Photo:Paddle Steamer Rouen

Paddle Steamer Rouen

Derek Longly collection

Photo:SS Brighton postcard

SS Brighton postcard

Derek Longly collection

Photo:SS Paris 1913

SS Paris 1913

Derek Longly collection

Photo:French Steamer SS Rouen

French Steamer SS Rouen

Derek Longly collection

A Newhaven character recalled

By Derek Longly

Looking back now I am sure that a great influence on me as a child was to be that of my paternal Grandfather.  My Father's parents lived in Newhaven at 81a Brighton Road whilst we lived in Eastbourne but would often take the bus to Newhaven to stay with them, or with my Aunt and Uncle Arthur and Ivy Bennett, who lived up the road at No.91, which was the house where I had been born.  My Grandfather 'Bert' Longly was a very well known local character.  He had worked for many years in the engine rooms of various cross-Channel steamers sailing between Newhaven and Dieppe.  He had first sailed on the route during the days when this was served by paddle steamers but had continued through to the period when screw propulsion and reciprocating engines took over, to be still employed on the service when turbine driven ships came onto the run.  Of all the ships aboard which he worked his favourite was the speedy SS Paris of 1913; on her, in addition to his time during her commercial service, he spent much of the First World War, gaining both the DSM and the Italian Bronze Medal during the conflict.

By the time I remember him my Grandfather had left the sea and was working as Bridge-master of the old swing bridge at Newhaven, in which capacity I gather he had a reputation for being something of a martinet, ensuring none of the many regulations governing the use of that splendid old structure were infringed.  I used to take great delight in accompanying him when he went to supervise the opening of the bridge, a fascinating spectacle during which a band of hefty men would hand turn a large, multiple spoked windlass in the centre of the bridge in order to make it swing open.  I would also love to watch the steam trains that crossed the bridge, where a line of goods wagons would be hauled across by a puffing tank engine as a man walked in front of this waving a red flag.  This was to warn people and traffic that the train was crossing and not, therefore, to venture onto the bridge until it had reached the far side, owing to the weight restrictions which applied to the bridge.  I am sure in retrospect that the contact I had with my Grandfather at that time must have had a long lasting effect on me, resulting in giving me the adventurous spirit that would lead to the many experiences I subsequently enjoyed, including many aboard ship on the world's seas and oceans over the years.  Perhaps he also gave me the love of ships that still motivates me today when I see the many and varied vessels that daily pass by the windows of my home on the Co Durham Heritage Coast, where I now live.

I inherited a few pictures of my Grandfather's vessels as well as one or two other early pictures of those on the service a couple of which I append to this article.

This page was added by Derek Longly on 22/05/2011.

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