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Princess Pursers

I would say the Purser’s office was the heart of the ship, of course the deck department and engineering department might argue differently. My first ship was ss Oriana where I first joined it for a week, this was as a purser cadet and it was a familiarisation cruise. We were joined on this cruise by Jeremy Merrick who was a purser that was dragged back off leave to wet nurse us for those first few days.

Oriana 1974

Junior Assistant Purser

A month later I was back on Oriana having been promoted to Junior Assistant Purser. The purser’s office on Oriana was quite large and housed a dozen or so assistant pursers and woman assistant pursers. Along with a couple of writers and a couple of bell boys. I had a desk away from the public view and backed onto the SAP desk occupied by Stuart Bennett, who whether he knew it or not mentored me in many ways. The purser and three deputy pursers were housed in their own offices. At the time I was attached to the Catering Deputy Purser, Brian Hockey who I got on with really well. After the first couple of weeks of showing me the ropes he more or less left me to my own devices to get on with the paperwork.

After about four or five months Brian was replaced by BKM who towered over me. He was 6’7” or 5’19” as he like to remind me. My life changes somewhat at this stage as he made my life quite difficult at times. Things came to a head one lunchtime when I decide that I would bash on with the monthly figures during lunch hour while the office was closed, and I could get more work done while it was quiet. Well I guess he had got out of bed the wrong side and absolutely wiped the floor with me because I wasn’t present at the deck buffet.


It was a number of years before we sailed together again, this time he was Purser and I was Deputy Purser on Island Princess. Thankfully he had stopped calling me by the nick name he had given me on Oriana. No, I am not going to tell you what it was.

My first purser was Jim Ewen who was an old-style head of department who as a lowly junior assistant purser rarely spoke to him and certainly did not socialise with. The ships officers had moved over from a uniform of long white trousers and long-sleeved jackets to shorts and short sleeved shirts, but Jim stuck to the long white trousers, perhaps he had bad legs.

Island Princess March 1977

Joining Princess was a world away from the old Oriana. A much slimmer operation with a Purser, deputy purser, SAP then two boys and two girls, much more relaxed and the Pursers were approachable and very much an integrated team. Of course, the jobs were much more interchangeable and we all mucked in together which was the norm. Especially when it came to balancing the safes at the end of each cruise, it was all hands-on deck to get it to balance. You have got to remember there were no computers and everything had to be done by hand. Many a time the whole office would still be slogging away at midnight counting currency and sorting bar tabs. Yes, every bar tab was manually entered onto individual cabin accounts, can you even begin to imagine that in this day and age.


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1 commentaire

10 févr. 2021

I remember BKM very well during his time as Deputy Purser on ORSOVA late 60's. Towering above everyone he came with a reputation of being difficult but that turned out to be completely wrong and I found him to be pleasant and, at times amusing. One occasion in particular, somehow I had overslept and woke to find BKM towering over me with the words "Would you be joining us in the Bureau this morning?" Scared the S*** out of me and he said more - left that to the SAP who did not mince any words!

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