Life on the ocean wave

Charles Ritchie is pictured with his discharge books from his time in the Merchant Fleet.'Contributed photograph
Charles Ritchie is pictured with his discharge books from his time in the Merchant Fleet.'Contributed photograph

FORMER Montrose Academy pupil Charles Ritchie returned to the school recently to give the pupils the benefit of his experience of life at sea.

Mr Ritchie (87) spoke to members of the academy’s Maritime Skills class and told the boys that he served as an apprentice in the textile mills of Monifieth, before joining Alfred Holt & Co in 1947 at Birkenhead. On his first trip as a fourth engineer he circumnavigated the world on a 15-month voyage.

Alfred Holt & Co operated the Blue funnel line, the majority of which were cargo ships although most also had the capacity to carry a few passengers. The line also had a small number of purely passenger vessels.

Despite suffering terribly from the effects of sea sickness, Mr Ritchie worked his way up to chief engineer, gaining a ‘ticket’ for both motor and steam driven vessels. The turbine ships left him with a lasting impediment to his hearing.

The boys learned of the need for a watch pattern on board a ship, with the chief engineer in charge of every aspect of the ships maintenance.

He said: “If something breaks down mid-Atlantic there is nobody coming to fix it. This confidence gained, through self-reliance at sea, allows you to overcome any problem life has to offer.”

Mr Ritchie also said that the skills learned at sea are easily transferable to a land-based career and after leaving the Merchant Fleet he went on to become a Superintendant in a Gloucestershire hospital.

Now in its second year, the school’s Maritime Skills course is linked to the new Curriculum for Excellence and covers four main.

They include seamanship, the maritime environment, employability skills and careers in the industry, as well as health and safety.

It aims to help pupils develop as successful learners, confident individuals and effective contributors.