Eric Seaton 1917-1997
Everything at Seatons, and many things on the River Bann generally, were initiated by Eric Seaton.
This is his life story.
By Eric Seaton
This literary effort started on the last day in February 1995. I had been lent a laptop computer and with the help of Damian, its owner, and Zoë, my youngest, I mastered the bare essentials of word processing on it. And I have time, because at the time of writing this part I'm an in patient in Belvoir Hospital Belfast. I am feeling fit, and I spend five weekdays in the hospital, coming home at weekends. Every day I have twenty minutes painless radiation treatment. The rest of the time is my own. On Andy's first visit, looking at the laptop, he said ''Why not write the story of your life? I wish my grandfather had done so. Mark and Lucy will like to know about yours.'' So I thought what better way to avoid boredom here. The story of my life so far, I hasten to say.
I have a very supportive wife and family. I now call them the network, because while I'm here they network information concerning me and visiting times, etc. It is very flattering while it lasts, but I want to treat them equally. To begin with, I enlarged and corrected this account each week, and got it printed each weekend. Now, a year on, I write it on the computer given to me last birthday. I save it on to disc and will send the disc to Janet for editing.
With early versions of the original memoirs, I was in minor trouble with all of them. Jane, who is wonderful, said, ''It's wrong in places, we didn't get married in that year.'' Andy, at that time the salmon fish farmer said, ''My idea and I haven't seen it yet and why is Janet editor, she wasn't born most of the time!'' Janet the House of Commons Librarian wrote with queries and said ''I see your computer hasn't got a spell - checker.'' Zoë the theatre director says, amongst other things, ''Patchy, try to put your feelings into it.'' David the London Palladium Chief Electrician says, ''If you have as much fun writing it as I do reading it, you'll be enjoying yourself.''
So I produced, with the help of binding by Damian, a very limited home edition of 'Bann Pride'. On reflection, I don't like that title, so as you see, it is now "DRUMSLADE". I have always wanted to be a writer, perhaps because my sister Beryl is. Is this it, the magnum opus? Nah. Much more likely it will be as holiday snaps, good for remembering events, if not the order in which they happened, but oh so boring for those outside the family circle.
My sister Beryl, who is a published author, wrote of the Bann Pride edition " What to say? Well, I thought that as a work of fiction it was delightful! The hero modest, witty, lugubrious and wholly lovable. We must meet sometime and sort out what really happened" Joy, my sister in Australia, said she was intrigued to read my dossier of past events. She wrote to say that she was writing something similar and must get it typed out. She says "I don't suppose Beryl would agree with any of it!" Beryl never did!
Because of the partly critical reaction, I thought I'd better put in a disclaimer, so here goes. Any resemblance of the characters in this story to living people should be regarded as a delightful coincidence. Incidents set out below could have been placed in a different order. Comments from interested parties welcomed. If you enjoy reading this, I have achieved my objective. But, E and O. E. Time has moved on. It is now February 1996. I am feeling fit and I have to admit that I am fairly easily flattered. So when Hugh McGrattan, the editor of the Coleraine Chronicle, thought it might be made into a book, there was no stopping me.
CHILDHOOD IN SCARBOROUGH
Beginnings in London
My life started on May 10th 1917 in Tilney House, Buckhurst Hill. Buckhurst Hill was then a village on the outskirts of London. It is still there, of course, but London has grown outwards and it is now a suburb, or perhaps a part of a conurbation. I expect that Tilney House, a square Georgian good-looking stuccoed building, has long since gone. Dad made furniture there which he sold. I wish I knew more about this, was it traditional, new designs or what? Does any exist now? He was eventually called up as a private in what is now called the First World War.
My mother, Molly, was born on March 13th 1890. A sad occasion, as her mother died giving birth to her. As she grew up, she became a very up to date miss, no sitting at home for her, unlike most of her contemporaries. She got a job working for the Ocean Insurance Company in London. There she met Hugh, my father. He didn't stay long at the Ocean. Very much an individualist, I think he felt restricted. He was always full of ideas and schemes, some practical, some less so. But always a supreme optimist, he would expound them enthusiastically to Mum, a much more cautious person. She could well hold her own intellectually and the schemes sometimes got changed, sometimes scrapped, but usually modified. Us kids heard the debates and later on took part and learnt a lot about the pros and cons of each idea.
Early days in Scarborough
After the war we moved to Scarborough. Perhaps we moved there because Mum and Dad spent their honeymoon at Robin Hood's Bay. When I was four or so, I can vaguely remember the journey up north; it was in some sort of car - this was 1921, after all! It might have been a Ford Model T. I clearly remember staying at No 46 The Esplanade in a house owned by the Mackrells. There were white painted wrought iron railings, a pavement and a road. There seemed to be worry associated with the metal gate in the railings. It was latched but I was not to unlatch it nor was I to go out on to the road. On the other side of the road was the sea, from where I was told, only five years ago, Scarborough had been shelled by German cruisers. That sounded exciting.
From the Esplanade we moved into a hotel in the Crescent off Falsgrave Road, in the centre of Scarborough. Opposite was a house in which the Unwins lived. Mum went across there quite a bit. She and they were well in to amateur dramatics. Later we moved to No 14 Newpark Crescent. Mum was in the Scarborough Players: once she came home dressed entirely in grey, she was playing Elvira in Blythe Spirit. I got the impression that Dad thought it extravagant, but he said little. I know when I asked for, and got, the two pounds of sugar needed, she gave me a look which a long time after I realised meant that she couldn’t really spare it.
At this time I went to a kindergarten (Primary school) called Norton School. We knew it as Miss Webb's. She and Miss Lamplough ran it. She was stern and Miss Lamplough was nice. Miss Lamplough taught me in most subjects. Joy and Beryl, my elder sisters, were also there for a time. Joy tells me that Stanley, the eldest of us four, went to the local state school and then as a boarder to Chigwell College. I went to Scarborough College, I worked hard there, but one small episode stands out. I was called over to a group of four talking together. Eric, you know about cocks? "Oh yes, I've helped my Father with those" The gang looked at me incredulously. "You know, for turning off water" I was shoed away while they went back to their sniggers. I was ignorant; my world had been very different from theirs. I had one friend at Scarborough College called A.C.Harry. His name is all that remains to me.
The coach business
Dad had been a Councillor on Scarborough Council and we used to have a cartoon on the wall cut from the Scarborough Gazette showing three Councillors, with Dad in the foreground. He ran a coach and charabanc business from Station Chambers, where Mr and Mrs Melia were the caretakers. The vehicles were kept in a yard on the approach road to the Forge Valley Bridge. The business must have had a name, but I don't remember what it was. I can see something written on the side of one of the buses in pale blue on a yellow background. In the summer they would assemble at Station Chambers for trips and be filled with passengers, with me hanging around and plaguing Dad as to whether he could fit me in. One driver was called King, I recall.
Dad invented a type of coach called a Toast-rack, with the near side omitted, so that you could get out at any row of seats. Someone fell out once; so the idea was hurriedly discontinued, but it did not dampen his enthusiasm.
Once, the Council refused Dad a licence to operate the coaches over the Forge Valley Bridge. Dad said they had no right to stop him, and to prove it he assembled the fleet of fifteen vehicles with King driving the first one, me sitting next to him, and Dad at the nearside. When we got to the bridge, there was a line of policemen across the road. I wondered what was going to happen next! We stopped; Dad got out, went up to the policemen and said, "You have no right to prevent my vehicles crossing this bridge. I am going to get them to drive slowly forward. Please move out of the way." He got back in next to me. I thought, will they get squashed? They gave way and we paraded across the bridge and back to our depot. This could have been the start of my more gentle rebellion against authority.
In the winter Dad converted two of the small buses into fish and chip vans, heated by the exhaust being passed through water filled tanks. I remember him saying that the chips were underdone to begin with, and overdone by the end of the night. He, sometimes with Stanley, would drive through the Yorkshire villages ringing a bell to alert the villagers that their supper had arrived. When they got back, we had overdone fish and chips for breakfast that tasted lovely.
Stanley was a tram enthusiast. He haunted Scarborough Tramways depots. At home he had newspapers depicting trams on the floor of his bedroom with red green and yellow lines that indicated shape, seating, motors and overhead conductors. He marked out on the floor the main routes including the tram depots. He moved the newspapers at the times the real trams moved, and took them to the depots at night. He rode on the same real trams when he could, sitting in the front upstairs. One time, looking up, he saw the wheel of the trolley arm above him, on the wrong overhead wire and being pushed. It should have been at the back! Stanley knew his trams, one was approaching and in his words "there was a splendid overhead collision, the trolley arms sparked and came off the wires, the trams ground to a halt and the drivers and conductors cursed at each other".
In the summer, Robinsons Tours were rivals. They were based in the forecourt of the Pavilion Hotel, which was owned by the rich Rowntree family. The Laughtons had something to do with them. Young Charles Laughton was a member of the Scarborough Players, as was Mum, and later Beryl. Then Dad bought a farm at Osgodby Lane, Cayton Bay and we moved into the Old Farmhouse.
Cayton Bay farmhouse
We bought the farm and farmhouse for £750, a lot of money in those days. We were going to develop for housing the 12 acre or so farm. It had two big fields and a smaller one the other side of the lane. But the first thing that we had to do was to find water. I think the farm had a well that dried in summer. We employed water diviners, and they divined water between the farm pond and the farmhouse. The well was about 60 feet deep, and Dad bought an American type windmill, galvanised angle iron, which had to be turned off if the wind was likely to become too strong. He later invented a system using an auxiliary vane for turning the blades out of the wind as the wind grew stronger.
