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For Cardiff's sake, let the historic Vulcan prosper; VIEWPOINTS.

FOR a while there, to quote an old maritime saying, "It looked as though the Vulcan was outward bound!" - in other words dying.

It was my local 60-plus years ago, when I, like my two brothers, after wartime service in the Royal Navy, footloose and fancy free, decided to see more of the world in a familiar, but less disciplined working environment.

After being vetted and accepted by Bill Henke down at the pool, we roamed the now peaceful oceans on any one of this country's vast fleet of cargo ships, ferrying a few thousand tons of anything, from coal to cars, from anywhere to any place accessible by water, in brightly-painted vessels, seeking trade, instead of doing the same job on armed, armoured, hard, grey ships looking for trouble.

It was a wonderful euphoric period, despite rationing, power cuts, make do and mend etc, the drabness alleviated by the absence of war.

Our mam, instead of having three boys "in peril on the sea", had three sons leaving allotment money home, a bonus enhanced by the meeting and gossiping with wives and mothers of other seafarers when collecting it once a fortnight at the shipping agents.

There were lots of these ladies because Cardiff was a big-time maritime trader, and their menfolk hauled its goods all over the world.

The three times I sailed from my home town, strangely, were always at night.

After blowing the dog end of my advance note adieu-ing with neighbours in the Vulcan, Mrs Markhall, landlady, would ring for a Glamtax cab and I'd be on my merry way to God knows where for the Devil knows how long.

As the tug towed us through the dark docks, we who weren't on duty would be gathered at the stern rail, Greek and Swede, Kiwi, Chinaman, Indian and Arab, the usual pot-pourri crew of a wandering British tramp-ship, watching the lovable old city slide away, with only the glug glug of a passed-around flagon of Brain's breaking the silence.

The City Hall clock would chime us "bon voyage".

From the deck of a ship arriving or outward bound, Cardiff had an ambience, an aura, for any seaman, regardless of colour, creed or compatibility.

This spirit of Cardiff was, I believe, generated by the people who lived here, especially their leaders; but has been dying for a long time.

Should the Vulcan ever be bulldozed, that noise would be the city's death rattle.

RJ Carlson Coedcochwyn Avenue Llanishen Cardiff


Merchant navy seamen helping to unload barrels of apples from Canada at Cardiff Docks - circa 1950
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 26, 2009
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