Oral History collection: Francis Parker (born 9 Jan. 1891) interviewed by B.C. Fagg about Experiences sailing around Cape Horn under sail; later changed to steam; WW1 experiences in Merchant Marine; torpedoed; post-war voyages for Blue Funnel Line.

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 216 TH 39
  • Dates of Creation
      11 Oct. 1976
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 audio recording

Scope and Content

Track 1. [00:00:00] General: Barry Fagg introduces Captain Parker, speaking on 11th Oct 1976. [00:00:16] Transport: Captain Parker describes his life as a merchant sailor on the SS Crocodile circa 1908-1912, including rounding Cape Horn, to Australia and back to South America. Also includes details of wages. [00:03:40] Transport: Captain Parker recalls his first impressions of SS Crocodile and typical work involved in loading the stores and cargoes. [00:06:52] Transport: Describing having to put sails up on SS Crocodile, the national mix of the crew and the paucity of rations. [00:09:37] Transport: Recalling the shifts worked on-board and the discipline between the crew and the good health enjoyed by them. [00:11:07] Transport: Captain Parker describes his first voyage round Cape Horn. [00:12:45] Transport: Captain Parker recalls how the crew passed time by catching sharks and an albatross, and making items from them. [00:17:35] Transport: Describing other activities such as singing bawdy songs, which were passed down from old hands to new. [00:18:49] Transport: Captain Parker gives some brief history of the ships he sailed on, being manufactured around 1892 in Southampton and Doxford in Sunderland. [00:19:30] Transport: Recalling how slow the process was of unloading coal in Valparaiso. [00:20:35] Transport: Explaining how the lack of room and facilities slowed down the loading and unloading of cargo. [00:22:23] Transport: Recalling the difference between British and German merchant ships. [00:23:05] Transport: Describing typical duties onboard, including going up the rigging and the masts in heavy seas. [00:26:44] Transport: Recalling sailing through the Doldrums, including a chance meeting with a sister vessel, the Rowena, in the South Atlantic. [00:29:29] Transport: Remembering the 'romance' of the sailing life. [00:30:57] Transport: Describing taking control of the ship's wheel. [00:31:53] Transport: Captain Parker recalls the crew accommodation and the '4 hours on, 4 hours off' shifts. [00:33:03] Transport: Describing what happened when 'all hands on deck' was called, including look-out duty. [00:34:25] Transport: Captain Parker compares the handling of different types of ship. [00:35:45] Transport: Captain Parker recalls finishing apprenticeship and leaving the sail ships, transferring to steam in 1912. [00:38:45] Education: Recalling the general education levels of merchant sailors and taking 2nd Mate certificate. [00:41:09] Transport: Sailing in the Mediterranean for a year. [00:42:20] Education: Taking 1st Mate certificate, and learning the 32 articles of 'Rule of the Road' for Masters certificate. [00:43:55] Transport: Describing the impact of the opening of the Panama Canal on sail ships. [00:45:16] Transport: Recalling sailing the France / South Africa / Vietnam route as 1st Mate. [00:46:24] Transport: Describing being in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the outbreak of First World War, including a close call with a German Destroyer Emden. [00:48:15] Transport: Joining the Blue Funnel line in 1916(?). [00:49:38] First World War: Working as Troop transport from the USA and Canada to Europe during First World War. [00:50:39] First World War: Recalling being torpedoed by a German U-boat on Easter Sunday 1918. [00:53:06] Transport: Recalling the Blue Funnel line (recording ends).

Track 2. [00:00:00] Transport: Captain Parker continues remembering the Blue Funnel line, working for them from 1916 to 1964. [00:02:40] Transport: Describing the Chinese crew and the death of one man on board. [00:05:05] Transport: Captain Parker describes how being away from home on long voyages lead to him becoming a harbour pilot at Swansea docks in 1927. [00:07:07] Transport: Describing the duties of a harbour pilot. [00:11:32] Transport: Captain Parker recalls how the Swansea docks started to decline in 1932. [00:12:51] Transport: Captain Parker describes his membership of the International Association of Cape Horners, started in 1933 (recording ends).