Captain Peter Ashcroft continues his tales of debauchery and general navigational skullduggery below while serving with the 'lavender hull mob' as Union-Castle was affectionately known.  One hand for the ship and the other, well,  as many young female passengers will attest,  they never had to go far to find the elusive golden rivet...........it could be anywhere on a passenger mailship.  As often as not it could be discovered in any ship's officer's cabin when one's vision was helped along by two or three stiff G & T's !




Any ex Clan/Union-Castle readers wishing to question Capt'n Ashcroft's rant,  please contact the site manager !

HMS Worcester  1964-1967, joined B&C. Discharge No. R867994  2nd Mates 1972. Mates 1977.  Master & Bsc Nautical Science 1979.

Ships sailed in in chronological order:- mv Clan Matheson ss Kinnaird Castle  mt Hector Heron  mv Clan Maclennon   mv Clan Robertson  mv Rothesay Castle                     mv Clan Macindoe  RMS Windsor Castle  mv Elbe Ore  mv Clan Macintyre  RMS Edinburgh Castle  RMS Pendennis Castle  mv Clan Robertson  mv Clan Macnair         mv Clan Ranald        RMMV Good Hope Castle     RMMV Southampton Castle  ss SA Vaal  mv Rotherwick Castle mv Clan Menzies  mv Clan Malcolm                         mv Clan Macgregor  mv Clan Ross (re named Kinpurnie Castle)

mv Dover Castle (ex Clan Ranald)  Winchester Castle/Winchester Universal (ex Clan Ramsay, but changed name and funnel in RSA)…………..UK

mv Anna  mv Ida Schmitt  mv Pelowin…………RSA

mv Condor 5  mv Condor 7 mv Condor 8  mv Condor 9  (Hydrofoils & Catamarans running out of Jersey, Ch Isles) remember Tom Martell ex R/O Clan Line? (Guernsey)


"CLAN MACLELLAN" - Courtesy Peter Ashcroft

Ian, you know I mentioned my nickname, “Sunshine”.

Well it all came about at about 0230hrs whilst I was doubling up with the Second Officer on the 12 to 4.

Picture this. First trip on a Passenger Ship (Windsor Castle), first night out from Southampton, and the bloody ‘phone goes. It’s the telephone exchange, (remember them?) There’s this “Lady”, sleep-walking along the starboard side of A-Deck (First-Class), and would someone please go and resolve the issue. The Second Mate immediately turned to me,” Cap, Radio, and I shall inform the Master-at-Arms to meet you in the Bureau Square

Shit, what in Gods’ Name do I do now. I meet the MA and proceed back up to A-Deck (having come down in the lift), only to be confronted by………sure enough, a lady sleep-walking, but starkers!!!!

A quick conflab with the MA, materializes in me having to take my jacket off, place it in front of me, and sort of walk backwards, sloooowwwlly, so as she would more-or-less walk into it. Job done, or so I thought! Sure enough, she doesn’t have a heart attack, she’s very apologetic for causing so much fuss, and proceeds back to her cabin…….with my jacket, and promptly closes the door with a gesture of a pout. Little did I know.

She was the Lady that probably taught me more about sex, than any female could aspire to and arriving at Cape Town at F-Berth, or was it G? for the southbound mail, she proceeded ashore into the welcoming bosom of her family, only for the Staff Commander (Arthur Wigham) to put his hand on my shoulder, as I ruefully observed the whole episode from the Port Bridge wing, for him to say to me, “Third, she travels on the Mailboats, at least three or four times a year, and she always targets the extra Third. Sleepwalking! What a load of cock. Well it was really!


Actually, you make me sea-sick! God, how we” could tie one on”. (I trust you drink Gin).

The Gentleman in the attached photo is the Chief Officer, The Reverent Arthur Slack. When I joined the “Windsor”, oh maybe my second or third voyage, I was duly summoned to his suite, and was duly informed that our routine at sea would be one-on, one-off. ”Sorry”, “could you elaborate” I asked. Quite simply, although I hadn’t a clue at the time (lack of experience, don’t you know) what he was talking about. “ Me on the piss, you on the piss”, “Me on the piss, you on the piss”

Yea well, it’s not something I really made a point of doing, cargo ship or Passenger, but doubling up on watches did create a little leeway. Amongst all the individuals that I encountered during my life at sea, Arthur would have to be one of the most entertaining, funny, serious and dogmatic individuals I’ve ever met.

Working the 4-8 on one particular voyage, (maybe voy. 95), one early afternoon, the “Lamptrimmer” came up to the Bridge and duly invited us to “The Pig & Whistle” after our  watch. “Don’t forget”, Arthur says: “It’s me tonight”!

As we had the arrangement of hosting the Passenger table in first class between ourselves, Arthurs’ idea was that one could cover the other, me more than him! Well in this particular situation, he got as “Rat Arsed” as anyone could, and proceeded up to the First Class Lounge at about nine o’clock that night and lectured me on not to be late for my watch in the morning, out of rig (still in his tropics).

By the time the Second Mate had actually extricaterd him from his bunk at half past five, and what a state he was in, he then proceeded to give me a lecture on cleaning my teeth.” Arthur, shut up”……….”noooooooo” he says, I have a full set of dentures. I never bothered with my dental hygene, be aware”  “Yea, right oh!” The next thing, thump on the shoulder……..I want Egg, Bacon, Fried Bread and Sausage. “Call the Night Steward “ he commands.” Arthur, for Christs’ Sake, you won’t get anything, other than a boiled egg” Well get me that then”

The Staff Commander always used to relieve the Mate at half past seven in the morning, for obvious reasons, and on this particular occasion I met Arthur on his way up from breakfast, as I’m going down. He grabs my arm, “here” he says. “You know I was talking about my false teeth this morning, I think the fuckers are falling out!” Arthur, if you do proceed to eat a boiled egg whole, shell’an all,  then  I’m sure it might have the same effect!”.

