First Trip to Sea



Walter Lyle Hume


Thank you to Walter Lyle Hume, formerly of Newhaven, Edinburgh,  for providing an account of his first trip to sea, from which the following extracts have been taken.

Walter went on to spend his working life at sea and now lives in Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK.

Early Memories

"From an early age, I can remember clambering over, under and through boats of all shapes and sizes, dinghy's - launches - pilot boats - tugs - herring drifters - trawlers et al.

I cut my teeth on all of them, the excitement and enjoyment of a steam driven paddle steamer, William Muir, crossing The Firth of Forth from Granton to Burntisland, or day excursion on the Fair Maid round the Islands of Inchcolm-Inchkeith-May Island, Bass Rock, with a call to the Victoria Jetty at North Berwick before it fell into disrepair.

North Sea Trawler

"My voyage on a North Sea trawler was a memorable trip.  All the old steam trawlers have long since been scrapped.  It was a hard and dangerous way of life, thankfully, long since disappeared.

Off to Sea

"School holidays from Trinity Academy had barely started and I was up and about at the crack of dawn.

Down to the harbour with a 'sea-bag' and appropriate swagger, quickly found my boat, found my way on board, eventually a flat capped head popped up out of a door leading to the engine room.

'I'm coming with you this trip', says I. 

'Ah, you must be the skipper's nephie.  OK, make yersel' at hame. The crowd (crew) will be here by an' by.'

said a flat-capped head that popped up out of a door leading to the engine room."

At Sea

"The relentless on-going task of fishing day after day was far from being tedious or boring.  I learned something different every time the net was set or hauled in.

Not much to watch other than several other trawlers, some from other countries, or the wide variety of sea birds, chasing all the offal scraps washed overboard after each gutting session.

With the number of fish boxes being gradually filled as each day passed, crew members gradually began the guessing game of when we would stop fishing and head for home.

Only the Skipper knew for sure, but with a more than adequate catch it was not too long before the order was given, 'Bring the gear in'."

Return to Leith

"We returned to Leith passing by Cape Wrath, Duncansby Head, Peterhead,  Bell Rock lighthouse and the North Car Lightship as we entered the Firth of Forth estuary.

As we entered Leith Harbour the Pier Master called out through his old fashioned speaking trumpet, indicating which berth we had to go to.

I arrived in Leith with my sea-bag slung over my shoulder, and a huge parcel of fish to take home."

Walter Lyle Hume, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England  -  April 27, 2005



Frank Ferri


Thank you to Frank Ferri, formerly of Leith and now living in Newhaven, Edinburgh,  for providing an account of his first trip to sea after leaving Leith Nautical College.

Frank Ferri


  Frank Ferri  -  Newhaven, Edinburgh  -  Phtotograph, 1954 ©

Frank wrote:

Leith Nautical College

"I graduated from Leith Nautical College in 1951 and straight away marched down to Leith Pool to see if there were any jobs available.

I was told that I had no choice, and that I was to report as Cabin Boy on board the 'RFA Wave Premier', lying in the Imperial Dry Dock, in Leith."

 'Wave Premier'

"Well, at least I didn't have to travel far, as I lived in Leith.  I met a fellow college mate at the pool, who had just paid off his first ship and I convinced him to sail with me on the 'Wave Premier'.  I doubt that he thanked me for it in hindsight!

On board, my first impression, was of the sickening stench of diesel fuel.  We were in port for a week before we sailed, and my father came down to the ship every day before we left.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary was so secretive, that we didnít find out where we were going, nor the sailing date, until the actual day of departure."

To Sea

"Disappointingly, our first port was just a short way up stream from Leith  -  Rosyth.

Eventually though, we were soon at sea and headed for Invergordon, where we spent a few days before heading back to Rosyth, to meet up with the rest of the Fleet.

Once at sea, the Chief Steward began to issue cold weather gear  -  boots, duffle coats, long fishermenís socks, Long John underwear and thick, polo necked fishermenís sweaters. I wondered where the hell we could be going.

As far as information went, every thing was very 'hush hush', and on a 'need to know' basis, in typical RN style. It was fairly obvious that we were headed North, as the weather was becoming colder and colder."

Exercise Mainbrace

"Eventually we were informed that we were now on 'Exercise Mainbrace' which we also learned were War Games, to be held at least 300 miles north of Iceland in the Arctic.  It was November, and already bitterly cold.

