Background to the Collection and Website
Introduction by Brian Watson
This collection of postcards was originally published on the excellent MerchantNavyOfficers.com website which ceased operation in 2015 following the sad loss of its creator Fred Waddington. I have re-published it as part of the Benjidog Historical Research Resources website family with the agreement of Geoff Topp himself and Fred Waddington's widow Bobbie. The collection provides an insight into both the docks on the Mersey and the ships that used them in the 20th Century.
I have added additional material about the docks and the ships featured in the collection:
- Notes about the ships featured
- Notes about the docks
- Information about the engineers that built the docks
Original Introduction by Fred Waddington
Geoff's interest in shipping on the Mersey spans almost exactly sixty years, beginning with his early close quarters observation of the ships in Birkenhead docks whilst learning to row there as a Sea Scout in 1954. This initial interest led to him joining HMS Conway sea training school in 1958. Geoff left Conway in 1960 joining PSNC as a cadet for one trip whilst awaiting a vacancy to join the Liverpool Pilot Service. After five years hard-labour as a boat hand (Pilot Apprentice) on the pilot boats, Geoff served as Third Mate with Booker Line and Sugar Line to acquire a further twelve months sea time. Returning then to the Pilot Boats as a Senior boat hand for five months before being Licensed as a Third Class Liverpool Pilot in May 1967. Passing through the usual stages he later became a Senior First Class Pilot on the River Mersey, and was also for a time the President of the European Maritime Pilots Association.
For those not familiar with the Liverpool Pilot Service; it is operated by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board (MD&HB) the Port of Liverpool Authority, with a pilot station at Point Lynas on the North coast of Anglesey and another at the Mersey Bar. Liverpool pilots are in a self-employed cooperative and Licensed (now Authorised) by the MD&HB. In the early days of his time as a Liverpool pilot the pilotage district covered the approaches to all the ports around the Eastern Irish Sea from Holyhead in the South to Barrow in the North, and the East coast of the Isle of Man. However, most of the ships requiring a pilot even then were bound for the various River Mersey ports, which includes the Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks, the Manchester Ship Canal and Garston, although occasionally he found himself piloting a ship to or from one of the other Irish Sea ports.
After thirty-five years as a pilot Geoff "swallowed the anchor" in 2002 having thoroughly enjoyed his time as a Liverpool pilot piloting the full range of ships from small coasters, tankers, container ships through to Panamax bulk carriers. During his years as a pilot he built up a substantial postcard collection of the River Mersey docks and shipping which he is eager to share with those elsewhere who might find them of interest.
This collection has been part of the Benjidog Historical Research Resources website family since 2015.