These antics could not go on, and whilst he was duly relieved of his position as C/O Windsor Castle, he was transferred to the Clan Alpine. Yes you’ve probably guessed it already. I’m on the Clan Ranald, he’s  on the ‘Alpine at Cape Town, bow to bow, and he comes over to see me. Few pints in the bar, and Arthur disappears. On the otherhand no-one really notices, until I’m doing the 12-4 (morning) just rounding The Cape, when who should appear from the Pilots’ Cabin, on to the Bridge, but Dear Ol’e Arthur. You cannot imagine the consternation this caused for me. The ‘ Ranald had a fair old speed, (UMS) about 20kts so I put up the revs to arrive in Port Elizabeth a little earlier and get Arthur back to Cape Town to rejoin the Clan Alpine (He still owes me the Air Fare)

"CLAN MALCOLM" - Courtesy Peter Ashcroft

I can’t do it right now, but I have a fantastic photograph, taken in Dar-es-Salaam, of three sister ships, the Clans Malcolm, Matheson & Menzies all in different states of repair….meaning paint-work. Cayzer policy was to get the ship in recognizable and acceptable appearance on arrival back in the UK, and this particular photo (when I can find it) just shows the amount of time, effort and work that used to go into the maintenance of a vessel.

I don’t know whether you have been to Dar’ before but the photo is taken from the shoreline on the approaches into the harbour. In those days, there were only three berths

(1970)? And apart from the fact that they were built alongside each other on the Clyde, I’m sure it’s the only time they met up after that in such a configuration. Anyway it’s a cracking photo for us Anoraks. No that’s not being fair to anybody, I love my Rugby and Cricket aswell, so lets just call it an interest!

You will have to tick them off, as we go, but I’ve already said that each ship tells a story. Well on the Hector Herron, a whale-oil tanker, converted to carrying avgas, mogas and heavy crude happened to require more-or-less a full crew change in Singapore. Dear Old London……Bless! ……thought it would be in my interest to accompany the rest of the “reliefs” out to the Far East as Senior Cadet.

Well the upshot was that amongst the hand-over party were the Training Officer from my initial trip to sea (Clan Matheson) and a Purser……Adrian Vernolini, otherwise known as Adriaan.MMMMMM!

We duly join the ship after hand-over, and are bound for Fiji and Tahiti. I come off watch just after midday, and am going down to my cabin, when there’s an almighty row coming from the Chief Officers’ suite. I pop my head round the door, only to see both these two characters, stark naked, fighting. Normally, I would have just left it at that, however, curiosity killing the cat, I went in to try and break up the engagement, only to realize that they were fighting over……….an angelic, first trip cadet! God Forbid.

Whether either got their “end away” I have no idea, but I just scarpered. If this is Tanker life, I want nothing to do with it, I’ve got to say, the experience helped me with my Second Mates……Tankers that is.


Port of Registry: Glasgow
Propulsion: Doxford oil 2SA 6cy 8000bhp 16.5 knots
Launched: Monday, 26 August 1957
Built: 1957
Ship Type: Passenger Cargo Vessel
Tonnage: 7685 grt
Length: 503 feet
Breadth: 66 feet
Draught: 39.7 feet
Owner History:
Clan Line Steamers Ltd Glasgow
Status: Scrapped - 12/12/1978

"The pissed-up stevedores had finally left the ship (Clan Matheson) at about 1400hrs (New Year’s Eve),(1968) and after “shutting-up-shop”, I found myself, washed. showered and more-or-less ready to settle down to a good book…………I really wasn’t enamored in watching Jimmy Stewart or whatever his name was, singing in Hogmanay on TV when the Third Engineer popped his head round my cabin curtain, “Hey you! Pal”, “What in F----’s name are you sitting on yer een fer”.

“Cummmunn yer”, “Get yer arse inti gear”, “Yer cumin ta meet ma Mammy”

“Oh!” in my best Sasanach, seventeen year old, surprised response.

I was dragged ashore with all these Shipyard trained Engineers, (as it was, the Best) and duly went off to Greenock and the surrounding areas to celebrate with their respective families, ( B&C had their own shipbuilding yard at Greenock) hence, most of the Clan Line Engineers were trained in the Basin, prior to going to sea.

Well, we all eventually finished up at The Saracens Head in Partick, and who should be sitting in the corner on a bar stool but Billy Connelly stringing on his Banjo.

“The Big Ying” was absolutely fantastic, but my colleagues were so pissed, that I eventually eased my way to the front of the surrounding group of admirers and just listened to his repertoire of his Scottish ditties, being topped at regular intervals by pints of 8/- Bitter, when the next thing I know, I’m on the floor, out for the count.

God knows what I had been shouting/whispering to Billy, but as I was carried out of the Pub, I was duly informed by the “Entertainer” ……….”Tel that Fat Bassa to speak the language if he wants to come back here” or in the way Billy would normally address the general public.

I was duly presented with his first cassette the following day in the Ship’s Bar and informed that if I wanted to get on, on board, I better listen to Billy’s cassette remorselessly, until, not only could I sing the songs verbatim, but also understand the Orders given on the Bridge, Engine-Room and even the Purser was from Aberdeen!

I had no chance, I thought, but by the end of the six month tour, I spoke like a native, Glaswegian that is."

