Fred belongs to: Royal British Legion Seaman's Mess
Fred was born in South Shields and went to Ocean Road School. He worked on the tug boats before going to sea in the merchant navy when he was 17.
Fred was interviewed by Carl Greenwood on 5 December 2005. The interview took place at the Interviewee's living room and lasted 1 hour, 1 minute and 3 seconds.
Making music on the ship
"Well, when I went to sea and on a night time after duties we went out on the deck of the ship. I started actually with a mouthy organ"
Well, when I went to sea and on a night time after duties we all met on the after deck of the ship. I started actually with a mouth organ and when you’re a lad of seventeen with a mouth organ and you’ve got the bellows in your lungs, you can play a real good tune but when you’re getting older and older, you breath seems to take away, but some of the lads, two or three had mouth organs, a couple of the lads had drumsticks but they used to just play on an empty can or an old wooden chair, that turned upsidedown and give it a vibration and it was quite good and we used to be on the after deck of the ship just playing away- we didn’t disturb anybody, played different tunes we had practiced, you know, once or twice at night time when it was warm and we had nothing to do.
And somebody used to go out and the rest of us used to think, “well, there’s the lads with the mouth organs, we’ll all go out,” some of us graduated to different things. But it was actually the carrying of the machines- if you had taken an accordion with you, you had, that was in your luggage and your suitcase and you had your accordion and it was like a burden really. But still, some of us used to bring it with us and play them- they were only small things but you still got a tune out of them and I got mine, when I was 24 or 25 or something and when I used to go out on the ship, the lads used to come out and just listen to the music.
And you know, you just learnt it yourself and as long as you knew the tune in your head, you could pick, you could pick a tune. Anybody who plays an accordion or a piano can pick it out if they know it in their head or if they know the tune. But if you don’t know the tune or you don’t know the words, you’ve got to have the music. So I went to a few music classes to learn how to read music and I cannot play, like, a concerto but I can play different songs- Elvis Presley songs, Peri Como songs, Bing Crosby songs, Irish songs- all kinds of songs I can play, or tunes, anyway. And as long as I know the words to that tune or the way the tune goes, you can get it within 10 minutes on accordion, and so that’s what we used to do.
We used to go on the ship, and a Welsh lad would say, “we’ll have Welcome in the Hillsides," so we used to practice until we got this Welcome in the Hillsides off and then we used to play the Welsh one. The Scottish lads would say, “These are my Mountains,” so we played These are my Mountains until we got that off and then we used to play that, and it used to go like that all the way through. And the English lads used to play 'There’ll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover' and ‘Johnny will sleep in his own little room’ again, and if you know it, you can play it. And that’s what we used to do – we used to all meet on the after deck after six o’clock, seven o’clock at night when we had our leisure time and play our music.
Fred has 14 memories in the memorynet:
Fred's memories with a Living Conditions theme:
Fred's other memories:
- The catering boy's wages
- Homesickness and adjusting to life at sea
- Training and learning the ropes
- The Hudson Bay
- Leisure time in the merchant navy
- Making music on the ship
- Lifeboat drill
- Icebergs and dangers
- The Seaman's Mess
- Fred's accordion
- Mess night
- Seaman's Mess
- South Shields Royal British Legion Seaman's Mess tie