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David W. (David William) Bone.

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"Hard lines."



"Ahoy oi oi ahoy ! Turn out, you sleepers
there! Turn out! Ahoy oi oi ahoy!"



246 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

We had been scarce asleep it seem eel before our
turn was up, and there was John Collins of the
other watch, thundering with his fists on the lid of
a sea-chest and calling us to turn out. "Ahoy, you
sleepers there!" he roared. "Turn out an' see
wot th' starboard watch kin do f'r ye ! One bell
gone an' th' barque pilin' along afore a fine fair
win' !"

'Fair wind.' That did it. At first we thought
it a trick to rouse the deadheads but no. As,
half-slept and shivering, we rolled out and put foot
to the deck, we knew by the reeling of the hull that
it was right a fine fair wind. "Gad ! She's roll-
ing home all right. When did it come, Collins?"

"Oh, soon after you Jonahs went below. 'Ow
'd'ye expek a fair win' we' en you wos on deck?"

Skipping through the forecastle door in time to
escape a flying sea-boot, Collins returned on deck,
and we hurriedly buckled on our sodden weather
harness and went out to relieve the watch. All
hands were in fine spirits, and talking assuredly of
a 'home' Christmas. The change had come sud-
denly and unexpectedly.

"We 'ad no end o' wind an' rain at first," said
one of the starbowlines; "rotten cold rain too, sleet
a'most, an' then th' win' slips back inter th' west.
'Good iron,' says we, an' now it's blowin' arf a
gale from th' nor'west, an' she's smokin' along f'r
th' Mersey bar. Keep 'er goin', me sons," he



A RUN IN 247

said as he threw off his glistening oilskins and pre-
pared for needed sleep.

'Smoking through it,' she was reeling along
south under a press of canvas. Captain Lewis was
great for 'crackin' on' when a course could be
made, and the Shirley was staggering with all sail
she could carry. Running down the Irish Lights,
the wind blowing strong and true, we sailor-folk
had little to do but reckon our pay and make plans
(that fared no further) as to how we might best
spend our money. Dawn of Christmas Eve broke
on us as we reeled past the Chickens o' Man, run-
ning swiftly before the strong gale from nor'-
west. Old Man Lewis stepped up and down
the poop, rubbing his hands in high good humour,
and pausing now and then to admire the set of his
to'gallans'l, stiff and straining, each drawing a
famous load. At times he would slap the taffrail,
shouting aloud "Into it, old girl. Get into it I
tell 'oo."

The surly Chief Mate was in his glory. From
first grey break of day he had been at our heels,
man-driving for all he was worth. Strangely, we
were keen to do his bidding on this the last day of
his hectoring and bullying. At his direction we
cleared the anchors for service, and thought little
of it when, at our miserly 'dinner, a burst of green
water came spurting into the forecastle through
the opened hawse-pipes.



248 ' BROKEN STOWAGE*

Sixty-four miles from Chickens to the bar, and
at a rate of knots we rode down the stormy
leagues, and soon the plunging Lightship came into
view. A stout little steamer, showing the red and
white of pilots on station, came out to meet us, but,
though the wind was lessening, the sea ran over-
high for boat service, and the most they could do
was to steer ahead of us, showing the way. At
this, we had to shorten sail in order to keep a rear
position.

Hot-foot from the south'ard a tug-boat bore up
to us, seeking a tow, but we had the wind right for
the Mersey Channel, and Captain Lewis canny
Welshman would only promise the tugman a job
in the river. Formby Lightship, fretting at her
stout cables, was passed before the sea was
smooth enough for our guide to lower a boat and
send a pilot aboard us.

"Egad, Captain," said the pilot as he clambered
aboard, "you're in a hurry for your Christmas
pudding, by the pace you're going. You gave us
all we could do to keep ahead of you. Are you for
dockin' to-night?"

"Iss. Iss, indeed if they haf got a berth for
us in the dock. My owners will be lookin' for us.
They would get my signal from Malin Head."

Old Lewis, already in his well-creased, long-
shore clothes, was as eager as the rest of us to set
foot ashore.

"All right, Captain. You can get some of the



A RUN IN 249

canvas off her now. Tops'ls will be spread enough
for bringing up in the river."

