Report 24th January 2012

Nitty Gritty

At the beginning of the meeting members stood for a moment in memory of Alec Cobb who died recently.  The Chairman, Roy Howard, will represent the Forum at the funeral.

Our speaker this week was our own member and Vice-Chairman Roger Bancroft, who showed us his indentures as ship’s apprentice when he went to sea on leaving school in Keighley in 1962.

By the time he retired at the age of  55 in 2000, he had become a Captain of container ships and latterly of oil tankers.

He does not miss his job or the world travel but misses looking out at the vastness of the oceans and the darkness of the night sky before light pollution became a problem.  His favourite harbour was St. John’s Newfoundland, where he would have liked to emigrate.

On board, sex, politics and religion were banned as subjects for discussion to avoid controversy among the crew.  In later years drink and drugs were banned although they had been tolerated in the 60s and 70s.  To our surprise separation from family was not as great as might have been imagined.  Roger’s wife had accompanied him on many trips.

After a fascinating PowerPoint presentation, he had some comments to make about disasters at sea.  As a young man he had been involved in the search for bodies after the Laconia sinking of 1963 (123 died ).  More recently his union magazine had warned of the lack of attention to safety among some cruise ships in an article written only three weeks before the Costa Concordia was holed.  Roger’s view is that “Some of the people who design ships should sail in them.”

The title of the talk,” Nitty Gritty” came from the nickname of one of the ships in which he sailed, the London Integrity.  Roger promised to return with further reminiscences for our 37th season in two years time.

John Taylor

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