Escorting Crew to the Doctors
I enjoyed the recent post about taking, and losing, Calcutta crew members to the Doctors as I think all apprentices have had the same, somewhat embarrassing experience. I well remember leading four men in Indian file up the main street in Sydney, they in crumpled second-hand suits, no shirt but long john vests and woolly hats getting a lot of amused stares and feeling quite discomforted.
I once took a sick crew member to the clinic in Madang, Papua New Guinea and the Australian nurse in reception said “but who is going to pay for this? I replied that our shipping company. or their insurance, would in the end but first the bill should be sent to our well-known agents Burns Philp who seemingly would, or should, have informed them in advance of our visit.
Viv Ridges, one of my ex colleagues on the ferries who also served his time in the Bank Line, took two men to the Doctor in Colombo and was present during the consultation. One man Had a bad foot and the other a stomach complaint. The Ceylonese Doctor said that he would like to see them again the next day and that he had given them instructions, one to keep the bandages on and the other to bring a sample of ‘stool’ for testing. On the morrow, Vic escorted the two men back, one of them carrying a suspicious looking parcel wrapped up in newspaper and string, which he kept well clear of. At the surgery the Doctor exploded saying “bloody fool, bloody fool”. Apparently, there had been a bit of a ‘misunderstanding’ because the man with the bad foot had brought the ‘stool’.
On the same subject…….. On the old ERNEBANK in Liverpool in May 1953 I was told to take some of the Indian crew to the doctor’s and bring them back. One of the men, an engine room greaser, whose name Taranak Ali had bad diabetes. His name is forever in my memory because the doctor did some tests and exclaimed in surprise that he didn’t know how I had got him there in his condition! Taranak Ali was a painfully thin, cheerful little man. The Doctor kept him for admission to hospital and told me there was no way he could return to the ship and that he would probably die etc etc.. I felt a bit sad and duly reported back.
The sequel to the story is that several months later I was at Sandheads to proceed up to Calcutta on another vessel, the Maplebank, and we passed very close to an anchored Bank Line ship when I recognised Taranak Ali waving to me from the stern!