Geddies

Information  -

I sailed with Mr Geddies when I was 3rd mate of one of the 'R' ship's, I fancy it was the "Roxburgh Castle" in the 1950's.   I do not know his initials, I am not even certain that the spelling of his name is correct, but I am including him because he was one of the most colourful sailors I had the pleasure of sailing with.

We were heading down the English Channel, it was the morning 8-12 watch, in calm but very hazy almost foggy weather Mr. Geddies was on lookout on the monkey island.   In the days of the old Cossor radar with a maximum range of about 8miles if you were very lucky, no such luxury as to even a gyro compass navigation was indeed either an art, or as on that morning almost complete guess work.

We passed a ship, its silhouette just visible, not a sound from Mr. Geddies.   A little while later another ship passed by unnoticed by Mr. Geddies.   When the third ship was passing I went up to the monkey island to ask the lookout why he was not reporting any ships.

Mr. Geddies was one of those dear old boys, very gruff voice telling of a lifetime of tobacco and alcohol but not a shred of malice in him.   In a voice sounding more like walking up a gravel path Mr. Geddies looked at me bewildered, "What ships third?"   It was asked with such innocence I hadn't the heart to tell him off, rather lamely I requested him to try looking a little harder.

I later found, when Mr Geddies was on the wheel that it required rather more volume on the voice box than usual to get through to him the new course required, not only was Mr Geddies only aware of what went on in his immediate surroundings but he was somewhat hard of hearing.   Not only that but the course he steered was more a series of squiggles and squirms, by the time his two hours at the wheel was up the steering gear was exhausted.

Each week the sailors changed watches, by the time we were on the equator Mr. Geddies was on the 4-8 watch, as usual he gave me my first 'call' at 07.30 (7 bells), I broke all records in getting up!   Peering over the edge of my bunk with a half open bleary eye I became aware that the Martians had landed for there I could clearly see this awful contraption.   Looking further up I saw it supported Mr. Geddies.   Not only was Mr Geddies almost blind and stone deaf but he had only one leg, the other was a rather crude looking metal affair, all nuts & bolts.

Later that day Mr Geddies told us his story.   In c1943 he was a DEMS (DEfence Merchant Ship) gunner and for his pains got his leg shot off.   Back home after being patched up he was given his pension book and told to put his foot up, which Mr Geddies gladly did in the local pub.   This idyllic life continued for some years when, through his letter box came the brown envelope containing a letter telling him that as he had now been assessed as fully fit to get down to his nearest Federation Shipping Pool pronto.  It never occurred to Mr Geddies that there may have been a horrible mistake for it had often crossed his mind that Her Majesty might at some time get fed up with financing his life style and ask him to do some work.

The clerk at the Federation 'Pool' was somewhat mystified, he could find no record of a Mr. Geddies but there was no disputing the letter, it clearly said Mr Geddies was fit to resume his nautical career.   In the clerk Mr Geddies had found his soul mate, a man not over endowed with intelligence, absolutely no imagination whatsoever and only looking forward to that quiet pint that would be poured ready to be drunk at his local that lunch time.   "What are you?" he asked.

Mr Geddies was fed up with being a stoker, his previous employment to becoming a DEMS gunner so he told the clerk he was a steward and promptly found himself serving in the Tourist Class saloon of one of Cunard's smaller (and older) passenger ships.   All went well until mid Atlantic when they ran into rough weather, to cut a long story short, Mr Geddies emptied several plates of soup over a table, his days as a steward were over.

Back at the 'Pool' Mr Geddies was most apologetic, admitted to the clerk that he'd told a little 'porky' but still not wanting to go back into the engine room said he was in fact an Able Bodied Seaman.  Now there was a contradiction if ever there was one, he was sent to us!!!!!

Shortly before Cape Town Mr Geddies came to the bridge in great distress, his 'working' leg had broken necessitating him to wearing his 'go ashore leg'.   Once tied up in Duncan Dock the Company swung into action, telegrams were exchanged, the working leg was airlifted back to England, repaired and sent back to be reunited with a very happy Mr. Geddies.

As I have previously written Mr Geddies and the hop & grape were not strangers, I think it only fair to say that Mr Geddies loved them to bits.   By Lourenco Marques it was his custom to leave the ship when we docked and stagger back just before sailing, how he knew when that was was a closely guarded secret between him and his Maker.   But enough was enough, with his shore leave stopped Mr Geddies had to content himself with just two bottles a day until we paid off in UK.  

What a character, a delightful man who enriched the life of all who sailed with.  

OGK       


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