Liverpool and its surrounding parts have always had a great connection with the sea, most families will have stories passed down from relatives reminiscing about lives spent at sea or working on the docks. It is still today just as it was 100 years ago, a major sea port with ships coming and going to all corners of the world.
One of my earliest memories connected with the sea was when I went to pay a visit with my Dad to see my Uncle Jimmy onboard a ship in the Liverpool docks. Uncle Jimmy was a Donkey Man at sea (The Donkey Man was the Engine room Foreman). He joined his first ship at the age of 14 and worked all his life at sea. His service in the Merchant Navy as a young man led him to join the South African Army during the 2nd World War and his experiences of that time along with all the far off places he visited always fascinated me.
My memories of the visit to see Jimmy that day were of what seemed like a huge noisy ship, full of people with lots going on, shipyard workers grinding Steel and men welding Plates, all things that tend to stick in the mind of a nine year old boy who had never been aboard such a big noisy ship before.
This experience along with the stories Uncle Jimmy and other people within the community I spoke to would tell me after their experiences travelling abroad, ignited a sense of adventure in me relating to all things connected with the sea.
I left Savio High School in Bootle in 1996. I always felt that I had the ability to do well at Secondary School but during my adolescent years I lacked focus, became distracted by teenage life, and did not concentrate quite enough on my School studies.
After leaving Savio high School at the age of 16, I had no real Idea what was next for me. What I did know was that the thought of seeing different parts of the world with a bit of adventure along the way seemed very appealing.
I then enrolled on a 1 Year Course at St Paul’s Trust Nautical College in Liverpool. This course was aimed at preparing teenagers such as me for a career at sea. We would spend half the week in classrooms learning about the theory side of the job aboard ship. The other Half we would spend onboard a small Coastal ship that the Trust had acquired for training, called “M.V. Loach”. During our days on the Loach we would have a chance to put into practise all the knowledge that we had learned in the classroom. We would practice tying Knots and Splicing ropes, Launching and rowing the lifeboats, how to box the ships compass and many other practical aspects of ship board life.
After leaving Nautical College I was then sent to join my first ship in Aberdeen aged 17 as an apprentice deckhand, working in the offshore oil industry. This then led me on to my first full seagoing qualification as E.D.H.(efficient deckhand) and then onto my qualification as A.B.(able seaman). After 5 years sailing as an Able Seaman my company offered to send me to college for another 12 months to gain my first qualification as an Officer in the British Merchant Navy.
From my first qualification as an Efficient Deckhand leading to my current qualification as Master Mariner, which allows me to sail as Captain of any size ship anywhere in the world. I have found my career within the maritime industry to be both rewarding and fulfilling.
As a teenager preparing to leave school I had no clear pathway to follow, I found that the need for greater self discipline required at sea, coupled with the prospect of adventure helped me to focus and gain the experience and qualifications required to rise to the level that I am at today.
During my life at sea so far, I have spent a lot of time in the offshore oil industry working around the UK and also further afield in places such as Australia and the Philippines. Work in this sector is highly paid and people with the relevant qualifications are always in high demand. I finally left the Oil Industry around 7 years ago after deciding that I wanted to spend more time closer to my family. I have since spent some time working in the construction of the off shore windfarms around the UK coast, and I am currently Serving as Chief Officer on board roll on roll off passenger ships working in the Irish sea.
I am extremely grateful for the help, support and guidance that I found in St Pauls Trust Nautical College and I believe that without their help none of the professional achievements I have gained so far would have been possible. It gave me the basis to gain experience of the wider world and was the first step in my professional development.
I feel that the young people in this area would benefit greatly from a Liverpool Port Academy training facility. A lot of children have more than enough ability, but the current school system can lack the direction and discipline these kids need in order to progress. The direction, discipline and structure that is lacking in the current school system can often be what is needed to help focus those children, who without a more clearly defined vocational path may and often do, fail to reach their full potential.
I would be happy to help if needed in order to give future young people the chances that I have benefitted from greatly, so far throughout my life.