This story has a universal appeal to both sailors and landlubbers alike. It is the inspiring story of a young man rising above a difficult upbringing and putting behind him his dubious childhood friends.
He was born in the riverside town of Gravesend, which was a base for tugboats which operated from London docks to the mouth of the river Thames.
A flash of inspiration had prompted him to apply for a job on the Thames tugs when he was 15. Chance would have it that there was a vacancy on the very day that he plucked up the courage to walk down the Terrace Pier and timidly enquire.
It was dangerous work with long hours and only rudimentary comforts. The story is told with candid honesty – from his feelings of inadequacy and fear, to the heart breaking story of an intense first love affair and its ensuing sadness.
‘A very enjoyable read, well written and thought-provoking’
‘I was right into this book like I was there on-board, I absolutely loved it.’
This book constitutes the early chapters of
‘PAID TO LIVE THE DREAM’
Targeted Age Group:: 40+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I feel it a privilege to have experienced the life aboard steam tugs on London's River Thames in the 1960's – the last years of their existence before they made way for newer, more modern vessels.
The design of Gravesend’s Clock Tower was based on the Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben in the Palace of Westminster. It was dedicated to Queen Victoria to commemorate her 50th year of reign and was a focal point in the town. I was 15 years old, not long left school and wandering aimlessly early one afternoon when I stopped beneath it. I paused there momentarily as a thought flashed into my otherwise unoccupied mind. It’s intriguing how an inner voice seems to sometimes communicate with a certainty that is hard to ignore. I hesitated a while, should I or shouldn’t I? Oh go for it I decided, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today”. Without further ado, I turned and strutted down Harmer Street. Although work was plentiful for school leavers in the ‘50s, I was looking for an exciting outdoor activity. I crossed into Royal Pier Road and at the end reached The Royal Terrace Pier. I faltered momentarily as a doubt crossed my mind, then plucked up the courage to continue. I entered and walked along the wooden corridor, glancing at the doors on either side. At the end on the right-hand side, I saw what I was looking for: a door with “Ship Towage Ltd” etched onto a wooden plaque. I tapped nervously on the door and went in. It was a spacious, untidy room with a window overlooking the lower reaches of the Thames and obviously a place of constant activity. A well-built, grey haired man was seated behind a large wooden desk shuffling through some papers spread in front of him. Behind him was a small, slim, dark haired man flitting from one side of the office to the other receiving and relaying messages on VHF radios in a nasally, whining voice. Tug Skippers were calling in to report their current situations and awaiting new orders and the two office agents discussed and made decisions quickly and easily despite the constant cacophony in the background.
Not being sure what to do, I stood motionless and when the grey-haired one, who had the air of being in command, glanced up at me I shyly asked him if they had any job prospects for me. There was no discussion whatsoever. He had barely raised his head as he occupied himself with more important issues and barked,
“Be back here at six o’clock tonight with your kit, you can join as cook.” Then he turned to his colleague and gave out further instructions and that was it.
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