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Vindi Boy - Shot at Sea

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Tony McGuire recalls the day he was shot by the Chief Steward onboard

RMS Durango in 1966

The RMS Durango after a shooting incident, anchored off Aotea Quay, Wellington, with police launch in attendance, 4 February 1966.


The Captain was "Polly" Perkins, his tiger was 'Alice' and 'married' to the Lampy, the officer's steward was 'Jane'.


After a year sailing with Furness Withy, I thought a change might do me good and signed on a RML (Royal Mail Line) ship sailing to N.Z. on charter to Shaw Savill, a six month trip via Panama canal and a few south sea islands on the way. I signed on as an ass/steward with an old mate from Ireland, a rum lad singing and drinking most of the time and I was expected to keep his company for the trip. Not complaining as I liked a rum and coke myself.


The other stewards kept their distance but would join our parties now and again, a few being queens but no problem if they kept things in their own cabins and not in our faces. One problem was the chief steward who was a closet queen looking after a cabin boy who he said his mother had asked him to look after on the voyage.










A Samoan Fale

Village meeting house.


In a month or so we reached Samoa where 3 of us stewards went ashore and in the local bar teamed up with a group of local fishermen who invited us to the other side of the Island for a party with Hula girls and plenty of cava and a berth on the fishing fleet, a great idea we thought but 4 days later after found by the local police and returned to the ship logged a week’s pay and fined a week’s pay and told to expect a double DR on return to UK.


On arrival in Timaru (NZ) things only got worse girls, drinking, parties, going adrift again and my two mates not with us on arrival in Wellington. After a week in Wellington, the passengers arrived and we sailed that night for the U.K with one or two V.I.P. passengers one being Sir Walter Nash ex P.M. of N.Z.




Sir Walter Nash

Ex Prime Minister of New Zealand


Anyway, after dinner was served we took a few leftover bottles back to my cabin with 3 other stewards for a nightcap and some grubb, I heard what sounded like gunshots but ignored them and after more shots, when my cabin door opened and the chief steward was pointing a gun at me, I went to stand up and turning to the side of the table the bullet hit me just below my heart and blood pumping out as I fell to the floor, he ran away and the guys were just looking on shocked.


The next thing I remember was an officer and chief steward looking at me, the chief steward was saying we can move him before we tell the captain which I believe they did to the chief steward cabin and hatched a story that I had attacked them. Four hours later I can remember being in a stretcher on a boat and then transferred to an ambulance with flashing lights from cameras and the door shut and the last thing I remember was a priest standing over me and blessing me.


When I came through after the emergency operation a policeman by my bed asking why I shot at the 2nd/steward and put a bullet in the cook's birthday cake made for Sir Walter Nash and then attacked the chief steward who had to shoot me in self-defence. “What the bloody hell are you saying that’s a load of shit he shot me in my cabin”.


Well, two days later a top cop from Wellington police came and said my story checked out and they had arrested two men and charged them with attempted murder. I recovered in time for the trial and as the ship had sailed I was the only witness for the prosecution. The chief steward’s boy had left the ship and was to be a witness in his defence.


Well they made me look such a baddy on the ship, threatening them, leaving my post and making other stewards cover for me, that in the end, they were so scared of me they bought a gun for defence and as the young boy told a load of lies the jury gave a not guilty verdict and the police did not have any other charge against him he walked free and both got free plane rides back to the UK.

Shaw Savill Cretic - Tony worked his passage back to the UK as a "Peggy"


I was left penniless in Wellington and was to be shipped back as a D.B.S. on the next available Shaw Savill ship to the U.K. Some days I was starving, roaming the streets until I met a steward I had sailed with who took me on his ship fed me and gave me cash until I got a ship, that ship being the Cretic and needed a Peggy so I signed on to work my passage home which I did and got back to London in1966 in time for the world cup.


A ship’s “Peggy” was the Deck Boy or general “dogsbody” for the want of a better word.

The use of the term “Peggy” comes from sailing ship days and may well mean to “peg away” or to work consistently.


Because I had signed on the shipping company’s and the union said I was fit for work I was not entitled to compensation and when I went to the Doctor in Manchester to return to sea he failed me but I still did a few trips with F.W. but I was not well enough and still suffer to this day with pain in my guts where the bullet passed through and lodged in my pelvis which is still there. The bullet went through my bowels and I had to have a colostomy and with not being able to have kids no one knows how I have suffered all these years. Thank God I survived and I am still here.

One run ashore in Italy on the home run - Tony McGuire on the right.


After Tony McQuire got out of the hospital, he came back to England with us on the Cretic but didn't say too much about the shooting. We paid off in London and Tony stayed a week at my family's place in Essex before going home to Manchester.


Two years ago I wrote to the Shaw Savill Society about how I was treated back in 1965/66 and was directed to Shipwrecked Mariners who have helped me with a small grant, I lost everything when I was paid off as a VNC (Voyage not Complete) in Wellington. I never found my kit and as spending time on the coast in NZ. After I was paid off owing the company and not in the pension fund as I was only 22 at the time.

Vindi Boys Reunion - Tony McGuire with white shirt and tie.


I still love everything about the M.N. and for the last 14 years have been the link on

Ex Seafarers telephone link a weekly group chat about the old days, I was and still am a Vindi boy and attended the 25th reunion, my time now is spent giving talks and running my Titanic Exhibition here in Lancashire.


Part of Tony's Titanic Exhibition


To finish on a funny note the cake was the headline in one paper in Wellington saying an operation on Sir Walters cake to remove a bullet was successful without moving a crumb. Also shot was a steward.


For my 75th birthday I had a little do and the DJ played me in to the song

“Who shot the Sherriff” HAHA


One final note - Captain Polly Perkins had been a prisoner of war, he obtained the name Polly because of the amount of parrots the crews used to bring back on ships under his command.



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Wow! What can anyone say? Except justice should still be served and full compensation paid. How have those that lied lived with their conscience ever since? Someone out there must know who they are. Name them ans shame them, please.

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My father Ron Spencer was on the Durango with Tony Mcquire 58years ago on this sailing. He was a witness at the court case. Does anybody out there know how we could get these 2 Vindi Boys in contact with each other. If you can please contact me on kmxx.spencer@gmail.com

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