Ponies used to be grazed in the field surrounding the farmhouse, giving rise to a poem about me that Stanley wrote in the “Seaton’s Echo'' a paper, about A5 size, that he produced as an aspiring teenage journalist and was devoured by the family on print days.
The boy sat on the pony's back,
His face was cherry red.
Just one thought was in his mind,
What if the pony fled?
I haven't changed. Later a man from the Whitby Gazette came over; saw the Seaton's Echo, and Stanley became an apprentice newspaperman. It was to be the start of a great career.
I used to cross the Filey Road at the top of Osgodby Lane, walk down the woods to play on the sea shore. Once Stanley and I were walking above Scarborough open air bathing pool, looking for firewood, when I found a root half in the ground on a bare slope above a high retaining wall to the beach below. I sat down below the root, the better to pull it. It came away, I went head over heels backwards down the slope. One gorse bush was in my path, and I was thankful for ending up in it. This story would have ended here if it hadn't been for that bush. Stanley laughed and laughed.
Another activity of mine was 'helping Dad'. I tried to see that it included a bonfire, and once I boiled up water in a discarded Jeyes Fluid tin on a bonfire. The cork that I had thoughtfully put in the tin blew out as I lifted it off the fire. I ran screaming to the farmhouse, wobbling over the horizontally railed fencing, helped by Mum. I was taken to Scarborough Hospital, where hey treated the burn on arm and chest with a picric acid preparation. Joy and Beryl were summoned from wherever they were. I'm told it was touch and go, though it couldn’t have been more than 10 or 15% burns. Getting better at home, I had a Halls Distemper gallon tin which I had to hold in my right hand, Mum increasing the weight by adding a stone each day. This was to prevent the elbow healing without the arm being fully open. It worked, and I have some spectacular scars as a warning to my own children.
GROWING UP IN PETT LEVEL
We stayed at Cayton Bay for a few years, and then Dad bought an estate at Pett Level, between Hastings and Rye. I had been a day boy at Scarborough College for a year by then, so a new school was found for me. Yardley Court, the prep school for Tonbridge School. I was there for three years, skiving for the first year, (the only boy to be caned twice in the same day. A lot of us were all caned for something in the morning, and I was caned for monotonously tapping dit dit dah dah dah on the bedhead long into the night). I seemed to pull myself together after that and did reasonably well the last two years. On Sunday evenings, after tea the cry was 'Read or Rag'. Read meant go to the drawing room and be read to by Mrs Bickmore, the head's wife. Rag was separating into two groups and fighting, wrestling, capturing the other group until supper. We usually divided into groups of bigger and smaller boys, but I always aligned myself with the smaller and became some sort of hero to them.
I didn't go to Tonbridge. The family fortunes had dipped by then, so I went to Hastings University College School, and travelled the 6 miles by bus, and later by bike, riding in the slipstream of buses when I could, as it was very hilly. Not a good thing to do, but you could tell by the black cycle tyre marks on the back of the bus if it usually stopped too quickly.
Hastings UCS was owned by a Mr Milne who was the Headmaster. In assembly, after prayers, he used to spread out the morning newspapers on his desk and explain to us what was happening. Among my teachers was his daughter Janet, whose cousin was A.A. Milne, who had started writing stories for children. M.A. Baird was in my form and his father, John Logie Baird was an inventor. Ma Baird, as he was known, said his father was trying to transmit pictures by wireless. We bathed in a bit of reflected glory. Baird was the first person to transmit pictures by wireless, but his mechanical system was turned down in favour of the electronic system used today.
Life at Pett
Pett Level was a good place for kids. It was a strip of land and foreshore. From the west there was cliff, called Cliff End, would you believe? It had a smugglers' cave in it with a round hole in the rock for a light that could only be seen from seaward. I did a lot of amateur rock climbing, mostly by myself, on what would now be called the lesser slopes. Climbing fascinated me, as a victim is mesmerised by a snake. The excitement of getting oneself into a dangerous situation and getting out of it attracted me again and again, until it dawned upon me that on balance, perhaps I didn't like it at all. Sometimes sailing is a little like that.
From Cliff End there were two miles of low lying land, the start of Romney Marsh in fact. The sea went out a long way at low tide. We would look for winkles, dredge for shrimps in the pools and dam streams. On the Level was, and still is, Toot Rock, a wedge sticking up out of the Level a mile and a half long and half a mile wide. At the foot of the rear slope there was a 6 hp petrol paraffin engine in a corrugated iron shed. I used to go with Dad to start this engine. He would turn the starting handle madly, the faster he turned, the sooner it might start. It had a belt drive to a rotary pump to pump water to the top of Toot Rock. My job was to watch when water overflowed from the tank, and then turn off the engine. This was the water supply for the new and old coastguard cottages. We owned the latter and let them out, sometimes on long leases. There was also a galvanised iron windmill that Dad put into working order. Dad employed workmen; Reg Osborne was a name that I remember. They built bungalows and some houses which Dad sold and that and lettings was our income. He was always having exciting schemes for making money, Mum was the cautious one. They didn't quarrel, but they argued a lot, as did us kids.
To begin with we lived in one of the existing bungalows called Bijou Cottage. Eventually we built a lovely house called Stonewalls on the rising land between cliff and level. Dad said this was a new construction, breeze block first, with four inch stone built up outside. The house was about forty feet above sea level, the beach being a couple of hundred feet in front of us, nothing in the way of our bathing from our beach whenever we liked. I was playing with Meccano and coherers and things, and Dad asked me what I wanted to be. I thought hard, and decided I wanted to be an Inventor. Dad said this might be difficult, but he would see what he could do. Then he said he had articled me to Callow and Callow, Architects and Surveyors, 47 Havelock Road, Hastings. I was surprised, and I suppose ought to have felt cheated. It took me years to realise that this wasn't such a bad scheme after all. I think he liked the idea of an architect in the family. I had enrolled at a science course but when I went to Callow and Callow I changed to the Hastings School of Art. Not before I had fallen for a girl called somebody Skyrme, a daughter of a local chemist. I spoke to her once; I was a very callow youth.
We bought caravans, set them on the reddish brown sand above spring tide level, built verandas round them and let them. Sometimes to relations, Charles and Marguerite and Peter Dendy, sometimes to Norman and Jessie, Basil and Dunham and Ayah for baby Doreen on their holidays from India, where he worked as an Engineer in Ceylon. We got on well with Peter, Basil and Dunham.
The Alworks, fairly near neighbours, had many nieces and nephews who stayed with them. There was much juvenile intermingling. Clem Koder, whose parents had the Boathouse Cafe, and I recanvassed a flat bottomed high sided canoe that we had found, and paddled it in the Royal Military Canal and once in the sea, but it was very unstable. We kept it on its side on wheels in the Alwork's garage. Jack Alwork was a photographer, and took many photos and cines of us kids. The canoe is probably still there.
Mum and Dad split up
We built a Beach Club on the Level, which was licensed and had dances every Saturday. This was the start of less happy days. Dad fell for the barmaid that we had to run the place, and Mum and Dad separated, Dad went off with her and Mum went to London, first to 21 Rathbone Place and then to Silver Street. They came together and separated again several times. The first time, they got jobs together as boilerman and housekeeper to a Mrs Horsfield in Brunswick Square. Mrs Horsfield had houses in Mecklenburg Square and later Mum ran one. I went into digs in Hastings and used to cycle the 66 miles or so to where ever Mum had what was left of the family home. Beryl was housekeeper next door in Mecklenburgh Square and Isobel Davies, a friend of Beryl’s, housekeeper in the third house.
Mum and Dad began to disagree again and Dad went to Worthing and worked in a hotel there as a plumber. He had always been most capable, especially with his hands. He replumbed the whole hotel, and eventually bought it. They came together again, and bought the lease of No 3 Harrington Gardens and made quite a bit of money running it as a Bed and Breakfast house. They separated yet again; Dad went back to Cornwall and after the war bought back Oakhill and some land at Pett Level.
Friends in Hastings
My passion for boats was fired by one Connaught-Stanleigh, who I met when he and I were in digs with the Misses Hunt at 21 Linton Crescent, uphill from Hastings railway station. I was so intrigued by his surname that his first name escapes me. I gathered that his parents, he must have been 25 or so, gave him an allowance as long as he stayed away from them. His idea was to get free sailing by trying out boats that had been advertised for sale. He had some sort of a car and I learnt much and enjoyed sailing different dinghies.
Reginald Turnill, later to be a Science broadcaster, was one of the lodgers; he then worked on the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Stanley's old paper. Stanley by now owned the Laindon and Pitsea Recorder. Once when I went to stay with them, there had been a train accident when a carriage door opened as the train came into Laindon station. The carriage was the wrong way round, and the door swept people off their feet, one being killed. I said to Stanley and Nancy, ''How awful'' Stanley said ''To some, yes, but I made six pounds by sending that story to the London Evening News'' My first lesson in journalism from Stanley, who when he worked for the London Evening News, became known as Flash Seaton.
Working in London
I got a job in London at Sheppard and Partners, Architects in Bloomsbury. They designed mental hospitals and one of my jobs was to go down to Fareham and check the plans of Knowle Park Mental Hospital. I was given master keys and what interested me most was when I opened the door of a single room, the patient, who had been beating his hands against the walls whilst walking round the room, continued to do so in the gap where I had the door open. He had his routine. I spent a few weeks there, far too long I now think, but the bosses didn't seem to mind.
