Saturday, February 16, 2019
Olivebank

I am writing regarding Alan Rawlinson’s article on the Bank Line in the May 2017 issue of Sea Breezes.

Both my father and a cousin served with Bank Line. My father started his time as an apprentice on the Olivebank, while my cousin was on the India-Africa run, and likely the Inchanga. I am aware of my father’s service, from what he mentioned, and gleaned from his indentures and discharge book. He was born in November 1897, and indentured on 15 July 1912, joining Olivebank as he recalled, “at a port near to Cardiff”, where she was loading patent fuel for Calita Colosa on the west coast of South America. He said that they used to spend a long time waiting around, that it was about a month before sailing, and that they had a long time in South America. He also said that, after about two years running around barefooted on board, he was unable to get his shoes on when leaving the ship!

He was on the Luceric from 15 August 1913 to 7 April 1915. For the record, the master was F W Darwin, and the superintendent James McBride. He then joined Jeseric as Third Mate in Port Talbot on 27 May 1915, disembarking in Genoa on 6 April 1917 after a voyage listed in his discharge book (No 949791) as Canada and South Africa. His reference states that he was in full charge of a watch from May 1915 until April 1917, witnessed by the master whose name looks like Robert McIlwaine. Writing this letter has brought up a point which I had not noticed before, and is about 30 years too late to ask! I have no record of when he passed for Second Mate, as his discharge book, issued in 1915, only records his Master’s certificate (0010854). He was obviously still a teenager, in charge of a watch in wartime as an apprentice and then Third Mate.

I mentioned above that my cousin also served his time with Bank Line, and do know that at some stage of his tenure he was on the Calcutta - Africa run, on Inchanga or Isipingo; likely the former. All I can recall is that he could never face a curry and rice dish once he left the company. He often grumbled that curry was on the menu three times each day.

Reverting to the Olivebank, and again regretting not getting answers before it was too late, it must have been as a 6 year-old, or around 1936 when my father took me to the Terrace Pier at Gravesend. We stood by the door at the root of the pier looking downstream and he told me to “have a good look at that, as you will not see many others like it”. He indicated a sailing ship which I now believe was on the buoys below the pier. I have often wondered if it was his first ship, Olivebank. It could well have been, as I know that Olivebank came to the Thames about that time. The photograph of the crew of Olivebank was a good one, but I did not see a date for it. I had a close look to see if my father was there, but could not identify him and believe it was taken well after his time.

Looking at his payments reminds me of my first-year payments. We first trip cadets were on thirty shillings a month pay, thirty shillings’ good conduct money, and five pounds’ war bonus. The war bonus was, soon after, amalgamated into the monthly wage. I must add that we cadets received overtime payments, all most welcome on payoff day.

B G KNIGHTS

For more letters, see the latest edition of Sea Breezes Magazine
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