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The Purser is a Banker

Prior to getting the job at sea, when I left school, I had a job with the British Linen Bank, in Glasgow, one of many branches in the City. In Scotland, in 1962, there were 4 main banks, Royal Bank of Scotland, National Commercial Bank, Bank of Scotland, and British Linen. Each bank issued its own notes and were of the same value as the Bank of England currency.

Each teller had to separate each note to the different banks, and twice a week we had note exchange to return notes to banks in the area.

As with life in the Pursers office, no computers and all accounting was manual, but every day we had to balance the books to the last halfpenny ( farthings had been withdrawn two years earlier but still some in circulation)

When I was accepted as a purser with Shaw Savill in May 1967, I worked in the Haymarket passenger office, although stood by on Northern Star and Southern Cross during their turn rounds at Southampton. My first voyage to sea was in December 1967.

The Deputy Purser in charge of the ship's safe and all currency therein was a lazy bastard. He hated my guts and I, his.

From working in a bank, where my cash handling was neat, tidy, and accurate, to the environment on the ship, where accounting left a lot to be desired, and balance the till to nearest thousand quid daily, was not my idea of accounting!

Hard at work on Southern Cross

The Deputy Purser, despised me, for he knew I would catch him out fiddling the books!

As the voyage progressed and we visited different ports, then we were dealing with different currencies. From British West Indian dollars ( BWI’s) US $, Dutch guilders, and of course, LSD! Foreign exchange for the passengers was a rip-off and the rate of exchange was better ashore than on the ship.

After we transited the Panama Canal, Deputy had me working every afternoon during the quiet hours 2-4, sorting out his safe. He used to throw all different currencies into a big box, and he would say to me “Jim lad! Sort these currencies “

As the voyage proceeded, there would be Pacific French francs (pff) Fijian $, kiwi & Aust $ ....and English & Scottish pounds!

All were acceptable on board in ships shop and bars!!

At the end of the voyage, even though I cleaned up his safe, and ensured the accounts were “accurate “ ( less his share), he gave me a bad report and told me I was not welcome on his ship, for the following voyage.

Fortunately, I got on well with the chief Purser, who overruled Deputy’s decision, but suggested I had a trip off. I I sailed on Northern Star cruise in July 1968 and also worked by, on Ceramic in Liverpool, learning about crew wages. Returned to Southern Cross in September, and fortunately the ass.... was no longer there.

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21 de abr. de 2023

Jamie…the financial side on Shaw Savill left much to be desired. When we got busy on my first trip on Northern Star everybody and his dog ‘helped’ out to the point that I was a few shekels down when I tried to balance my till that night. It had to change and I made sure it did. I had to do the same when I joined the Southern Cross. BTW I agree with your sentiments about the Deputy Purser.

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