I left the sea school on my 16th birthday, November 25th 1955, with three GCEs, in English Language, English Literature and Seamanship, the latter very helpful in my chosen career as it involved splicing ropes and wires, the use of derricks and other nautical attributes. The school had a working derrick and other practical devices and it was not without a little sadness that I said farewell to the Boulevard Nautical School, although I was quite happy not to have to take the one hour bus journey every morning and night. I also gained a Coxswain’s Certificate, taken at weekends in a lifeboat in Hull docks.
In the meantime, I had been accepted by the British Tanker Company, soon to become BP Tanker Company, as a Navigating Apprentice, but had to await their summons to join my first ship.
I had a couple of days grace before I found myself working alongside my father in digging up Christmas trees for market, not sawing them down as they do today. But, as the boss constantly reminded us each time he came to the site, we had to make sure we chopped the tap root. If this wasn’t done then they could possibly have been replanted!
After Christmas, having still heard nothing from the shipping company, I went to work on a farm about a mile from my home village of Kilnwick (near Driffield in Yorkshire), my first job being to muck out the pigs and calves every morning. Then I had to take three huge bales of straw from the stack (they were very heavy in those days) through the barn and scatter the straw in the fold yard amongst the cows.
One morning as I struggled with the door into the fold yard with a huge bale on my back, I came face to face with a rather large and fearsome looking black bull. I manoeuvred round the animal, trying to keep my eyes on him, but he just stayed there with horns pointing in my direction. Thence, he would wait for me to appear every morning and stand there, watching me. I never did get used to those big eyes staring at me and I was always glad to get rid of those three bales of straw!
My next task was to don waterproof thigh boots and take rake and fork to the bottom of the field where a stream ran alongside the road, jump down to remove weeds and grasses that were restricting the flow of water and throw them on to the bank.
I did this every day for about three weeks until I received a telegram from the company telling me to join a ship, the SS British Victory, at the Isle of Grain (BP’s refinery port in Kent) on January 16th 1956.
Then I had to pack my cases with uniforms and working gear, a complete list of which I had been given earlier by the company.
On January 15th, I stood on the platform in Hull Paragon railway station with my weeping mother and proud father beside me, to embark upon my chosen career which would take me around the world for the next 45 years.
by Terry Took © 2015
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.