Mum had by then got a little house at 7 Silver Street in Holborn, behind Bloomsbury Square. I lived there for a time with Mum and Beryl. Later Beryl and I had a flat nearby that we shared with Jimmy and Isabel Davies. One weekend Mum, Beryl and I went to Essex to the Blackwater, where we found the remains of the Coffin, which was Mum's name for the boat that she and Dad used to sail when they lived in Tilney House. It was about 14 ft long, hard chine and a centreboard, and fallen to pieces. We saw it on the bank in 1936, and they must have used it in about 1920.
Brisk, my first real boat
About this time I bought my first boat after the canvas canoe. It was a small 27ft smack yacht called Brisk which I renamed Fortune. However, the new name never seemed to stick. I bought her from the Wallasea Bay Yacht Station on a tributary of the Crouch. After getting them to put the mast in a tabernacle, I sailed Brisk round to the Thames and up to Chelsea, where I kept it at the Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company's yard at 105a Cheyne Walk. I was on a mooring for 5 shillings a week (25p) just downstream of Battersea Bridge. One other person was living there at that time, a Dutch artist called Van Hangler. The yard had an old wooden coaster called Pamela Hope and a lighter with a low sill at one end for drydocking. Take the bungs out of the lighter at low water to let it sink, float your boat in at high water, put back the bungs at low water when the lighter was resting on the gravel, and when the tide came in there was your boat in dry dock!
Most weekends I and friends would take the boat down river stopping at various anchorages that we found. Bugsby's Hole, on the south side in the Woolwich area was one favourite. Further down river the next port of call was either Gravesend, not very popular with us, (too built up) or Holehaven creek, upstream of Canvey Island. Holehaven we enjoyed, especially the Lobster Smack where although we didn’t drink much, a pint always went down well. Sometimes we went round to the Medway or to the Crouch, but usually, owing to lack of time at the weekend, it would be Holehaven.
WARTIME, ANOTHER BOATING HOLIDAY
The war was getting nearer and on the Sunday 3rd September that war was declared, I took the boat with friends down the Thames to lay it up in the River Crouch. By the time we were approaching Canvey Island, it was getting very windy, so we put into Holehaven on the Essex side for the night. Too windy next day, so we thought we would go inland up the creek that separates Canvey Island from the mainland. We did this, at high tide arrived at Benfleet, down that creek and back into the Thames. Past Southend and round into the Crouch. A nice sail, but we were stopped off the Crouch by a naval patrol boat. ''Where from and where bound?'' ''From the Thames to the Crouch'' ''Didn't they tell you about the mines?'' '' Who?'' ''Thames Naval Control'' '' ..Er, no they didn't.'' It dawned upon me that our sailing round Canvey Island meant that we had eluded the Naval Control, no doubt patrolling from Canvey to the Kent shore.
A few months later I joined the navy as an able seaman at Lowestoft in a fisherman's intake and started minesweeping in HMS Glen Heather, a Lowestoft Drifter, out of Falmouth. With our sister ship Merebreeze, we were sweeping with a wire between the two ships and looking for magnetic mines. We had first 3ft and later 6ft magnets hung from the sweep wire with two steel floats every 10ft. The gear had to be shackled on to the sweep wire.
When based at Swansea, the skipper (All the crew except me were fishermen, so naval titles even with naval uniforms, didn't usually apply) heard that a cargo of draught Guinness had broken free in the Bristol Channel from a Dublin Guinness boat. We and Merebreeze went out, with what excuse I do not know, and arrived at the area to see a dozen barrels floating low down in the water. The Mate secured one, hauled it on board, and he hammered in the bung to be blown back by a stream of heady Guinness that filled the scuppers! We then fished for two more barrels and the skipper produced a wooden tap to comments all round and at 11 in the morning we all lined up for our mug of Guinness, and seconds, and thirds and more for those who could take it.
Catchpole, the skipper, was worried. What to do in port? No drinking in port! Much too much to drink before returning. One full and two half barrels to dispose of. We filled every mess trap, every kettle, some bowls and mugs. That took care of the half full barrels, and left one full one. The bosun was ordered to prepare the deck aft for that barrel. And, with a square of grey painted canvas over a newly painted grey barrel, we had our very secret weapon. We got away with it, and broached the second barrel on the next trip out! I drank more than I should have, and so I don't really like Guinness now.
Soon after this, with the Germans nearing the Channel, the skippers decided we should have rifle practice. Merebreeze and Glen Heather each towed a barrel behind and steamed on parallel courses. We lined up our secondary armament, the three 1903 Ross rifles and commenced firing. (We had no primary armament). There was a problem. There was strong rivalry between the two ships and some shots hit our ship, although the barrels were several boat lengths astern. Aiming was affected by partisanship. The skippers called off the shoot as being too dangerous.
We looked for magnetic mines unsuccessfully for about a year, working out of Falmouth, Newlyn or St Ives. Then we went to Plymouth and did some tests, which meant we swept an area and a trawler towing an electromagnet on a raft swept it after us. BOOM! The trawler exploded a mine which proved that we couldn't. Our magnets hadn't anything like the power of the electromagnet on the raft.
Killing a submarine
Soon after this I was transferred to HMS Havelock, known as a Brazilian H, because six were being built for the Brazilian Navy, but Britain very sensibly kept them on the outbreak of war. Based at Liverpool, we escorted convoys to 30 degrees west and then picked up inward bound convoys back to Liverpool. Once, Spud Gardner got a submarine contact on the Asdic (sonar). The captain announced it on the Tannoy, and said that as our job is to kill submarines, we will stay at cruising stations and not go to action stations. So Duffield, the senior Asdic officer was not called from his bunk, and Spud Gardner did the work to depth charge the submarine. We made only one run, and dropped a pattern. We could tell nothing from the explosion of water behind us, but Spud reported the target increasing in depth and fading. The captain had a sample of seawater taken, which looked very slightly oily. This was analysed when we got back to Liverpool and we were credited with the killing of one submarine. The Captain got the DSO, but could not admit that he hadn't gone to Action Stations and so Duffield, who had been in his bunk, got the DSM. Spud Gardner, who had plotted the route of the submarine, got sweet fanny adams, which means he got nothing at all.
After a year in HMS Havelock I was sent to HMS King Alfred at Hove in Sussex as an officer cadet. This was a training establishment with Chief Petty Officer Mintern in charge of instruction. Captain Pelly was the real boss, with Cdr Head the Executive Officer. After completing our course and being kitted out with tropical uniform as a new sub-lieutenant I was sent to Gibraltar. There I lived with nine other subs in the Old Naval Hospital, which had been turned into officers' accommodation. Our quarters overlooked the little harbour at Rosia Bay, where the square riggers used to tie up in Nelson's day. We would often bathe there before breakfast.
While in Gib, Ron Rees and I, with two Lt Cdrs, helped set up a radar plot next to the War room in the middle of the Rock at ground level. We were joined later by Den Fisher, William de Garis, Tom Heywood and Reg Bond. The radar plot was in a room containing a big table screwed on to which was a map of the Straits of Gibraltar to a scale of 1'' to 1 mile, drawn on hard white plastic. It showed Algeciras, Ceuta and the straits. Lines had been drawn radiating from the Rock and covering the water. There were range circles showing in 5 mile steps distances up to 40 miles into the sea. Seated round the room were army telephonists who were in telephone contact with Army radar stations on the top of the Rock, but controlled by us. Our job was to discover the movements of ships from the contacts plotted on the map by the telephonists and get these ships identified. This could be done either by using the army PF (position finding) station, which was a manned 4'' telescope, or more often we gave, by R/T courses to intercept, the target to a destroyer and an ML (Motor Launch) under our control. These two cruised at 15 and 5 miles away when not responding to the courses and speeds that we gave them.
The Straits were usually quite busy, and there were two Examination Vessels, Pip North and Pip South. Although our main job was to identify targets and look for enemy submarines, we were able to show the Duty Commander, who ran the war from the war room next door, the position of shipping in the Straits at any time. The war room had a wall map showing from Iceland to South Africa and America to Europe. On this map were shown the latest known positions of all convoys, enemy subs, neutrals and task forces. This map was kept up to date by Officers, later Wren Officers who had two step ladders to adjust positions according to radio signals received. This map was as up to date as the last signal. Our map, or plot as we called it, was as up to date as the last radar plot, i.e. immediate. It was for the latter reason that the Duty Commander would come into our room to see the actual positions of the ships in the Straits. This was very important when unlit convoys were coming into the Mediterranean under cover of darkness to supply Malta and elsewhere.
Pip North and Pip South, visible on our radar plot, were very clever in luring neutral shipping out of the path of these convoys which came in from the Atlantic at full speed (sixteen knots) without any lights and always on the darkest nights. They would hail a neutral ship, but just out of calling distance. The neutral would come a bit closer, and each time the examination vessel would edge himself a little further out of the path of the convoy. The neutrals thought the British incompetent, not realising that they were being moved away deliberately.
We were given the position of British Submarines returning from patrol in the Med, but they always showed themselves in daylight. I got a contact one night, and sent HMS Wishart after it. She reported Sub but lost it. I kept the plot open long after dawn, but no more contacts. Later I was told the sub was British and I was to report to the Chief of Staff. Quaking, he put me at my ease and congratulated us on the success of the plot. Later I went on board HMS Maidstone, the submarine depot ship, and asked to see the sub captain to apologise and find out about the attack. I was told he was not able to see anyone.
