A lovely painting of the SOUTHBANK from https://junglecat.de


Captain John Campbell – A story

Weird things happen at sea


When I was a lowly first trip apprentice on the MV Southbank and serving my time, as we all did .in learning, amongst other things, to look after ship maintenance. We often though that some Mates utilised us Apprentices as a source of cheap labour and that was often a complaint.

Learning to paint was one job that a Bank Line apprentice would be certain to experience. Some tasks were easier than others. The First Mates were almost always critical of an apprentice’s performance and we had on that ship a bully of a First Mate and a Master who took every opportunity to question our competence as decorators

One morning our hearts sank as we got our task for the day and it was to paint the captain’s bathroom suite’ We had to strip the old paint off and to set to and paint the bulkheads it in a lovely eau de nil gloss. Whilst working we were continually harassed and bullied about the quality of our work which got the three of us down’ They continually pointed out holidays and runs and generally bullied us.

At smoko, one morning, at our usual meeting point, at Number Four Hatch just outside the galley drinking our daily ration of lime juice we were joined by the 2nd Engineer Charlie Cain. He listened to our moans and said that he maybe could help us get back at the bully of a Captain and went on to tell us how.

Now our 2nd Eng. was a man of colour, his ancestors having come from West Africa. He resembled Cassius Clay and was very well liked by all. He was Scottish having been born in Edinburgh and spoke in a broad Scottish accent. He did not like the Captain either as they had clashed about the quality of the food and there was no love lost there.

Several weeks later the ship was berthed at the port of San Lorenzo in Argentina. We had just finished loading a full cargo of wheat for Callao, Peru. Battened down and ready for sea we off duty staff gathered near the gangway awaiting the Captain returning to the ship after going ashore to receive clearances and bills of lading etc. To get to the ship the Captain had to descend a very steep stair connecting the wharf to a clifftop on the banks of the River Parana. Descending the stairs, brief case in hand, the captain suddenly stumbled and fell tumbling down- severely spraining one arm. 

We all looked at the 2nd who gave us a knowing wink. The Captain always seemed to be more human from then on, but I will never forget that incident and have always wondered if it really was Juju or pure bad luck. 

When I pick up a paint brush now I never forget the sight of the “old man “falling down the stairs “in San Lorenza even though it was way back in 1954 

Indeed, weird things happen at sea.

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