Bill Mills' room

Bill Mills

 A goal for Belgium

by  Bill Mills

          Another trip on Taikoo and we were in Campbeltown with the wind howling and the rain lashing down and the forecast for a lot worse to come. At times like that it can be difficult to find something to occupy the twelve crew’s time. The Skipper had an idea and disappeared ashore to see if he could follow up his brainwave.

          On his return he informed us that he had arranged a visit to the local distillery in the afternoon.  We duly turned up at the distillery and two company representatives prepared to show us round but first of all the older members of our party –namely- the Skipper, Mate, myself 2nd Mate and a crew member who was Belgium and had a lot of sailing experience and was passing time doing a trip with us before he went to do his National Service with a junior commission in the Belgium Navy. His name was Emile and was a tremendous young man. Very strong, on one occasion he was up forward helping to stow our Number One Genoa, which was a lot of sail. He was being helped by the Bosun-( She who tied me up) . Emile thought that they were finished –grabbed the neck of the big sail bag, swung it over his shoulder and proceeded to march down the deck dragging the bag along the deck. It was a wee while before he heard yells and stopped to look back. Not only had he been dragging the big bag easily along the deck but the bosun had got her arm caught in the neck of the bag and was being hauled along with the bag. Emile hadn’t noticed any difference in the ‘drag-factor’ of the sail bag.

          As we waited to start the tour the Company men offered the four of us older guys a dram- our choice – Blend or Single Malt. Four Single Malts were accepted. It was noticed that when the Tour guide heard Emil’s accent, the dram he poured Emile was smaller than ours. Anyway the tour round the distillery went very well, our youngsters had been given soft drinks, so everybody was happy – though there had been a slight scowl on Emile’s face when saw the difference in the glass levels.

          At the end of tour we were offered a farewell dram and the tour guide poured a dram for the Skipper, the Mate and me and one for himself. His hand with the bottle in it hovered over another glass –looked at Emile- asked –“Do you really want another? It’s unusual for a Frenchman to really like whisky.” Emile’s face was like stone and we three were on the point of verbal attack when-nice as you like Emile said “ So I believe- but I Emile –I am Belgium!” Picked up the tour guide’s glass and drank it- quickly following up by throwing back another small one that the guide had  poured for Emile.

          On board that trip there was a young coloured boy about 17 who worked in a restaurant kitchen in Bristol and had saved up to come away on an Ocean Youth Club cruise. He had picked Taikoo as he wanted to see the West Coast of Scotland. He had the most amazing eyesight. We called him Radar. He would call out “ Ship ahoy” and point, as that was what he had read the old sailors did. We would look, sometimes putting the binoculars to our eyes. Nothing –and then “ Christ there is a ship there.” One of us would say.  Time and time again that lad would call out “ Ship ahoy” and point, and sure as guns a vessel would appear.

          Emile played the guitar very well.  Radar said he could play the guitar also and Emile handed him the guitar and said- “Here Radar use mine.” It became obvious that Radar had only a very basic knowledge of the stringed instrument. From then on if Emile played he always made sure he strung some bum notes when Radar was around and he would let Radar play his guitar.

          During the trip when we had gone ashore somewhere Radar happened to remark that he liked the shoes Emile was wearing. Radar wore an old broken pair of trainers.

          When the trip was over, for company three of us accompanied both Radar and Emile into Glasgow, Radar to the bus station, Emile to the rail station. When we had said ‘goodbye’, the Mate and I watched the two new friends go their separate ways. The Mate grabbed my arm –“ Look would you believe it?” I looked - Radar was going into the bus station wearing Emile’s expensive leather shoes and carrying the guitar. Emile was attired in immaculate blazer, grey slacks –and wearing his yachting sea boots.

          The Mate and I looked at each other smiled and I said –“ Now there is a good example of Ocean Youth friendship"