Capt Brian Scott
I commenced my Cadetship with the Clan Line in October 1952 after leaving school the previous July. My first ship was the ss CLAN MACKINNON, ex EMPIRE DUNNET. I made two voyages in her from the UK/Europe to India/Pakistan, with short deviations carrying British military cargo to various trouble spots.
After one year I was transferred to the tss CLAN BRODIE, ex HMS ATHENE, a former seaplane depot ship, for one voyage from the UK to South Africa, Mauritius and India.
My next ship was the CLAN MACINNES, a two-year-old motor vessel. My first voyage in her was from the UK to South Africa, then from the UK to India, followed by a third voyage from the UK to Australia. Having enjoyed my visits to South Africa and Australia, the thought of another voyage to india did not motivate me at all, so when I recceived my recall to the CLAN MACINNES, loading in Glasgow, at the end of my leave in early May 1955, my first reaction was to check The Journal of Commerce to learn which ports we were loading for. Much to my delight it was South Africa and Portuguese West and East Africa. So off I went to Glasgow to rejoin the CLAN MACINNES.
Loading cargo in Glasgow was typical of the mid 1950s, with plenty of whisky, frozen kippers, and Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 lower holds floored off with railway lines for the Rhodesian railways, plus many heavy lifts for new power stations and sugar factories. As a result we had a good bottom weight. At No.2 hatch we had a 60-ton SWL heavy lift derrick, and at No.4 hatch aft there was a 30-ton SWL derrick. Our other derricks had safe working loads of 15, 10 and 5 tons, so we could rig them in all the various permutations of union purchase: doubled-up in UP; 'Frisco Rig; and as swinging derricks with steam guys. This meant that the CLAN MACINNES was self-sustaining for handling heavy lifts in the ports of developing countries.
We sailed from Glasgow to Birkenhead with the Clan Line's appropriated Liverpool pilot on board, so were soon on our final loading berth. The CLAN MACINNES was quickly filled up with general cargo in the upper and lower 'tween decks, with more heavy lifts stowed in the lower holds over the railway lines loaded in Glasgow. These included 49-ton Centurion army tanks for the South African Army. On the foredeck we loaded two railway locomotives and two small towboats. On the after deck we loaded one railway passenger coach and one rail tank wagon. There were reconditioned World War 2 army vehicles stowed on the hatches which were securely lashed and covered with tarpaulins. No.1 hatch had an upper 'tween deck and a lower 'tween deck, but instead of a lower hold had three deep tanks fitted with heating coils and could be used for the carriage of vegetable oil cargoes or water ballast. With the heating coils removed, this space could be used for dry cargo. On this particular outward voyage the tanks were full of a partially refined soap-making product being shipped by Lever Brothers Limited of Port Sunlight to their factory at Maydon Wharf in Durban. It would be necessary to monitor the liquid's temperature twice-daily until it was pumped ashore.
We sailed on a Saturday afternoon and after disembarking the company pilot at Point Lynas we were on our way down the Irish Sea bound for Dakar for oil bunkers and fresh water. Like those of most UK liner companies, Clan Line masters doubled-up bridge watches until past Ushant. As the CLAN MACINNES carried four mates and two cadets, the cadets were spared 'four-on and four-off' watches
Once south of the latitude of Ushant normal shipboard routine fell into place. The first mate could do little on deck because of the clutter. The normal outward bound routine on board Clan Line vessels was to strip down all running gear on the derricks for survey and overhaul. On this voyage we had to make do with a visual inspection, and the greasing and oiling of topping lifts, runners, guys and cargo blocks.
The cadets got on with their usual jobs; first of all the LSA and fire-fighting equipment was checked, and then a start was made on the lifeboats. The CLAN MACINNES was used to trial new types of paints and this voyage we had to start stripping out the lifeboats one at a time, clean them thoroughly inside and out, and then apply different paints to the metal hulls. This was a pleasant enough task as it was 'flying fish weather' and not too hard physically.
We carried twelve passengers in quite luxurious accommodation and they spent their days on the boat deck. The Indian stewards always passed us the leftover 'tab nabs' after morning coffee and afternoon teas. One of the lady passengers asked the captain why he mixed up white sailors with the lascars. This was probably prompted by the fact that 'chippie' and the cadets usually looked dirtier and sweatier than the kelassies!
