Whilst researching a story recently I happened upon a small snippet in the Passage East Jottings in the Munster Express dated 25th January 1963. It was just a mention of my father who was unmarried at the time, and he had just joined a ship at New Ross after spending a christmas at home.
It was just the little snippet to give my mother a lift in these dark weeks after the death of my sister Eileen. She immediatly went to retrieve his discharge book in an effort to identify the ship. Once it was carefully unwrapped from its plastic protector she leafed through the pages unil she came to the year, and lo and behold was delighted to find the entry. According to the book, he had actually joined the ship on Friday the 18th January.
The ship was the MV Amber, a small glasweigan coaster that was launched in 1956 from the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Troon. She was owned and operated by the
William Robertson Shipowners Company of Glasgow. Unfortunately I couldn’t discover what she was carrying either into or out of Ross. But my father stayed on her for the first few months of the year before moving to a new ship in London. I couldn’t help smile to myself at the Derry entry as Londonderry… He bristled ever time he heard the town described as such.
The ships didn’t really hold much interest to my mother, but she did realise that London (Dock Road where the seamen gathered to secure ships to the farthest flung ports in the world) was mentioned a lot that year. She recounted meeting my father that same year in Mary and Bob McDermotts home in Londons east end and how, although they had known each other in Cheekpoint, it was the first time they went out together.
As she leafed through the entries she charted the gaps in his ships in terms of their relationship, such as their wedding of Christmas 1964, my birth and his quick return to sea, an extended period at home when he got a shore job on the construction of the Great Island Power Station and an even longer period ashore when he got a factory job in the 1970’s.
I was concious that although my mother has had tears in her eyes on almost every visit I’ve made these last few weeks as she grieves for her youngest daughter, that this time the tears were of a different nature. Memories perhaps of happy times, missed opportunties or maybe those absences of my father when she was struggling with a young family.
Leaving her she was smiling again, wrapping her precious paper memento away in its protective plastic with her other treasures and I couldn’t help but think how much different we all become in the presence of love. My fathers papers would be a curiosity to a maritime researcher, but they are a biography to a family member, at least one with an interest and an emotional connection, to fill in the gaps of what is not transcribed. And to hold the actual document; to think that he held it, carried it in his pocket and read it from time to time, so much more relevant than any entry located online.
My normal last Friday of the month blog returns next Friday, a story of trying to identify a warship that led to a story of royal navy recruitment in 1900 and 1904.