As you were having problems finding a picture of the Clan Matheson, here is an example. As a class of three, Clan's Malcolm, Matheson & Menzies (I sailed in all three) from cadet to Mate, were, for their time superb passenger/cargo vessels. The configuration of the forward heavy lift system though was a bloody nightmare. You can perhaps depict an a frame just forrard of No.3 Hatch.This was, if my memory serves me well, used as a reinforcement system, where the derricks were unshipped from their goosenecks, landed on deck, and then rehoused in specially designed attachments to the main mast and deck, to reinforce the mainmast itself. I can't remember how many 120 ton lifts I've done on these boats, but fair play to Cayzer, they got their revenue, albeit at our expense and sweat!
I got married in London in 1976, and as Second Mate on the Clan Menzies, the Company allowed me to have my Wedding Reception on board. Bit of a novelty, but what a bash!
The Malcolm was the last of the three I sailed in, but only coastal. Middlesbrough to London. I even put my car on board for the trip. On our way up the Thames to the Royal Docks (KGV) the Ship's Company were duly informed that the ship was sold, and that the delivery voyage (with cargo) would be to Mombasa. I amongst a few others were not going to be part of that crowd. Fair enough, but I'm going to have something to remind me of the Old Bucket. One evening, prior to my releif arriving, I went up to the Bridge, and with a pretty heavy stealson from the Engine Room, loosened 25years of accummulative paint from around the securing bolts to the Bridge Bell, suitably inscribed "Clan Malcolm, Glasgow 1957"
My relief duly arrived, as Second Mate, and did the normal "hand-over", me having already done the courses for the ensuing trip. He popped down to the cabin to un-pack, and I duly removed the bell prior to my going ashore! With a nicked Clan Line towel (which I still have) bunged inside the clapper, I said my farewells to the Captain and the rest of the mottley crew and pissed off with great haste.
It was probably about three years later, whilst as a Marine Surveyor in Durban, that I had to go on board a Bank Line vessel to conduct an On Hire/Off Hire survey. It's about half past ten, Engineers smoko and as I'm walking past their office to go to see the Mate, I hear a loud wailing.......AASSHHCCROFT!
It was only the Third Engineer from the old Malcolm days." What ever did happen to the Bell?"
It was the Saturday morning after leaving London, and the Asian Crew were polishing the brasses on the Bridge, when the Sarang highlighted to the Third Officer that the Bell was missing! "but tooooo late she cried" it now hangs very proudly in my cottage.
I've got the most wonderful array of ship's lamps aswell!

"HECTOR HERON" - Courtesy Peter Ashcroft

I’ve had a look at your home-page and it looks great. Not knowing what to expect, I really was taken aback when I saw the photo of me and Arthur. Quite superb. Do you know, we were a pretty good team. Arthur, being the real piss-cat that he was, got so inebriated on one occasion, that the following morning he chucked all his booze over-the-side, only to have to go to the expense of replacing the items the following day! Typical.

Yes referring to the old Hector Heron, she was always known as the “bastard of the fleet”, as she was always on charter, and Head Office never really knew where she was( I don’t think the Sparks did either, as Company traffic was quite infrequent). This particular trip to the Pacific Fiji etc, for me, was such a waste, because I  was too young and inexperienced to appreciate that such a voyage was almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, one issue that will always stand out in my mind was our returning to Sydney via Noumea, New Caledonia. The tanker duly anchors to await the availability of a suitable berth, so Jolly Jack and cronies go ashore that night for a couple of “Jars”. Needless to say, we miss the only bum-boat back to the ship, so one of the engineers jump-starts the craft, whilst about twelve of us duly handle a couple of cases of Heineken each, as the bonded store by the jetty had been left open, so we must have thought, “What the Heck”.

We duly arrive back at the ship, get on board with our booty, but the Engineer, who had jump-started the boat, then proceeds to take it back out into the bay, ram the helm over, tie it the wheel up, and then swim back.

Well the Authorities that morning went absolutely beserk, when they realized their boat was half a mile off shore just jugging around in a circle. We all really got shit from The Old Man, but eventually the funny side of the issue was acknowledged, and the beer was never missed!

Oh!, I’ve just thought of something, emanating from the Edinburgh Castle days. I was Extra Second, on the 8 – 12, and there was a particular character, ( I really can’t remember his name),Third Engineer, but we sailed together for a few voyages on reciprocal watches, and we just got into a habit of having a couple of beers in “his” or “mine”, after the evening watch…….You know the routine. Get to Southampton and we’re all off for eight days, and the skeleton squad come aboard.

Arrive back for the next voyage, and sure enough, he ‘phones me up on our first night out, “Yours or Mine”   steady, steady now!

Anyway we have a few snorts in his cabin, and he is constantly going on about something being different in his cabin, from the previous trip. The place looked the same to me, but come the following night, he ‘phoned me up earlier than usual, to inform that he’d found out what the difference was!

The shoreside had refitted one of the bars, and re-routed the beer lines through his cabin, and fitted a false backing to his wardrobe, so the pipes went up behind this extra pine-ply sheet, only a couple of inches, at most, but he wondered why his gear wouldn’t hang properly.

Needless to say, all was revealed, so the next night, having “turned out” three or four brass taps on the lathe in the Engine-Room, and duly screwed them into the pipes, we had the luxury of Guinness or Lager on draught. The Chief Purser never found out, and the head Bar Man couldn’t understand why his takings were down when we returned to Southampton!! See Ya.


Right,………! now let me think,………. because there’s nothing else for me to do, except, wait for Beira to confirm issues, I shall try to conjure up a couple of anecdotes for you, and rummage for a couple of photo’s. I’ll go and have a fag first. Outside, of course, because this Nanny State has from yesterday, deemed it “No Smoking” what a load of bollocks. (Heh! No red line under that expletive!)

Clan Matheson, 2nd Voyage…..Colombo, Ceylon, as it was. Some guy, probably a stevedore asks me if I would deliver something to his “cousin” in Chittagong. “Yea, okay”…..Thinking it was merely a package of sorts. Such was my naivety; it makes me cringe to think about it now. Of course in those days, you’d be hanging around in port for three weeks, if the monsoons were upon you. One particular evening, just prior to our departure, the following morning, I’m on cargo watch, and this unscrupulous character approaches me, to inform me that the “package” had arrived.

“Where is it?” I ask. “Down aft” was his response. So off we go, and indicating that it was over the stern, I was confronted with a bum-boat, loaded with sacks upon sacks of Beetle Nut.

Absolutely dumbfounded, and not really knowing what Beetle Nut was,…….here was my first, overseas circumstance, of “being taken for a ride”!!!!

