YES DAD, I WANT TO GO TO SEA! by Eric Kemp
Even during his childhood days in the Cornish fishing town of St. Ives, Eric
Kemp knew he was bound for a life at sea. While his mother was cooking pasties
in ‘the slab’, better known as a Cornish range, young Eric would be upstairs watching the
comings and goings of the ships as they were piloted into the nearby port of
Being the son of a captain in the Merchant Navy left Eric’s upbringing mainly to his mother, but he remembers well the days when he was
able to travel on ships with his father on short voyages, and particularly the
time when he finally told his father that he wanted to go to sea himself. After
trying in vein to dissuade him from doing so, both his parents finally gave
So, after finishing his education at Truro School, he set out to become a cadet
on HMS Worcester, then moored on the Thames. His training included work on the famous Cutty Sark and also brief spells of work experience on ships such as the MV Singularity.
Following training, Eric became a Merchant Navy apprentice in the shipping
company Ellerman Lines. He remembers both tough times and amusing incidents;
often involving the many characters of the seamen who made up the crews.
During these years Eric was to travel all around the world, with regular visits
to ports in India, Africa, Canada and the USA. However, on marrying a local St.
Ives girl he realised that he needed more time at home and this prompted him to
join the Palm Line on shorter voyages.
Steeped within this account is the importance of the Merchant Navy in the
postwar era through to the mid-1960s; a time when ships were still responsible
for nearly all our imports and exports, and a time before containers changed the
face of shipping forever.
As detailed in this book, Eric Kemp was educated in both St. Ives schools and
Truro School in Cornwall. From here he followed his father into the Merchant
Navy, joining HMS Worcester for cadet training in 1953.
He became an apprentice with the Ellerman and Bucknall Steamship Company, later
becoming a second officer with the Palm Line.
Eric achieved chief officer status with the Trinity House Steamship Vessel
Service, and finally became a master on the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company
and Carisbrook Shipping.
With his wife Jill and their two children, he has remained based in St. Ives,
becoming a Trinity House pilot for Mount’s Bay and a St. Ives bay fisheries officer in MAFF. He has also been the St.
Ives lifeboat secretary and a Liberal councillor. In the year 2000 he was
Chairman of the Newlyn Fish Festival and is a member of the well-known
Mousehole Male Voice Choir. In his role as a local Methodist preacher he is the
Senior Steward of the Carbis Bay Wesley Methodist Church.
With his odd spare time Eric helps at the St. Ives Museum where he can put his
Merchant Navy knowledge to very good use.