The plotting job was only at night, and we were thought to be underemployed, so we became on the staff of Cdr E. B. Clarke, who set up, with the help of the army, the Joint Intelligence Centre, with Offices at No. 3 Cathedral Square. Our job there was twofold. Lt Galleagos tried to teach us Spanish, we read intelligence reports prepared by Major Haslam, mainly on Spain, and were trained by the army to be ready to lead a party each of army sappers to blow up the Spanish ports when, as expected, Germany invaded Spain. I was to go by sea to Cartagena with a sergeant, two corporals and 10 men and disable all the cranes and blow up the lock gates to the inner harbour.
First we had to be trained. I was taught to fire all weapons up to the 1'' anti-tank rifle, and single sticks and unarmed combat. We had to be able to drive everything up to Bren Gun Carriers. This included horses. We were allocated a 350 Norton motorbike each and had the use of army Humber snipe cars. Bren Gun Carriers were great. Well sprung, it was only when I had a tapping noise pointed out to me by a tired sergeant instructor that I realised I was knocking down concrete posts like ninepins. This was on the recently constructed airfield, part of which was still a racecourse.
The horses were easy for some of us, though I can still see Tom Heywood holding on to the reins and being lifted off the ground by a large stallion. I was allocated a quiet grey mare to exercise her and me on the Med shore of the airfield. There was a sandy stretch of beach between barbed wire and the sea. She preferred the sea, but I steered her off that, so she pretended the barbed wire was the only alternative.
There used to be a strip of agreed neutral ground between the Rock and the Spanish frontier, but in the thirties, the Brits had a show of strength. We increased the Gibraltar garrison; we packed the harbour with warships, and frightened the Spanish. They thought we were going to invade Spain and they set up three machine guns at their edge of the neutral ground. We told them they had broken the treaty and we would have to take what action we thought fit. So we built the airfield, and now the runway extends into Algeciras Bay to make it long enough.
There was boating in Gib. I took over a 16ft decked open yacht which I sailed when possible. Sailing in the bay one day, we heard rifle shots and decided that as we were nearly in line with the frontier fence it could be aimed at us. We put about and retreated. We could go into Spain, within a 7 mile radius, La Linea, San Roque or Algeciras. We sometimes went to bullfights. The first one, we were uneasy; the second, we cheered the bull, and especially when the bull jumped over the wooden walls round the ring, making the toreadors and officials jump into the ring, and jump back again when the bull was diverted back into the ring! The Spaniards appeared quite friendly, it was said that they were as friendly as far into Spain as the Gibraltar bread was sold.
From Gib, I was sent to Malta, after it had been under siege. My job there was to set up a similar plot for Malta. This was difficult, they had had a tough time and reckoned that they knew what they were doing and didn't want anyone from safe Gib telling them what to do. They had an army square grid map of the waters surrounding Malta, which worked for guns shooting targets, but not for destroyers identifying boats or subs. I was in Malta for about a year before returning to Gibraltar and flying back from there in a DC10 to England.
Portsmouth School of Navigation
After some leave, I reported to HMS Dryad, the Naval School of Navigation at Southwick, inland of Portsmouth. There I was on Lt Cdr Tibbits' staff, and my job was to organise a control room at the Action Information Training Centre (AITC) that he was commissioning. The electrics were being designed by Lt(E). Gerald Fitzgerald. The Control Room provided the information that was sent to 'mockups' (full size replicas) of the plotting rooms of warships. We had HMS Unsinkable (aircraft carrier), HMS Hybrid (combined battlecruiser and cruiser), and HMS Hedgehog (destroyer). These were in rooms which had all the instruments that similar ships would have. My job was to supply these mockups with synthetic information for their instruments and for the Officers under training. I had Wrens in the control room reading off ranges and bearings generated from a plot on a chart on an ARL plotting table and sent to one of the mockup ships when a ship's company was there under training.
While there I invented a way of reading off ranges and bearings from a moving target. This was done by placing a transparent grid halfway up from the moving light source on the plotting table. The point light projected the grid onto the glass top, and the Wrens read off the relative bearings without having to work them out.
Each weekend I would go home to No 3 Harrington Gardens off Gloucester Road where my Mum was running a bed and breakfast house. We would quite often suffer the London air raids, but on Sunday nights I would go back to the relative safety of Portsmouth. I was at Dryad when the preparations for the second front were made. This huge combined operation of 10,000 ships was run from Southwick House, which was, or had been, the navigation school and AITC. Then, because I was nothing to do with the second front, I was given leave and again went to Harrington Gardens. I had started going to the Overseas League, a social club in St James' Street near Piccadilly Circus. I met many people there, both at the bar and on the dance floor. I did my best to dance, and when dancing with a delightful young thing, tried out my new opening line. ''Do you like kippers for breakfast?'' I don't remember the exact reply, but that is how I met Jane.
MARRIAGE AND MONARCH
By this time the war was over, I had been demobbed, had got myself a job with ECP Monson and Partners, Architects in Moorgate. I worked on various jobs, Gower Street Mews, the Foundling Hospital and others in London. I moved into a flat at 3 Moreton Place in Victoria. I had written earlier to Denham Film Studios, and was offered a job at £10 per week. What a difference that type of work would have made. However, those of us who were in the war were promised free continuation of our prewar training, so I went to the Architectural Association, a full time school of architecture in Bedford square. I used to cycle across London to get there.
Monarch and South Dock
Meanwhile I went to Essex and looked for Brisk. The name Fortune had not stuck. Not unnaturally, there was no sign of her. I had left her at anchor! But my mind was on other boats, and after some searching I found Monarch, a 46ft Whitstable Oyster Dredger. She was lying at Teddington, and I bought her with my Gratuity for £200. In the Overseas League was a man called John Leggat, who worked at the Port of London Authority's Offices. He said, "Why don't you bring her down to South Dock, part of Surrey Docks, she should be safe there while you convert her." I took his advice. I had bought a second hand 4hp Seagull outboard and bolted together a wooden bracket to get it low enough for the propeller to reach the water. We made it down river but stopped off at Chelsea for a few days. I leant Monarch against the quay wall opposite to see her below the waterline.
The previous owner said he had a sink, and did I want it? ''Yes please'' Jane and I fetched it by bus from somewhere Hampstead way, and it was very heavy, a white fireclay sink that I could build in. We had to change buses and got to Cheyne Walk, but couldn't face the walk across Battersea Bridge carrying this monster, so we got a taxi. Bliss! It took us to the quay close to where Monarch was..., and we dropped it. It broke neatly into two pieces. We never fitted a sink after that.
Monarch's underside was OK and we went down under Seagull to the docks and tied up in South Dock, noting that it was a dock where timber, amongst other things, was discharged. Timber that fell into the water was made up into rafts. We moored against one, and it was very convenient. Much of my spare time was spent converting Monarch into a yacht. This meant roofing over and fitting sliding windows above the 6' x 4' central fish hatch, building bunks, a galley, and installing electric light and a generator to recharge the army surplus 12v batteries that I had bought at Gamages in High Holborn. Later we bought an army surplus hand generator which I converted into a wind generator. Although I seem to have inherited some of my father's abilities, I have none of his daring, or what I would call foolhardiness.
At this time my Mum was living at West Wittering, and Jane and I went down for the weekend. This was a low point in Mum's life and not a good weekend from our point of view. The bungalow was very dilapidated, and cold, and the firewood we gathered from the beach (it was winter) didn't help. Later Dad bought Shingle Cottage for Mum and we went down there for some weekends. This was at Selsey, opposite the Fisherman's Joy public house. Once Mum and I went to see Arnold Milligan, an old friend of Mum's. He had a boarding house in Earls Court, in which lived Dora Kelly, a friend of his and Mum's. We sometimes went at weekends to stay with Jane's parents at Hafod Lane, Pontypridd. Pa was a colliery manager. His pit was the best managed and had the best labour record. They had a ton of free Welsh steam coal every six weeks. Mellins, a disabled miner, looked after the fires and the garden.
Living aboard ship
Jane and I were thinking of getting married, and I started looking for somewhere to live, but it was very hard, flats were difficult to find and very expensive. Then I gently put the second question, what about living on Monarch? Rather to my surprise, Jane agreed, and then it was a matter of completing Monarch, including the building of a double bed. We went to Gamages and bought ambulance mattresses inside which was a new material called dunlopillo. For our bed we bought from Heal's a hair mattress, as springs would have rusted. I felt Heal's was a bit up market for us, but with the heady confidence of youth, we slipped off our shoes and lay down, arm in arm, testing Heal's quality, to the carefully unraised eyebrows of the assistants.
Jane and I got married in 30th March 1948 at St Alfege's Greenwich. Beryl and her husband Tony lived at 9 Crooms Hill Greenwich, and Beryl helped us in many ways. The reception was at Beryl's. My father arrived on the morning of our wedding with a large suitcase full of drink. Both he and the drink were very welcome, drink being rationed at that time. Afterwards he went back to somewhere in Cornwall, where he had a scheme for making mead commercially. We had our honeymoon at Selsey, where Mum had lent us her cottage. Then back to London, and moving into Monarch.
Living in South Dock was great fun. We got to know the dockers and the Dock Police, who let us in and out of the dock gates without problems. Cargoes other than timber came into the docks and were unloaded using nets lifted by dock cranes. The crane drivers always managed to knock the load against something, so that the sacks or whatever would split and they would know what the cargo was. Later they would come round and say ''There's something for you by one of the cranes'' Raisins or a tin of fruit or other goods in short supply supplemented a still rationed diet.
Timber that had fallen off the boats would be made up into rafts and tied up at the edge of the dockside. Once I was moving a very useful bit of wood from the raft into the dinghy, when a policeman came up. I sweated, this could be the end, how I wished I hadn't taken the piece of timber. ''I say'' This was strange, shouldn't it have been ''anything you may say...?'' the policeman continued, ''there is a better piece on this side of the raft, perhaps you didn't see it''. Relief as I thanked him profusely.