I asked, ”What was in it for me”?    Ooh Sahib, plenty Rupees in Chittagong. So I duly lift these bloody sacks on to the after docking deck, and stow them in the steering flat. Bugger me, as we arrive at anchor off Chittagong, there’s this other bum-boat waiting for these God Forsaken nuts.(I tell you what, nothing wrong with their communication at the time (1969), but could we raise anybody on VHF).

Cut along story short, I duly off-loaded these sodding nuts, expecting to at least have a few bucks to go ashore with…………fuck-all, they just pissed off into the night.

Once bitten, twice shy, eh!, but the little Bastard didn’t know that we were returning Colombo to load Tea for the UK, so I collard the little shit (it turned out he was a Tally Clerk). Oh he paid up alright!

You see Ian, you can swan about on Passenger Vessels, moaning that you’ve got to change an aerial, or check the batteries, but the experience of “cutting your teeth” on shitty cargo vessels, only makes you appreciate, just how lucky, One is to be elevated to such a ship….and by God didn’t I.

Ah, here's a nice one.

Kinnaird Castle and third trip to sea.  Accompanied by the Capt. Superintendant and his wife (God, did I fancy his wife !?)

However, no names, no pack drill, we call at Lobito, Angola, and the wars on and there are cargo delays, forever. I decide to go ashore with the Super and his wife, on the pretence of having a couple of drinks and going for a swim in the bay. We duly carry out our intentions (I had a bit more in mind, but……) but the poor Old Sod lost his wedding ring, and he was inconsolable.

Following voyage, out to Lobito again, and I duly retrace my tracks, Bar and Beach…….and Bar. But do you know, I ( found his ring, “wedding”, that is!) in the sand, just where we had frolicked, and was very proud to be able to deliver it to him in Durban, when we eventually arrived. Ian, you know aswell as I do, “it’s not what you know necessarily, it’s who you know”, and this guy was so grateful, he almost handed his wife on a plate, “ but come on you can only do so much,eh!”)

Might Speak to you later,


"KINNAIRD CASTLE" - Courtesy Peter Ashcroft

Now you’ve had a little bit from the Clan Matheson and Kinnaird Castle which was my third vessel, I actually sailed on this tanker for a full year (income tax rebate), but also to speed up my sea-time for Second Mates. She was seconded to Scottish Tankers but retained livery of Hector Whaling. Now I told you about the Mate and the Purser, fighting over the cadet, and the escapade in New Caledonia Is.

Well, having completed the Pacific leg, we drydocked in Singapore, and having close friends of my sister living there, I had the freedom of utilizing a fabulous Sunbeam Alpine for the two weeks whilst we were there, and had the comfort of staying at their place overnight! The lads were green with envy, as Singapore certainly wasn’t on our regular Routings. The Engineering Suptd. who had to come out from the UK to oversee slummed it in my cabin! Tight arses the Cayzers, but a bloody good Company.

My next vessel will be the Clan Robertson as

Now you’ve had a little bit from the Clan Matheson and Kinnaird Castle which was my third vessel, I actually sailed on this tanker for a full year (income tax rebate), but also to speed up my sea-time for Second Mates. She was seconded to Scottish Tankers but retained livery of Hector Whaling. Now I told you about the Mate and the Purser, fighting over the cadet, and the escapade in New Caledonia Is.

Well, having completed the Pacific leg, we drydocked in Singapore, and having close friends of my sister living there, I had the freedom of utilizing a fabulous Sunbeam Alpine for the two weeks whilst we were there, and had the comfort of staying at their place overnight! The lads were green with envy, as Singapore certainly wasn’t on our regular Routings. The Engineering Suptd. who had to come out from the UK to oversee slummed it in my cabin! Tight arses the Cayzers, but a bloody good Company.

My next vessel will be the Clan Robertson as U3/O……..

Ian, Good Morning again. Well as promised, another snippet of my progress as
now attaining the spectacular heights of Uncertificated Third Officer.
I have a copy of a Cadets' Voyage Report, made out by the Second Officer,
because theoretically, one was still a cadet!
I shall have to fax the original, because I don't think scanning it would
necessarily provide a better copy, but if need be, I could type it out in
it's format.
Yes, the Clan Robertson was quite a fine Reefer Cargo Ship, only five years
old when I joined her in Southampton and we subsequently completed a Cape
run as far as Durban, loading a full cargo of citrus.
On completion of loading and sailing round the Cape,we always set courses
for Antwerp,and the R/O always informed London:
"Antwerp for Orders" as the Belgian port was the main European Market for
There was always a sweepstake between Officers and Crew (British on the
Reefers) as to where the discharge would be nominated.
Southampton/Cardiff/Marseilles/Antwerp or Hamburg. Not so this
time.......Drammen, Norway! Never been there before, and what a surprise we
had. What a great place, pretty expensive, but the females I don't think had
heard of knickers! We were the largest vessel ever to have entered this
fjord port, their tugs being the size of our lifeboats.
Cargo discharge went on interspersed with frollicking parties, but when it
came to depart, what we didn't realise, was that the two other small
coasters had been ordered by the port to close up on us fore and aft to
prevent our sailing. No pilot, no tugs, no shore staff, no assistance at
all. The reason given was that the normally mild mannered and politically
reasonable Norwegians were boycotting the ship because of the South African
connections. The Ol'Man had other ideas, and with two crew ashore letting
go, he completed a wonderful manoeuvre to "spring" the vessel off the berth,
without even a touch on the other ships.
There was a "protest" lodged by the port, and needless to say we never went
to Drammen again. I sincerely hope there are no 35 year olds wondering who
their fathers are/were! So we made Southampton without further hinderance.
We even made the news.

Ian, herewith a copy of my Cadets’ report from the Second Officer. 

The British & Commonwealth Group – B&C Report Form 1

Confidential Report on Cadet:      PEGGY ASHCROFT  Branch  Deck

ss/mv….Clan Robertson        Date:28/2/1971     to     21/5/1971 

(a)            CHARACTER  AND PERSONALITY :     Oversure of himself, considering his very limited capability, probably, basically insecure due to the fact that he was not properly potty trained in infancy.(Still wears  nappies to bed.   

