TO be seagoing years ago was often an opportunity to see countries and regimes during critical stages of their history.
Bill Marshall in Shields was taken back to a close encounter with Mao Tse Tung’s China in the 1960s by a recent mention of the ship Demeterton.
She was built at Readhead’s in Shields in 1967. Bill recalls joining her at Antwerp two years later, just after she had been lengthened and rebuilt in Amsterdam.
She subsequently had a few name changes and still trades today as the Algoma Navigator.
This picture, from Bill, is of her as the Canadian Navigator.
“Demeterton suffered a couple of collisions while serving in the St Lawrence seaway lochs, and was repaired in Toronto.
“She was further lengthened at Port Weller, Ontario, in 1979-1980 for Upper Lakes Shipping,” says Bill, who also sailed on her Sunderland-built sister ship, Carlton (later St Lawrence Prospector).
Some of the ports he visited at that time stick in his memory, such as Shanghai in China.
Indeed, he says: “How could you forget when all the time alongside, from morning to night, you had loudspeakers blasting out the political policies of Chairman Mao, in Chinese, and little red books of his thoughts being handed out?” He remembers travelling in free taxis to the Shanghai Friendship Store where you could buy almost anything and have a meal and drink, all at reduced prices.
“The Chinese authorities went all out to make us welcome, inviting us to carnivals, swimming galas and such, and not forgetting those big green bottle of happiness - Tsingtao beer.
“They were not always happy times, but memorable ones.”
Some local crew members Bill remembers from that era include John Stobbs, Tommy Manning, Sid Potts, Jimmy Allan (from Sunderland), Capt Tommy Main, Michael Pottinger and a chap whose surname was Baines.
“The Carlton had Indians in the engine room and Somalis on deck,” he says.