From South Dock to Benfleet
At about this time, a year after we had arrived at the docks, the PLA discovered us and told us they didn't allow living on boats, and would we move? I had finished Monarch's conversion, we wanted a harbour for sailing from as well as living, so where? We both had to come up to London every day, so where should we base ourselves? Jane was teaching somewhere down the Old Kent Road in the East End and I was now at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. So we needed somewhere with a good train service and a good berth for Monarch. We settled on Benfleet, LMS line to Fenchurch Street, and depth enough for our 6ft draft at high water. We had a berth in a narrow creek off the main creek on the Southend side of the bridge at the Dauntless Boat Company's yard. Jane got a job at Benfleet Secondary school.
We sailed in the school holidays, sometimes round to the Crouch and Blackwater, sometimes to the south coast. Monarch was very hard work, for this reason she had been known as the mankiller. When putting up the sails, Jane and I were hauling up the main when I had to leave her and put the helm over. When I looked back Jane, nothing if not a sticker, was going up the mast, rope in hands! We felt it was not worth putting up the sails, which included a jib that we used upside down as a topsail on the topmast, for less than 36 hours. Monarch was also very weatherly. We were off Chichester once, moving nicely with the sails filling, when we saw GP 14's capsizing closer inshore. We felt safe. We had a ship's cat, called Shackle, who would feel the mackerel line with his paw until rewarded. He went everywhere with us.
It was at about this time that I had a nervous breakdown. It was a very strange experience. One's attitude changed about most things without one's knowledge. The treatment at that time was insulin injections to cause controlled comas and ECT to I suppose clear the mind. It was ahead of its time, and it worked. However, it delayed my training at the AA. Back in Benfleet, Jane realised that she was pregnant. We had to find somewhere else to live before it became impossible for her to get up the hatch. We found Milestone Cottage, on the London road three miles out of Wickford, and owned by Silvia and Bob Thornton. We shared with them this half timbered 300 year old cottage of theirs. Jane's time came, and she went into Chelmsford Hospital and had Janet, a good baby. I came to see them the next day, in Stan Treadway's Austin 7. He drove furiously to get us to the hospital, and I swear the car changed shape at every lurch.
After leaving the AA, I got a job with Harry Weedon and Partners, a big firm of Architects in Birmingham. We eventually moved into a new house, No 1 Elmdon Park, Solihull, part of a housing estate designed by Weedon's. While at Elmdon Park, I would take Janet in her pushchair for walks, often to the Park. Once, and only once, I let her walk across a bridge across a stream. She liked to swing on the railings designed to keep people from falling into the water. I suppose toddlers are top heavy. She began to swing, and next thing I saw was her on her back on the bed of the stream with a surprised look on her little face, just under water. We weren't far from home, so a change of clothing was all that was required. Janet, now editing this, put in a note "what about trying to drown me in the park?" Weedon's were reducing staff, and that included me. Later I moved to Kaye and Partners in Stourbridge. Jane went home with Janet to Wales, while for a time I lived in various digs. Later I left them to look for a job not so far away from the sea and joined Jane at Maesyrhyddid.
THE RIVER BANN
I applied for many jobs. Pa had said, "What about working for the National Coal Board, they have an Architects' Department." So on our next trip to Wales, enquiries were made, let you know later. Then a reply came from a firm called W & M Given, calling me for interview. I looked them up on the map, saw they were on a river and warmed to the idea of working in Northern Ireland. I got the job; and on the same day I also got the Coal Board job. I regretfully told my father-in-law that I was going to accept the one on the river at Coleraine. One reason admittedly was the surroundings in Ireland, the river and the sea, but also I prefer to work in what is now called the private sector. I would have sunk what might have been my prejudices had the Coal Board been the only job.
Learning about the religious divide
I knew little of Ireland, North or South. The troubles were a thing of the past. There was talk (this was the fifties) of joining in with the South - they seemed nice people, and why not. We soon learned that there were problems on both sides. It took me a long time to realise that not only was Givens a Protestant office, but the housing that we designed and had built in Londonderry was usually for Protestants and sited in Wards where their votes would keep them in a majority on the Council. It is now called gerrymandering. We made friends regardless of their religion. They were friends first and foremost. Sometimes others would warn us that so and so was from "the other side". From Given's, I was directed to digs in Lower Captain Street, with Mrs Hall. Her husband was a bus driver. I asked about politics and he said. ''I'm Labour, but I vote Unionist, because if I didn't I'd have to vote Nationalist, and they want to get rid of us." I didn't ask again.
Later we moved into a cold bungalow on the coast at Juniper Hill and watched the North West 200 motor cycle race from our front window. Mrs George, our landlady, lived in a small place at the back. Her main question to Jane to discover our eligibility as tenants was ''What foot do you dig with?'' Left footers were Catholics, unacceptable to Protestant Mrs George. Later at Given's I designed one of a pair of semi-detached houses in Ballycairn Road Coleraine for J & H.E Doherty and rented the northern house from them. The other house was let by Doherty's to their manager, Alan Turnbull. Jane got on well with his wife, Chris.
Sailing on the north coast
Boating loomed large again, I joined the Sea Cadets as a sailing instructor and taught cadets who up to then had preferred to row. Training ended for the summer, so I took the 27ft whaler down to Portstewart, tied it up in the outer Harbour and ran sailing courses every Thursday from 7pm for those who wished to come. They were mostly Sea Cadets, but others came too, and Janet at 4 tender years became good at the helm.
We often sailed to Moville, a delightful Donegal village on the north side of the Foyle. Moville has a handy pub right on the harbour and with no known licensing hours. Coming back once from Moville in the whaler, and having caught a couple of mackerel, I cooked them and made some delicious mackerel soup, though I have to admit that my crew, Tom Heaslip, was not keen. He said having a fish eye look at him while eating put him off.
One year we thought we would go camping, and Seaton's Holiday In Tents Experiment was thought up. We really had two families as far as age was concerned. Janet and Andy were the older pair and David and Zoe the younger. Not surprisingly, all four are different, and all and their mother are absolutely super. To go back to s.h.i.t.e., we took three tents and the caravan in which Jane and I slept. The kids, Penny Trench and Billy Cogan slept in the tents in a wet and windy week at Magilligan.
Janet and I went in the MGB to Magilligan Point one day. There we met a man and a woman and the conversation turned to clocks, in which I was very interested. They said they had a clock in a small tower in their yard, could I fix it? I said I would like to try, after all I did have a screwdriver and toothbrush with me! And so we went on several Sundays to the Heygate’s, who had a wonderful house with a secret passage and trout in the pond in the yard, except that a heron had eaten them. We enjoyed ourselves there and at s.h.i.t.e, though I have heard since that the tenters were cold and found creepy crawlies a problem. I'm going back to the beginning of this to write a disclaimer about accuracy.
Once when towing that caravan back to Ballycairn at the end of a lovely hot day, on a long straight road, Andy and I were in the MGB and Jane must have been in the Mini, the one with eyes stuck on the front, when I passed a Shell tanker lorry. This meant increasing my speed, and it was too fast, the MGB developed a speed wobble. Its rear end was going up and down while the caravan went from side to side, getting worse every second. I looked at Andy, I thought our last moment had come. We were in front of the tanker, whose driver had an eyeful. I gently took my foot off the accelerator, the car and tow were still bucking. I touched the brake, it made it worse. I was very scared. I dropped down from top to third gear, increased the engine revs, gently let in the clutch again and the bucking slowly got less until it stopped as we slowed. I pulled into the side of the road, the tanker passed us and Jane caught up. Phew!
We usually attended Portrush and Moville Regattas. At Moville in the pub, where we were well known, I wanted to hear the shipping forecast which was broadcast after the long wave programme closed at midnight. The barman seemed a little uneasy, but put the radio on at five to midnight. It dawned on us, the national anthem would have to be heard, and what would happen in this uneasy foreign country? We were leaning up against the wall, glass in hand. Big Ben's chimes died away. As the anthem started, four British subjects slowly slid to a sitting position on the floor, and the barman heaved a sigh of relief.
In the winter when there was enough snow we would drive to the Murderhole Road and take turns being towed behind our Vauxhall on skis that were more often used on the Bann. This was much enjoyed, especially by John Moore, a good friend of ours. We then found that Howard Gribbon who lived at the top of Carthall, ran a 12ft toboggan with four up down Cartall to the top of Captain Street, and when conditions allowed, across the bridge too. We tried this, but the ice packed snow had become to thin, as shown by the sparks from the toboggan runners.
An advertisement in a paper extolled the virtues of a new material called Melinex. I wrote off and got samples and started SEATON SAILS. We were given a write up in Yachts and Yachting and enquiries began to come through the post. The material was made by ICI at their local factory at Wilton and I obtained a roll and we started making transparent sails. Money began coming in, the carpet came up and sail plans were drawn on the tiles below, and Jane coped with stitching the luff ropes on to the sails.
Melinex was sold as being inert, but what fascinated me about it was that it would not stretch or contract. We already had Bowker and Budd's book 'Make your own sails', very detailed, but the book made it obvious that the skill in sailmaking was not only deciding the shape but even more important allowing for the amount that the sailcloth had stretched. And here was a new material that would not stretch! This was vital, and made the design of sails much more straightforward. The fact that no glue would stick Melinex was a small matter to me. Use adhesive tape, why not. This was impetuous, but seemed to work. So the seams were taped, with moderate success.
