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Bill Mills

Other River Clyde Workboats

by  Bill Mills

There was a big bucket-dredger that slowly worked its way over an allotted area of the River Clyde – usually on the main channel- to clear any build up of mud and silt that had caused the river bed to be less than the charted depth and of course – a danger to shipping.

      At the after end of the hull a high structure of girders –  like a miniature Eiffel Tower towered over the deck. – pointed a moving line of big metal buckets down to and into the hull of the vessel- rather like an escalator with unusual passengers.  When working, the bucket line clanked and jerked on its way spilling out dirty, stinking muddy river water. As the buckets entered the hull of the dredger and moved along they tipped over and emptied their unappetising cargo into the holding area and then clanked their way back up the tower to start coming down once again for another dig at the offending bump on the channel bed. When the hold was full, the dredging stopped, they weighed anchor and proceeded down river to the estuary where doors in the bottom of the hull were opened and the mud etc was cascaded away onto a section of the estuary where it wouldn’t do any harm. They kept moving to a different area on subsequent drops.

          One visit on board this monstrosity to attend to a broken VHF radio on the bridge, amid the clanking and jerking, the cloying smell and every now and then a screech of tortured metal as a bucket struck something it shouldn’t have as the Skipper was trying to have a yelled conversation with me. Suddenly he shouted- “ What’s up with Donald – waving his arms about like that?”

Looking down onto the deck the Mate could be seen mouthing words that we couldn’t hear and signing to stop the dredge.

          The Skipper stopped the bucket line. The Skipper shouted down-“What the hell is the matter Donald.”  Donald shouted up –

“Do ye remember that man lost overboard from a boat that the ‘polis’ boat was looking for?”  “ Aye I do” the Skipper yelled back.

“ Well it looks as if we’ve found him!” And Donald pointed to a particular bucket where a partly submerged body could just be made out. “ Oh bloody hell – we’ll have to tell the ‘polis’ and that will mean us being late finished tonight” the Skipper shouted back. Then he turned to me –“Is that f----g Vhf working yet?”  “Yes I’ve just finished and its OK.” “ Good –that’s a wee help.” He then turned to the wheelhouse to radio the Harbour Control and report ‘the find.’

          I was being taken ashore in the ships boat and as the Skipper was saying “Cheerio” to me –his final words were – “Ye wi’d be surprised what we pick up in those bloody buckets!”

Not now I wouldn’t.!

Bill Mills