(b)           POWER  OF COMMAND:      Controls his toy soldiers with all the confidence of Gengis Khan, but humans tend to take him slightly less seriously.           

(c)               CONDUCT                                Would make a good Conductor, except he is rather pale-faced for Birmingham Transport.                                           

(d) DRESS AND PERSONAL APPEARANCE :        Prefers female dress, which does not really suit him, as he is built like a brick shithouse.

(e)           SOCIAL ATTRIBUTES:        Fairly generous in the Bar, but otherwise, none.

(f)            BEARING   TOWARDS    OFFICERS :     Fawning. 

(g)           CREW  :             Does not realize we have any. .                            



(a)            Academic :   He is well up-to-date with the football scores and submits a good standard of work, although his spelling of Seffield and Airdrionions leaves a lot to be desired.     

               Studies :         


(b)  NAVIGATING CADETS          Practically useless


(c)   CARGO   WORK :      Has little knowledge, but appreciates the oranges.

(d)  BRIDGE  PRACTICAL NAVIGATION;INSTRUMENTS;RADAR OPERATION AND PLOTTING PRACTICE      Can now take Solar sights and azimuths and can work them out given time. He can switch on more of the bridge instruments, but after that he is lost.

Has never heard of plotting

(e)    ENGINE ROOM        Banned from the Engine Room

(f)     PROJECT                SUBJECT:  Pet Clarke                

         Progress, still in the planning stage

         SPORT                   Favourite Sport:- Putting his foot in it.

         RECREATION        Watching Pet Clarke and pulling O’Toole………(Good bye Mr   Chips               ….Walport films?......remember)


         HOBBIES                Emptying beer cans

(a)   TRAINING               It is not surprising, that his Parents sent him to sea,   but why I should suffer, I don’t know. Either he goes or I go.

        OFFICER’S GENERAL REMARKS      Neil Collier: Training Officer

        CHIEF ENGINEER’S  REMARKS             Could be trained as a big hammer-man, or used as solid ballast.

                                                                                                                                                             Tommy Reay: Chief Engineer

        MASTER’S   GENERAL REMARKS :          “I believe the fishing is good at Bremen………………………………..(I fell over the side, whilst discharging cargo)

                                                                                                                                                                                 Sandy Campbell: Master   

"CLAN MACINDOE" Courtesy Peter Ashcroft

Ian, Good Afternoon,

Now this was my first ship as U/3/O, and I joined her at Avonmouth. Actually, my Father drove me down, because, being a naval man himself, he always enjoyed coming on board for a looksee. Well I introduced him to the Captain, and proceeded to go on the piss with him! So much so that he had to bunk up in my cabin for the night and me on the daybed. When he found out the following morning that our first three ports were Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp, he pulled me to one side with a stiff caution (if you know what I mean). The ‘Macindoe was a funny little ship, as she was neither one thing or ‘touther, limited, lifting capacity, small holds, 5 cyl Doxford giving us a maximum of 13kts. (Slow boat to China…..litteraly)

As it happens, I’ve already done a piece on this vessel, with photo, but lost it somewhere in the ether so I’m labouring over reiterating some of the pertinent aspects. The Mate was a drunken Irishman, who should have been shot at birth, but the Second Mate was superb, and really looked after me in my first week or so. As I’ve already said,

a funny little ship, pleasant enough with from what I recall, a pretty good crew etc…. and so it tends to be a bit nondescript, until Cape Town, homeward bound.

The Fourth Engineer from Manchester who was always “smoking-up” and stoned much of the time, had been on the vessel eighteen months and was therefore the longest serving “pig-iron polisher”. Well this particular Sunday at Table Bay, he decides to go ashore really early, see’s a car in Adderley Street, with it’s engine ticking over, whilst the owner had gone into get his newspaper.

The Fourth dashes over, climbs in, and revs off. Oh well, he was duly apprehended down at Simonstown, and banged-up, with the Cops not taking too much attention to his well-being……Into court the following day, fined oh I don’t know how many Rand and deported to the vessel on sailing, with instructions from the Authorities that he be locked in his cabin until the UK. (How could they check? But you know how imposing De Afffffrikkkaaaana Police can be.)

Fair enough, he was a prat, and not a very likeable one at that. Five days out of Cape Town, BANG! An almighty explosion in the Engine Room, and we grind to a halt.

I’m on watch 8-12, and so to begin with I had no idea what was amiss. It transpired that the Crosshead on No 4 Unit had sheered, and the top piston (piston opposed,you see) was almost out of the cylinder casing. No 4 Unit was also the starting unit under compressed air, so unless the E/Rm had a spare Crosshead, we weren’t going anywhere unless with a tow………Well no Doxford engined vessel carried such a spare item as a Crosshead, plenty of other spares, but not a Crosshead.

The Old Man is notified of the dellema, and is scribing out a message for Sparks to inform London, when this little arsehole of a Fourth finds out what the problem is and holds the Chief Engineer to ransome.

“Let me out of my Cabin” he screams “ and I will help you solve the problem”

“Bollocks” was the Second Engineers retort, but with typical resolve of a quiet spoken, Scottish Chief, he gave the Fourth the benefit of the doubt, extracting enough information from him to know that there was a spare Crosshead in the Engine Room, under the plates. Voila!

Apart from the ignominy of the Edinburgh sailing passed “everything awight chaps” we were underway again within 48 hours and sailing for Avonmouth…..The Fourth still banged up in his cabin!

There’s always something that turns round and bites you up the bum.

Twenty Four hours from Pilots-Bristol, all hell lets loose on the Bridge……….guess who’s on watch? …………….The Hold Alarms go off in No 5 Hatch  FIRE, and let me tell you Ian, if it’s not Board of Trade Sports, then when you see the Hatch Coamings starting to glow red, your bowels start quivering.

