Wednesday, 23 September 2015

In The Beginning

I'm not going to be able to start boat building for a few weeks so I thought I would keep the blog ticking over by telling you what it was like to be a Shipwright Apprentice in the 1950's . 

So how did I become a shipwright apprentice? It certainly wasn't an ambition; like most things in my life it just happened. I'd been to a Technical School that had produced famous scientists, naval architects and ... me. I was the proverbial square peg. The only thing I produced was a wooden egg rack that only held 11 eggs: I sort of miscalculated the design. I was even worse at metal work. The only subject I was good at was Technical and Geometric Drawing.

Shipwrights work in wood and metal and focus on ships and boats, as I was no good with either and didn't know anything about boats I was not a natural match. But life was simpler in those days you simply left school and got a job - there was work for everyone. In our case 'The Dockyard' employed just about everyone on the Isle-of-Sheppey where I lived. Sheerness Dockyard was a Naval dockyard run by the Admiralty (US Dept of Navy equivalent).

Each year the Dockyard had an entrance examination and took over 100 boys in to an indentured five year apprenticeship. Where you came in the results dictated your turn in choosing a trade. The boys that came top chose to be Engine Fitters, Electricians and so on down to Painter. When my turn came I could choose from being a Shipwright, Joiner, Blacksmith or Painter, and so the die was cast. In May 1954 I signed my indentures and entered Sheerness Dockyard. 

The dockyard was very old and had been founded by Samuel Pepys when he was Secretary-to-the-Navy in 1666.