Saturday, 21 January 2012

Early Memories – Kenya V

Terence McNally's postcard of Windsor Castle in Cape Town

It is amazing to think that when I was four and the family came to leave Kenya it was still normal for the company my father worked for to use ocean liners rather than air liners to move its staff around the world. Within just a few years this would change and the era of the ocean Liner would draw to a close.

By this time I had sailed across the Atlantic from Trinidad to the UK and then sailed through the Suez to Kenya and now I was about to travel the rest of the way around Africa and onwards back to the UK. We were using the Castle Line, and the two ships I remember were the Union Castle and the Windsor Castle. The ships Livery was pink hence my nickname for them being the ‘Pinky Ship’.

The event my poem describes is the Crossing the Line Ceremony. It takes place when a ship crosses the equator. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed Shellbacks, those who have not are nicknamed Pollywogs. (A Pollywog is another name for a Tadpole.)

The ceremony uses the guise of King Neptune’s court to convert Pollywogs to Shellbacks by submitting them to a number of embarrassing ordeals.

Dependant on which line of longitude you cross when you become a shellback you can be given different grades of shellback such as the Royal Diamond Shellback for crossing the equator on the Prime Meridian or Golden Shellback for crossing the Equator at the 180th meridian.

I just remember people dressing in drag, (as well as other fancy dress) and then being covered in shaving foam and being dunked into the swimming pool. I hope you enjoy the poem;

Early Memories – Kenya V

Traveling ‘home’ upon the ‘pinky’ ship,
around the cape, then North.
As we crossed the equator
King Neptune’s court called forth
the pollywogs in fancy dress
were tried around the pool
then covered in shaving foam
they were made to look the fool.

John Carré Buchanan
21 January 2012


  1. When I was young child my family sail a vessel whenever we go to the province for a vacation. I like traveling on the sea but sometimes I get scared/nervous.


    1. MharMS, Thank you for your comment, I hope you manage to quell your nervousness. I love the sea, before I was injured I used to waterski, to me it was everything, a real passion. Unfortunately I am unlikely to ever do it again. Now I just get to look at the sea and remember the fantastic times I had on it.

  2. Nice Memories John, i worked on Windsor Castle as a Bell boy for quite a few trips and loved this ceremony. A fab reminder and lovely pic of that handsome ship. i stumbled across your site while doing some research on crossing the line. My wife is currently working on Queen Elizabeth in the acting company. I want to send her some special words, i might send you poem if you don't mind
    Best wishes David

    1. David, What a special comment you have made. I am delighted that you found the post and decided to comment, thank you so much. I would be very happy for you to share my poem with your wife.
      I traveled on both the Union Castle and Windsor Castle, and since then my family has always referred to them by my childhood name for them, the pinky ships.
      When you consider that I have five or six memories of my first four years of life; for one of them to have been on board the ship, it must have been something quite special, at least as exciting as being charged by Rhino and Elephant (if you have seen my other memories).
      Such a shame we fly everywhere now. Thanks once again for your comment. John

  3. Hiya, I'm really glad I have found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and internet and this is really annoying. A good site with exciting content, this is} what I need. Thanks for keeping this website, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can't find it.
    EZ-Guard 5' Tall Self Closing / Self Latching Pool Fence Gate

    1. Robert, Thank you for your comment I am glad you like my blog. Unfortunately I do not do news letters. To be honest I do not have the time to write them. Once again Many thanks for your kind comment.


I really appreciate constructive feedback. If you are able to comment it would be most grateful.


Free counters!

Popular Posts

Blogs I Enjoy Following

  • This Half Lived Life... - Every time I feel the need to push, I find I feel you pull This half lived life of mine now seems so strangely full Most of my future is now well behind me ...
    6 hours ago
  • Urban Arteries - Spice scented air, colours, sounds. Urban markets are vibrant with life. * Droning birds carry deadly intent, fuelled by cataclysm...
    7 hours ago
  • Who Cares? - Diane Scantlebury - You can always tell The crazy ones, They have an air A vacant stare, They drift along, Without a care, You can always spot The cocky ones, They jog along Th...
    14 hours ago
  • OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS - The Occupation of the Channel Islands by German forces during the Second World War has left its mark on the landscape and also on the psyche of islanders t...
    4 days ago
  • Punk As Fuck - I'd swallow pills for simple thrills And drink as if i had to sink Into a world that felt more real A place where i could think My head would spin from de...
    6 days ago
  • Memories - I remember after moving here, all the family loved to visit. It was the place to make memories. Paddling in the river. Feeding the ducks. Watching the lam...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kentucky Racial Tension - No racial tension In Lexington Kentucky Just tense & intense races Black & white race Cat & rat race Foot Ford train & plane race I am lost amidst this
    5 weeks ago
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll - *I didn't realize how long it has been since I have been here to write* *Change often seems to create a sense of suspended animation* *where the outer wor...
    4 months ago
  • This Job, Not That Job - *What I'm reading: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon* *What I'm listening to: Incomplete by James Bay* Isn't it fun to spend your birthday ...
    10 months ago
  • ... gloriously exciting! - There is something gloriously exciting about anticipating ones next Chad assignment, sitting in the back of the relative comfort of seat 34J, the the dron...
    2 years ago
  • Time-Out - Every now and again in life we come across a bump or hurdle. It can come in our relationships, our finances or as in my case, health. Right now I've been...
    3 years ago
  • thumbs up - it was a battle. looking back i don't think we ever had a chance, but you don't just give up on a young man in the prime of his life. we had to try. he ...
    3 years ago