Apprentice and beyond…by Donald McGhee

The writer on the tiller with the MARABANK in the distance

This is a condensed version of the short career of what could only be classified as a Bank Line failure! I started my seagoing career with Donaldson Line of Glasgow, on the western ocean run to St. John and Halifax in winter and the Great Lakes in summer. After the demise of Donaldsons I joined Bank Line to complete my apprenticeship.Donaldsons were a real family type company, where the apprentices were really taken care of and I have to admit to a huge sense of loss when they folded. They even paid us 1/9d an hour overtime on the Great Lakes run!
My first ship was Teviotbank, standing by her in Sunderland as she finished fitting out at Doxfords yard and living ashore in Roker with the other two apprentices. A.J. Whiston was the master and our maiden voyage was cut short due to ongoing engine trouble, resulting in her returning to U.K for repairs. She was a lovely ship.
My next ship was Inverbank, Joined her in Ijmuiden and called in to Bremen, Hamburg and London for outward cargo. Then the Islands, New Guinea run, sugar from Queensland to Singapore, twice and of course Calcutta and East Pakistan for a homeward cargo of jute. B.J. Peterson was the old man, Johnny Lowans the Mate, under whom it was a pleasure to work.
My final ship was Marabank, which was a chapter in my career that saw me ending up in Wellington, a VNC in my discharge book and a stop to any further seagoing. Hindsight is a great thing and all I can say is that there was fault on all sides and that Marabank was not as happy a ship as my former vessels. It turned a hitherto keen and dedicated apprentice into someone whose ideals had been crushed.
I did a brief stint as uncert. 3rd Mate, but unhappily this proved to be a bit premature, as the traffic in the English Channel required me to call for help from the 2nd Mate, Sandy Powell. Good guy. Len Thorne was Master, Mate was Geddes.On the credit side Bank Line remains in my memory as a wonderful company, with superb ships and great people. It would be unrealistic to say that everything and everyone was perfect, as that was not the case and for my part I have to take some of the flak for handling a bad situation in the wrong way! 
My nautical interests have never waned, having owned and sailed several boats, serving as an officer in the NZ Navy Cadets before retiring as a Lt. Cdr, and I am currently master of a heritage paddle steamer, which I enjoy immensely and is probably the limit of where I deserve to be given my lack of deep sea history. I envy those of you Bank Line men who persevered to become masters and were fortunate enough to stick it out.
As far as photos go I can only offer one, that being myself at the tiller of a lifeboat going ashore in Noumea, with Mike Pay the junior app and the 3/E. Taken in 1969, Marabank in the background.
I’m still in touch with several ex shipmates who actually went on to gain their Masters tickets and good on them!
Not many apps jump ship, but I was one and there are regrets, but I would not have today what I have were it not for this , possibly foolish decision made just over 50 years ago!

Donald today in his present role as senior Master on the heritage steamer based on the beautiful Whanganui river in New Zealand(see ‘Trip Advisor’ for more details of the service)

all comments welcome!

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