he was also a good Rugby player. He was one of the first people I met on the induction course, and I think the last of our lot I spoke to, which was when our ships passed by each other somewhere off West Africa in about 1984.
If anyone wants to get in touch please do. It would be great to hear some news.
Has anyone ever heard anything from Mike Bailey, we were both in Turnbull's and sailed together a couple of times.
[I have a feeling I met Pete Perry around 1980. There was if memory serves an incident (probably one of many) with a lamppost, which apparently leapt out of the dark and caused GBH while Pete was negotiating his way back from Dartford. But I may have the wrong person.]
Email via 2nd Mates 1981
Refs 1 2 3
First info from Stephen Foster