After a brief stop at Dakar for bunkers and fresh water, we continued southwards towards the port of Lobito in Angola, Portuguese South West Africa.
The cadets' routine at sea was quite pleasant. Our Indian steward woke us at 06.30 with a mug of tea and hot buttered toast. At 07.00 the Scottish carpenter took his soundings while one cadet took the temperatures in the holds and the liquid cargo tanks. The other cadet went on the wheel so the seacunny (quartermaster) could help his mate clean the wheelhouse windows and brasswork. We then had breakfast at the second sitting and we always enjoyed a good hearty meal along with the 4th mate, carpenter, assistant purser, junior engineers and elctricians. During the day we worked on our allotted tasks until 17.00hrs, when we took the afternoon temperature readings. We did not work on Wedesday afternoons as we had study time to work on our correspondence courses. On Sunday mornings the cadets went to the bridge to practise taking morning and noon sun sights, and in the evenings we joined the first and fourth mates to take star sights.
Time passed quickly and soon we made a brief call at the port of Lobito to discharge the vehicles for the Portuguese army. We then sailed for Cape Town, keeping well off the coast to avoid the treacherous current of the 'Skeleton Coast' of Namibia, between the Swakop and Kunene rivers. (This area is now a National Park).
It was good to arrive in Cape Town again and berth in the Duncan Dock. Cape Town is about forty kilometres from the Cape of Good Hope, and is one of the most isolated of the world's large cities. Dominated by a 1,000 metre-high mountain with sheer cliffs, it is surrounded by mountain walks, vineyards and beaches. It is the capital of Western Cape Province and was parliamentary capital of the then Union of South Africa. Cargo work in South African ports was from 08.00 until 20.00, so with four mates and two cadets on the CLAN MACINNES, we got some shore leave. The Seamen's Mission had a couple of large taxi type cars, so we put money into their 'petrol fund' and enjoyed some very good guided tours of the city and countryside, including numerous museums.
We discharged our railway locomotives and rolling stock at Cape Town, which made cargo work much easier. We did this by using our heavy lift derricks and 'winding ship'. Our coastal voyages from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth (420 miles), then Port Elizabeth to East London (130 miles), and from East London to Durban (260 miles) were uneventful. At Durban we spent some time at Maydon Wharf alongside Lever Brothers' soap factory. Some family friends of mine had transferred from the UK factory to Durban, so I was able to socialise with their children who had been my schoolmates at primary school.
Durban is a large sub-tropical city with a long surf beach. It is a major port but also a well-known holiday resort. The weather is warm all the year round and due to the Agulhas Current the sea water remains warm. During the summer the weather gets hot and humid with spectacular thunderstorms.
By this time we were beginning to wonder what our homeward loading programme would be. Would we retrace our outward route or proceed up the coast of East Africa to Dar-es-Salaam and Mombasa? But no, we loaded bagged rice in our empty 'tween decks for Mauritius, and then proceeded north to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) to continue discharging our outward cargo. Lourenco Marques (LM) was a beautiful city, comparable to Cape Town or Rio de Janeiro. We then steamed the 475 miles north to Beira which was the principal port for the Rhodesias, where we discharged our railway lines for the Rhodesian railways, and cleaned out our deep tanks and removed the heating coils. There was serious port congestion at this time both at LM and Beira, but our much needed cargo secured us priority berthing, and we were soon on our way south of Madagascar, bound for Mauritius.
On the voyage to Mauritius the crew cleaned out the holds whilst chippie and his mate, the 'winchwallah', and the two cadets cleaned out the bilges and repaired the limber boards and spar ceiling. Not a pleasant task as were light ship and there was a strong swell running. I took a spare bucket down the holds and it was needed by all four of us!
On arrival at Port Louis, Mauritius, we discharged our part cargo of rice. Once again we asked the question, what was our homeward cargo to be? Would it be a full load of sugar for the UK or might we proceed light ship to the Malabar Coast in India to load ironsand, tea and gunnies? Both guesses were wrong. We received orders to proceed to Fremantle, Western Australia, to lift a homeward cargo for the Scottish Shire Line, part of the Clan Line group.
