In my early teens I had spent many enjoyable evenings at a youth club in St Mark’s Church, Tollington Park. It was also the Church I was Christened in! At the youth club most of the time there was taken up chatting to mates, playing table tennis and snooker and listening to pop music.
Saturday nights were best when everyone could be seen dancing around to the music of the time. “Let’s Dance” by Chris Montez was a favourite to leap about to.
The club also organised great trips and one unforgettable holiday was a week on a narrow boat on the Grand Union canal, what happy memories I had in June in 1963! Recently, my good mate Dave Charie organised a trip around the Church which really brought back memories for us both. I am grateful to Reverend David Bird of St. Mark’s, Tollington Park for recently arranging with Dave our trip around the Church and the old youth club area bringing back such happy memories.
Here’s Chris Montez singing his song so…….. Let’s Dance!
A mess mate of mine at HMS Ganges was Basher, he was the first farmer boy I had ever met and I told him that at Primary School my favourite song had been “The Farmer’s Boy” which he said he liked a lot too. We swapped stories about our schooldays and it transpired that both our schools had been very strong on singing folk songs and also promoting English country dancing and we had both been taken on trips to Cecile Sharpe House in North London to learn about our folk heritage. I told Basher about how both my schools Pooles Park Primary and Tollington Park Secondary joined in the annual performances of country dancing at the Islington Town Hall where we would perform the various country dance sequences such as stripping the willow and do-si-do. One day Basher and I used our collective memories to recall the words of our favourite folk song and when it was just us two together polishing our boots or cleaning our gaiters on the Colonnade we would revive our schooldays and gustily sing:
“To plough and sow and to reap and mow to be a farmer’s boy.”
Sing along now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvM55CyInA0
I was told by the Master at Arms on board HMS Hecate that I was to be drafted to a frigate called HMS Exmouth. When the day of my departure came I said farewell to my ship mates, leaving the Hecate and Devonport Dockyard behind me. It was 11th December 1967 and with my kitbag on my shoulder I boarded a train and headed to London. The train was full and I had to stand for most of the journey but the thought that I had managed to wangle a night at home before having to join my next ship in the morning kept me cheerful. I only became miserable again when I remembered that the next ship I had been drafted to was another seagoing one that would no doubt be shortly off to sail the ocean waves which for me meant only one thing – more sea sickness! My orders were to join HMS Exmouth in Chatham Dockyard the next day and I had to be on board the ship before 09.00 but I did have a nice evening at home even managing to have a game of darts in the Osborne Tavern in Stroud Green Road with my friends Dave Charie and Les Metcalfe. Arriving at Chatham Dockyard I reported to the main gate to be informed that HMS Exmouth was not yet ready to take any crew on board so I was directed to a mess in one of the accommodation blocks in HMS Pembroke, the shore establishment where I had attended cookery school. As it turned out HMS Exmouth was being extensively refitted and it was some months before we actually left for sea.
When HMS Exmouth was at last seaworthy her ships’ company were summoned to leave the accommodation in HMS Pembroke and come onboard. A formal commissioning ceremony took place on the dockyard.
There I am, S. Mann, part of the ships’ company. A good friend of mine onboard who came from Walthamstow, as did my mate Dicky Bird, was Stewart Luck. He is only mentioned on the document as “Luck” they missed his initial “S”. I lost touch with Stewart as he emigrated to Australia but I would love to hear from him again.
Thanks to my old shipmate Dicky Bird for telling me about these YouTube clips of HMS Exmouth filmed when we were on board!
My good friend, Martin Grimshaw has designed the cover of my book Sadism, Songs and Stolen Liberty http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sadism-Songs-Stolen-Liberty-Stephen-ebook/dp/B00I9LG9T8/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Martin’s work can be seen at this website: http://www.martingrimshaw.co.uk/
He is an active member of the Lizard Art Society and a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists.
Martin and me on the Lizard in Cornwall:
In Chapter Twenty Eight of my book “Spingo and Floral Dancing” I write about my time training as a ship’s helicopter fire-fighter at HMS Seahawk which is the name of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose the Royal Navy Airbase near Helston in Cornwall. Martin lives close to Helston and when I stay with Martin and we go shopping there the song that I sung as a young sailor after a night drinking Spingo in the Blue Anchor comes to mind: