Jack of all trades master of one

Duration: 3:02 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.143
This story has been viewed 5826 times

This story is about Alex's memories of his apprenticeship in the shipping industry in Sunderland and becoming a plater.

By Alex Ward

Other information

This story was inspired by the shipbuilding gallery and collections at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

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Video transcript

When I was an apprentice the foreman had a lot of power. You had to learn all the different trades and I was a shipwright. You had to go into all the different areas of the shipyard, for about 6 to 8 weeks, to get an idea of how a ship was built. A Jack of all trades and master of one.

One of my experiences was of a foreman in Palmer's Hill Shed. On Monday morning me and another apprentice had to report to the foreman - he wore a trilby and a long brown coat. From the beginning he didn't want us there because we were shipwrights and not platers. So, he gave us a job to make 5 sacks of washers to fit three quarter inch bolts for Laings Shipyard. We asked him where the steel was and he said “go and find some”, "use any scrap you want."

We had a look around, found odds and ends and we were outside the shed looking for bits of scrap when the buzzer went for bait time.  This was ten to nine in the morning and you only got ten minutes for bait - so we dashed back in and we had to walk past his office to get our flask of tea and sandwich. They were still working. So we sat down on somebody's gear box - you sat anywhere you could because there were no canteens. The foreman came round the corner and told us to get up. We wouldn't - because the buzzer had gone and it was bait time. "Ger up!" he says and we wouldn't. By this time the rest of the platers are watching from a distance. And we still wouldn't get up. He put his hand in his coat pocket and he brought a whistle out. He said, "There’s the buzzer!" and then he blew it and they all came running down to get their tea. Of course they all wanted to know what was going on.... well, when nine o’clock came and it was quiet you could hear the buzzer from outside - then the foreman was straight round with his whistle. He was pinching 2 minutes of everyone's bait time! We were in his bad books after that.

And that was the sort of thing you had to put up with. After a few weeks of cat and mouse with him it culminated at finishing time on Friday. He was shouting to everybody all hands on Sunday when everybody was handing their time boards in. When it was my turn past his office he shouted “all hands on Sunday except you” and he pointed to me.

Of course I came in on Sunday over time. When he came in the shed after bait time he told me to go home, but I wouldn't. I got the shop steward involved and I ended up back on the berth in my own trade. Three weeks with him was like three months, I got out and what a relief!

Haahhhaa. I'm not too bright today. Great post!Posted on 19/09/2011 at 08:32:50

Thanks for the ignisht. It brings light into the dark!Posted on 19/09/2011 at 11:21:17

Thank God! Somonee with brains speaks!Posted on 22/09/2011 at 04:15:43

And to think I was going to talk to someone in prosen about this.Posted on 22/09/2011 at 07:49:33

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