We soon departed from Port Louis and set course for Fremantle. It was all go on deck, as all cargo gear was overhauled, hatchboards repaired and 'tween deck lifelines rigged in preparation for the Australian Government Surveyor's inspection. A few days before arriving in Fremantle we received a radio message to break out the two heavy lift derricks, as we had been granted a permit to carry Australian coastal cargo, namely a civil engineering contractor's fleet of heavy earth-moving vehicles from Fremantle to our first loading port, Port Pirie. We duly arrived at Fremantle, bunkered, took on fresh water and loaded the oversize vehicles in Nos. 2 and 4 lower holds and on deck. We then sailed for the Spencer Gulf through a rough Australian Bight.
On arrival at Port Pirie we discharged our heavy lift cargo and rehoused the 'jumbo' derricks. Our passengers disembarked and I met an old shipmate who was 4th mate on the CLAN CAMPBELL berthed astern of us. We had been cadets together on the CLAN BRODIE. We exchanged the ships' libraries and spent the evening ashore discussing our news and his examination for 2nd mate, foreign-going. His ship had sailed out via East African ports and was to load grain and wool in Australia.
It was now the first week in September 1955. Port Pirie was the best provincial port in southern Australia and had had a great maritime history. It had the largest lead smelting and refining plant in the world. There was also a bulk grain silo complex for export cargoes. Rail transport was important and three different rail gauges served the town and port, the tracks running down the main street.
We loaded lead ingots in the 'tween decks and lower holds and a few days later sailed for Brisbane to load canned fruit, mainly pineapples. Loading was quite quick and the cadets had a break from work to go and 'caddie' for the captain and ship's doctor on the famous golf course. I was scared in case I came across a snake on one of the greens! In the mid 1950s Brisbane was fairly quiet and so we organised a social evening for our shoreside friends to repay the generous hospitality they had offered us during the week.
We sailed from Brisbane to Newcastle where we loaded wool and then proceeded to Sydney where our berth was at the Woolloomooloo Wharf just below the Royal Botanical Gardens. There we loaded more wool which came down to the wharf on lorries and was then put through the wool dumping presses before being loaded on board.
By this time our Indian crew had been away from home for a year and were agitating for a crew change. At the same time we were waiting for a cargo to go into our No.1 deep tanks and expected to load wet hides as on a previous voyage. However we received a shipment of large crates from the Royal Australian Navy labelled "Indian Navy. Port of Cochin, Malabar Coast, India". This cheered the crew up a lot and they became their usual happy selves again. And so we filled No.1 hold deep tanks and 'tween decks with the Naval cargo and we knew that we would be going the long way home.
We had been fortunate with the weather in our loading ports and had not had too much of the expected rain. In Sydney the other cadet visited relatives, and I went to see one of my father's old Royal Navy shipmates from World War 2 who had a boatyard over at Hunter's Hill, so we both had a short break from what was developing into a long voyage.
We sailed from Sydney to Melbourne where we berthed at Station Pier and loaded wool. We completed filling the holds and then stowed more wool on the hatches between the derricks and covered it with tarpaulins which were well lashed down. After a busy social life in Melbourne we were glad to depart for Fremantle to take on bunkers and fresh water. We had a new group of twelve passengers on board which pleased our old doctor as he had some bridge partners. Our doctor was about seventy years of age, ex Indian Army and Colonial Service, and as well as medal ribbons for both World Wars, he had other exotic ones such as 'N.W. Frontier', and he could rival Kipling when he told us about his army career.
After a brief stop at Fremantle, we were on our way to India. The crew washed down and painted the masts, derricks and the midship accommodation block. The cadets scraped and repainted No.2 lifeboat with the second batch of trial paints, this time a rubbery type, so we were glad of the warmer weather.
On our arrival at Cochin we tied up at the buoys offshore from Willingdon Island, named after a former Viceroy of India. It was a mainly man-made island and apart from a pleasant civilian hotel and swimming pool, was used as a civil/ military airfield and Indian Naval Base. (My father had spent time there during World War 2). As we had not loaded wool on No.1 hatch, we soon discharged our naval cargo into lighters alongside. Then chippie and the two cadets fitted the steam heating coils in the three No.1 deep tanks, followed by shore cleaning gangs to hand clean the tanks prior to inspection by a cargo surveyor. We then loaded 450 tons of cashew nut oil from road tankers carried on barges alongside. This oil is a black, smelly liquid which we were told was used to make the black insulation on heavy duty electric power cables. It was for discharge at Barry, South Wales.
