I must go down to the sea again.
Transglobe expedition recalled. The first ever longitudinal navigation of the world.
At this time at the ‘beginning of the year’, greeting cards and such bring back memories of yesteryear too!
The Kents came to Greenwich over forty years ago from deepest Bloomsbury to pastoral Hyde Vale, overlooked by the tail end of Blackheath, into a well-worn Queen Anne terrace house which was a fun place to bring up two children, a Dalmatian (Dickens), a guinea pig or two and a fierce black cat called Mackenzie (I think!), all within eye shot of St Paul’s and the hoots of new year echoing around the Thames and Docklands – a sound never to be forgotten. As is the norm, we needed a bigger place. So we moved just around the corner into Diamond Terrace (where John Masefield, the poet, once lived) and settled into a most friendly neighbourhood. Carols were sung around and about, and at New Year the magic hour – amongst the swirl of David Mattheson’s pipes – the whole terrace welcomed the New Year in, in the traditional manner which I now do to one and all!!
Amongst the welcome mail that we received this year was from our ex-neighbours, the Rhys Jones a missive which I now share with you.
The opening paragraph reminded me of an Isle of Dogs adventure back in 1979, which for the curious Kent was to wish “Mr. Benjamin Bowring” bon voyage on her 2-year global voyage chasing the prime meridian, which was planned to set out from the depths of the deserted West India Docks.
Packed into our Morris Traveller and bound for Faversham, we diverted to search the forlorn, empty Dockland. By chance we came across a Trinity House pilot on the same mission. He squeezed in between us all on the trail of this bright red vessel which we finally discovered at the Blue Bridge, prior to locking out into the Thames. The river pilot, with all dignity, told the New Zealander Admiral in charge of the expedition that I was to accompany him as a guest to deepest Gravesend when a deep sea pilot took over. So I left my bereft family to pick me up later at the old Royal Pier.
The reason for a day’s delay in the departure ceremony after the (out of sight) Duke of Edinburgh officially set her off – to another nearby wharf on the Isle of Dogs to ship some essential equipment which, in good old Dockland fashion, had gone astray. Our secret delayed departure was indeed fascinating as we swung the compass off Crossness. My new-found friend insisted that I should witness everything, including lunching with the crew, inspecting the deck cargo which seemed a shambles, and disembarking onto a pilot cutter bound for the Gravesend HQ to rejoin the family who weren’t that amused!
Further to add to this tale, I must tell you that Roddie Rhys Jones with my good friend Tony Othen were amongst the plotters who suggested to the Authorities that pre-Millennium should be celebrated by a new town centre visitor centre to be sited next door to the Cutty Sark to attract tourists and others a year before the great Dome was opened to one and all. After a great deal of effort and lobbying enterprise, the idea was taken up and set up in the Old Royal Naval College’s squash courts in Pepys House alongside the Cutty Sark. So great a success was the Visitor Centre that it expanded to tell the full Greenwich Story. As Mayor Boris remarked at the opening ceremony “a brand new museum for Greenwich” Ho! Ho!