All amount of Kidde Riche appliance wouldn’t dampen down, and whilst all source of air was starved, the only conclusion was to let the bugger burn itself out.

Now, as I said earlier, a bit of a non descript ship,but, built on the Clyde, and as strong as any ship. No distortion was established on survey, because the cargo was Asbestos! Of all things, and it was the pallets that caught and burnt the whole Hold out!

The Asbestos was eventually off-loaded by grab, can you imagine them getting away with that today. “You can fuck-off” would be the Port Captains inflection, needless to say, there was MY Old Man on the quay, waiting for the Clan Macindoe (two weeks out in the Bristol Channel, waiting for everything to cool down) resplendent with a brown, paint peeled stern, acknowledging our arrival when, the Ship’s Master (I forget his name, but nice enough), bawls down to the quay to my Father, “Have you been waiting there for the last six months, for your lad to return, “ – “Yer’e better come up and have a nip when we’ve “Cleared Immigration”…….needless to say, The Captain hadn’t realized that my Mother was sitting in the car, waiting for her little boy’s arrival………She used to have shares in Tanqueray-Gordon, and yes you can guess the rest, they sleep over in my cabin, and I sleep in the Pilots cabin and drive them back to Warwickshire the following day. (I think my relief had to sleep in the Hospital)

Such is Life…………………………………..Pete                Edit Text

Ian, I'm getting the hang of this now.
Funny little thing isn't she. Still fond memories. Captain SK Williams, Mate:Peter (Pisshead) McArthur, 2Nd Mate: Bill Robello
Chief Eng. Frank Benham 2Nd Eng. Neil McKenzie J2 Eng Mike Hattersley
Chief Leccy: Jim(story teller personified) Finnegan.....needless to say Irish, but what a lovely guy.
Sparks: Keith Watkins (nice chap from Swansea, I think)......oh! GFLH
Purser: George Peechy (Ex Army, who was actually on the Clan Keith that struck rocks in the Mediterranean, just  off the Tuinisian coast, and broke her back in the exercise (1960 ?).
Gone to his cabin, probably pissed the night before, woke up in the morning to a grinding sound that saw his for'd bulkhead disappear and see the bows float away and sink! Yea, it must have been a fuckin' big     hangover, Honest Jimmy, I'm naw kiddin'........and it's true, because I've seen the Crew List! Edit Text

CLAN ROBERTSON Courtesy Peter Ashcroft Edit Picture

Okay, Ian. You’ve had the Clan Matheson, Kinnaird Castle, Clan Macindoe and the Clan Robertson…….Oh, and the Hector Heron.(First-time round), and Rothesay Castle.

 Second Mates-London (Jan 1972-June1972)

 Hector Heron (Second-Time) as now a Certificated prick.

Actually, this voyage had quite tragic connotations. I flew to Lagos, the ship being under a Mobil Charter, and did three months, just running from Appapa to Port Harcourt, before being released from Nigeria, and heading for The Gulf, via CapeTown……..You can imagine how we let our hair down, when it was announced that we were allowed into Table Bay (as we were Gas Free) and could dock, and take on stores and bunkers, in the comparative luxury of Dorman Longs’ Graving Dock, right down the bottom end of the Harbour. Okay, it was a bit of a taxi ride but who gave an “f” when we’d had put up with the conditions of NW Africa, the mosquitoes biting like fuckin’ tigers!

I can’t quite recall the sequence of events after leaving Kaapstaad, only that I was summoned to the Ol’e Mans’ Cabin, to be duly informed that I was being relieved at Aden along with the Lekky and R/O. Actually, I never really gave it too much thought, other than I might be in too much demand for another posting, afterall, I had been on the Hector Heron for some sixteen months, combined.

Ian, this is how good the Cayzers really were, from a Personnel point of view. You weren’t just a number.

My Mother had ‘phoned the Office, and informed a most wonderful character, by the name of Gordon Burtinshaw, , that my Father had “taken a turn for the worse”…….she being a nurse,  knew what the signs were, and that was enough, on compassionate grounds, to bring me home.

I actually knew nothing about my Fathers’ condition, until I arrived home and my Brother-in-Law informed me of the crisis. And yet, as soon as I appeared in front of the Old Man, he immediately perked up and rallied.

This was September, and London had told me to keep them informed, but to take as long as necessary. Well he actually appeared to be “coming round” as it were, that by the end of October, being a little embarrassed, I offered my services for “Coastal Duties”.

Now here’s a thing. Have you ever had to unlock a ship!

I was appointed 3/O of the Rotherwick Castle, laid up alongside (outboard) of her sister Rothesay Castle at Southampton (101), and would proceed to Smith’s Dock, North Shields, Newcastle, for dry-docking and Annual survey. Well I got down to the docks, only to be confronted by a ridiculous situation.

A cold, raining, November evening, and no one about. Even the Mailboats were inactive.

I ‘phoned London, maybe about five, and was duly informed to “pop along” to the UC Office, to pick-up the key! “Which key” I retort…….”Well I don’t know, but they’ll tell you”

What a bloody shambles.

Yes, I did pick up the key, and having negotiated scrambling over the Rothesays’ No. 3 Hatch, finally let myself ”in” in pitch darkness. No Generators running, hence no lights, no fuckall.

Out of sheer memory of having been on the Rothesay for my 21st, I knew that my cabin was next to the Bar! So having eventually got to my abode, opened the door, only to find that some little prick had left the porthole open, and the driving rain up the Solent had virtually filled the cabin with The English Channel.

However, undeterred, I nipped into the Bar, and low and behold, a few dregs of Brandy, Whiskey and Gin were still adorning the optics, and so I set about the liquor to warm my Cockles.

It had to be at least an hour later, that I detected some scrabbling sound, possibly a rat, and who should pop his head round the door, but the Fourth Engineer from Manchester. (Clan Macindoe). Yes, well I was right in my association!

Ah, Mr Thomas, before I grudgingly offer you a drink, go and put a Gene on the board, and get some lighting and heating organized.

