David W. (David William) Bone.

Broken stowage online

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'(space bars to the orchestrion's bellow) are but
trial essays at present, for the Runcorn folk will
be busy at their evening meal.

It is now half-flood, and a messenger comes
clog-clamping over the flags to warn us that he is
"lattin' th' water oot o' th' canal." For that we
shall have to heave tight our stern fasts and bind
her to the Quay. From upstream and down
barges and fly-boats assemble, sheering into the
Old Lock with shouting and fending and pushing
of long poles. The lockmaster herds them into his
fold with a fine touch of raillery. "Coom on,
there. Coom on," he shouts to a laggard barge-
man. "If tha doan't look aout, tha'll be looked
(locked) aout."

With a creak of tense chain, the lock gates
swing to : the masts of the barges and black fun-
nels of their escorts sink slowly beneath the quay
wall, as the lockmaster drains to the level of the
fast-deepening river. Anon, the outer gates arc
opened, and, marshalled by their fussing tug-boats,
the barges steer into the river channel and wind,
a procession of blinking red lights, under the
arches of the bridge. Others take their places in
the locks, entering from the river. The lock-
master sees to it that here is economy of water
and power. The inward-bound barges are less
in number than the craft just cleared to the river;
there is still space for a flat or two at the low end
of the locks. Unheeding the impatient hail of the


bargemen, he stands at the lockhead watching the
'dim sailing lights of a few flats that are beating
up against the light breeze now set in from the
south-east. Back and across they go, tack and
tack, taking the most of the windward running tide.
It seems long ere the foremost, with a great
rattling of sail and cordage, bears into the gate-
way and heaves her lines ashore. Now the lock is
crowded, with only a foot or two of gleaming
water showing, and the master brings the sea-
gates across. Again the creak of chain and jarring
of the massive timbers, and the boats, lifted by a
flood from the higher level, rise to the limit and set
out anew on their passages.

High water, and the Mersey at Runcorn a broa'd
river once more ! Barges have come and gone, the
Old Lock is quiet again, and the master with a
cheery "Good neet, Mister. Six o' clock i' t'
marnin'," has clop-clop-clopped his way up the
long sea-wall. The showman's orchestrion has
wheezed out 'A Lassie from Lan-ca-share' for the
last hundredth time and is tarpaulined and at rest.
The wind has come keen from the eastward, with
a rare atmosphere and clear northern light that
comes with frost. A late express thunders across
the bridge, shedding a trail of golden sparks to the
water. One by one the house lights go out, but
over the water the glare of quenchless furnaces in
a Temple of Industry stands steady, reflected in
the overhanging cloud-wraith.


R. NARAYAN S. BHOSLE writes us a let-
ter from which we take the following ex-
tracts :

I tell you truly, Mr. Editor, if Suffragists allowed in
House of Parliament they make the world topside down.
First of all they make Mrs. Pankhurst Viceroy of India
and Mrs. Pethick Governor of Bombay. I know you
are laughing Mr. Editor because I say this, but all
womans is like that and do more foolish things. Your
St. Paul is very clever fellow. He knows all the foolisfi
things of the womans. He says very strongly womans
must shut the mouth. No talking about business or
anything. Everything must ask to the husbands and
he will tell you. Shame, shame for womans to talk.
But what the womans care for St. Paul. He is poor
fellow and not passing M.A. and B.A. like them and
their husbands perhaps only passing fourth of fifth
standard. So they become proud and fight to go in
the House of Parliament. Europe people say we Indian
people treating our womans like servant and animals.
This is not true. We teach woman to do home work
proply. Clean the house, make food, wash dress, make
dress and make jolly all the peoples of the house. . . .
Therefore My dear Mr. Editor I fold hands and kiss your
feets and ask you to tell all the men to stop this mischief
of the suffragists. If man will not stop it God will stop
it. I like you very much to put this letter in your Times
of India because in Bombay also some foolish men



allowing womans to do wrong things by which they
become afterwards slowly, slowly, suffragists. Then
finished with Bombay.

