A Master Mariner of the 20th Century

A Master Mariner of the 20th Century


A Master Mariner of the 20th Century - Captain John Kemp MBE

A lifetime account of Captain John Kemp MBE: from his birth in 1905, in the small Cornish fishing town of St. Ives, and his early experiences growing up before and during the First World War, through to becoming a highly respected Captain in the Merchant Navy with over fifty years of seamanship. 

John was enchanted by the sea from an early age. After a brief spell as a butcher's boy, his father, a barber, finally helped him to become an apprentice in the Hain's Steamship Company on the SSTrevessa. This was hard, poorly-paid work, often in squalid conditions, but John was determined to succeed and gain promotion.

Being a man of strong conviction, John eventually asked to be transferred from theTrevessawhich he felt was unsafe, despite protestations from his company. His instinct was proved correct when theTrevessafoundered, with some of her crew losing their lives.

John passed as a Master Mariner in 1930, still working for the Hain's Company. In 1938 he joined the Scottish trampship company Andrew Weir; and at the beginning of the war in 1939 the SSTeviotbanktogether with John as First Officer, was seconded into the Royal Navy to lay mines.

Following the war John rejoined Andrew Weir, earning an MBE for his part in the mass evacuation of Colombo in 1958 and becoming one of their most successful masters until his retirement in 1971.

This is an insight into the Merchant Navy and a real piece of maritime history, with good accounts of the ships and a large number of black and white photographs.

ISBN: 9781852001025 

Size: 217x140mm 

Binding: hardback 

Length: 135pp 

64 b&w photos

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About the author:

Eric Kemp

Eric Kemp was educated in 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. During his years with these two companies he travelled around the world. 

As described in this book, Eric achieved chief officer status with the Trinity House Steamship Vessel Service, and finally became a master on the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company’s ferry RMS Queen of the Isles. He also later served with the Carisbrook Shipping Company based on the Isle of Wight. 

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 Cornish 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 good use, and gives talks to various local societies about his experiences at sea and working on the Cornish coast.