The following is a report on our first meeting of 2020 held on 15th January 2020
Our Chairman welcomed two of our member who were to speak to us today.
Illustrating his talk with a succession of superb photographs, David Gooding described a journey he made with his family in 2012 in his narrow boat “Shammah” from Liverpool docks, across the River Mersey and up the Manchester Ship Canal to re-join the network of canals at Ellesmere Port. They entered Liverpool docks by a recently opened up route with views of many iconic buildings and negotiating a tunnel before arriving at picturesque moorings for 36 narrowboats. Sadly, limitations on the number of boats entering and leaving on a restricted number of days means that the moorings can never be fully utilised. Somewhat to his surprise David found Liverpool a most attractive city. Having booked a time to navigate the sea-lock out into the River Mersey, the lock keeper overslept and they left an hour late at full-tide. They crossed the Mersey on a precisely planned route using GPS behind a Polish oil tanker also bound for the Manchester Ship Canal. Special permission had to be obtained, from the tanker’s captain, via the Harbourmaster/lock keeper at Eastham, to enter the lock into the Ship Canal at Eastham alongside the tanker. A succession of pictures of their passage up the Ship Canal gave a pleasant impression of rural tranquillity, quite different from the much heavier shipping traffic of 30 years ago. This gradually gave way to a more urban setting before they arrived at their final mooring at Ellesmere Port and before entering the main canal system via a bridge which had to be specially opened for them by a man form the Shropshire County Council..
Following on: Ted Hicks told us the moving story of a Norwegian seaman, Erling Hafto and his dog Bamse. Born in 1900, Erling spent 5 years in the Norwegian navy, before joining a shipping company plying between Oslo and North Norway. His favourite port of call was Bodo, where he met his wife, Halldis, and where they made their first home. Moving later to the far north, he became the harbourmaster of Honnigsvad on Mageroya Island, the most northerly city in Norway. Returning from one of his twice yearly visits to Oslo, he presented his family with a St Bernard puppy called Bamse – the bear. When Erling’s youngest daughter, Viglis, became dangerously ill Bamse stayed beside the child for 12 critical days, admitting only the doctor and the child’s mother, and was credited by the family with saving the child’s life.
After the rise of Hitler Erling returned to the Royal Norwegian Navy and took Bamse with him. He took command of the ship Thorodd, a small ex-whaler, equipped with an Oerlikon Machine gun and deployed for minesweeping duties. Bamse took station in the bow, alongside the Oerlikon. After the German occupation of Norway, when the Norwegian Royal Family and the nation’s gold reserves moved to Britain, the Royal Norwegian Navy was deployed to Scotland and the East Coast of UK. Bamse, of course, went too. He became a firm favourite of the crew who made him a naval cap and a tin hat. Bamse went ashore with the crew and was always welcome in the pubs they frequented. He saw it as his duty to make sure that they got back on board safely after a night ashore. On one occasion he even attempted to save one of his sailors who got into a fight by jumping up between the two combatants, but he and one of the sailors ended up in the sea and had to be rescued. Sadly, in 1944, Bamse became ill and on 22nd July he had to be put down. He was buried with military honours in the dunes over-looking Montrose harbour. Accompanied by a large crowd, he was taken there on a barrow draped with the Norwegian flag and a Naval captain read the service. After the war Erling returned to his family and his job.
In 1952 when Glaxo wanted to build a factory on the dunes, the plans had to be adjusted to accommodate the preservation and maintenance of Bamse’s grave. In 2006 a statue of Bamse was unveiled by Prince Andrew on the waterside at Montrose and Viglis and her own daughter were the guests of honour. A similar statue was erected in Honnigsvad. The Royal Norwegian Navy sent two submarines to mark that occasion.
After appreciative questions, the vote of thanks was given by John Flood-Page and the meeting closed at 11.50.