My friend and the cruel sea…

One of the reasons I came to Liverpool was to visit the Maritime Museum. As you know, I love ships and come from a sea faring family. I used to watch the ships coming in and out of the Tyne, past South Shields and upto Newcastle. nothing was more exciting than when my father came home or spending a day in my Grandfather’s shipyard in Wallsend, Hawthorn Leslie.

Hawthorn Leslie back when the Tyne was a working River. This is how I remember it.

Hawthorn Leslie back when the Tyne was a working River. This is how I remember it.

However, time is the great thief… It steals away all that was great and leaves it as a distant memory with communities torn asunder. All that is left is just a song and a memory of all that was good, and of course, convenient forgetfulness of the bad times; the hunger, cold, and bitterness towards those who made their profits from good ordinary folk.

All that's left... A bitter memory: A river starved of its livelihood.

All that’s left… A bitter memory: A river starved of its livelihood.

I was proud to be associated with the River… To have such a connection that has moulded me into the person I am today, a sailor, adventurer and a romantic. But what of my special friend…  a Liverpool lad who lost his life at sea when only just into his twenties?

The MV Derbyshire was a huge bulk carrier bound for Kawasaki in Japan back in 1980. On board were more than forty souls all from the Liverpool area, including my friend Kevin, a newly promoted junior engineer officer (I shall not divulge his surname out of respect to his family, who are very private folk). Unfortunately the ship ran into an horrific typhoon storm off Japan and disappeared without trace, with the loss of all hands.

This the Derbyshire when she was called the 'Liverpoll Bridge'.

This the Derbyshire when she was called the ‘Liverpool Bridge’.

The facts as to why, how and ‘what on earth’? Can be investigated on line.

A final word.... And then farewell. It doesn't get crueler than that.

A final word…. And then farewell. It doesn’t get crueler than that.

For me, however, this was a chance to spend a quiet but emotional moment in the museum near the exhibit; to remember a young man who made me laugh and was so alive, with his whole life ahead of him. The silence booms around me as I remember those special moments that bonds we people of the sea together. There’s no one around me as I sit quietly alone. I allow a tear and my heart wells at the painful beauty of it all.

Whether it be my father, Grandfather, or a friend now gone, but never forgotten, the sea is cruel and sparing in her mercy. When it’s your turn to go, it will be as it is… But oh what honesty… What purity.

It is so strange how one arrives in a place and is suddenly cast into a vortex of emotions and reminiscences… It has been such a long time since allowing myself a moment to dwell on the loss of a friend, so cruelly removed. I had refused to entertain it lest my heart would break, but now it is time… Because time is a great healer.

Finally, after all these years.... A chance to say goodbye. Goodbye Kevin, my old friend. We were so young that it hurts.

Finally, after all these years…. A chance to say goodbye my old friend. We were so young that it hurts.

Kevin, you are missed, but never forgotten…

Their memory is etched on our hearts...

Their memory is etched on our hearts…


About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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27 Responses to My friend and the cruel sea…

  1. Lucy says:

    That was very moving Poppy, thank you for sharing. Big love and hugs, Lucy

  2. Tim says:

    A nice story. Brings back (vague) memories I have of growing up in southeast London and playing in what was left of the docks, already a decaying industry by late 60s.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Yes, it makes one feel they are finally becoming older. What was so normal then has become a relic. Where did all the time go?

  3. Chauncey & Anne Bancroft says:

    You describe this very poignantly….

  4. How brave of you to bare your heart like this. Sharing the story is a great tribute to your friend. The sea is something definitely worthy of respect.

  5. Furthermore, I was struck by the barren photo of the Hawthorn Leslie building as it is now. Quite sad, and moving. I like the old photo much better.

    • Viking Queen says:

      I cried when I went back. Thankfully there was no one around to witness it. Worst of all is the realisation that a whole way of life will never return. To me it is a further wake up call to value so dearly, our present lives. Oh how precious this time…

      • Progress is heralded as a positive forward move. But it isn’t always. I could feel the emotion in your pictures and post.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Yes, sometimes folk will smile cynically when I wax lyrical and I know you can’t hold back the seeds of change; but where is the love? There has to be a better way to make progress without destroying whole communities.

      • We should have been town planners Poppy

      • Viking Queen says:

        Why not? But then the political tentacles would probably get to us as well, with offers we ‘couldn’t refuse’!

      • That is an interesting hypothetical!!! I hope we would stay true to our principles. But it might be exhausting in the face of hypocrisy, deceit, cronyism, and political egos and point scoring.

      • Viking Queen says:

        I’m sure you’re correct Amanda. Surely many politicians start with integrity, but are pressured from less ethical forces.

      • Although I have a distant cousin who is an independent politician who tells the traditional politicians from the major parties in N Zealand where to get off. She however, does not have the backing of political powers in the parties and has to cope with a lot of crap from them trying to squeeze her out. It is not easy for her.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Very brave lady! I bet she sleeps well at night. Such integrity has to be preferable than the false, perfidious nature of governments.

      • The public seem to like her as she has survived and been re elected for last 23 years

      • Viking Queen says:

        Exactly! I believe that most folk are inherently good… And yet it puzzles me how so many devious ‘creatures’ manage to make decisions that mould our lives!

      • Yes but perhaps it is the goodness or acquiescence of the good people that allow these types in. At first they are attracted by their energy or motivation until it turns sour and they are personally affected by the barbs!!!!

      • Viking Queen says:

        Good point. On a more extreme level look at Nazi Germany. Acquiescence and a thirst for recovery… Well look what happened there, and I dare say most German folk were basically good and kind. Modern Europe is full of acquiescence, especially the younger generation. Like lambs to the slaughter. My generation were much too stroppy for that,

  6. Simon de Groot says:

    Aaaah it was a more emotional story than I expected….very interesting though, and that you had some closure from this visit….Yes I remember the Derbyshire very well, and the discussion around the her foundering…. An ancestor of mine was the manager of a shipyard similar to that one you describe, in Vlissingen, in Zeeland which is where my family is from….it was called the de Schelde shipbuilding, after the river….;-)

    • Viking Queen says:

      Beautiful place Si. Foundered is quite gentle way to describe what happened. She broke in half and disappeared without trace!

  7. Simon de Groot says:

    In fact it occurs to me that if you have been through the Canal door Walcheren, you probably sailid past the end of the slipway!….:-)

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