Yes Dad, I Want to Go to Sea
Yes Dad, I Want to Go to Sea
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 Hayle.
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 their blessing.
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 larger 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.
48 b&w photographs
About the author:
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.