Rounding the last of the Lightships, the Mersey
river opened out a scene of animation that held
keenest interest for us. Majestic liners lay an-
chored off the Stage awaiting their turn to land or
embark passengers; coasting steamers backed out
of the half-tide docks, turned, and sped away to
sea on their errands; huge cargo vessels swung to
the ebb outside the dock gates attending the tide;
bustling tugs and ferries stood across and up and
down the fairway, turning, canting, backing, draw-
ing to the piers and out again, like the scurry of an
unsettled brood. Steam everywhere, and belching
smoke; not a sailing ship in the river but ourselves;
no fine spars to draw a sailor's eye; no clean-cut
clipper stems sheering in this tideway. We had
only a short glimpse of the land scenes for which
our eyes had longed. Already the sun had gone
to the west, and lights were springing up on ship
and shore. As we came by New Brighton, the sky
behind was aglow with the promise of a fine
Christmas day.

In the river, the wind that had brought us so
bravely in fell light, and Old Lewis was forced to
accept the services of the tug that had first spoken
us. Dearly would he have loved to bring his
barque to her anchor under sail to show the
liner's people that there were yet a few seamen
afloat, but the press of river traffic and short



250 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

berths to anchor in mack that a risky manoeuvre.
So, steering in the wake of the Kate Jolife, we
stemmed the fast-running ebb, and soon our an-
chor was fast bedded in English ground.



At midnight, when Liverpool's bells were ring-
ing out the Message, we hove up our anchor and
were towed into dock.

"A Merry Christmas, Captain," yelled the
Dockmaster through his megaphone as we drew
on to the pierheads. "A Merry Christmas to ye,
and ye're just in time."



XXXIII
"HI! PADD AAY!"

a daelin' man 's daelin', an' a man
interferes wit' a daelin' man whin a daelin'
man's daelin, a daelin' man's got th' roight to' give
'im a bit av a clip av a crack wit' a slip av a bit av
a sthick, d'ye moind!" Thus Paddy, when the
Birkenhead longshoremen (wickedly, and of
malice aforethought,) stowed a number of the old
man's trading parcels along with packages marked
BOMBAY and KARACHI in the hold of the
Australia. True, their rough pleasantry was dis-
covered in time before cargo was blocked up in
the 'tween decks, and Paddy was able to imple-
ment his contracts and deliver, seriatim,

(a) Two boxes of Lifebuoy soap and a pack-
age of matches to the order of the 'Thoid Affisur.'

(b) A writing pad, envelopes, a Bee clock, a tin
of bianco and a pair of braces, all consigned to
the 'Surgint.'

(c) An ironclad watch (duly repaired) and a
guaranteed gold-cased albert for the Fifth 'In-
gineer.'

All were duly delivered; but the loss of his
goods, however temporary, meant much more than

251



252 ' BROKEN STOWAGE '

a mere loss of profit to Paddy. His concern would
be of that nature that looks forward to possibilities
to ultimate results. Being myself of an imagina-
tive turn, I could read into the old man's mood as
he stood about in the starboard alleyway and pon-
dered his commitments. I could conceive

(a) his concern about the matchless and soap-
less condition of the Third Mate;

(b) the dismay with which he contemplates the
absence of braces on the person of the Surgeon;

(c) his utter despair in realising that (though
his misfortune) the Fifth Engineer might con-
ceivably turn out late for his watch in the engine
room.

Happily, there was no need for the old man to
lose his sleep. Under pressure from the head fore-
man, the dockers restored the abstracted packages
and all was well, and, in connection with the inci-
dent, there only remains a memory of the famous
statement in which Paddy expressed his view of the
sacred rights of property, and propounded a novel
law of free and unrestricted trade. From that
same statement a text might be drawn; a text to
[expose Paddy's character and his views. Be it
noted, the savage and lucid insistence with which
he eases off the safety-valve of his righteous indig-
nation. The ferocious dentals of it! "Whin a
daelin' man 's daelin', an' a man interferes with' a
daelin' man whin a daelin' man 's daelin' " His
opening might well serve as a model preamble to



"HI! PADD AAY!" 253

any high enactment; but it is in his claim of penalty
that one may feel the lessening sense of injury, the
influence of mercy that not all laws contemplate.
It is wonderfully graduated. The stirring indict-
ment that is almost like a severe and summary pun-
ishment in itself, toning down by its excess of
qualification to a "bit av a clip av a crack" with a
"slip av a bit av a shtick." Finally, there is the
measure submitted for your approval the kindly
interrogation of your concurrence.

Of all the dockside pedlars who did business on
the fringes of the East Float at Birkenhead, Paddy
stood out as possessed of the most original turn
of mind not alone in the ways of trading, but in
matters of habit and outlook. His business was
to him much more than a mere method of earning
his daily bread; he brought an artistry to his
'dealinY that placed him above the ruck.

