HOME
TRAWLING LIFE INDEX
 

 

LOCH TORRIDON COLLISION

 

14th Feb. 1953 - Loch Torridon was in collision in the Humber in thick fog with the Glasgow cargo vessel MV Emerald / 1382 Gross Tons, there was no loss of life and the Loch Torridon was salvaged and returned to fishing

INITIATION OF A DECKIE TRIMMER - by Brian Bird crewman aboard the Loch Torridon

We were ordered to sail at 0600 on the Saturday morning and as the taxi left my house for the dock there was a chill in the air and a thick fog hung over the dock, You could hear the sound of ships sirens mournfully calling out to announce their movements to other vessels in the Humber. On the way to the dock other fisherman could be seen walking down the watery cold tunnel to join their ships. At the dockside I humped my kitbag and heavy gear across the two trawlers awaiting to be coaled up for sea and onto the Loch Torridon, and down the foc,sle. After sorting myself a bunk out of the three tiers on either side of this cramped little space, I went back ashore to the stores to purchase a mattress, gutting knives, gloves, mittens, mufflers, socks and any thing else I could remember ready for my first trip. Outside the stores the ships runners checked your name against crews for their respective vessels that where about to sail, the tide jumps (men out of work) waited for no shows, which enabled them to take the vacant place, there where also the old hands which had passed their sea going days and would hang about hoping for a packet of punch tobacco and any loose change from the lads that where sailing.
Back onboard we sat around introducing ourselves, having a nip of spirits from the lads who were flush enough to have afforded a bottle from the boiled oil ( A shop in Subway St which opened at all tides regardless of the hour ) and waited for the order to stand by to let go. The Torridon was a very old vessel and had not been fitted with radar and the skipper was of course anxious with conditions deteriorating all the time. All the vessels with radar installed had by this time sailed and the dockmaster came along and called out to our skipper "If you don,t sail within the next few minutes I will close the lock until the next tide in 12 hours". Our skipper who was on his first command ( I believe was Ted Smart ) naturally was compelled into giving the ordered to let go forard and aft, and we slowly inched our way out of the dock and into the brown fast flowing river Humber where it seemed the ghostly sounds of vessels blowing their horns was eerily haunting. After clearing the lock and leaving one man on lookout, we scrambled into the foc,sle to get into our sea gear ready for work. In just a few minutes we were among the vessels riding at anchor in the Hull roads anchorage, when suddenly there was a terrific bang and the Torridon heeled over alarmingly to port throwing us all in a heap. After scrambling from the foc,sle up the tiny ladder I looked aft and saw this cargo vessels bow cutting clean through the port side of our wheelhouse down through the accommodation and down into the port bunkers. I have no idea were I got a life jacket from but in a flash I was on the whaleback minus any trousers along with some other crewmen. The bosun (nickname Twink) told me not to jump until he told me, being only 17 at the time his advice was most gratefully accepted. As the Torridon slid off the bow of the cargo vessel she was mortally wounded and began to list rapidly, the skipper put the helm hard a port rang full speed ahead and headed for the shore which was still shrouded in dense fog. Due to the skippers fast response we ran up the river bank at sammies point, the safest place on that stretch of the river. Just then the the fog began to lift and we could see we were facing a timber yard on the old dock and now the tide was ebbing fast and the Torridon was settling onto the soft mud. We were ordered to pass the trawl warps ashore to secure her and to do this a rocket and line was fired ashore (right into the wood-yard) what happened next was straight out of a old time movie. The rocket hit a stack of timber and bounced from one to another with the dear old watchman chasing after it, luckily he was,nt that quick and it didn`t turn on him. Eventually it came to a halt and we were able to pass the warps ashore and secure the vessel. By this time the Hull Insurance people where onboard and took charge. The next step they decided would be to lighten the Torridon by shoveling the 250 tons of coal out of the ships side and to do this the deckie trimmer was called upon (yours truly). I duly entered the bunker by the gap and commenced to shovel the coal out of the gap. as I shoveled the coal out, low and behold water took its place (ahem). That idea was then abandoned and we were ordered to stuff the hole with our mattresses including my new thirty bob one. Then it was decided to launch the the life boat. The Torridon was so old she didn`t have a boatdeck and the lifeboat was stowed behind the galley entrance aft. It must have taken at least an hour or two for us to free the boat from all the paint and grease and rust (so much for drills in those days) but we eventually did it and secured the lifeboat alongside. The mate ordered 2 seamen Clive Finn and Micky Crane if I,m not mistaken to climb aboard the lifeboat and prepare it for use. It was then also decided to cut loose the carley floats (cork type open dinghy's) from the aft rigging. These must have been in situ for a very long time and the lashings were covered in salt coal dust and grime and therefore impossible to untie, so someone shouted cut that rope meaning the lashing. At this point Clive and Micky were bent down in the boat getting the boat ready for use, the cook who had been preparing a pan of shackles (stew) throughout all this, even though the lower decks were awash, had a carving knife in one hand and a shag tab in his mouth looked at the piece of rope close to him ( the painter holding the lifeboat ) and duly cut it. Immediately the boat was swept down river by the very strong ebb., And Clive and Micky shipped the oars and tried to row back to us . It was an impossible task but they kept trying, having a row then stopping and waving to us as they were disappearing into the distance. The Humber pilot boat spotted what was going on and took off after them and towing them back from around Paul a few miles downriver, needless to say they were extremely exhausted despite their valiant efforts. The Tugs Tollman, Boatman and Pinky arrived to assist in the salvage of the Torridon.
By this time it was late afternoon and the tide was beginning to turn so after eating the cooks excellent shackles and locking up we boarded the pilot boat and were put ashore at Victoria pier. I was still dressed in my fearnoughts and seaboots and walked all the way to the number 69 trolley bus terminus under city hall, where a understanding conductor allowed me to ride home free as I had no money.
Monday morning we gathered outside Hellyers office and were informed we were on six weeks survivors pay but if we refused an offer of a vessel in that period our survivor pay would be stopped, did we understand? yes. I was then told to sign on as deckie learner of the Caesar and sailed on the Wednesday, and had to buy another new thirty bob mattress. The Torridon was salvaged and returned to service on the 30th March 1953 after a refit.