ICI were interested in our use of their material, and we were asked if we would quote for sails for Sceptre, the Americas Cup challenger. This was heady stuff. We quoted and ICI head office in Welwyn Garden City asked if I would visit them to discuss the project. Met by a Daimler at the station, they brought me to their experimental lab and we tested the taped joints. These had a double sided tape between the two panels, and the edges were taped down after that. Quite good, and they tested it in the lab, and recorded the results. I had a very nice letter back saying they were interested, had only experimental quantities of Melinex available, but they could get supplies from their ICI plant in America, where they called it Mylar. I thought this tricky, especially if Sceptre won, with American materials! The Committee planning the Challenge eventually turned the idea down anyway, but it was all great fun. The UV factor eventually beat us, though not before we had made many suits of sails, including one for Harry Madill, who tested them for us.
I got to know the tidal stretches of the river quite well - as well as the people who used it. Noel Johnson in Undine, Dan MacLoughlin in a 27ft converted naval whaler, John Smith in Rainbow, a 12ft hard chine racing dinghy, the fastest sail on the river. I had got interested in catamarans, and 30ft Seatonic was born, in our 16ft long single garage. Each hull was built in two halves, and joined outside in the back garden. The cross beams were made from plywood and second hand douglas fir. This had come from the wooden radar towers that used to be dotted round the coast. The bows were bulbous at deck level, and the 2'' aluminium cross beam had to be bolted inside the very narrow hull. Andy, aged 5, had helped a lot already, so he was a natural for putting the securing bolt in and tightening the nut. I was worried. He was the only one small enough to get up inside the bow. The nut wasn't going on ''Clockwise,'' I shouted,'' not thinking that he couldn't tell the time. He made it clear that it was difficult, if not impossible. I had to come the heavy father to keep him at it. He hasn't forgotten.
Seatonic began to look quite good. Gleaming varnished sapele, hatch covers made, but mast not yet completed. We not only had a launching party for Seatonic, I with my usual media interest, told the BBC and they sent down a reporter who described the way the teams of twelve people on each hull lifted the 30ft long twin hulled boat over the wall of No 7 Ballycairn Road, on to the Inst playing fields and through the reeds and into the Bann. I moored her, checked she did not leak and we came back to Jane’s superb eats, the BBC and many friends made a good occasion.
Where to keep her? Below bridges, with her 30ft mast, but meanwhile a cruise up river under Seagull. Later we went round to the Foyle under an Egyptian cotton sail and had a great cruise there. Tom Heaslip and I brought her back. There was a northwesterly wind, force four, and the barmouth was quite choppy. We sailed in at about 12 knots, the hulls straddling two or so waves and going like a train. We had searched the tidal river bank from water and land, and thought Drumslade was the best place to keep Seatonic, with an access lane fairly close, but would the farmer, Tommy Linton, sell?
I called on him every Saturday afternoon for six weeks, and after playing it very slowly on my part, eventually he agreed, though he called in his son Albert, who would inherit the farm. Albert didn't like the idea at all. But Albert was an inheritor. He felt he had to keep in with his father, though he hated the idea of losing a square foot of what was not yet his. So he said, wouldn’t you take it leasehold? I said well, I preferred it freehold, I am accustomed to freehold. Anyway, I thought, the land wasn't used for farming, Albert just wants to avoid losing it. Tommy said do you want to build on it? I said no, it is to keep the boat on. But I told him that it is the sort of thing that could happen. So we bought it.
Looking back, it sounds strange not buying it to build on, but we had no money, a nice house in Coleraine, and wanted to be close to Jane's parents who had come over to settle here some years before. They were living in Carthall, in a bungalow that I had designed for them. Things changed in the next two years. Jane's parents died within a year of each other. This made it possible to build, but planning permission at Drumslade was so unlikely that we didn't think of it for a long time.
I had come to W and M Given's to work on Coleraine New Hospital, which forty years later is still being planned now. The delay was caused by the Consultants, who thought they could dictate the planning of the new hospital, and so fell out with the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority, who gave their attention elsewhere in the Province. Major Honeywell, one of the partners, had redesigned the Mid Ulster Hospital, which was highly thought of. I kept on hospitals, and got out the improvement scheme for the existing Coleraine hospital, which like many had been converted from old workhouse buildings. I did work on the Roe Valley, Route, Robinson Memorial, Hopefield, Ratheane, Mary Rankin and Waterside Hospitals. I would attend management committee meetings and became interested in the power of the usually idealistic consultants versus the practical but limited outlook of the management. Colonel Rathbone was excellent as the secretary at Coleraine and though responsible to management, had much influence. I was shocked some time later when sitting healthily at his desk he told me that he had leukaemia and would only live for a few months.
Building the house
However, at work, Sylvester, the Planning Officer was talking to me one day and asked where I would like to build a house. For the first time, I thought of Drumslade as a place to build. ''Where you won't let me of course, in one of your green belts, between Coleraine and Portstewart.'' ''We don't have green belts, each case is judged on its merits. Mind you, it would have to be out of sight of the road, non - subsidy (bigger than 1050 sq ft) and you would need a very good reason for wanting to live there''. I felt I had a good reason. ''I keep my catamaran there and wouldn't mind living there as I'm interested in boating''. He said put in an application anyway.
I did, and the only query was the size of the hall, 23ft by 45ft. ''You keep your golf clubs in your hall, I want to keep my boat in my hall''. The plans were passed, Givens were happy for me to use their in house engineers, so Frank Cogan and John Young (peep peep) did the services. John was known as peep peep to his neighbours who lived in the same small village two miles out on the Murderhole Road. Whenever they were walking into Coleraine, they would wave for a lift as he approached in his car, and he would go peep peep at them as he swept past. After I had appointed the builder, Davidson of Portstewart, work started.
Water is needed for building, a lot of it, drinking, not river water. Jane knew about water divining, and I was keen to try. After all, I had seen it work as a child at Cayton Bay. We did not use a hazel twig, but on Jane's advice a piece of bull wire about 2 ft long looped back on itself in the middle and held with the wire coming out from the little fingers. Marcus Piggot, a close friend of ours, came down and very politely said it was all nonsense. We had already divined water in a suitable place, so I said to Marcus ''You don't believe in this, so you won't mind holding the wire like this, and walking in this area will you? Nothing will happen, because you know it is nonsense.'' Marcus is a good sort; he held the wire and walked in the general area we suggested. Then, when he was over the place we had found, there was a strangled cry ''Christ, it's away with me!" The wire had twisted at right angles. He was shaken.
I began digging, and was horrified to find rock under the thin topsoil. A pickaxe and crowbar loosened the rock and a thin trickle of water appeared. We split and got more rocks out and looked for easier methods. Gelignite, I thought, remembering my war days. ''Howard Gribbon does that.'' So I went to Howard, and he was only too pleased to help. He gave me two sticks of gelignite and looked on his large dining room table for a detonator. I sat the other side of the table sliding down in my chair as he rattled every small tin box that might contain them. Back on site we retired to a safe distance after I lit the fuse, and the well became a bit deeper and much more water appeared. The workmen used the water for their tea, and after watching them closely for sickness for several days, we decided it was safe.
The marina begins
The house was finished eventually, and a ten feet wide hardcored slipway. Boating reared its head again. We bought a Pearly Miss speedboat with a 40hp Johnson on the back, and explored the river. We sometimes used the slipway at the Cutts to launch and retrieve our speedboat. The railway lines down the slipway, from the days when boats were put on trolleys, were a nuisance. They had been there since the war, but were eventually removed.
I had been told that the Honourable the Irish Society claimed that they owned the soil and bedrock of the River Bann and therefore were our neighbours. I was talking about this to Dickson, their solicitor. I told him we had put out some moorings in the river and asked him if he needed a map, an easy thing for me an architect. "No, that would be all right, I have a boat, and as long as there is a mooring for me to tie up to, there will be no problem". Many years later, we had to sign a licence that they issued, and make a half yearly payment for attaching our pontoons to the river bed.
People came to see us, sometimes by boat, and asked if they could leave the boat for a time. Soon they thought it unfair to trouble us, and asked if we would make a charge. So we charged them 3d per foot per month. About this time Nino and Carrado Morelli had speedboats, and other Italians nearer Belfast had monster boats with 100 hp and more engines on the back. We became interested in speedboat racing. I even took the Pearly Miss to a race, and came ignominiously last.
We also took to water-skiing, very exciting. We bought a Mercury 40hp engine. When I had mastered the art, to a certain degree anyway, I began teaching water-skiing at Drumslade. This was fun, it became the in thing, and people came before going for holidays abroad. And there were certain regulars, the Christies, mostly Brian, and the Bullocks, not to mention our family.
Two children become four
Our family was growing; Jane paid two more visits to the Mary Rankin maternity hospital in Coleraine long after she had been there for Andy, and produced first David and a year or so later Zoë. Zoë was agile even before she was born. At the Mary Rankin, Dr Beck took one look and phoned for the ambulance to take them to the Route Hospital. He saved Zoë’s life - she had the cord around her neck - and Jane had a Caesarean. Jane and I didn't call her Zoë: Janet and Andy had a blackboard on the bar between the dining room and the kitchen. They put up names in chalk for our consideration, but the voting system only gave us parents equality with them, David being too small to count, though he wasn't that small, he was a fat baby. Eventually the name Zoë came up and we happily stopped there.