No! It isn't! It is quite genuine and appeared
in the Times of India Weekly of the 3ist July
1912. I have not the honour of Mr. Bhosle's ac-
quaintanceship, but I know several Indian gentle-
men who could quite well have so expressed them-
selves. There is Mr. Jhimmji, who sometimes
does business at the docks. He is a labour con-
tractor and loads ships occasionally bulk loading,
I mean, where the labour is merely that of filling
baskets or tubs on the shore and tipping them into
the ships' holds. Mr. Jhimmji is not sufficiently
a stevedore to be allowed to load and stow cargo.
He is elderly, as age goes in India perhaps forty
or forty-five. I hear that he is a grandfather.
He comes by the dockside at about ten in the morn-
ing, stepping slowly and importantly in his big em-
broidered shoes. Often I have a word or two with
him, for he is a pleasantly benevolent old gentle-
man, well educated, and has opinions on the topics
of the 'day. Only the other day he expressed him-
self on the subject of Abkari licenses, and, had
my eye not been taken by his quaint headgear, flow-
ing robes, legs bare to the knees, feet shod in 1
curiously embroidered shoes, I might easily have
fancied myself a-listening to a temperance debate
at home. Mr. Jhimmji speaks much better Eng-
lish than Mr. Bhosle writes. I have nevjer yet


had the temerity to ask Mr. Jhimmji's opinion on
the Suffrage question. I had the idea that that
was touching too closely on caste matters. Mr.
Jhimmji is, I think, a Vaisya, and anything that
raises a corner of the purdah is very difficult with
them. Still, from my modest acquaintance with
him, I feel confident that he would express him-
self on pretty much the same lines as earnest Mr.

Mr. Jhimmji is wealthy and is said to be very
charitable. Conjecture as to the amount of his
donations varies among those who know him, but
all seem agreed that he gives away a considerable
sum in philanthropic effort.

Yesterday, I was passing along the quayside on
my business. I saw a steamer of Runciman's being
loaded with manganese ore. Bullock carts brought
the loads down in small quantities, and the very
heavy ore was backed off on to a heap on the quay.
From there, it was carried by hand in small iron
scoops and loaded into the great tubs that hy-
draulic cranes hoisted to the ship and so the ore
was tipped into the vessel's holds. The carriers
were all women and girls, and their work was
none of the lightest. Each loaded scoop would
weigh about forty pounds, and had to be carried a
considerable distance. They carried them on their
heads, one hand steadying the scoop and the other
held straight out in balance. Most were young
girls mere children and they toiled and sweated


under a broiling sun in a rusty choking clou'd of
ore dust. Some few were adults. At one great
heap a woman filled scoops, scraping the red
lumps and dry dust with a hook-spade. Slung in
a scrap of dingy clothing at her back was a tiny
infant, a month old perhaps. Now and again,
at the violent movement, the child would wail
pitifully. The woman paid but scant attention to
it. Perhaps there was a momentary pause in the
scraping, to hitch the little scrap of humanity to
an easier posture, but the work went on dig,
dig, digging. What industry! Ah, but there
was a spur to industry, and he sat on the rim of
an ore tub, and all the time he said things ! If the
little carrier girls paused but a minute to scratch
themselves to adjust their ore-grimed rags to
see how their naked feet had fared on the rough
stones there was an outburst from the task-
master on the rim of the ore tub. It is well not
to understand Hindustani too well sometimes!

At each heap there was a taskmaster. They
were the only men 'employed' in the gangs, and
I noticed that all of them were Mahommedans.
Beyond shouting abuse and indecencies at the
women they took no part in the loading. Only
they sat, each on the rim of an ore tub, chewing
betel-nut and squirting the bright red saliva wher-
ever their head happened to be turned at the mo-
ment of need; quite a number of the toiling car-
riers showed stains.


On the way back I met my mukkudam. I asked
him how they paid the women. He said they were
of a low caste Mahars and would be getting
six annas (sixpence) for a day of ten hours.

I asked who was loading the Runciman boat.
He said it was Jhimmji.


TN Calcutta towards the end of September the
* weather takes an unsettled turn, and its va-
garies are particularly trying after a lengthy and
severe monsoon. The south-west monsoon is of-
ficially over, but yet recurs in frequent squalls ; the
cold weather has not yet arrived, though the
morning mists .enshroud the maidan and river, and
the temperature occasionally falls as low as 70.
The sky, fair and cloudy by turns, presents an
ever-changing variety of effects, and at this season,
above all others, the sunsets on the river attain to
grandeur. Rain still falls in spasmodic bursts, and
the daily appearance of mysterious cones and
drums on the flagstaffs of the Harbour Office in-
dicates the presence of cyclonic areas in the Bay.
On the river the slackness and comparative stag-
nation of the rainy season has given place to stren-
uous days, days when berthing masters work
double tides, upstream and down river, when
no one may prolong his siesta, and only foolish
folk give bedding to an idle ox. Vessels discharg-
ing at the jetties work far into the night, taking
advantage of the weather as they may, for who



