Postcards Home

One of the careers that my father had was as a ship’s engineer. He began with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company on the ships that crisscrossed the Irish Sea. The Island at that time (the 1920s) was a popular holiday destination, which meant that during the summer months, far more ships would be sailing than in the winter. At the end of the season, the junior engineers would work on the overhaul of the laid-up vessels. When the overhaul on a ship was completed, the men were paid off, and as my father wrote:

We walked round the town until the next vessel had her overhaul. This happened every year, and meant that over 100 men could be out of work for between 12 and 16 weeks. This did not appeal to me – I had seen too much of it, and I applied for a seagoing job with the Ellerman Line. I received a letter offering me a post as 4th Engineer on the City of Wellington from the Ellerman Line and this is what I really wanted because I would then begin to get my 18 months sailing time in before I could sit for my 2nd Class Marine Engineer’s Certificate.

I left Douglas on the 11th November 1925 and joined the City of Wellington on her maiden voyage round the world. Our first port of call was St. Johns, Nova Scotia, where during the war a munitions ship had blown up and destroyed the town.

From there, the ship (and dad) visited Boston, New York, Newport, Panama, Honolulu, Yokohama, Kobe, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Suez, Gibraltar and Rotterdam. Dad bought postcards when he had the chance. Some he would send home – usually to his younger brother, Doug – but others he kept for himself, to remind him of where he had been on this, and subsequent voyages. After his voyaging days were over, he put them in an album where they’ve been ever since. They are a wonderful record of places and peoples that in many cases have changed beyond recognition or even vanished completely.

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Dad wrote of Yokohama:

The massive destruction of the town by the earthquake in 1923 was there to be seen, and I will always remember the forts at the entrance to the harbour and the large blocks of concrete tossed higgledy-piggledy about.

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I love the fact that the publisher of this postcard has pasted in, not very convincingly, some ships in the foreground…

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This is just a small selection of about 250 postcards. I think I’ll post a few more illustrating the places he visited in other voyages another time.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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3 Responses to Postcards Home

  1. Michael says:

    Geoff, what a find! Thank you for sharing these – I look forward to seeing more. I’m also curious, what postcards he has that match up with places you’ve visited (and/or photographed) – a sort of "then and now" montage – is there much overlap?

  2. Geoff says:

    Mike – that’s a thought. But while there are a few places we’ve both visited (Boston, New York, Gibraltar, Tokyo, Malaysia, Rotterdam), there are only a couple of places that overlap with photographs, and unlikely to be any with actual locations that overlap. Still, I’ll take another look. I can, of course, take new photos in Rotterdam at the actual locations, and that’s a project I’ll definitely do next year. And if I ever win the lottery, I would definitely like to re-visit Japan, and track down the locations in his series of postcards from there.

  3. Pingback: The Wedding Party–A Mystery Solved | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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