While the chemist's boy, with a rounded black
tin sample case over his shoulder, confined his trad-
ing to the appeal of the white lettering on his box,
or to brief intervals in the perusal of a penny
'blood' (he being but a hireling employed by the
week), Paddy impressed his personality on poten-
tial customers by a conversational ability that
might, under proper direction, have earned him
fame. I have known many professional 'enter-
tainers' who had not a third of Paddy's ready wit.
An original! Trading was to him no lowly state
of thraldom, no soul-destroying solicitation, no



254 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

mum catch-ha'penny business of handing in a card
and awaiting a result. He would ever have a big
speaking part in the drama of life. Everything
that happened within his ken was sufficiently im-
portant for discussion. The doings of his neigh-
bours (invariably unfriendly) in the lowly dockside
street in which he lived, the interference of the
police in such innocent 'divarsions' as gambling and
'up and down' fighting and wife beating, were all
subject matter for interested comment. The open-
ing afforded for receipt of orders, if skilfully and
discreetly veiled, was always there with Paddy
fingering the soiled leaves of his penny note book
and ever and anon moistening the tip of his 'black-
lead' in the corner of his mouth.

His particular business ? Well ! Paddy kept no
shop nor did he believe in making the rounds of
the docks heavily laden with an assortment of
samples. His way of trading was to establish
standard brands that called for no tentative sub-
mission for approval. Not that he was at all con-
servative he would accept orders for anything
and everything but rather that his interest in our
well-being might be accepted by his purveyal of the
best. In the years of Paddy's trading, he fulfilled
a service that was keenly required. Ships' officers
had then little leisure in the daytime. Practically
no day-leave could be obtained from the ruthless
Chief Mate, and the engineers were as steadily em-
ployed in their department. The gangway was



"HI! PADD AAY!" 255

'forbidden ground until the longshoremen had
stopped work after covering the hatchways in the
slipshod Mersey fashion. Then, then was not
the time to be shopping and carrying parcels : was
not Vesta Tilley at the Empire or George Formby
at the Argyle?

Paddy, with his soiled notebook stepped into
the breach and did much to advantage the few
hours of our leisure ashore. Major and minor,
our needs were served by his ready acceptance of,
all manner of commissions. Doubtless he made
good profits for we were never close buyers and
were always prepared to make allowance for the
drudgery of carriage on the dockside, away from
the shopping centres, and the most of our 'de-
mands were for common goods and plain: but, on
occasion, Paddy might safely be entrusted with a
difficult charge. If your Aunt Maria had im-
posed upon you a commission to purchase a parro-
quet in Bombay and the distractions of that
pleasant port had succeeded in driving her instruc-
tion from your mind, Paddy could save your face
and aid in maintaining intact that little remem-
brance in Aunt Maria's last will and testament. At
the word 'go,' he would proceed across the river
to the bird-market and procure for you the very
specimen. He knew something about them too
and would rarely be taken in by the dealer's spe-
cious warrantry.

Adept at stage management, he would carry his



256 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

purchase aboard in some state at the very busiest
hour, just to show the dockers (his inveterate
enemies) that he was a man in whom confidence
was reposed by their superiors. It was perhaps
the same motive that governed his execution of the
minor commissions that may be summed up in the
combination of 'soap and matches.' Delivery of
these he deferred until the afternoon of sailing
'day. Amid all the hurry and rush of getting the
ship ready for tide time, Paddy with his many
bundles, brown paper and loose strings hanging
[everywhere they could hang, stood out as a man
of affairs. It flattered his sense of importance
that he should be there at the last finishing off, with
the dockers stowing that long-mislaid consignment
of hoop-iron and old John and his mates trying to
coax a nervous race horse to enter the stall in which
to take a standing passage to Bombay.

In the matter of 'side-lines,' Paddy had many.
While it is true that he had an aversion to carrying
heavy samples about with him, his innate sense of
the fitness of things his originality perhaps,
suggested an easier and more attractive method of
displaying his finer wares. Except when one of
the many crises, that frequently overcame him, was
in process of development, he dressed rather
smartly and had a way of passing his hand over his
chin to draw your attention to the fact that he had
shaved well and truly. In the fold of his neck-tie
he would display a modest stick-pin, from wing to



"HI! PADD AAY!" 257

wing of his waistcoat there would perhaps be an
albert of some pretensions, with a gilt badge or
two strung up in the exact centre those chaste
shield designs that, awarded for prowess in five-a-
side football tournaments, are much affected by
very young engineer officers.