As quiet as a mouse, he duly did my bidding, and lo and behold, the ship was up and running.

It was nine o’clock before anyone else had arrived, and being a little worse for wear, and my cabin saturated, I proceeded to get my head down, in the Pilots’ Cabin, yet again………………………(sequal later)

Pete Edit Text

"ROTHERWICK CASTLE" - Courtesy Peter Ashcroft

Okay, picture this.

101 Western Docks, Southampton. November 8th 1972.

Rotherwick Castle outboard of Rothesay Castle and both Pilots are on board. We are both on “Stand by”, ready to sail for Newcastle. Starboardside (inboard) to Portside

(outboard) and the Masters are having a chat across no more than a fender distance of say eighteen inches to two feet of Bridge Wing clearance.

I didn’t know this at the time, but they were “Brother-in-Laws”, and my Ships’ Master (Rotherwick) hated his counterpart.

Well you couldn’t have a more accommodating Master as “Sandy” Campbell (Rothesay)……….21st Birthday, Cape Town? But this Bastard that married his sister was just about the most evil cretin I had ever had the misfortune to meet, Ian, believe me, just an out and out shit.

And then “All Hell Breaks Loose”, no names, no pact drill, but our skipper, just as we are casting off, with tug on starboard poop, grabs a wooden deckbrush, and hurls it at “Sandy”, polaxing him, with the item, and as we “broke away”…………”See you at Smiths, you Scottish “C” “

Well it’s a very strange thing, when you are a seaman, in whatever capacity you might find yourself, but this was just the most remarkable episode, I’d ever seen.

The Mate comes up from the Fxle, it’s the 12-4 watch, Second Mate on the Bridge, with Pilot and Master, and I have a beer with the Mate in the Bar. We are ambling down the Solent, Isle of Wight to port, would you believe, and heading to Newcastle, from the Needles and not the Nab.

“Och, Jimmy, don’t you worry yer fat arse, I’ll sort hum oot”   “ All the selfish Bassa wants to do is to make sure his boot is alright, moored off Coowes”.

What a fuckin’ nightmare. I’m terrified of him anyway, obviously through my total naivety of the situation, but, whilst both vessels had a fair turn of speed, what does the Rothesay do, but go out through the Nab.

Even Sparks is too shit scared to tell the Master, that the Rothesay has beaten us to the Tyne and that we would encounter 48 hr delay, prior to one of the other floating docks becomes available.

Here’s the crunch. The Master wasn’t seen for 48 hrs, but appearing on the Bridge, with Pilot, and looking a little dark under the cheekbones prior to us entering drydock, it was generally excepted that the Mate had taken the situation into his own hands……..as it were.

Come to think of it, they were about the same age!

It turned out later, that both Brother-in-Laws had been on the Ayreshire (flagship of Clan Line) as Mate, Second Mate, and our existing Chief Officer, Third Mate at the time, when she grounded off Socotra.(Total Loss)

The Maritime inquest, found the Mate responsible, only on the grounds of supposition, but the Third Mate was bullied into making some sort of admission….I don’t know.

The hospitality of the Geordie is second to none, and whilst in drydock, a good time was had by all, but tragically, I ‘phoned home everyday to check on my Father, and as it was, this one particular night, out with John Cardownie (R/O) that I heard from my sister that I really should come home. ( a preordained condition with Cayzer, hence the “Coast”)

Went back on the ship packed my gear, and went up to see The Captain to ask him to “sign “ me off, maybe about 2230hrs and inform him of my predicament. The Bastard gave me no condolence, I’ve never seen my original Discharge Book again, he probably threw it over the side, but eventually got home the following morning, only to find that things were quite bad.

‘Phoned London that morning to tell them of the circumstances, very understanding, and do you know, the day before my Father died, I received my advice notice that I would be joining the Windsor Castle in Southampton…………at MY convenience. At least he died, knowing that I had been elevated to the “Flag Ship” (Jan 1973)

So there you’ve got it so far. Windsor next.



Okay, picture this.Now the Clan Line never went to South America, but on one occasion, the Clan Ranald was required to do a one-off charter (in the off-season fruit schedule) to collect a full load of potatoes, from Valparaiso……..Interesting, was the general concensus.

Second Mate organizes a new folio of charts, discusses the courses with the Old Man, and the vessel duly departs Birkenhead. Nothing strange in that.  Fair weather passage across the Atlantic, and everyone is somewhat upbeat.  Now it’s always strange to meet new Shipping Agents at Curacoa, or anywhere for that matter. There’s no intimate history, no integratory, or general trust, is there?

Well, after the Chief Engineer had put in his request for Bunkers, the Purser for victualing, and maybe the Chief Officer for a couple of paint brushes and Fresh Water, all was set for the Panama CanalPilots coming aboard, and the Agent is about to leave, when the Captain remarks to the Agent, that he had left behind a brown paper parcel. Oh! Captain, that is for you, sorry I should have told you earlier, Our Compliments. Captain shakes his hand, and generally, it was accepted that they would meet up on the return leg, after negotiating the Canal Eastbound.

Well the vessel has negotiated westbound convoy, and has duly set course for Valparaiso.

With all the interest of the Canal, and other novelty features, it’s only at this juncture, that the Captain feels he can relax a bit, down in his suite, and perhaps have a couple of Scotches.  The Chief Engineer comes and joins him, and a convivial chat ensues, when the Chief remarks on the tatty paper bag stashed in the corner of the day-room

Eh yes, “I’d forgotten about that” “A little gift from the Agents, no less”

The Old Man, covers the floor in anticipation, rips open the parcel, only to reveal three Blow-Up dollies!

“Jings criven help ma bob!” was the Chiefs’ retort………..”Am I looking at Princess Diana, Jackie Onassis and Sophie Loren, in the nude, all in one go” “Oh Jeeeesus,

I’m in Heaven” 

Needless to say, the Captain, an aspiring Mail-boat Staff Commander, was highly embarrassed, and duly admonished the Chief Engineer for his wayward remark, well he would, wouldn’t he?  No names, no Pact Drill, but the night before arrival at the South American port, the Old Man’s on the Bridge, dishing out his Nightly Orders” (Remember Them?)