knows when a deluge may befall? Stevedores,
breathless and impatient, are seeking in odd
corners for the coolie labourers they discarded
when 'the rains' set in, and they think themselves
ill-used when they find them elsewhere employed.
Steamers are daily arriving from outports, and a
forest of masts and spars, funnels and shrouds, is
springing up at the Esplanade moorings, where
the huge cargo-carriers lie, in readiness for a
bumper jute crop. Here the river presents a stir-
ring scene, a riot of colour and life and movement.
Along the banks gaily dressed crowds of Bengalis
assemble to bathe in the sacred river. It is the
festival of Puja, and the bathing ghats are
thronged at all hours by seekers after sanctity.
With a thoroughness that marks sincerity, they set
about their ablutions and simple rites. Milk, rice,
banyan leaves, and scented flowers are cast on the
waters; prayers are said, and the suppliants seem
utterly unmindful of a shadow on their temple
steps, a shadow cast by the stern of an East Coast
leviathan, a monument of ugliness. It matters
not that strange keels ride in the river, that out-
pourings from Feringhi mills and factories find
their way to swell the tide; nothing can defile its
purity nor alter its sanctity, for to them Hugli is
Mother Gunga, river of ages, healer of pain and
sickness, soother of sorrow and suffering, cleanser
of sin and defilement, sure highway to Nirvaneh,
quiescence of all. The flood comes up from the


sea witH a majesty of movement, bearing on its
broad bosom the craft of many countries and many
races, meting an equal surge to shapely liners and
the shallow 'dug-out' canoes of river folk. Har-
bour launches dart about on their errands, pant-
ing laboriously against the stream, or steaming
with the tide at dangerously high speeds. They
lie low in the water, and the waves they cause seem
absurdly out of proportion to their bulk and beam;
steaming against the tide, they seem to be shoving
all Hugli before them to make a passage. Pictur-
esque, ungainly craft work upstream with much
shouting and cracking of oars. The standing
rowers pull a short dipping stroke, and chant a
chorus to the song of their steersmen, perched high
above the steering oar. Inland steamers from up-
country high, warehouse-like craft are canting
in mid-stream, or steering, three abreast, towards
the navigable passage of the Howrah Bridge.
Far down the river, at Garden Reach and beyond,
the black smoke pouring from factory chimneys
tells of work and overwork, for the jute mills must
now toil night and day to stand a chance against
the industry of Dundee. A black indigo-tinted
squall is making up in the sou'west, and the lower
reaches are shrouded in the blue mist that marks
the rain advancing. The steersmen in the river
boats lay their umbrellas handy, and the weather-
wise put out an additional rope to steady their
craft. The flags of the shipping lie lung against


the masts, then stir uneasily, as if unable to tell
which airt to flaunt. The forerunner of the squall
takes them, and they slat out viciously, and lay a
trembling edge to the wind and rain. Down
comes the deluge, and amid the drumming of the
rain on the awnings and the noise of water rush-
ing through the scuppers can be heard the cries
and lamentations of boatmen who have been taken
unawares with their goods uncovered. There is a
scurry and a rush to get the hatches on, and an im-
patient wrestle with a wind-possessed tarpaulin,
and then the drenched cargo-wallahs betake them-
selves to cover.

Out in mid-stream sailing boats are caught by
the squall. Some have only a few fluttering rags
to tell where their canvas stood; others, better
provided, are making most of the following wind,
and, with sheets eased away and a full sail, are
scudding up-river, to reach Samnugger before

Quickly as it comes up, the squall passes away
across the city. Sails are again hoisted, and the
boatmen resume work. Fishermen put off from
the banks in their frail canoes, and start sweeping
the river with their nets, sure of a rich haul after
the rain. The flood tide bears strongly upstream,
surging under the wharves and landings and wash-
ing over the steps of the temples a brown muddy
flood, bearing many derelict objects on its rippling
surface. There are brown earthenware chatties,


not yet stranded or borne to sea, broken branches
and bleached tree roots, logs of timber and rough-
hewn spars, carcases of oxen, and sometimes, a
huddled mass that once may have been a man.