As opportunity offered, Paddy would maybe
draw a quite good Waltham or Riversdale watch
from his pocket, scan the time, and present the
timepiece for your inspection. The jewellery and
valuables were no heirlooms, no greatly treasured
possessions. For but a modest turn of profit, the
old man was prepared to shed all or any integral
part of his magnificence.

I did not care to see Paddy in the days of his
prosperity such as these, knowing as I did that they
portended a temporary suspension of business and
many regrettable incidents in the old man's way of
life. The rounds of his activity were so clearly
defined by his appearance that it called for no
great effort of thought to establish the exact season
of his affairs.

Let us begin with the spring of his accustomed
cycle the days after a long period of revelry and
subsequent idleness. For a time he haunts the
wings of his work-a-day stage he hangs around
the shed doors or loafs furtively about the cargo
skids, as though summoning all his courage to face
the footlights of publicity. There is maybe a day
.or two. of this. Then, pulling down the front of



258 'BROKEN STOWAGE '

his waistcoat setting his hat a-trim, he comes
over the gangway, shewing an unusual nervous-
ness as though not quite sure that permission to
board would be granted. He eyes the quarter-
master on duty there with a wildly apprehensive
look. He crosses the decks quickly to avoid the
frankly mirthful eyes of such of the dockers who
have jobs at the hatchways. Once in the officers'
alleyway, a small measure of assurance may re-
turn to him.

"Shure now," he may say to himself, ". . .
th' ship 's been away frum thim parts for a mont'
or two. They '11 nat be afther knowin' I Ve been
on th' ran-dan!" Confiding soul! He does not
know that his doings have been the talk of the
waterside for many days !

He carries no bag or parcel; his clothes are
dusty and ill-fitting; his chin shews the stubble of
perhaps a week's growth. Paddy is 'down on his
luck.' Gone the display of cheap jewellery.
Gone the alert and confiding air with which he
was wont to start his 'daelin' ! Gone the self-
assurance that mustered a counter-quip for every
scornful remark of the dockers. With a whimsical
half-smile, he goes around to see what can be done
to rebuild his credit. He is in process of 'steadyin'
up ! Not yet the 'daelin' s' in expensive articles.
Capital has first to be acquired by small transac-
tions trade is limited and confined. A few orders
for 'soap and matches' are taken, there is rjer-



"HI! PADD AAY!" 259

Haps a whispered suggestion on the matter of a
small loan, ". . . t' kaape me roight wit' th'
daelers as I'm a-daelin' by!"

His summer comes and Paddy remains clear-
headed and active. He has worked up through
'soap and matches' to the more profitable lines of
writing-pads, electric torches, Bee clocks, and the
cheaper grades of fountain pens. He washes daily
and his chin is kept at a moderate degree of
smoothness. The small loans have been repaid
with an interest of milesian compliment. His step
is jaunty as he comes along the dockside. The
'ould bag' recovered from the pawnshop re-
sponds to his grip, and no longer he eyes the
quartermaster apprehensively as he steps over the
gangway. He faces up to the dockers with every
bit of his old 'back chat.' "Arrah, yes omathauns,'*
he will shout, at an appearance of their candid in-
terest, ". . . did yes nivir in ye'r loife 'do a
day's worrrk loike me?"

Autumn! I call it autumn because the season
approaches the fall of his good estate. Doubtless
Paddy thinks it the time of his life. If he were
a scholar, he would acclaim the period as the
perihelion of his orbit the zenith of his progress
through an uncertain cycle of time and circum-
stance. Things go well. He has invested in a
suit of super-sporting cut. Jewellery? He has
ven rings on his fingers, all of which he is pre-
pared to discard in the processes of trade. On



2 6o 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

busy days, he employs a small boy to bear a han'd
with the parcels. He nods patronisingly to the
quartermaster, and glares defiantly at the dockers
when he comes aboard. He is no longer content to
put through a small order from the butler or chief
baker; he deals only as he will tell you "wit' th'
Affisurs."

We do not learn at first hand what happens to
the old man in the winter of his accustomed round.
He wanes perceptibly before the total eclipse.
There are indications of an abnormal state in his
irregular attendance at the dockside and in certain
lapses of memory, not amounting exactly to care-
lessness. Then for the first time in perhaps a
year or eighteen months he comes no longer to
the ships.

I have seen him occasionally at this crisis in his
affairs; a distant view of a familiar figure, sham-
bling in the by-streets. Paddy en deshabille is not
a very pleasant sight. His disappearance from
the scenes of his trading splendour is marked by a
crop of rumours. In most of the stories, we do
not recognise the old man as we know him. In
some, however, there is his distinct trade mark of
unique originality.