Janet was at Coleraine High School by now. She had our views on religion, and had some problems getting out of R.E. at school, though she coped. She endowed the Seaton prize for poetry after she left school. Andy went to the Irish Society School, which did him no good at all. Then on to C.A.I., which wasn't much better. Andy's best escapade, as I remember it, was to arrange with the boarders, who he knew had a poor time, to take them down river in our diesel boat, which he handled expertly and was allowed to use. I first heard of this when at 8 30am one morning I was rung up by Humphreys the headmaster, or 'Plug' as he was known. ''Your son has taken boys in your boat out to sea without lifejackets. Have you any reason why he should not be expelled?" ''Hold on,'' I said, ''No, ring me later this morning''. Andy, who was dressing, had a slightly different tale to tell. He was very sorry for the boarders and arranged to call for some of them at three in the morning up river at the foot of the Inst. playing field. He made them wear lifejackets, as we always insisted, he did not go out to sea, but went ashore at the sandhills in the river and then brought them back.
The next phone call with Plug was easier. ''We shall have to expel him''. I explained that he had not been out to sea, and they were wearing lifejackets. ''We can't have this sort of thing; he will have to be expelled''. Then light dawned on me. ''Dr Humphreys, he is a dayboy, he is your responsibility from nine in the morning until he leaves school, but my responsibility from then to nine in the morning.'' Trying to sound fierce, I said '' I will deal with him as it was out of school hours, and I am sure you will deal with the boarders''. The latter had been caught by one of the masters, who noticed the door was unlocked.
David and Zoë went to Millburn Primary School. Like the other two, they passed the eleven plus, and David went to Inst. ''Shall I be able to, Andy was there!'' ''Yes of course you will''. Zoë went to Coleraine High and one day, fetching her from school in a borrowed car, the door opened going round a corner and she fell out. Horror. We found her, she seemed alright, but we complained to the garage who had lent us the car while ours was being serviced. Later Zoë changed to the Dominican in Portstewart which had a drama course, by then her chosen subject. She spent some of the time trying to convert the nuns to atheism, which appeared to tickle them pink. David went on from Inst. to the Technical College in Belfast where he studied electronics. It was David who asked me what rank I had attained in the war. I told him Lieutenant, adding quickly to cover his disappointment, ''Too young to be an Admiral!''
Emily, the ML
At this time, Jim McCaughan asked me if he could keep a boat at Drumslade which he was getting from Londonderry, a 112ft ex navy ML that had been used by the Sea Cadets. He wanted it at Drumslade to install engines, overhaul it and do it up. Then he wanted to go to the Med. Would I navigate it? I said yes, certainly and I told him the charge at Drumslade would be 3d per ft per month. The engine-less ML was to be towed by the Navy, who kept putting it off, until I rang the American Navy based in Derry, and asked them if they could do it. Jim mentioned this to the Royal Navy, but it didn't move them. Eventually Jim got a fisherman to tow it. He brought it to the barmouth, but went back to Derry, saying the bar was too rough. He brought it round and upriver at the next attempt.
Jim ran it ashore but the legs that he had made and then fitted were not strong enough. Although he had moored it safely, it slowly went on its side as the tide went down. Boulders on the mud damaged its double diagonal wooden hull. Our trip to the Med was off. He would have sold it in the Med and I would have enjoyed doing the navigation. He thought about the damage and the ML lying on its side for some months, but neither he nor I knew how to get it upright, so he asked me if he could burn it. ''No, it would leave a mess'' "Will you buy it from me?'' I told him that painting anything over 14ft long gave me trouble. ''For a shilling?'' I hesitated. ''Think it over, I'll be down next Saturday'' Next Saturday came. ''Well?'' I looked doubtful. ''Is it too much?'' ''I won't buy it for a shilling, it would look bad on its ship's papers. I will buy it for this bottle of whiskey.'' We drank on it.
I asked Harland and Wolff how to right it, and they said. ''Get some tree trunks, attach them with pin joints to the deck on the low port side, put fixed legs on the high side, and it should ratchet up in the wash of ships, which you say rock it sometimes.'' I waited for the right tide and the right ship. Those in ballast made the most wash. One came down river. The ML rose, teetered, and went down on its side again. What was wrong? The trees had half floated at their lower ends, and so did not dig in. We tied 56lb weights to their ends and waited again. Success! We gingerly went on board and fixed the right length legs to the port side. Now it was a matter of putting bungs in before a high tide, letting her float and pulling her back until she grounded, and taking out the bungs again. I did this once too often in 1972, when all the planets, the sun and the moon were in line, causing the highest tide ever, and the ML was washed up half into the next field. That was when Andy said, "Mum, I never expected to see waves in the septic tank!"
After getting the ML upright, we obtained what we called a wide heron, a 10ft sailing dinghy and had some quite isolated fun. We began to meet others interested in sailing, and other people asked to leave their boats with us. I began to think seriously about marinas, and went to a seminar on them at Southampton University. This taught me a lot, and I realised that a marina is basically a connection, sometimes a bottleneck, between land and water. Anything that improves that bottleneck is good, and so the Boat Float was born.
The Boat Float
The Boat Float, which I patented, is a means of getting boats out of the water with minimum effort, working on them and putting them back into water or on to land. It consists of an inner flotation rectangle connected by parallel motion levers to an outer flotation walkway round three sides. The flotation of the inner rectangle is provided by air bags, with air hoses to a console mounted in the centre of the outer flotation walkway. The console has control valves and an air pump. The procedure is very simple. Stand at the console, allow the air to escape from the inner flotation rectangle which while staying level because of the parallel motion arms, will sink to their extent. Guide the boat into the dock formed, start the pump and the boat will rise out of the water until level with the outer flotation walkway. The beauty of the idea is that only very low air pressures are required. The prototype would and did take boats up to about 20ft long and was a winner.
I had some publicity and I interested Trinity House in the idea. They needed a floating dock of this nature at Harwich, where there were no facilities to get their 42ft Pilot Boats out of the water quickly to clear rope or plastic from a propeller. When I found that the head of Trinity House was my old chief and commanding officer Lt Cdr now Captain Tibbits of AITC fame, things went even better. He sent a Captain Shaw to attend a demonstration which I gladly gave and went very smoothly. The sight of a yacht rising smoothly out of the water impressed even me. Captain Shaw said that if I would build a Boat Float to take a 42ft boat, Trinity House would send the Liverpool Pilot Boat to the Bann, and subject to testing, he saw no reason why they shouldn't use one at Harwich. All I had to do was to build what I called a shiny one.
This would need quite big money. I interested several organisations, but none sufficiently. I went to LEDU, who were encouraging, but really were only interested in employment. However, I got them to go to Trinity House in London, which they did, and eagerly awaited the verdict. Weeks went by, and I asked LEDU how they got on at Trinity House. LEDU said ''Oh, they weren't interested, they said go away and we have dropped the project'' I was, to use a phrase not then in use, gobsmacked! What had happened? Had LEDU seen the wrong people? Surely Trinity House hadn't been stringing me along? Was I wrong to have used a wartime relationship to further my aims? I was shattered. Eventually I rang Trinity House, not really wanting to hear the bad news, and one of them answered and said, ''Oh, didn't you know, this little man came from Northern Ireland the day after Captain Shaw, the only man who knew your project, had a fatal heart attack. We told him to go away and not bother us.'' I suppose I lost interest after that too.
Sailing Jayzell to Rotterdam
We knew Val and George Marshall and George was approached by an American called J. Cavell who was going to be transferred from the Chemstrand spinning factory in Coleraine to Rotterdam where he was going to set up a new Acrilan factory for the American Company. George recommended me to him to sail his 32ft yawl Jayzell from Ramelton in Donegal to Rotterdam. This was fascinating, not only the sailing, but the boat was unfinished, and when I went to Ramelton I found Turner, the boatbuilder not very happy, because he had been ordered to finish the boat, regardless of any problems that should have been solved, and he had lost interest, leaving problems unsolved. Like, the fridge was only to be used on a level surface, but J. didn’t want it in gimbals.
Mervyn Henry brought it from Ramelton to Portstewart, and I inspected it in Portstewart, and found a few things to be done before starting off. J. phoned me, agreeing a departure date, and asking me how long it would take, because he had to book our return flights. ''Tell me what the weather will be, and I'll tell you how long it will take.'' We settled on three weeks, and I pointed out that three people would not be enough, as there would be watchkeeping, needing four, and one extra would be prudent, so he eventually agreed to five, myself, Tom Heaslip, Harry Madill, Bobby Black, and a keen strong army man desperate to make the trip. In Portstewart we disconnected the gas piping, which leaked, and ran a separate pipe from cylinder to cooker, did a few more vital jobs and we were away, across to the Clyde and into Bowmore.
We planned to use the Clyde and Firth of Forth Canal, which was in its last year of existence. We entered the canal next morning and passed through Glasgow in the rush hour, which was even more rushed as traffic waited while bridge after bridge was raised for us. We caused a lot of interest, especially because of the American ensign flying at the stern. We locked out at Grangemouth on the top of the tide into the Firth of Forth. The quay on the other side of the river was invisible underwater, and we couldn’t gauge how wide the river was. I was at the helm, and got Tom and Harry at the bow, ready to run aft if we touched anything. We did, they ran, I went astern and we were on passage down river.
We celebrated when going under the Forth Bridge, and decided that the Force Seven from the North would help us on our way. It did, but the waves were huge, we reckoned about 25ft from trough to crest. We went under a small jib, and then took that down until the wind blew itself out. We were well out, about 30 miles, until my navigation was passable enough to make a landfall at Scarborough, which I knew so well. Then through the night across the North Sea and up the Maas to Rotterdam. We had done it in seven days as planned.