Some boatmen recover a baulk of timber and
chatter joyfully over their find, but scarce have
they got their prize on board before the police
boat is alongside, and a burly Havildar demands,
with an excess of picturesque abuse, an account of
the salvage. The headman of the cargo boat en-
deavours to satisfy the enquiring official, and be-
littles his find in no halting terms.

"Wood of little goodness, oh, Havildar-jee! A
cursed bit of jungle wood that I thought teak when
I saw it with my eyes. Of no value, no value at
all, as thou seest. Accursed am I that I should
waste my time at Maknens (MacKinnon's) ghat!,
To the water with it again, M'med Sheik Ismail,
for thou knowest whom the mill-sahibs will beat if
we be late!" The Havildar raised a restraining
hand, and the log remains. "Oh, son of genera-
tion of Liars, thinks't thou I know not good teak,
but days in the water? Show me thy license, pig,
the number of thy boat, for this is an affair for the
'Specter-Sahib' I"

"That I, a boatman of years "

The tide bears the boats upstream and out of
earshot, but evidently the matter is amicably ar-
ranged. Shortly the police boat casts off, and the
log still rests across the gunwale of the cargo-


wallah. It will be a matter of eight annas or
maybe a rupee 1

The day wears on, and already the sun's rays
seek under roof-tops and chase the grateful shade
from under awnings. The Mussulmans in the
boats range themselves for prayer, and their cry,
La Allah il a 'Allah, mingles curiously with creak
of chain and rattle of panting winches. Slowly the
sun descends, and a deep bank of western cloud
sends out emissaries to attend the close of day.
The towers and minarets, domes and spires of the
city, anU the masts and spars of shipping are out-
lined with a golden thread; the distant trees as-
sume a deeper hue. The broad expanse of the
river reflects the glow and glory of the sky o'er-
head, changing from a molten bronze to the shim-
mer of fiery copper as the sun nears the horizon.
Clouds, unseen before, are creeping up with the
[eastern twilight, breaking up and reforming under
the yet 'dispelling rays of the light-giver. In the
west the cloud banks assume a grandeur of saffron
and gold, orange and crimson, and amid such radi-
ance the sun goes 'down. From an Indian Marine
ship anchored in the river the beautiful melody of
'sunset' bugle-call announces the close of 'day.
Flags flutter from their proud places aloft; the
noise and clamour of ships at work, the rattle of
falls, the throbbing of winches, cries of the
workers and raucous exhortations of men-drivers
all cease, for a time at least.


From the boats thin blue smoke an'd the oHour
of wood fires mark the evening meal in prepara-
tion, and the boatmen, released from their day's
work, gather round and spend the cool twilight
hour in talk and banter. One, under the stern-
ports, rattles a 'turn-turn,' and sings, with an af-
fected nasal intonation, an endless song of the
glories of 'Shah-Jee-han.' He details the splen-
'dour of the raiment, the magnificence of the pal-
aces of Shah-Jee-han, and commences to enumer-
ate the virtues of the wives of the renowned
Prince, when an exasperated steward interrupts his
chronicle with a vituperative 'Chuperao sooar!'
The glow in the west changes from saffron to a
'dull smoky red, and then to grey. Familiar stars
peep out, ranged in unchangeable constellations.
The night clouds roll up from the south-west, and
lightning, vivid but noiseless, flashes intermittently
around the horizon. Lights spring up along the
river on ship and shore, cocoanut oil flares on the
boats, and great ghostly arcs on the railway ghats
and Howrah Bridge, their reflections broken by
shadowy sail or black hull of passing craft. An
inland steamer passes 'down the river with her
searchlight throwing a long brilliant beam ahead,
seeking for shoal or obstruction. At the bathing
ghat, clashing of cymbals, rumble of a rhythmic
turn-turn, and blaze of many lights and coloured
fires mark the ceremonial arrival of some elabo-
rate idol, about to be immersed in the river.


Jewels, trinkets, and gaudy fabrics are removed,
and the figure cast to the waters. The blaze of
light dies out, and only tapers, set afloat, glimmer
and splutter in the 'darkness. At times their feeble
rays fall on silent white-robed figures knee-deep
in the water; devout ones, engaged in prayer or
meditation; and the smell of scented flowers, their
offerings, cast on the water, rises in the still air.

