A Day in One’s Life
An Old Man Says Thank You
It was a fine day and the weather was settled as we left Conyer in Bob Goodwin’s boat, “Sorceress”, to go to Chatham and tow a large ex-rowing and sailing lifeboat to Conyer for conversion to a yacht. The trip up the Medway to Chatham was uneventful. We went to look for the owner to find out where the lifeboat was berthed. Walking along the shoreline we heard hammering and went to investigate only to find the lifeboat and the owner who was trying to straighten the rudder pintle which was 1½” diameter steel, almost an impossible job; so it was cut and withdrawn out of the pintles and replaced by two large bolts. When all was finished we had lost our tide so had to sleep on Bob’s boat which was quite comfortable. The next morning with the early arrival of the owner York Henry, who also owned a fish and chip shop on the banks of Rochester which was very popular, we made a start from just below Sun Pier. The paddle steamer Medway Queen was tied to her mooring and we were towing the lifeboat on a long towline to give the owner who was steering the lifeboat time to manoeuvre out of the moorings. Suddenly on looking back we could not see the owner steering the lifeboat and the lifeboat was heading for the stern of the paddle steamer. We shouted to York Henry and he appeared from below but it was too late. She hit the paddle steamer’s rudder which brought the watchman from the depths of the steamer to see what was happening. No damage was done so we carried on.
The tide was now on the ebb so it helped us to reach Sheerness where we entered the River Swale. We felt we were safe enough to have a meal so we breasted up; which means we tied the two boats together, and carried on into the Swale. We had finished our meal by the time we were breasted off Milton Creek and as there was no shipping about we continued our journey breasted up together. It was now raining quite hard and getting dark. The tide had gone so we could not get to the entrance of Conyer Creek. We anchored the two boats well out of the main channel and went ashore in the dinghy landing at Butterfly Wharf which gave us about a mile to walk to Conyer. It was still raining quite hard and although we were dressed in waterproofs the rain still found its way into our clothes.
On arriving at Conyer we went to house barge ‘George’ where Mr Jarman lived. We were invited on board. After a welcome cup of tea it was time to depart. York Henry had already gone on deck. It was pitch black and still raining. As we were going ashore I heard a splash. I called Bob Goodwin to bring a torch and shine it on the water and there floating on the surface was York’s hat. There was no sign of York so I decided to jump in close to the hat. On my way down I outstretched my arm and touched York’s head. I grabbed him on his shoulder and brought him to the surface where he coughed most of the water out of his lungs. I then dragged him to the barge’s rudder where I held him. Bob Goodwin called Mr Jarman. They found a ladder and lowered it to the barge’s rudder where we managed to get York to the end of the ladder and ashore.
The consequence of this story is not heroism as there was none but a show of appreciation by an old grateful man. The very next morning I was working on a boat in the shed when who should walk in through the door but York Henry. This was about 8.30 in the morning. York had come by train from Rochester having to walk a quarter of a mile to the station; got off the train at Teynham and then caught the Conyer bus to the “Ship Inn” which was next to the yard. He did this just to come to say thank you which was quite an undertaking for an old man of over 80.