J. met us in the yacht harbour and he wasn't at all pleased. His beautiful new boat stank! I said it wasn't surprising, we had had a rough passage, we only had diesel to wipe things clean, and we had delivered his boat. He thawed quite a lot. The Cavells had a flat in Rotterdam, Hazel Cavell was nice. They came from Texas. Alaska had joined the union, so as Hazel said, ''We come from the biggest unfrozen State in America!'' We did some sightseeing, and they put us on the plane for Heathrow and Nutts Corner.
Noel Campbell, who had been Education Architect, and had set up a successful private office, asked me if I would join him in partnership. I was flattered, but said I would think about it. This may not have been quick enough for him. Anyway, I decided not to, and I think he thought the same.
Building the pier
I used my knowledge of the building trade to have the level of our land at Drumslade raised, which Mrs Linton had thought was being slowly eroded away. Contractors were looking for somewhere to dump rubble, and Ramore Street, Portrush came to us in lorries and raised the ground nicely. Later, a man called and said would I like about thirty loads? ''Of what'' I said. ''25% tarmac, 25% sand and 50% hardcore'' ''How do you know that so exactly?'' '' I'm relaying the Coleraine Road out of Portstewart, and it is 3'' tarmac, 3'' sand and 6'' hardcore'' It came.
Rainey's, the Portrush contractors, had some to get rid of. The bay is very shallow, and I was tired of the pontoons that went out into deeper water getting damaged. What about a pier, I thought, the bay has eroded, so a pier would help replace part of what was missing. I checked with Captain Waters, head of the Department of Transport, Marine Division, who said certainly, provided it does not interfere with navigation and you'd better check locally.
I have learnt that it is better when applying for something, to apply to the people who will say yes and apologise later for not asking the people who might say no. This is why I got a solicitor's letter from the Harbour Commissioners, telling me that rubbish must not be dumped in the river, it must all be put back, or else I risked a fine or worse. I did nothing, but when John Moore became chairman of the Harbour Commissioners, I asked him how the situation could be resolved. ''They should never have sent you that letter, Eric. The best thing to do now is to find an Engineer who can write a letter saying your pier is doing no harm, and they may let it stay.'' I knew several Civil Engineers, boating ones too, but eventually I had it! Harold Scott, County Surveyor, recently retired, held in high esteem and a senior man in the area and responsible for several improvements to the upriver banks and access. I told him the score, he saw the pier and said, Harbour Commissioners eh, trust them to do something like this, leave it with me. His copy letter to me said that the pier was of solid construction, would improve the flow of the river by concentrating it in the channel and it was good to see that at last something being done to improve the facilities on the river! I heard no more.
I joined Portrush Yacht Club. They had quarters round the corner from Kerr Street, in premises owned by John Knox, one of a well established family. The club had an airborne lifeboat which I helped sail. Airborne lifeboats were carried under aircraft, I think Mosquitoes. They were dropped for survivors, usually airmen, who sailed them back to the UK. I found most of the Portrush people quite strange. Their local feuds were much more important to them than general good of the Yacht Club. But we got on fairly well and eventually moved into Watts coal hole, where the RAF leased us their hut that they had ceased to use.
The River Bann Boat Club
On the 20th of February, 1962, we formed the River Bann Boat Club, which began with speedboat racing. Later we took up sailing, with the shore committee in Janet's bedroom. It was at the top of the house, and her window was in line with the starting line.
We had met the RAF by then: Bob Ayres, Charlie Brown, Will Hall and Brian Pepper. They came from Ballykelly at weekends and slept in the ML. Once we nearly lost them. They seemed to have overslept, so I went across to wake them, and they were pinky blue. A heating stove was warm and the atmosphere was a bit smoky. There must have been carbon monoxide about. I opened the portholes and sliding doors, shook them and they woke feeling ill. It was frightening.
In the RBBC we ran races and we had a good social side in the kitchen after the races. Membership at one stage was about 40. Then the house began to seem very small. We needed new premises. As I have said, I had managed to get the ML upright. To use the ML as a clubhouse seemed obvious. It would take quite a lot of work, but there were quite a lot of willing helpers.
The first thing to do was to remove the hydraulic steering gear in the tiller flat. This was to clear a new way in from the stern. We cut a door in the transom, and hinged the piece cut out at the bottom to form a drawbridge to the bank. The ML was beached at right angles to the river. The old engine room, engines removed by the navy, was refloored and seats formed. There is a photo, taken by Brian Pepper, that appeared in the local paper showing Ian Greer, an eminent local surgeon, up to his elbows in glar from the bilge. He eventually saw the joke in the headline, Surgeon operates in club house!
Everybody mucked in, but we felt we needed a drinks bar. How do we get that? We heard that a cruising club in Strangford Lough had bought a lightship to be used as a clubhouse, and they were getting a licence, so Jane and I and Frank Cogan went on board the Petrel, then being converted, to hear how it was done.
We got our club licence, and we began to have enough income to put money into the sailing. I was Commodore of the RBBC, but I felt that to always be commodore would be rather undemocratic, and why shouldn't some one else do the work. Looking back, this was a mistake. Interested landlords, (as I was) should always be commodore on their own plot. The interests are the same, and any commodore who is not the landlord may well have a different attitude.
Our rules differed from most clubs, in that although we had a committee, every member could attend and vote at committee meetings. ''If you want to keep in touch, attend the monthly meeting.'' To members who might say ''why can't the club buy a ski boat'' , my answer would be ''Find enough members who agree with you, get them to come to the next meeting and if you persuade the rest of the members, it will happen. But don't forget that members may want to spend the money that it would cost in different ways.'' This made committee meetings very exciting for me and popular with the members. We often had 50 or 60 members present, out of 200 or so.
This happy atmosphere lasted with Frank Main and Brian Pepper as commodores in turn. We wanted to run a 24-hour race, and Frank Main and I and two others went over to Southport to compete and see how they ran theirs. We came back, and the first 24-hour race in Ireland was run by the RBBC from Drumslade. It is still run by Coleraine Yacht Club, as the RBBC was renamed when it moved to Coleraine Marina. The move released Emily for other uses, and after a gap we let the New University of Ulster Sailing Club use her. That club is not very active now, but they still keep a Wayfarer with us. The RBBC became very successful. The RAF set a very high standard of dinghy sailing and we were keen to learn and uphold those standards. Constant use of the word ML got translated into Emily, and that is how she became known.
The River Bann and Lough Neagh Association
At this time we heard that the Bann Navigation might be closed. We felt this would be serious, so some of us in the RBBC met to see what we could do. We decided that no one would take any notice of a country boat club. We would need something with more clout and with an important person running it. Desmond Downing said, ''I went to a vintage car rally, a Lord O'Neill was there, he lives by the side of the Lough, would he do? We thought he would. We held a public meeting in Coleraine Town Hall in 1967, formed a steering committee, and that started the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association. I was Secretary. A campaign committee was elected and under Lord O'Neill's guidance, it started to negotiate with the Government departments involved. The navigation stayed open, I think influenced by us.
The R.B.L.N.Assn. is still going strong. I am chairman now, and get the meetings over as quickly and as enjoyably as possible. We still have the rule that we got from the RBBC that all can attend all meetings. When the Councils adjoining Lough Neagh formed the Lough Neagh Development Association, I wondered if we would become superfluous, but we kept going, were represented on the LNDA and eventually it petered out. The last resolution it passed was to hand over its assets to us, as being worthy to keep on the good work.
The RBLNA could really be described best as being a pressure group. Being independent, we can exert influence where we feel it will do most good. We do this by talking, writing to Government Departments, MPs or whichever Secretary of State is in office, and we usually achieve our objectives, even if it takes time. Our stated aims and objects are ''To preserve and promote the amenities of Lough Neagh and their tributaries.'' The word ‘amenities’ is important. Mervyn Henry suggested it and the planners use it a lot, as it can mean exactly what you want it to mean. Anything we think is good for the river, whether development or conservation, we support.
Work at Given's changed. They appointed new partners, and I was not one of them. So I decided to leave, and I started up my own office in New Row, where I practised very happily for 16 years. To begin with, quite a lot of the work consisted of jobs that had been forgotten or otherwise had got stuck in Given's. I did mostly small jobs, though I thoroughly enjoyed designing the General Accident building on the Portstewart Road. Then one day, work seemed to fall off. I could not think why, until I found Yellow Pages had left me out. The dwindling workload made me realise that my sort of small jobs were obtained by people looking in Yellow Pages and phoning for an Architect, often for jobs which the bigger firms would turn down.
One day Jane said to me, "You are near retiring age, why not close the office and work at home with the boats?" What a good idea! I have been doing it ever since. We bought an old tractor, had it fitted with a front loader, and there was our mobile crane for moving our home built pontoons around. We have a chandlery shop, enlarged since then. I call the whole setup my adventure playground, which I am enjoying again. The time that I had available for writing this is now over, and I am back to my usual routine. I hope you will have enjoyed reading these pages as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
Eric Seaton, April 1995.
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edited by Janet Seaton, Nov 1996 and revised by E.S. 01.01.97.
My father died peacefully on 15th May 1997, surrounded by his family, just five days after his 80th birthday. The cancer overtook him quite quickly, but he suffered very little pain and his courage and humour stayed with him until the very end, and remains as a legacy to everyone who knew him.
Andy Seaton, May 1997.
Andy has now also passed away, sadly without writing his own memoirs. Had he done so, he would have shared his experiences of developing the marina and enjoying the boats and the craic with the boat owners, in much the same way as his father did before him.
Janet Seaton, October 2011.