The tide has slackened, and they who have busi-
ness upstream are making most of their oppor-
tunity. Creeping along close inshore, where the
flood still lingers, they mark their progress with
shouts of encouragement, 'Sabass, maribab! Sa-

Then the flood ceases, and there is a stillness
over the river, its broad bosom unagitated by
wind or tide. The voices of the night take
strength from the darkness; the chirrup of crickets
and cries of night birds can plainly be heard. A
fisherman casts his net with a soothing plash, and
his oar creaks as he twists his canoe into position
for the haul. The low rumble of distant traffic
on Howrah Bridge only accentuates the silence of
the hour and stillness of the tide. The air grows
chill, an'd a 'damp mist moves across from the
marshy banks at Shalimar. Now a low swelling
murmur from the devotees at the gh&t marks a
movement of importance Mother Gunga, mys-
terious and majestic, has turned their offerings to
the sea.


EPRESENTATIVE of law and the revenue,
the Customs Officers are the first to board an
inward-bound vessel. Theirs is the privilege of
greeting the sailormen just in from the sea, and
although the object of their visit may be opposed
to certain proprietary interests, and thus distaste-
ful to some members of the crew, their salutations
are none the less hearty on that account. As they
are conversant with the doings of the world at
large, and more particularly with those of their
own port, their coming is looked forward to by
the deep-water men, ignorant for months, maybe,
of what has happened beyond the rim of their
lonely horizon; and if the mode of greeting takes
the form of a proffered newspaper, days old and
thumbed as it might be, their reception is almost
royal. They are diplomats to a man, these keen-
eyed, weather-beaten servants of the Crown; they
never go to work off-hand. That would be an
abrupt and mechanical way of carrying out their
instructions. Matters go on much better when
amicable relations are established, so our Customs
Officer, with a preliminary flourish of his knuckles



on the hooke'd-back 'door, projects a cheery face
into the frame of one's doorway, an'd says genially,
"Well?" Then, to a comfortable seat and a talk
together. There is the voyage to be discussed, the
weather, shipping casualties, sailors' wages; and
whilst talking of the appointments of a new ship
or of a state of 'Preventive' inefficiency at other
ports, he is, at the same time, taking stock of cabin
furniture and marking down some discrepancies
in measurement that may be worth looking into.
It is all done in fine spirit. It is a game he plays
for a livelihood, "You hide and I seek!" Meeting
daily with men arrived from all parts of the globe,
he has a fund of interest and incident to draw
upon, and, as the pursuit of his calling makes him
a keen judge of men and character, he is a good
talker, well worth listening to. A favourite theme
is, of course, some smart work recently done in
seizure of contraband, and the skilful way in which
he discounts the element of chance, and presents
the particular incident as a standard of everyday
work, is remarkable. With the odds so heavily
against him, it is not surprising that he should
have disappointing experiences, and it is to his
credit that he relates the failures as often as the
successes, and laughs as heartily as anyone at the
way he has been 'done.'

At B there was a famous Customs 'crew.'

They were known as the 'breakdown gang,' for
their skill in the mysteries of ship construction.


[The magnitude of their 'seizures' was talltecl about
on the seven seas, and they were popularly sup-
posed to have to pay income-tax on their share of
the fines for smuggling. There were four whilom
ship-carpenters in the gang, and they knew every-
thing about a ship; no task in exposing the 'in-
nards' of a vessel was considered too great for
them. They could whip down the lining boards
of a cabin, satisfy themselves that the recess con-
tained nothing dutiable, and rattle them up into
place again the while their chief (the P.O., they
call him) was having a fairly long smoke in the
steward's cabin. Even the ship's sacred compasses
were not left free of their attentions, and they
thought nothing of probing round the magnet
chambers with an iron lantern and a steel poking-

Once a Nova Scotia barque came in light from
a Continental port. The 'breakdown gang' were
serving the tide, and they boarded her with high
hopes of a seizure. The mate of the barque was
a 'hard case,' and if looks went for anything he
should have had at least half a hundredweight
of contraband stowed somewhere away. She was
a difficult job, being an ancient craft, with the
repairs and alterations of half a century to puzzle
the rummagers, but the credit of the 'breakdown
gang' had to be upheld, and they stuck manfully
to their task. They went over her thoroughly;
they loosed the sails and shouted, "Stand away,


under!" but nothing fell from the folds; they
shifted ballast and dabbled in the water-tanks, but
nothing came to light; and, to crown all, the evil-

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Online LibraryDavid W. (David William) BoneBroken stowage → online text (page 15 of 16)