I HAVE BEEN READING SEA BREEZES for some time, my interest being in tugs. I worked for C J Kings’, Bristol in the 1960’s – 1970’s who owned the Volunteer which is featured in the May and July issues of Sea Breezes. She now lies at Whitehaven.
Sold to Ashmeads and renamed the Robert A she underwent some slight changes, especially the forward bulwarks. Around the same time, John King was purchased by Ashmeads and she too had bulwark changes. Both tugs were built for Kings’ during 1934- 1935.
John King has been restored and is now part of Bristol Maritime Museum. It would be good if Volunteer was returned to her birth place. She looks in fair condition for her age.
I have done many paintings of King’s tugs and others on the River Avon with the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the background. Enclosed are a few photo’s of my work.
I started as cabin boy aboard the coal-fired steam tug Bristolian, built 1911. By today’s standards no one would ever work on this type of tug. She had no electrics, no running water, no sinks or baths, no lino on the floors and iron bunk beds. All the lighting, including the navigation lamps, were paraffin lamps.
My job was to make the tea, trim and fill all the lamps, polish all the brass, scrub all cabin floorboards, help with towing lines, fill tin buckets by hand water pump and heat them on the stove so that all could wash at the end of their shifts. I got paid £6.15 - £6.75 which was a good wage then, although I worked 3 nights and 4 days without much sleep. King’s tugs were kept very smart and were well painted and polished.
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