We carried out a crew change and then loaded coconut mats and matting in the No.1 'tween decks. All this took two days and just before departure the Indian 6th engineer went down with acute appendicitis and was landed ashore to hospital
Once clear of Cochin we settled into sea routine with the crew cleaning and painting the steel decks. The cadets went into signwriting and varnishing mode until arrival at Aden for a brief stop for bunkers and fresh water. Our job on passage up the Red Sea was to make a set of new wire preventer guys for the derricks.
The CLAN MACINNES arrived at the anchorage at Suez Roads in the early morning, fully expecting to wait for a northbound convoy later in the day. A water barge came out to us and we quickly took on fresh water. A Canal Pilot then boarded. He was a bi-lingual Mauritian and an ex Clan Line officer, so he was pleased at the prospect of a curry and rice lunch later. One of our quarter- masters had injured his wrist whilst housing the accommodation ladder, so I was nominated to replace him on the wheel for the Canal transit. As we had no cargo for Port Said we were allocated a convoy position at the end of twelve oil tankers which were just passing through and so we had a relatively fast passage. The CLAN MACINNES steered well as always and when darkness fell 'chippie' and the 2nd electrician operated the searchlight in the bow.
Once clear of Port Said we felt that we were really heading home. During the passage through the Mediterranean the cadets landed the job of painting both the mate's and the tally clerks' offices, and then carried out a stocktaking of all the remaining deck stores. By this time we had passed Gibraltar and we carried out a final check of the fire fighting equipment and then completed our correspondence course assignments. By the time we were off Santander in Spain and entering the Bay of Biscay with rough seas and poor visibility, we were put on bridge watches with the mates, and I got the 8 to 12.
We called in at Dunkirk for the duration of one tide and quickly discharged our deck cargo of wool, with the shore cranes lifting sixteen bales at a time. Our kindly mentor, the first mate, signed off as he had to return to Glasgow, having obtained a position as a River Clyde pilot. Some time later he became the harbourmaster at Glasgow.
From Dunkirk we sailed close in to the shore with a French pilot on board until we embarked a River Scheldt pilot to take us into Antwerp. This entailed the usual long stand-by up the river. We locked into the Antwerp docks for one tide only and more wool was quickly discharged at the rate of sixteen bales per lift using shore cranes.
The passage down the English Channel and up the Bristol Channel was tiring with rough seas, poor visibility and the usual heavy shipping traffic. We had radar and Decca navigator operating so we coped well and did not lose any time.
We arrived at Barry where our passengers disembarked and we discharged the coconut matting from No.1 'tween decks, and then pumped 450 tons of cashew nut oil ashore into road tankers. We then filled the three No.1 deep tanks with dock water, poured a drum of detergent into each and kept the steam heating coils hot, in the hope that on passage to Manchester the tanks would partially self-clean.
One of the Clan Line Line 'choice' Liverpool Pilots boarded in Barry in order to avoid an open sea transfer off Point Lynas. We had a fast passage from Barry to the River Mersey where we entered the Manchester Ship Canal at Eastham Locks. As it was late afternoon and getting dark we moored up at the crane berth just inside the canal. That evening the shore crane assisted our crew to lower the topmasts and the radar mast. As I lived close by, I went home for a few hours to visit my family. We had an early breakfast and commenced our inward canal transit at 08.00 with the company pilot and his helmsman on the bridge.
As usual with a large vessel in the Manchester Ship Canal we had some long stand-bys awaiting outward-bound vessels to pass us, and when we were in the various locks. (The CLAN MACINNES was built to the maximum dimensions for the Canal and for the Kidderpore Dock at Calcutta). By late afternoon it was getting dark and so we moored overnight at a lay-by berth. Next morning we resumed our passage up the canal to Manchester, arriving at lunchtime. Cargo work commenced immediately and the bales of wool went off to the mills of Bradford, while the lead ingots were loaded on to rail wagons for transit to the industrial Midlands. The local tank cleaning vessel arrived alongside to clean out our deep tanks which took until 23.30, and so it was another long day.
The following day the coastal relief team of officers arrived on board with the Shipping Master, and we signed off articles with instructions to be ready to rejoin the ship at Cardiff on or about 28th December 1955 for a direct voyage to Australia.