The Sailor’s Mission didn’t have big screen tellies for Rugby and football fans or Rock & roll bands.
My own experience of living in a Seaman's Mission was in 1974. I spent five enjoyable weeks at the Queen Victoria Sailor's Home in East India Dock Road, London. (Dave Marshall used to send me letters with a picture of Nigs the cat's ass instead of a stamp - so that I would have to pay double postage).As this crowd gathered for Christmas 1930 at the club, little did they know that in the not too distant future World War II would show the true worth of the Sailor's Home(s) in their finest hour.Whether the seaman was homeless, distressed or simply standing by waiting for a berth he was made welcome. During just one year of the hostilities over 100,000 meals & cups of tea were served, to the men who wandered in - over the whole war, it must have run into hundreds of thousands. Personally, I was involved in the desecration of the sailor's living quarters that were located in the loft. A number, six, I think, cabins, the size of a modern toilet cubicle were demolished in the process. They each contained a bed, a bedside locker [with a lamp] & not much else. Was it only myself & Doorman Marshall who felt the ghosts of long-dead sailors frowning - as we worked? Were Marshall & I the only ones to appreciate the vandalism we were carrying out in the name of progress? I had the pleasure of meeting an old submariner who had been a 'guest' of the old Sailor's Mission at Barrow's celebration of a century of submarine building. Bill Dalton [L/Sto.Mech Dalton C/KX 527212], originally from Penrith, who emigrated to Australia in 1954, served in submarines during World War II. While waiting for the sub "Ambush" to be finished at Vickers, Bill found himself in one of the Sailors Home's 'cabins.' He described them as being, "Quite comfortable; despite the crazy guy, who when 'in his cups' enjoyed tipping everybody out of bed."It did cross my mind that after sleeping in a torpedo rack, to Bill, a dog kennel would rate 5 Stars. The original Navy Club was formed in an upstairs room in the Furness Hotel then moved to School Street In the early 1970's The Royal Naval Association took over the Sailor's Mission; moving from premises known as the "Valiant Club" [named after the SSBN Valiant], in School Street. aka "The Snake Pit" and was still struggling for survival when it moved from the Snake Pit to Ramsden Dock Road even though the rent was only £6 per year, which included all rates/heating oil & electricity. For this nominal sum they were required to provide shelter for three ship-wrecked mariners in the event they were cast up, upon our coast. The RNA club after many successful years went into a steep decline in the late 1980's and early 1990's, partly due to mass redundancies in the shipyard; and on the verge of closure, withdrew from the Royal Naval Association. With all due respect to the RNA and more importantly to its objectives fees to the association were disproportionate to the benefits received for ex-servicemen and so a long tradition was lost. Our local membership, unfortunately [through death], dipped under the required quota of full [ex-RN], members to form a quorum, so the many Associate Members who had followed the RNA club for 20+ years were forced to take the club in hand to save it from extinction. It must be borne in mind, that those who could not in the strict sense of the RNA code be recognised as FULL members were nevertheless composed [80%] of either ex- MN or the guys in the shipyard who built the ships/boats the club supported. Yet, in those days we and our wives were regarded as being distinctly 2nd rate. The club itself was saved from extinction by a gargantuan effort by these very same Associate Members.Re-formed as a private club [The Navy Club]; voluntary work behind the bar and behind the scenes ensured the club, not only survived, but grew in the local community.Today, we have the most popular club on Barrow Island and this is while other clubs & pubs are struggling to survive. Maybe the Navy Club owes its success to its friendly membership who enjoy quality beers and first class entertainmen
This page is dedicated to the memory of David James Marshall 1952 - 2001.The ‘Navy Club,’ as it is now known started life as a Sailor’s Mission. If my early maps of Barrow Island, (viewed through the bottom of a pint glass), are to be believed, in the 1880s there is a trace of a ‘Sailor’s Mission’ in Michaelson Road approximately opposite Buccleuch Dock Road.Sailor's Missions around the world provide help, accommodation and usually a bar! for seamen. They are often run on very relaxed religious lines. Originally, the 'Flying Angel' catered for Protestants and the 'Stella Maris' for Catholics, but they never turn anybody away. And the ‘Stella Maris’ in Buenos Aires had a disco, the ‘Flying Angel only a snooker table Barrow Island’s own Sailor’s Mission was opened in 1904 on the corner of Ramsden Dock Road and James Watt Terrace.As part of the original charter, the mission was obliged to provide shelter, food and a bed for mariners regardless of race, creed or colour. Other facilities included a chapel of worship, billiard table, dartboard and a library filled with books from around the globe. The only drawback was; the mission was strictly dry,
The old foundation stone was so eroded the Navy Club maintained the link with the club’s history by renewing it.Right: This happy bunch were at the opening ceremony in 1904.
Harvest Festival 1930
Above: Tommy McGuire (Steward) & staff.Right: 1980s