The Fleet consisted of the battleship 'Vanguard', aircraft carrier 'Eagle', cruiser 'Swiftsure', two Diamond class destroyers and some subs.

The Weather was horrific, bitter cold, and with ice about two inches thick forming on the ship's cables, and outer decks.  What a baptism in seasickness that was!"


"I was unable to eat anything but dry cornflakes and water biscuits for days, and I was convinced I was going to die.  In fact, I would have welcomed it!

The Arctic was depressing, with dusk 24 hours a day. No sun shine or proper daylight.  We would refuel three ships at a time, one starboard, one to port and one aft.  The wake of the two ships alongside made the narrow sea channel as rough as any sea we had faced, and we bounced, rolled and pitched crazily throughout the fuelling operation."


"The cold was all enveloping, and in an effort to try and maintain somewhere near normal body temperature in our crew, large thermos flasks of hot soup were made available in all alleyways of the ship, 24 hours a day.

The galley was down aft and food had to be transported midships via the flying bridge.   It was a nightmare, trying to time the motion of the ship without benefit of the use of your hands for balance.

I was caught by a wave once, and the tray of fried eggs went over the side.  I was fortunate to manage to hang on.  I was soaked with all my heavy arctic clobber on, and I had to retire to my cabin to dry out for an hour."


"One day our Bosun was involved in a serous accident. The crew of a Navy ship had fired a one-metre length of steel rod from a .303 rifle.

The rod was connected to a thin line, which in turn was connected to a thicker line, etc.  By this method the shipís fuel lines were brought aboard our ship for the refueling process to begin.

The rod hit an air vent on our ship and ricocheted off, straight into the Bosunís calf, sea boot and all! He had to be taken aboard the Navy ship, 'Swiftsure' to have an operation on his leg, and the only method of transfer was via Bosunís chair, over very heavy seas.

Tropical Climes?

"I had joined the Merchant Navy to see the world and to bask in tropical climes, I was pretty much ready to jack it all in then and there.

Fortunately I stuck with it and enjoyed the rest of my service, though I made sure that I stayed away from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary from that time forward!"

Frank Ferri, Newhaven, Edinburgh:  April 12, 2008



Frank Ferri


Frank Ferri later sent more memories of his first trip to sea.

Frank wrote:

The Captain's Dinner

"Because of the maneuvering dangers facing the ship during the refueling process, it was not always possible for the Captain of the ship to have his meals on schedule.  He had to wait until he was satisfied he could leave the bridge safely.  He would often phone down to the catering pantry that he would be late for his meal.

 On one occasion, the catering staff, having fed all the Officers of the day their lunch,  waited patiently to serve the Captain his meal, clean up and be able to stand down for a couple of hours.

After several phone calls from the bridge saying that the Captain would be delayed, and assuming he was going to forgo his lunch, due to emergencies, the food was dumped in the trash can.

No sooner had this been done when the Captain phoned again saying he was on his way down. The catering staff went into panic stations, retrieved his garbage, contaminated stake and veg from the trash, washed it under a hot tap to remove traces of custard etc, threw it all into frying pan, heated it up and coated the meal with a little gravy.

The Captain was none the wiser and didnít know the difference, eating it with relish. He was a nice man too, but needs must when the devil drives."

Siestas on board Ship

"A strange phenomenon in the Merchant Navy is the siesta.

 One day, after lunch, I decided to wander around the ship to familiarize myself with its geography and perhaps have a blether with my new shipmates, but could find no one. It was so  strangely quiet and eerily Marie Celesteish, then I established that everyone except the bridge and engine room staff were sound asleep in their cabins for the afternoon siesta.

It was a case of 'get your lunch down as quick as possible then get the head down'.  I got used to that routine quite quickly."

Frank Ferri, Newhaven, Edinburgh:  May 11, 2008



North Edinburgh

Cramond - Granton - Royston - Trinity -  Wardie


Granton:  transport map 1932

Granton:  small map 1870

Granton:  large map 1870


Cramond:                        from 1940s

Cramond Island:              1970s

Granton:                           1930s   1940s   1950s   1970s

Granton, Trinity, Wardie:  1940s   1950s - 60s   Shops

Lower Granton Road        all dates

Muirhouse                         from 1930s

Pilton:                               1940 bomb

Royston:                            from 1930s

Wardie School:                 1930s    1940s   1950s

                                         1960s    1970s   1980s


Granton, Trinity, Wardie:  from 1544


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