On Wednesday 19th November 1969 Eppleton Hall was alongside at Mindello in the Cape verde islands.
Her master Captain Scott Newhall recounted in his excellent book about the voyage from the Tyne to San Francisco “Along the waterfront of every port of the world there is an underground peerage, whose members attached themselves like feudal lords to strange ships that happen by. They are not ships’ agents in the formal sense of the word, they are simply men who want to work with deep-water ships and they can get things done.
Old John materialised immediately after Eppleton Hall glided past the breakwater. From the bridge the captain noticed a tall, willowy old gentleman holding aloft a cardboard sign reading “TIE UP HERE”. The tug proceeded to do so and, as soon as the lines were made fast ashore, this ancient white-haired philosopher boarded the ship, handed his card to the captain and advised him that he would take care of everything. When the captain asked if it were possible to continue to lie in the berth Old John responded loftily “Don’t worry about it and don’t move until you hear from me.”
Then in his offhand way he asked what matters needed attention to the ship. After pulling a worn, folded pad of paper from his casually cut but dignified suit, he made notes while the captain outlined the work programme.
The Eppleton Hall needed approximately 100 more empty fifty gallon drums for spare fuel oil. Old John jotted it down.
The Eppleton Hall boilers needed scaling. Old John again made a note.
The ship needed fresh water – another note. Stores would have to be taken on, along with some medical supplies. These notations were made with almost regal indifference and Old John prepared to leave carrying with him the crew’s passports, the ship’s papers and clearances and the usual maritime memorabilia. As he went he said “Don’t wait for the immigration and Customs officers here. They are most unreliable.”
To be continued.
This article was first published on 19th November 2020.