“Any fog, put Engines to Stand By”, “ Call Me two hours before Pilots” etc….etc.

Sure enough, eta 0600 ,0400 FOG. Chief Officer calls “Father” and he duly arrives on the Bridge, with the fog alarm blaring away.

Well when this happens, Ian, as you well know, sleep tends to be a little elusive. And so it was for the Captains’ Tiger, who took it upon himself, to duly take the Captain  his breakfast of boiled egg and a cup-of-tea.up to the Bridge.  Tiger thinking he might as well square-up and tidy the Ole Mans’ cabin, whilst navigational and con duties were required, went to make his bed……………..and lo and behold, there is Jackie Onassis, legs akimbo (hairy at that), giving Tiger the “Come-On”

Tiger thinks this is too good an opportunity to miss, climbs aboard and gives “it” the old one-two.”

Clan Ranald arrives back at Curacoa a month later, for general Agency issues, and the Agent confronts the Captain, with that typical South American/Mexican inane smile, and asks as to how he enjoyed his “gift”

“Haaaay Capitano , very life-like, no?”

“Yes”, the Old Man rants, “so f.......g life-like, I’ve even got a dose from the Bitch!”



Here’s another one, if I can remember it correctly.

An old bookkeeper (Retired) who used to work part-time at Cayzer House, right opposite the entrance to Durban Docks, would always do afternoons.  Now he’d got this little dog, a daschund, I think.  Living in the proximity of the Office down the Esplanade in a first-floor flat, his routine was to walk the little thing, a couple of times in the morning, and last thing at night.

On this one occasion in the evening, he’s strolling up to the top of Gillespie Street, intersecting Smith Street with his mutt on the leash, when this bloody great “Kaffir” rounds the corner, and apprehends the Old Boy.  Startled and loosing his balance, he lets go of the dog as he falls over.  The dog immediately responds, by climbing on to the Kaffirs back, and rips his throat out.

Passers-by see the incident and immediately call the Cops.

“Frick” and his cronies duly arrive at the scene, take the Kaffir into custody, and then on reflection, turns to the Old Boy, whilst he is making out his report, and quite dumbfounded, says that whilst it was a magnanimous (well an Afrikaaner Cop wouldn’t say that) gesture of the dog to protect his Master, how in God’s name has a little thing like that got such a fighting instinct.  The Old Guy nodding, said in his guttural Natal accent; “Officer, I shall have to tell you a little secret”

“I live on my own, and the dog is my company”

He explains his living arrangements, but then goes on to tell the Cop that his dog does not have any amourous relationships, because he does not have the time to spend with him on a daily basis.

So, when I have taken him for his evening walk, given him some food, I get him up on the sofa, and “jerk him off”, and just as he is going to “come”, I put my thumb over the end of his Knob! “Yessus, that makes him very angry!”

See Ya.


Picture this: Edinburgh Castle, northbound at Cape Town.

Not only  have we been delayed in opening up No 7 hatch, (Tourist Class swimming pool) because an Albatross landed in the pool on our way down from Port Elizabeth, and the RSA Bird people insisted on getting the papers down there to monitor the safe execution of getting the bloody bird out of the ogin, and safely dispatch the creature into a safe haven, but, being on cargo duty, on a Sunday evening, dressed in my No10’s, a female sidles over to me, (as they did in those days!), and positively informed me that she was convinced that there were “Divers” operating on the port stern side of the vessel, and they were sticking “Limpit Mines” to the hull.

Well you get these sort of people, and I can’t say that she wasn’t a good looker either, but I nontionantly strolled to the ship’s side and with all the authority of an experienced Officer, duly informed her that they were seals frolicking in Table Bay harbour

Okay, I’m Extra Second Officer, doing the 8-12 on a particular day, having just bunkered at Las Palmas, so we are now heading south into warmer climes.

I’m surveying all that I can see, including some very nubile waitresses on No 2 Hatch, sunning themselves, prior to starting back down below for lunch.

I happen to mention a particular lady, (who stood out more predominantly, than the rest!) to the Lamptrimmer, who had come up to fill in the Sounding Log.

That night, again 8 – 12, I receive a message from the Lookout, who’d gone down for a cuppa’.

“I shall see you in your cabin tonight”, read the message,……………and believe me, this is no bullshit………….”.I know you like your Guinness, and as I like Milk Stout,

you will find a couple of cases there when you come off watch.”

What is this crap, and the message is signed by The Scorpion.

Sure enough, I hand over the watch to the Senior Second, and about 0015hrs vacate the Bridge, go down to my cabin, and lo and behold, there on my desk are two cases of the required nectar.

Next thing, the Master-at-Arms knocks on my door, and explains, that he had to apprehend a female stewardess that was entering Officers’ quarters, with a dubious excuse of delivering the beer, (as I had ordered it from one of the Pursers) during my Watch-Keeping duties.

I should have smelt a rat then, but proceeded to crack open a can (top-end spanner in those days), with my Third Engineer opo. and really thought no more about it.

Just a prank!

Following morning, I’m on the Bridge, when another message arrives, again signed by The Scorpion, apologizing for not having been able to see me last night, but will definitely evade the MA and get stuck into the beer! Tonight.

Nothing happens that night, needless to say, but on the following morning, I see this tart, hand over the watch to my junior, and proceed on deck to remonstrate with her about the prank…………She hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about!!!!

I apologies most profusely, return to the Bridge, and there, standing at the wheel is the Lamptrimmer, not only with his flies open, but his “Pecker” exposed, only with a tattoo of a Scorpion on “It”.

I just about died, but the bastards had all been in on the joke, MA. Stewardess, my Junior and a whole host of others.

I’ll leave you with that for the time being.


Enter supporting content here