Photographs taken on board could be bought from the photographer and came in a presentation folder.
Thanks go to Gordon Tumber, who worked on Royal Sovereign, Royal Daffodil and Queen of the Channel, as well as some of the company's cargo boats.
Gordon tells me:
My association with the glorious Summer Boats. I joined the Royal Daffodil as Assistant Steward in May 1958. I had already been at sea for 6 years, and previous association with General Steam Navigation Co Ltd was on the MV Laverock. I finished the season and went back to Union-Castle. Promotion in those days was Dead Men's Shoes, or being in the right place at the right time. So you kept on looking. I returned to the Royal Daffodil in June 1959 as A/Stwd and stayed for a whole ten days. At that point they found out I could type and keep accounts and I was whisked away to the Queen Of The Channel where they desperately needed a Ships Writer.
At the end of the season I joined the Ringdove as A/Stwd until November 1959 when they put me in the offices at Tower Bridge as Ships Stocktaker. I returned to the Queen Of The Channel for the 1960 Summer Season, then went back to the Office for another year until I rejoined the Queen Of The Channel in May 1961. Again as Ships Writer on both occasions.
I was with GSNCo on the Summer Boats as Writer until I joined the Royal Daffodil as Assistant 2nd Steward for the 1965 season. In between times I sailed as Ships Cook and Cook Steward on what we called the 'Gut Tossers', the small Home Trade cargo ships. I joined the Royal Daffodil as Supernumerary 2nd Steward on 12.4.66 until 8.5.66.
The Seamen's strike in 1966 brought the Summer Season to a shuddering halt and the Company was threatened with being blacklisted by the NUS because I had at the time been promoted to Chief Steward on the Royal Sovereign and was still working-by on her. I had to leave the ship and pay £5 into the NUS strike fund to keep things smooth. I still have the receipt. Eventually the strike ended and we signed on the Royal Sovereign on 2.7.66 and took the Grand Old Lady down to Great Yarmouth to finish off what was left of the season.
For us in the Catering Department the Summer Boats were hard work with one hell of a lot of job satisfaction. At the end of every season we vowed we would never go back-but those of us who could stand the pace always did. They had a charisma about them that can still bring a tear to the eye to this day. Young boys who, if you will pardon the pun, missed the boat for joining the Merchant Navy through the National Sea Training Schools could serve a season on the Summer Boats, take their Discharge Papers to the Pool and be guaranteed a job. A season on those ships was harder going than any Sea Training School. Adult employees could do the same, and many advanced their careers with other companies and, like me, emerged as Purser/Catering Officers.
My family and I lived at Whitstable throughout my career on the Summer Boats and when I worked in the GSNC offices I always looked out for the Medway Queen berthed at Rochester as I travelled by train to London. The lovingly polished brass fittings were always a joy to behold. Although probably not viewed in the same light by the unfortunate crew member who had to polish them! I also sailed as Cook/Steward with her Master, Captain Horsham when he too returned to the cargo ships for the winter. And I always gazed fondly at the Queen Of The Channel lying in the mud berth at Rochester waiting to be called into service again in the following summer.
Sadly those days have gone for ever but the memories remain with all who served on them. Such a pity that as a Nation we now have nothing like them to fulfil the spirit of adventure that lies in the heart of every young man. For many now of my age and older they were the passport to a dream and something to proudly boast about in later years. Thank you for keeping active the pictures that will bring a rush of memories to we oldies. I eventually intend to put something onto my own fledgeling site about those beautiful ships. I also intend to link your site to mine. My site can be found at http://www.m-navydays.com.
Gordon Tumber. November 2002.
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