While the money lasts Paddy 'does things on a
scale of prodigality. His debauch is no swinish
devotion to sleep. The foreman of the 'dockers
told me he had seen the old man having his 'dinner
in fine style. As a measure of home discipline per-



"HI1 PADD AAY!" 261

haps, He ha'd ma'de his wife set out the table with
a clean cloth in the middle of the Shore Road at
Seacombe. Lorries and trucks and waggons with'
goods for the Float went splashing by in the mud,
whilst his wife tip-toed in the slimy puddles to
serve him chops!



XXXIV
AT OLD QUAY

A T Old Quay, by Runcorn Bridge, there is
* ^ mooring space for large vessels overtaken by
fog or nightfall in their passage of the Ship Canal.
Between Eastham and Latchford there is no other
place where they will lie quietly until daylight
comes again, and, when the short winter days
draw to a close, the pier hands at Old Locks, hear-
ing the hoarse note of a deep-waterman's whistle
beyond the bends, lay their heaving lines in readi-
ness and stand by to earn a modest half-crown by
running the steamer's hawsers to the mooring
posts.

On a chill afternoon in late October, waning
daylight and an untimely tide at Eastham send us
to this 'lie-by,' and before dark we are well fast to
stout iron bollards, the only standards of the sec-
tion that will hold a weighty ship against the surge
and indraft of passing craft. As we come to, the
light is fast fading from the western sky. Across
the bleak Mersey flats, where screaming gulls circle
and wheel, the town of Widnes gaunt and grimy
in broad of day has assumed a less forbidding
aspect under the last feeble rays of the wintry sun.
The harsh rigid outlines of works and factory, the

262



AT OLD QUAY 263

smouldering waste-heaps, the stark unsightly rows
of brickwork, are mellowed in prospect by the
evening mist, and the great pall of overhanging
smoke wrack merges kindly into a grey curtain of
advancing night. The arches and high castellated
towers of Runcorn Bridge stand warm in colour
against the clear northern sky, then deepen to a
sombre grey, and that in turn to sharp black sil-
houettes as the light fades and it is dark.

Lights spring up on the river banks, shimmer-
ing, reflected in the stream that moves surely and
silently in flood to cover the sandbanks and the
water road to Warrington. Out in the river chan-
nels the black shadows of sails pass by barges
'drifting lazily on the tide, for the wind has fallen
away with the sun's setting. Sailing lights mark
their progress, faint green flickerings, for such as
should show the red, lie anchored or aground
awaiting the sluggish tide to lift their laden keels
and bear them seaward. Near at hand, in the
Canal dockyards and workshops, the clang of busy
hammers and rattle of machine tools strike a
strenuous note, in contrast with the silence of our
'deserted quay. Their great working lights cast
glare and shadow on the surface of the water,
throwing into vivid relief the fleet of tug-boats and
barges that lie awaiting their turn of repair.
From down-stream a weedy whistle sounds, and
soon the Dublin boat comes slowly by the bends
thumping with her great side paddles and churn-



264 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

ing the Canal to a white froth and foam. She is
a picturesque old Irish ruffian with a fine smell
of cattle, the lowing of a close-packed herd
comes from her as she steers cautiously on her
night passage to Manchester. Our mooring
hawsers creak to a steady strain when the draft
comes. We move, a foot or so, till the stout ropes
and firm quay fasts hold their own. Old Quay can
hold us : we lie still again !

Six ! With a suddenness that marks a day's toil
thankfully over, the clamour at the dockyards
stops. The working flares go out and we hear the
clatter of the workmen as homeward, talking
noisily, they tramp through the lanes. A low
rumble of carts passing over the cobbles marks the
last load brought in: gates are swung to with a
decisive jar, and the dockyard, so late the scene
of vigorous action, stands black and silent. After
work the play. On vacant land by the arches of
the bridge a glare of light springs up. There are
the 'wakes' roundabouts and swings, ringboard
and shooting galleries getting ready for an eve-
ning's business, and the strident notes of 'A Lassie
from Lancashire,' brazenly orchestral, are borne
on the wind to us. The buttresses of the high
bridge come to relief in heavy masses of light and
shadow as the arcs of the fair spread their glow:
jets of white steam spurt from the power engine
of the roundabouts a moment and the shrill
whistle reaches us, but these notes of .ecstasy



AT OLD QUAY 265


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Online LibraryDavid W. (David William) BoneBroken stowage → online text (page 14 of 16)